Hungary having become a crucial player in Europe’s auto industry is “akin to an economic life insurance policy”, Péter Szijjártó, the minister of foreign affairs and trade, told a conference on Thursday.
Hungary also happens to be competing for electric battery plants with countries that most strongly attack Chinese investments in their political communication, Szijjártó told a year-opening event of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MKIK).
Concerning criticisms levelled at electric battery plants, Szijjártó said the only question was where they would be built, not if they would be built at all.
“Because when we’re competing for these investments, we are competing with countries that most strongly attack us, or the Chinese, or Chinese investments in their political communication,” he said.
He added that the regulations investments in Hungary must meet were far stricter than European Union rules. The minister said Hungary was already the world’s fourth largest electric battery producer, adding that batteries had been Hungary’s leading export product over the last 13 months.
“So we can’t say that ‘this is something secretive’ or that ‘we don’t know what will come of it’,” Szijjártó said.
He said it was only recently that the opposition had started to say that “it would be better if these plants created tens of thousands of jobs in places other than Hungary”.
Meanwhile, Szijjártó said Hungary had become a meeting point for Eastern and Western investments, which protected the country from uncertainties and guaranteed long-term economic growth.
Hungary has plants from all three German premium carmakers and three of the world’s seven leading battery makers are also present in the country, he said, adding that Western companies had become completely dependent on their Eastern partners in the sector.
Commenting on the debate over why the government was supporting large multinational companies over small and medium-sized firms, Szijjártó said: “This is a hypocritical question to ask. It’s not a question of either-or, but rather both-and.” He added that the government supported a larger share of the investments by Hungarian businesses.
Szijjártó said one of the most significant forms of support Hungarian firms were receiving was that the government was bringing large investments to Hungary that guaranteed a long-term demand for their products and services.
He said last year’s record-high output by the electronics and automotive sectors demonstrated the success of the strategy aimed at boosting the role of Hungarian suppliers.
On another subject, Szijjártó said steps needed to be taken against the re-emergence of a world divided into blocs, arguing that this was against Hungary’s and central Europe’s interests. Instead, the world needs connectivity, meaning cooperation based on mutual respect and mutual benefits, he added. This, Szijjarto said, required maintaining dialogue.
“When we maintain dialogue with the world east of us, we’re not violating our commitments to our alliances,” the minister said. “This doesn’t make us worse allies, and at the same time, this is clearly where our national interests lie.”
Concerning the war in Ukraine, Szijjártó said Hungary’s calls for a ceasefire and peace talks represented its own national interests, noting that Hungarians, too, were dying in the conflict.