“The European Union (EU) must be competitive and safe again”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó declared in Bratislava at a press conference following a meeting of foreign ministers from the countries of the Visegrád Group (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, the V4) and France on Thursday.

Hungary’s chief diplomat told reporters that at the meeting the parties had also discussed the future of the EU in view of the upcoming EU summit, during which he drew attention to two of Hungary’s important goals: re-establishing competitiveness and security. “With respect to these two things, we in Central Europe have performed outstandingly (…) and accordingly we have a firm foundation for putting forward proposals on these issues”, Mr. Szijjártó said.

The region’s economy is growing at a much higher rate than the EU average, and thanks to politics that put the security of citizens in first place, we have succeeded in preventing the inflow of illegal immigrants. With relation to the EU’s competitiveness, Mr. Szijjártó said that in his opinion that is only possible if internal competition is maintained, and accordingly the larger countries must not strive to reduce the competitiveness of the countries of Eastern and Central Europe through various regulations. “The French proposal concerning tax harmonisation, which would lead to radical tax increases in Central Europe, is unacceptable”, the Minister stressed, pointing out that the region’s countries can afford to maintain low levels of tax because they have been practicing disciplined fiscal and budgetary policies.

“France could had done the same, but it didn’t, and this is another reason why it is unacceptable for the consequences of this ‘irresponsible tax policy’ to be distributed throughout the whole of the European Union”, he added. With relation to the reestablishment of the EU’s security, the Hungarian Foreign Minister emphasised: “It’s time the EU stopped organising migration, and instead began dealing with how to stop it”. “Stopping migration is the only instrument that will enable us to restore security to the European continent and its citizens”, Mr. Szijjártó underlined.

“This is particularly important now that the Islamic State has been defeated, in view of the fact that thousands of mercenary ‘foreign fighters’ want to return to Europe and tens of thousands of illegal immigrants who have accumulated in the Western Balkans are also waiting for a chance to get into Europe”, he pointed out. At the press conference, Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz also called the issue of security important, with relation to which he pointed to a joint defence policy as the only solution. He also called EU modernisation important, with relation to which, he said: It must be performed in a way that is also acceptable to EU citizens. On the subject of EU enlargement, the Polish Foreign Minister said there are still differences between the French position and that of the V4.

Miroslav Lajčák , Foreign Minister of Slovakia, which is the current president of the V4, said the talks had been intensive and factual. “Central Europe is a dividend for the European project”, he underlined. Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček also mentioned security challenges with relation to migration and terrorism, in addition to which he said the catching up of certain member states was an important goal within the EU. He also spoke about the three priorities of the upcoming Czech V4 presidency: rational solutions for the EU, improving competitiveness, and a united Europe. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said that in his opinion there is fruitful dialogue going on between the V4 and France, which the parties would like to maintain.