Hungary substantially contributes its potential to the re-strengthening of Europe, the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade emphasised in his presentation delivered at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) in Berlin on Wednesday.

In his talk entitled “The Role of Hungary in the European Union”, Péter Szijjártó emphasised that it was no exaggeration to refer to the emergence of a new world order in respect of the recent changes, and that it must be stated that the processes leading up to the new order had resulted in the weakening of the EU.

Hungary is in a position to “make its voice heard” in the discourse about the strengthening of the EU and the restoration of its competitiveness, given that cooperation among the countries of the Visegrad Four has continuously increased the economic and political weight of the Central European region over the past years, and the economies of the countries in the region have outperformed the EU average, the minister added.

DownloadPhoto: MTI/EPA/Bernd von Jutrczenka

One of the main reasons for this improved performance is that it was easier in this region to “arrive at” the concept of labour-based society, and the governments of Central European countries were ready to implement reforms leading to a labour-based economy, Szijjártó explained.

He emphasised: a reason why Hungary was in a position to participate in the discourse was that Hungary, having been the first to fall in the global economic crisis that peaked in 2008, and having been able to survive only with the help of international financial organisations, discontinued the economic policy leading to the crisis upon the change of government in 2010, and adopted a new strategy focusing on its people’s interest.

Based on experience gained from the economic boost seen in the region and also from the successful new Hungarian policy, Hungary believes that Europe could regain its power and success provided it restores respect for work and family, returns to a responsible and disciplined economic policy, shows openness to cooperation with the fastest-changing regions of the world, reduces its considerably unilateral energy dependency, and its member states gain strength, Péter Szijjártó said.

Speaking about restoring respect for family and work, he emphasised the importance of the taxation system, and underlined job creation as the only way out of the crisis. He pointed out that the number of taxpayers in Hungary had increased from 1.8 million to 4.2 million since 2010, and the employment rate had reached a 20-year high.

Regarding fiscal policy, he highlighted Hungary as “living proof that it is possible to improve economic performance and create jobs at the same time, while complying with budgetary discipline”.

Talking about openness, he emphasised the importance of dividing the Eastern Partnership Programme of the EU into “country-specific programmes”, reaching an ambitious agreement on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the United States as soon as possible, and upgrading the cooperation in place between the EU and China to a strategic level.

In connection with reducing energy dependency, Péter Szijjártó also voiced that the EU "must enforce implementation of its own decisions” as regards the issue of the Central European gas corridor running from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic Sea.

In respect of the South Stream gas pipeline, he explained that the line was meant to be a counterpart of the Nord Stream, which served Germany’s energy security, and which also greatly improved the energy security of Central Europe. Besides the routes, the sources also needed diversification, in which gas sourced from Azerbaijan had a significant role, he added, highlighting that the visit of the president of Azerbaijan in Budapest gave hope that the natural gas deposits of the country may contribute to the security of Central Europe.

As far as the strengthening of member states is concerned, the minister advocated a closer and deeper integration among the euro zone member states. At the same time, the countries outside the euro area must still be given an opportunity to draw up their own economic policy autonomously, he added.

Péter Szijjártó also underscored that more emphasis should be put on reindustrialisation in the EU, and efforts should be made to reduce energy prices.

Concerning the aims of the Hungarian government, the minister claimed their intention to provide Hungarian industry with energy at the lowest cost within the EU, and to increase the number of employees to 5 million.

Approximately one hundred people participated in the DGAP event, including former Federal Minister of Education and Science and former mayor of Hamburg Klaus von Dohnanyi, former State Minister of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs Cornelia Pieper, as well as diplomats, specialist journalist and researchers.

Answering follow-up questions, Péter Szijjártó emphasised that it was important for the government to provide first-hand information to its partners, thus avoiding “the misunderstandings and perceptions” that were often “unsubstantiated, but are nevertheless so vigorous that it is difficult to cope with them”.

The government continues to be ready for consultation on specific points, but refuses to accept the questioning of Hungary’s democratic commitment, he added.

Talking about the issue of the Norway Grants, he highlighted: “a prosperous and free civil society” operates in Hungary, and it is groundless to interpret administrative procedures on the financial management of a few organisations as a means of governmental pressure on civil society.

Regarding Viktor Orbán’s speech delivered in Tusnádfürdő, he pointed out that the head of government had “never stated that China or Russia would be role models for Hungary.

In terms of the U. S. entry ban, he expressed his hopes that the matter would be settled as soon as possible.

(Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade)