The Hungarian PM has spoken about the shifting global world order with the East gaining importance.
Encouraged by the ‘pro-industry’ slant of the Modi government, Hungary is pitching for greater ties with India, its foreign minister Péter Szijjártó said in an interview with Pranav Nambiar. Excerpts:
The Hungarian PM has spoken about the shifting global world order with the East gaining importance. What space does India occupy in Hungary’s foreign policy priorities?
We have shifted to a more pragmatic approach to foreign policy by launching a strategy four years ago, which is called Eastern Opening. We have put a lot of emphasis on building strategic cooperation with companies east of Hungary, which includes rapidly emerging markets like India.
I think the Hungarian foreign policy previously committed a mistake by not concentrating on this territory. Of course, we are members of the Euro Atlantic Alliance and deeply integrated in the EU. So, we wish to put our foreign policy emphasis on both the Eastern and the Western hemisphere. With the changing world order, we find that if we do not stand on both feet, we could get blown away.
Europe has been struggling because of economic difficulties and challenges, but Central Europe has shown very good performance in this respect. This region — consisting of four countries, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary — is posting much better figures than the European average.
We have the grouping called V4 or Visegrad 4 that together builds relationships with Asian countries. These countries have good infrastructure and talented manpower. So, for example, the V4-India cooperation will be very interesting. The Czech Republic will be the incoming presidency this year and I will encourage them to hold a V4–India foreign minister summit soon.
What are your key targets during this visit to India?
Most investments to Hungary from India have come from Maharashtra. So, this region will be our focus, for now. The achievements have come in the areas of manufacturing, engineering and IT, and these are in the focus of the Hungarian economic policy as well. We have the same approach as you do. We want to be the manufacturing hub of our continent. In the meantime, we want to have as many R&D and high-value-added capacities as possible. I have invited your chief minister to come to Hungary where both sides can sign agreements and have B2B connections.
Are you encouraging more Indian corporates to set foot into Hungary?
Hungary offers the most favourable investment climate in Europe because we have a flat national personal income at 15% and have radically reduced corporate tax to 10%. I am meeting a whole bunch of Indian companies. Of course, the Tata Group is the most important of them. Tata has huge investments in Hungary. I am also going to meet the Godrej Group.
We established a consulate general in Mumbai just two-and-a-half years ago and Hungarian companies are considering investing in India.
There is a fear that Hungary is closely aligning itself to Russia, which could hurt relations with the EU. Would groupings like the V4 add voice to such sentiments?
It is more complicated than that. Of course, we are always part of the common European decisions. Unity is the biggest stamp of the EU, we will never damage that. What we say is Europe has lost a lot of competitiveness and it is necessary that the Western and Eastern parts of the continent work together in a pragmatic way for mutual benefits.
In Europe, the concept of welfare state makes it very difficult for European political leaders to explain to their people that now you have to work more for less or the same amount of money. In Central Europe, we don’t face that problem because the past historical heritage of communist dictatorship is now working to our advantage. We never had a welfare state, but we had to make structural changes and people were very adaptive. So, these countries now have economic structures that are very competitive.
Of course, the territorial integrity of Ukraine must be respected. But it is in the interest of the world not to isolate Russia. We always believe in building bridges instead of walls. But everyone has to respect international law and show mutual respect as well.