Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has warned that Europe risks falling into a “no-man’s land” between the emerging east and the US and called for closer European links with Russia.
In a speech to the Bruegel think tank in Brussels on Wednesday (30 January), the Hungarian premier outlined several “theses” designed to “launch a debate”.
Orbán said that in order to increase its share of the world economy, Europe needed to implement “a new geopolitical concept”.
“We have to find the way to unify Europe’s developed technology, infrastructure, innovative industry and sophisticated financial system with those practically unlimited natural resources which are to be found east of us, mainly in Russia,” he said in the speech.
Aligning this need for closer ties with Russia with Atlanticism is “one of the most difficult intellectual and political challenges of the future”, Orbán said.
This would be a serious issue for Central Europe, he added, because it required “security guarantees” not only for defence, but also for energy, traffic routes and free trade.
“This is dictated by historical experience and this is what provides the deep geopolitical and historical foundation of the V4 cooperation,” said Orbán, referring to the Visegrad Group, a co-operation organisation comprising the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
Hungary could leave special procedure this year
Elsewhere in the speech, Orbán hailed Hungary’s economic performance and said the country should be removed from the EU’s special deficit procedure.
“Economic growth will start in this year and will be accelerating continuously in 2014 and 2015. Our record-high trade balance surplus will be sustained, employment will continue to rise, state debt will continuously be reduced and the budget deficit will continue to be kept under 3%,” he said.
Orbán also said that Europe needed an economic system-change, along Hungarian lines.
“Instead of chasing the illusions surrounding the welfare state, we have converted to a workfare state,” said the prime minister.
A year ago, the Hungarian leader came under fire for nationalising private pension assets and pursuing legal changes that critics said threatened independence of the central bank and judiciary.
European Commission officials – with International Monetary Fund staff and observers from the European Central Bank – conducted a mission to Hungary from 16 to 28 January to review economic developments and policy initiatives.
The mission welcomed the fiscal consolidation achieved so far and the commitment of the government to continue its efforts to keep the deficit well below 3% of GDP, but also called for the government to “pay close attention to the quality of the adjustment measures”.
After meeting with Commission President José Manuel Barroso later in the day, Orbán said that if “appropriate proofs” are in place, he believed Hungary could leave the excessive deficit procedure this year.
- 22 Feb.: Commission report on Hungary's economic performance