Hungarian foreign minister: European Union must boost competitiveness
In order to become stronger, the European Union should accelerate the enlargement of the bloc, give member states more freedom to improve their competitiveness, speed up free trade agreements and conduct Brexit negotiations to the satisfaction of all parties, the foreign minister said on Friday.
Speaking at a conference of the Századvég Foundation, Péter Szijjártó said the EU also needs to develop a migration policy that “truly protects” the bloc.
Changes in the world economy and trade have fundamentally changed the balance of economic power in recent years, Szijjártó said. The EU has lost much of its competitiveness in the process, he said, due to “a series of mistakes” such as a lack of fundamental reforms.
Szijjártó argued that the EU would not boost its competitiveness without continuing its expansion programme, and serious security risks would emerge if Western Balkan were not integrated, he added.
On the topic of taxation, he said Hungary opposed harmonising tax systems across the EU as this would deprive member states of a vital means of competitiveness.
Szijjártó called the EU approach to Russia another “mistake” which had cost the bloc some of its competitiveness. “Effective and civilised cooperation” and “rational, unemotional” dialogue between the eastern and western parts of the continent are essential for the EU to remain competitive, he said. Hungary is often “berated” for its relationship with Russia, he said. Its critics ignore the fact that trade between the EU and Russia grew by 32 percent in January-April 2017 alone, as did trade between Russia and the US, he said.
Szijjártó called for a democratic and fact-centered discussion, “where member states will have to count with a strong Visegrad Group presence”. The member states all agree on the need to make Europe strong again, he said.