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THE SIGNIFICANCE of the four Central European States is that Visegrád would be the 17th largest economy in the world, with twice the growth of the EU, and most people in the EU work in the region after Germany.
The most important task in the year ahead is the economic rebooting of the region, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said at a press conference at the end of the Polish presidency of the Visegrád Group in Katowice, Poland, on Wednesday.
‘The Hungarian presidency of the V4 will work to make the Visegrád countries one of the winners of world economic change in the changed situation’, Orbán said, referring to the alliance between the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.
The prime minister emphasised that the goal of the Hungarian Presidency is the rapid economic relaunch of the four countries, which requires investments, which will only happen if taxes are low, so they do not support international initiatives leading to tax increases. As he said, infrastructure is also important, especially in the north-south European axis.
Orbán mentioned security as another important goal, which is closely linked to migration. He emphasised that they did not support the Brussels directive of compulsory distribution of migrants and that migrants were a particularly high risk in the current health crisis; cause and effect. He noted, however, that they (Brussels EU Cult) were also urging the European integration of the countries of the Western Balkans.
An intellectual relaunch is also needed, which is why the Visegrád countries are participating individually and together in the debate on the future of the EU.
Orbán congratulated Poland on its performance over the past year, saying the country led the group during the most difficult year in decades as V4 president. However, cooperation between the four countries remained, and none of them was left alone when in trouble, he said. He added that they cooperated in repatriating people stranded abroad, distributing assets, sending doctors, and also helping each other with vaccines.
He pointed out that the world had changed after the coronavirus epidemic, redrawing the status quo of the world economy and world politics. The world’s largest free trade area was established in Asia and Brexit was implemented. It is important to continue to have a good relationship with Britain, he said.
He also talked about Central Europe’s growing importance in Europe. If the four countries were a single state, it would be the 17th largest economy in the world, with twice the growth of the EU, its public debt is only four percent of the total EU public debt, and most people in the EU work in the region after Germany. He added that these are hard-working and willing countries.
Answering a question, Orbán said the most important thing is to overcome the backwardness of the region in regard to infrastructure. During the Cold War, the connections were built in the East-West direction, and the region still lives with that today, but it would also be key for the V4 to build the North-South connections, he pointed out. He added that it is a question of how much of the EU’s financial resources can be used to achieve these goals.
Orbán also pointed out that Central Europe has a significant economic weight in the EU, so ‘they can’t talk to us like this’ as has happened lately. Central Europe has a weight in the European economy that commands respect, he declared.
He emphasised that the V4 would not accept another EU member state saying how to raise Hungarian children, saying that a Central European country should be forced to its knees.
‘This must end, and the Central European countries, which are full EU member states and have made a serious contribution to the EU table, will make a significant contribution to keeping the Union up to date with other regions and expect them to be respected,’ he added.
Title image: Visegrád Four Prime Ministers at the group’s presidency handover in Katowice, Poland on Jun 30, 2021. (MTI/Zoltán Fischer)
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