1 July 2015, Budapest

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,

When I had the opportunity last autumn to meet with Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, and he explained to me the economic situation in Serbia and outlined the programme, on the foundations of which he would like to reform the Serbian economy, I was rather scratching my head somewhat in doubt. I have been a Member of Parliament for twenty-five years, and have held the office of Prime Minister for almost ten years now, but I had very rarely seen such an ambitious and risky plan for the stabilisation of the economy as the one that the Prime Minister outlined to me. I wished him and the Serbian people good luck with the implementation of the programme, but I was not at all sure that we two would meet as Prime Ministers in a year’s time. I have to tell you – before I would say anything about Serbian-Hungarian relations –; I would like to make a remark of a technical nature as the economic figures show that Serbia has been successfully stabilised financially and economically. I would like to express my most sincere appreciation to the Honourable Prime Minister, the Serbian Government and the Serbian people for having accomplished this most difficult programme, for having gone down that very difficult path which may give Serbia a chance – if not a guarantee – to embark on a happier future which will offer a higher standard of living.

Naturally, this is at first sight an affair of the Serbs; it is their country after all. But when we take another look, a second glance, we may see that this is also our affair. Hungary has an elementary interest in Serbia being a stable country, with a stable political leadership, a stable government, a stable economy, and stable finances. I cannot conceivably imagine a greater risk for Hungary than an unstable neighbour, or an unstable Serbia. We have already experienced this, we know what it is like. While we congratulate the Serbian people on the results they have achieved, on behalf of the Hungarian interests, too, I would like to express how happy we are that we may today have a stable and predictable Serbia as our neighbour which seeks to develop good relations with Hungary. In a wider context: those who have some knowledge of geopolitical affairs must surely know that if Serbia is not stable, neither is Hungary, and if relations between the two countries are not balanced, there is no stability in the Western Balkans, and the Western Balkans becomes a crisis region. Serbian and Hungarian cooperation plays a key role in the fact that this is not the case today.

I must therefore say in summary that in the hours past, we had an extremely important joint government meeting, both from the respect of the two nations and the entire region. I personally regard this government meeting as a successful one. We established that we have a common interest in the maintenance of good relations. We consulted on and maintained our common interests on strategic issues. We established that the best transport route leading  from Serbia to Western-Europe is via Hungary, and also from the respect of our interests concerning energy, that it would be best if a strategic pipeline were built to replace the Russian gas – which will no longer arrive in the region via Ukraine in 2019 – which would transport energy from the direction of Turkey, via Serbia, to Hungary, and consequently to Central-Europe. I would just like to add something in brackets: while we must bear criticism in the strongest terms in consequence of ever so mild a cooperation with Russia, large European firms shamelessly sign agreements which serve to supply gas coming from Russia to Western-Europe in the long term. This must urge us to be brave. The limits of tolerance are clearly not set out where many believe them to be: we must find new routes for transporting Russian energy sources to Europe, Central-Europe and Hungary.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I naturally also informed the Honourable Prime Minister of the measure we are now compelled to take which was prompted on the part of Hungary by the present-day mass migration. The position of the Hungarian Government is widely known. We take the view that the question we have to deal with is not a question of asylum, and not even a question of economic migration, but a modern-age mass migration which will not stop any time soon, its flows will not abate, and will continue to remain with us for a long time as one of the greatest challenges determining politics in Europe. As far as it could, Hungary attempted to adopt measures which fully took account of the interests of all its neighbours; however, Hungary now finds itself trapped in a tricky situation because further waves of mass migration are coming to Hungary not only from the south, but countries west of us, too, intend to send back to Hungary illegal border-crossers who left from here for their countries. We are therefore under pressure from two directions, from the south and from the west, and we cannot bear it. Therefore, however much we are not happy about it, and however much we are aware of the consequences, we are compelled to protect Hungary’s southern borders. I attempted to reassure the Honourable Prime Minister that this measure is in no way directed against Serbia, or the Serbian people as we maintain the legal border crossing stations; in actual fact, we intend to extend and develop them, and to create further crossing points for the use of law-abiding people – be those Serbs or Hungarians – in the spirit of co-existence. We are not closing down border crossing stations, but we shall prevent illegal border-crossing with any means possible. I beseeched the Honourable Prime Minister to understand this, and asked him to rest assured and to accept my guarantee for every word that this measure is not directed against Serbia. Hungary is interested in peace, stability and a successful Serbia, and whatever we can offer, be that even in the context of border guarding issues, we shall be happy to provide.

Allow me to inform you briefly about some economic issues. Serbia and Hungary have hundreds of joint ventures which operate successfully. Preparations are currently under way, and we shall soon open Eximbank’s Belgrade office. Trading house representations will be set up in Szabadka and Újvidék, and in the second half of 2015, we would also like to open a trading house in Belgrade. If you look at the economic and trade figures, you may clearly see that they are growing dynamically, and economic cooperation is ever improving between the two countries. The construction of the Belgrade-Budapest railway line is a most hopeful enterprise. The impact studies and feasibility studies show that we shall build a railway line which will be capable of carrying even the heaviest axle-weight trains – which weigh up to 225 kilonewton tonnes, whatever that means. This will be an historic step forward not only in passenger transportation but also in economic cooperation.

Regarding culture and education, I would like to inform you that we currently accept 50 Serbian scholarship holders in Hungary, which means that the Hungarian State provides scholarships for fifty Serbian students at present, a number which we would like to further increase in the future, and the Hungarian Government voted for an allocation of HUF 500 million for the interior refurbishment of the Szabadka synagogue which – I am convinced – will be an important common programme of the two countries in the future. I hold cultural and educational cooperation in just as high esteem as economic cooperation because good relations between two countries must be laid on the foundations of good personal relations between the citizens and peoples of the two countries. If there is friendship and cooperation, there is also good political cooperation. If there is no friendship, it is very difficult to build good relations with mere political feats.

In any case, in summary, we are grateful to Prime Minister Vucic, and we are grateful to the Serbian Government for having paid a visit here, to Budapest. Thank you for the signed agreements, and thank for the agreements which were not yet signed here today but were concluded verbally. At the end of the meeting, we accepted the invitation to the next joint cabinet meeting in Serbia. Thank you very much, we’ll be there next year.

Thank you for your attention.

(Prime Minister’s Office)