Central Europe is the European Union’s most successful region today, Hungary’s foreign minister said in London on Monday.
Péter Szijjártó, in an address at an introductory forum of the Visegrád Group’s stock exchange leaders at the London Stock Exchange, said the V4 countries of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia provided the baseline for central Europe’s economic performance.
It is no longer a stretch to say that central Europe, and specifically the V4 alliance, is becoming the EU’s engine of growth, Szijjártó said.
He noted that bilateral trade turnover between Germany and the V4 last year exceeded German-French annual trade turnover by 65 percent.
This clearly demonstrates that Europe’s economic axis and source of competitiveness has shifted from western Europe to central Europe, the minister said.
He noted that GDP in the Visegrád Group grew by 4.1 percent on average last year, well over the 2.4 percent rate for the EU as a whole.
“Comparing the two figures makes it clear why we dare say that we have become the engine of growth in Europe,” Szijjártó said.
He said the total number of employed in the V4 countries last year was 30 million, while the average unemployment rate was 5 percent.
The average public debt-GDP ratio was 52 percent, compared with the EU average of 82 percent, he added. The minister said this was clear evidence of the fiscal discipline exercised across the four countries.
All this, along with the annual 10 percent growth in exports shows how competitive central Europe is as a region, Szijjártó said.
With its low, single-rate personal income tax and Europe’s only single-digit corporate tax rate, Hungary has seen a radical rise in investments, he said.
On the topic of Brexit, Szijjártó said Hungary had no interest in inserting itself into the debate about a soft Brexit or a hard one. Hungary believes in the need for a fair Brexit deal coupled with the deepest and most comprehensive EU-UK free trade agreement possible, he added.
Featured image: MTI