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Central and eastern Europe’s lobbying power has visibly grown after the European parliamentary elections in May, although “tough debates” are to be expected in the ensuing round of post-election bargaining, the foreign minister said.
Talking to journalists on the sidelines of the Globsec conference on security policy in Bratislava, Péter Szijjártó noted that the Hungarian and Polish ruling parties had been “awarded the largest domestic support” within the bloc, suggesting that central Europeans “are committed to a strong EU but want a union based on strong member states” and not the “united states of Europe promoted by the mainstream”.
A robust economic performance is also at the root of growing regional influence, Szijjártó said. “We make reasonable decisions, lower taxes and put the security of our own citizens first”, he said. The success of the region’s economic policies can be measured by the increasing interest in central and eastern Europe on the part of the world’s fastest growing economies in the Far East, he said. The Hungarian government contributes to that trend thanks to low corporate taxes, lower wage costs and research funding, he added.
Regarding the ship collision on May 29, when a tourist boat carrying 33 South Koreans and two Hungarian crew collided with a cruise ship and sank in Budapest, Szijjártó said that last Friday, he reassured his South Korean counterpart that the Hungarian authorities would “do everything in their power and even more” to remove the wreck from the water. They are also mobilising large resources to recover the bodies of victims, he said. Szijjártó promised an “impartial, unbiased but strict” investigation into the circumstances of the collision. “The necessary consequences will be drawn and punishments meted out,” he said. The prime minister of South Korea has expressed his thanks to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for Hungarians’ related efforts, he noted.
On Friday, the second day of the Globsec conference, Szijjártó took part in a panel discussion on the political balance of forces after the EP elections, along with Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petřiček and George Ciamba, the Romanian minister for European affairs. Szijjártó noted that of all the parties running in the elections, Fidesz has garnered the highest ratio of votes, 52%. “This has to be respected. No one has the right to question the will of the Hungarian people,” he said. The most successful parties in the EP elections, after Fidesz, were the Polish Law and Justice party, the Austrian People’s Party and Italy’s Liga, he said.
These parties are not Eurosceptic but they differ from others in their vision of creating a strong Europe as they promote a Europe of strong nation states, Szijjártó said. The European People’s Party has to be ready to cooperate with successful parties from the right of the political spectrum, he said. “The standpoint of these parties was in minority before the elections. But the EPP cannot separate the election results from the debate over Europe’s future,” he said. That debate is now subject to “historic challenges”, Szijjártó said, such as migration, climate change and security issues. They have to be addressed in cooperation and in a rational manner, he said.
At the discussion, Szijjártó also expressed support for the EU’s enlargement on the Balkans. He called for the EU to open all the remaining chapters of accession with Serbia, start the last phase with Montenegro and begin the process with Albania and North Macedonia. The Serbian-Hungarian ties have improved enormously and Serbia guarantees the widest possible rights to its Hungarian minorities, he said.