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Friday, August 12, 2022

PM Orban: Next decade offers fantastic opportunities for Central Europe

By: V4 Agency

The Hungarian prime minister talked about these opportunities during his one-day official visit to the Czech Republic.

Viktor Orban arrived in the Czech Republic on Wednesday morning for a one-day official visit, where he met his Czech counterpart Andrej Babis. After their meeting at the Kramar Villa in Prague, the two premiers paid a visit to the regional centre of Northern Czechia, Usti nad Labem.

At the joint press conference with Mr Babis, Mr Orban emphasized that [European] relations are slowly reversing, while Central European had always been thought to be helpless without Western Europe, it is now the case that Western European economies can’t do without Central Europe.

“There is not even a successful German economy without Central Europe, which has become the driving locomotive of the EU’s economy,” he said. The political and economic clout of the region will continue to grow, but this requires the ongoing cooperation of the Visegrad countries, Mr Orban stressed. The prime minister noted that his visit was aimed at strengthening the Czech-Hungarian axis of the Visegrad Four cooperation, arguing that without the Czech Republic’s commitment to the V4, the group cannot function. “The Visegrad Group needs the strength and political influence of the Czech Republic,” Mr Orban said.

He pointed out that avoiding a new, massive wave of migrants is highly unlikely with millions of people leaving Afghanistan. Many of them will choose a route through the Balkans and Hungary, he said, adding that Hungary would continue to protect its own borders, as it will also protect Europe, including the Czech Republic. This is why he asked Mr Babis to send 50 police officers to reinforce border protection operations, the Hungarian PM explained.

Regarding Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), he said that the essence of this system is that everyone pays because they have a house and a car. This must be prevented as “it may be viable with the luxury of Western Europeans, but not for us,” Mr Orban said, adding that he and his Czech counterpart agreed to take joint action on this issue at the next EU summit.

On the topic of Czech-Hungarian economic cooperation, Mr Orban noted that it had reached record levels and that Hungarian companies are honoured to be welcome in the Czech economy.

He explained that the volume of bilateral trade this year had grown by 26 per cent and that currently 330 Czech companies operate in Hungary employing several thousand people. Hungary plans to expand cooperation in the areas of telecommunications, agriculture, energy and defence. Hungary is ready to “work in close, friendly and rational cooperation with the government of Andrej Babis based on mutual respect” in the future.

Responding to a question, Mr Orban said that the gas purchase agreement between Hungary and Russia is a matter of Hungary’s sovereignty, and the Ukraine has nothing to do with it. Hungary is a sovereign state and will purchase gas from whichever country it chooses. “It is up to us alone to decide which route we use to bring this energy to Hungary,” he said, adding that in selecting the route the only criteria is which provides the greatest security. “We wish for the Ukrainians to cope with their own problems and leave us out of it,” Orban said.

Czech PM Andrej Babis emphasized that Hungary is to be credited for the Czech Republic not having illegal migrants today.

“Illegal migration is a very serious problem,” the Czech premier said. “A few years ago in 2015, Hungary was the only EU state which protected the Schengen borders. Thanks to the fence built by Hungary, the Czech Republic has no problems with illegal migration today,” Mr Babis emphasized.

The Czech PM described it as the joint success of Czechia and Hungary, and the V4 countries in general, that the issue of mandatory migrant quotas was permanently removed from the agenda of the European Union at an earlier Council meeting.

Mr Babis expressed his gratitude again that Hungary aided the Czech Republic during the coronavirus pandemic, by donating ventilators and lending stores of vaccines, among others things.

The Czech premier said that the current Czech-Hungarian talks also focused on economic issues, but the parties also touched upon the issue of combatting illegal migration and the pandemic. Andrej Babis emphasized that he considered Czech-Hungarian economic co-operation to be very good and prosperous, and that he personally co-operated very closely with Viktor Orban at European Council meetings and in the negotiations of V4 countries.

Viktor Orban’s recent visit to the Czech Republic is “a confirmation of the good cooperation between the two countries and the two prime ministers, which has already yielded results in Brussels,” Mr Babis stressed.

After the press briefing, Viktor Orban attended the election meeting of the ruling centrist ANO movement at the Usti nad Labem city theatre. Andrej Babis, also the president of ANO, will run as a candidate in the Usti region in the parliamentary elections scheduled for 8 and 9 October.

Viktor Orban will be received by Czech President Milos Zeman in Castle Lany, the president’s countryside residence, the Hungary’ state news agency (MTI) writes.

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