“The significance of Central Europe has increased continuously in recent years, and it has become the engine of European economic growth”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said on Friday in Tokyo.

In his speech at the Central and Eastern European seminar of the Japanese External Trade Organisation (JETRO), the Minister emphasised: “The Central European region has undergone major change in recent years in view of the fact that the countries of the region used to be among the last in Europe, but are now among the frontrunners with relation to several economic indices”.

“There is a successful and close alliance in Central Europe: the Visegrád Group (V4)”, he said. “The economic growth of the V4 is over twice the European average, but this group is not only strong from an economic perspective, but also politically”, the Minister stated.

“The new European Commission took office a few days ago, and all four Visegrád Group countries are occupying important positions in the body”, he explained. “The Czech and Slovakian commissioners are vice-presidents of the Commission, the Polish commissioner is in charge of agriculture, and the Hungarian commissioner is charged with supervising enlargement”, he listed.

Mr. Szijjártó told those present that the members of the V4 represent a market of 64 million people, and if the group were a single country it would be the second largest in the European Union. “The rate of unemployment in the region is much lower than the EU average, and sovereign debt is also much lower”, he added.

The Minister said that in his opinion the secret of Central Europe’s success is that its countries are practicing policies that are based on common sense. “Within the economy, this means that Central Europe has the lowest rates of taxation in the European Union”, he pointed out.

According to the Foreign Minister, the other cause of this success is that the countries of Central Europe are effectively maintaining fiscal and budgetary discipline. “We have proven that it is possible to do away with the old dogma according to which countries must choose between economic growth and fiscal discipline, and we have shown that the two goals can also be achieved parallel to each other”, he pointed out. He also spoke about the fact that the Hungarian government can see the concerns with relation to the workforce, and accordingly has reformed is vocational training and higher education systems.

“With relation to the future success of the European economy, it is important to note that while many experts talk about the significance of German-French cooperation, trade flow between the members of the V4 and Germany is 70 percent higher than between Germany and France, meaning that cooperation between the V4 and Germany is having a huge effect on the EU’s competitiveness”, Mr. Szijjártó stated.

“There is ongoing debate concerning the future of the European Union, which is fundamentally about whether we need a strong Brussels and weak member states, or strong member states”, he explained. “According to Central Europe’s position, a strong EU can only be built on strong member states”, he declared. “Central Europe rejects Western European efforts to introduce tax harmonisation, because that would lead to an increase in taxes throughout the region, and we insist on low taxes because they are a determining factor with relation to competitiveness”, he noted.

With relation to security policy, Mr. Szijjártó said: “The countries of Central Europe represent a determined anti-immigration policy, are defending their borders, and are insisting on their right to decide who can enter their territory and who they want to coexist with”.

The Foreign Minister also said that Japan is the number one Asian investor in Hungary, the 170 Japanese enterprises operating there employ 35 thousand Hungarians, and the Hungarian government has concluded strategic partnership agreements with six Japanese corporations.