Budapest, February 29 (MTI) – Hungary must strive for good relations with Austria and find lasting forms of cooperation, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told Hungarian diplomats at their annual meeting on Monday. He told that threats made to withdraw European Union funding from central European countries were “unacceptable” and should be ignored. Orbán raised the issue of whether Hungary would eventually adopt the euro, saying that the decision would hinge on whether the nation was unified on the question. At stake, he added, is the country’s ability to pursue its own, sovereign economic policies.
Hungary must strive for good relations with Austria
Orbán said that “rude as the Austrian head of state’s statements may be”, he tried to speak to the Austrian people rather than to the chancellor, and he refused to be “impolite to the Austrian people”.
“Austria is an important partner for Hungary and will continue to be,” he said.
Orban: Threats to withdraw EU funding from central European countries ‘unacceptable’
Orbán poured scorn on “a few people” who “think there are those who work hard for their prosperity” and then there are the “poor, unlucky” central Europeans who get a little money “shoved over”.
Freedom to pursue national economic policy at stake on euro-adoption issue
Orbán pointed out that the vote of a two-thirds majority of lawmakers would be needed to adopt the single currency.
“This means that if the issue comes up concerning whether Hungary should join the euro zone or continue to pursue its independent economic policies and stay on the outside … a decision should be made based on national unity,” the prime minister said.
He called the “dilemma a great intellectual challenge for the next few years”, since more countries are “now seriously getting familiar with the idea that after the single currency could be even deeper integration.”
“This challenge is there for every country that is not a member of the euro zone. It is not certain that the end result would justify the endeavour, and we have to be prepared to adapt to a situation, but it does not do any harm to think about what Hungary’s interests would be in such a situation,” Orbán said.
Orban surveys state of relations with neighbours
Hungarian politicians in Romania are being subjected to a political campaign to undermine them and there are efforts to exclude leaders of the Hungarian ethnic minority, Orbán said. This must be properly challenged, he added.
At the annual meeting of foreign ministry mission heads, the prime minister said Hungarian-Slovak relations are in order, Hungarian-Serbian relations are well-balanced and with Croatia “we are trying to put relations in order … which is not easy because the network of relations has been damaged,” he said.
Commenting on Slovenia, Orbán said ties have been neglected but hopes of good cooperation in the future are high.
In Ukraine it is unclear when the country will become a constitutional state with a western-like economic structure, he said. He said, however, that it is in Hungary’s interest that there should always be “something” between Russia and Hungary and “we should not have a common border with Russia.”
Orbán noted that the sanctions against Russia will not be automatically extended at the end of the first half of this year.
Foreign ministry’s enhanced trade role paying dividends
As part of the reforms, trade diplomacy received a prominent role in the ministry’s operations.
The good performance of Hungary’s diplomats stands behind the growth of Hungarian exports, Orban told an annual meeting of foreign ministry mission heads.
Both exports and FDI are performing superbly, Orbán said. Investors need to be brought in, “they need to be spurred and inspired”, he added.
Orban rallies diplomats
Hungary is balanced and stable with a declining public debt, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told Hungarian diplomats at their annual meeting in Budapest on Monday.
He told them that the foreign ministry enjoys high prestige within the government and it plays a key role in the country’s affairs.
Orban told the diplomats that Hungary is respected, which does not mean that “they say a lot of good things about us”.
“But the fact that the world deals with a country of ten million which is integrated into [a bloc of] 500 million is a serious achievement,” he added.
Szijjártó slams calls for EU funding withdrawal
At an annual meeting of Hungarian diplomats, Szijjártó slammed recent calls for European Union funding to be withdrawn from Hungary.
The minister said this was “blackmail”. EU funding is based on contracts that do not specify agreement with the European mainstream as a condition for receiving them, he said. Hungarian ambassadors should “proudly and bravely” reject such calls, since EU money is not alms but funds that Hungary is entitled to, he added.
The migration crisis will stay on the agenda this year and every analyst agrees that the pressure on the continent will increase. Even the most cautious estimates suggest that 30 million to 35 million people are in the vicinity of southern and southeastern Europe who could easily decide to set out towards Europe. He said he expects serious disputes to continue about the possible solutions.
Commenting on energy security, Szijjártó said this is not only central Europe’s responsibility and interest but belongs to the whole of Europe. If the exploration of Black Sea gas fields in Romania starts and an interconnector between Hungary and Romania is built, then Hungary will have new resources. Paks will also stay on the agenda and Hungary will act like all countries that have built nuclear plants in recent years. It will refuse to give up the opportunity just because some people try to hinder the investment for financial reasons, he added.
Commenting on economic challenges, Szijjarto said there is an unprecedented fight for investment and export opportunities, and he asked the ambassadors to put in even more efficient and dynamic work in this field.
In connection with the Ukraine situation, he said it is in Europe’s interest that pragmatic dialogue between the EU and Russia should be restarted and continue in the long term. It is necessary to discuss sanctions, and, even though it is incumbent on all to stick to them, the damage they are causing to Hungarian and European economies should not be neglected.
Szijjártó noted that reforms in the ministry had put economic diplomacy at the forefront of its work, and 2015 was the first year in which the new structure had functioned throughout. Last year’s data expressly show that Hungary had notched up its highest export and foreign trade surplus of all time.
The minister said that Hungary’s policy of eastern and southern opening was not at the expense of economic relations with Europe and the United States but rather it was worth putting efforts in these directions alongside developing ties with traditional western markets. He insisted that the policy was already bearing fruit as China, Japan and India were in 4th, 5th and 6th places in terms of FDI into Hungary.
Szijjártó said that in 2015 decisions had been made to open six foreign missions and two — in Tashkent and Addis-Ababa — had already started operating, while the others would open by the end of the year. Proposals are being examined on expanding Hungarian missions in South America, too, he said.
Jobbik calls diplomats’ meeting ‘smokescreen’
The Jobbik party said the government’s meeting with diplomats earlier in the day was a “smokescreen” and that the prime minister and the foreign minister were only running a communication campaign instead of doing real diplomatic work.
Márton Gyöngyösi, deputy leader of parliament’s foreign affairs committee and a lawmaker for Jobbik, said it was a “shortsighted” assessment of diplomatic achievements when merely economic indicators are cited as a measurement of success. He added that it was an “amateurish” idea to scrap the Institute of Foreign Affairs and External Economy, which is an institute for strategic planning.
Gyöngyösi added that the government has been unable to improve the situation of Hungarian communities beyond the borders and asked the government to fight for the rights of these ethnic Hungarians.