Remarks With Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Budapest, Hungary
June 30, 2011

STAFF: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to most respectfully welcome you all here today in the building of the Hungarian National Assembly on this occasion when Secretary of State of the United States of America Hillary Rodham Clinton paid a visit to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. They conducted bilateral talks with each other, and now this press conference will be providing an opportunity for them to inform the press about this. We would like to cordially greet the members of the American press also. First I call on Prime Minister Orban to share with you his take on the event so far, and then the Secretary of State and two questions.

PRIME MINISTER ORBAN: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon. Thank you very much. These two fantastic days that we have been enjoying – yesterday. From the perspective of Hungarians, it was an extremely important American president that we honored by erecting a statue for him, and today we discussed about the future with the Secretary of State of the United States of America, who I’d like to most respectfully greet and welcome you here in front of you also.

Hungary and the United States of America, since the demise of communism, have had very strong and ever-enhanced relations. This alliance that we’ve built is value-based and this alliance, again, was reinforced again and again during the past 20 years. And this is precisely what’s happened today. We enumerated the different points on which there is cooperation between the two countries. And I, for my part, I was very happy to share with the Secretary that Hungary would like to maintain this cooperation that was deemed to be successful so far. Such cooperation is our cooperation in Afghanistan, which I consider to be important, where we will continue to adhere to the principle of in together, out together. And we wish in the future also to maintain, together with the 500 or so Hungarian soldiers, our presence and our mission there.

I have shared with the Secretary that Hungary considers the United States of America and the strong relationship between Europe to be of strategic importance. We are a country that is pro-transatlantic relations. European Union is important for us because we are members of it, but beyond this, we also need very deep transatlantic cooperation. So in all those areas and points where the European Union has to cooperate with the United States of America, Hungary will always be a staunch supporter of such cooperation.

I also shared with the Secretary that during the past 20 years, the economic ties between Hungary and the United States of America developed well. We achieved high levels of trade and investment alike, and we would like if the dynamics of this would not break, would not suffer, if the United States of America would continue to have a staunch presence economically in Hungary. I stated to the Secretary that for us, the primary point of reference, framework of reference where we understand each other, where we define ourselves, the first dimension where we develop our strategies is the Central European dimension.

And I’ve done my utmost and I will continue to do my utmost to have the interests and to call the interests of the major powers of the world, among them the United States of America, that Central Europe is an important area facing a wonderful future, where countries are closely knit, where countries have common objectives, and where countries would like to actually assert their interests in the European and international arena as Central Europe. Therefore, Central Europe would like for its own existence, military, logistics, energy, and trade security guarantees assured. And I asked the Secretary that – I asked the United States of America to treat this endeavor of ours with interest.

All in all, in summary, I can say that this visit today, especially since this coincided with the inauguration, opening of the Tom Lantos Institute, it’s an extremely – I think it’s an extremely deep-sounding feeling and good memory in the history of our two countries, because both of the issues we discussed, and also the emotional element, moral element that was symbolized by the inauguration of the Tom Lantos Institute, I think, were well-manifested today in this day. And here in front of the press, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Madam Hillary Clinton for working so far today and also in the future on strengthening our alliance. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Prime Minister. I am delighted to be back in Budapest, and on such an auspicious occasion. The United States admires greatly the progress of the journey that Hungarians have taken over the last 21 years. And we feel a strong affinity with Hungarians because of our mutual belief and commitment to fundamental freedoms. And yesterday and today gave us that opportunity to demonstrate in a tangible way our strong connections. The celebration of the centennial of President Reagan’s birth with the new statue and then, of course, the inauguration of such an extraordinary Hungarian American, Tom Lantos’s institute to continue the work that he did during his lifetime.

The prime minister and I reaffirmed the strong ties between our countries. We are NATO allies, we are economic partners, and we are friends. Our discussion was productive and far-ranging. We talked about our mutual commitment in Afghanistan, where Hungary’s contributions have been outstanding. We talked too about the important work that Hungary is doing at home as well as through the presidency of the EU to ensure that the Roma people enjoy the same rights and freedoms as any other Europeans. And I deeply appreciate the decisive steps the government has taken to eliminate hate crimes against its Romani citizens.

We are strongly supportive of the prime minister’s commitment to rebuild and strengthen Hungary’s economy. We think that the steps that are being taken to open the economy, to rely more on trade and investment as major economic drivers are absolutely right. We applaud the effort to eliminate corruption that discourages foreign investors and entrepreneurs. And we also talked very openly about preserving the democratic institutions of Hungary and making sure that they continue to grow and strengthen, including providing essential checks and balances.

As friends of Hungary, we expressed our concerns and particularly called for a real commitment to the independence of the judiciary, a free press, and governmental transparency[1], because it’s important not only for Hungarians that this great democratic journey that our two countries are on – we for somewhat longer than you – but certainly sharing that commitment that we continue to exemplify democratic values and freedoms, first and foremost for the benefit of our own people and for the transatlantic alliance, but also as examples for those who are struggling to define their own democracies now in the Middle East and North Africa.

We look forward to enhancing our cooperation. I think Tom Lantos has laid out a path for both of our countries to follow, and we will work with Hungary to not only expand economic opportunity, but to strengthen democracy and to promote human rights. And I very much appreciate the warm hospitality and the very good discussion that we’ve had on a lot of issues today. Thank you, Prime Minister.

STAFF: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much. Madam Secretary of State, Mr. Prime Minister, two questions – we have time for two questions. First on behalf of the American press (inaudible) Reuters, Arshad Mohammed.

QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Clinton, you said that you spoke very openly and frankly with the prime minister. What specific concerns did you raise? Did you raise the recent media law? Did you raise the passage of the constitution with so little opposition support, or apparently consultation? Did you raise the concerns that the new constitution would limit or restrict the independence of the country’s highest court?

Also on democracy, though in another part of the world, it’s my understanding that the U.S. Government – that the Obama Administration has decided to resume formal, direct, unrestricted contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Have you begun those contacts yet or is this something you intend to do? At what level will or have those contacts been? And how do you address critics, including those in the U.S. Congress and those in Israel who believe that any dealings with the Muslim Brotherhood should be avoided because positions espoused by some of its sympathizers are anathema to some of America’s basic values?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Arshad, I lost track of the number of questions, but let me – (laughter) – let me try to answer in two baskets, first with respect to Hungary and then with respect to the Muslim Brotherhood.

With respect to Hungary, the prime minister and I discussed every issue that you have raised – the constitutional court, the media law, just the whole gamut of concerns. And obviously, we consider Hungary a close friend, a strong NATO ally. We greatly respect Hungary’s commitment to freedom, the fact that the prime minister has fought for freedom his entire adult life, and we had a candid conversation today. We have encouraged our Hungarian friends to ensure a broad, inclusive constitution that is consistent with its own democratic values and the European values as well. And I underscored the importance, in any government, to enshrine checks and balances. Certainly, we believe in the United States that transparency and checks and balances are absolutely crucial.

And I think throughout the process of implementing the constitution and the accompanying cardinal laws, it is important, and certainly the prime minister made that very clear to me, that he is committed to ensuring that Hungary is very true to its democratic traditions, to protect individual liberties, maintain freedom of the press and the judiciary, and ensure checks and balances. So we had, as I said and as the prime minister has said, a very wide-ranging, comprehensive, productive discussion.

With respect to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Obama Administration is continuing the approach of limited contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood that has existed on and off for about five or six years. We believe, given the changing political landscape in Egypt, that it is in the interests of the United States to engage with all parties that are peaceful and committed to nonviolence, that intend to compete for the parliament and the presidency. And we welcome, therefore, dialogue with those Muslim Brotherhood members who wish to talk with us.

[2]Now, in any of those contacts, prior or future, we will continue to emphasize the importance of and support for democratic principles, and especially a commitment to nonviolence, respect for minority rights, and the full inclusion of women in any democracy. You cannot leave out half the population and claim that you are committed to democracy. So I think that the importance here is that this is not a new policy, but it is one that we are reengaging in because of the upcoming elections, but there will be certain expectations set and certain messages delivered, and we hope that the move toward democracy that is taking place in Egypt will actually result in the kind of inclusive, participatory political system that we would like to see.

STAFF: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much. The next question, Hungarian Press TV 2, (inaudible).

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon. (Inaudible) from TV 2. The question is to both the guests. Which areas are the ones where you consider it to be important and beneficial to develop American-Hungarian ties medium, short and long-term? And also, Madam Secretary, may I ask you how does America look on the ever-strengthening European Union – the ever-strengthening economic ties of Hungary with China?

PRIME MINISTER ORBAN: (Via interpreter) America plays a key role in the security of the world; therefore cooperation in the field of security is something of outstanding significance to us. I’m sure you all know the professional details of this cooperation in Afghanistan, the whole cooperation and the process of passenger identification, et cetera, the list is long. I think Hungary definitely has a very balanced approach when it comes to the personal freedoms and the issue of security, and this approach, I think, is not far from the American mindset.

Therefore when it comes to security cooperation between Hungary and U.S., but also U.S. and Hungary is definitely something that we will always support. And I would think it would be very good if there was a new impetus given to the economic relations between America – the United States and Hungary. Since, as I’ve mentioned to you, Central Europe will be the engine of growth in the next coming five to ten years, just like we saw it as it was palpable before the financial crisis. Perhaps the ratio – the share will be even greater.

So there is definitely an up and coming region, and we would very much like if American capital, both in investment, technology, job creation, would play a tangible role that is fitting of its size. What concerns cooperation with other major powers in the world, Hungarians have understood that it is well beneficial to follow the example of others. We might have not been able to establish such close ties as America has, but we are working on it.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I agree with the prime minister that our cooperation on security is very important and close, and we appreciate that greatly. As I said earlier, our cooperation in Afghanistan has been quite important. We also appreciate the role that Hungary is playing as the president of the European Union in working to forge agreements on security between the United States and the European Union, particularly, as the prime minister said, on the passenger name records issue that we are deeply involved in working out with the European Union.

I do think that it is important to strengthen our economic ties. The prime minister made a very convincing case to me in private, and he has just given you a short version of it. His view is that Central Europe will be the economic engine for growth in the future. So we want the United States to be more involved economically – more direct investment, more trade, more entrepreneurial activity. So I will take away from our meeting the assignment of looking for ways as to how we can cooperate more closely on economic investment and growth.

And finally, I would say on the European Union and China, we welcome the European Union becoming more involved with China. I noticed the visit of the Premier Wen Jiabao just recently to the United Kingdom, Germany, Europe; the announcement of trade deals. We are very interested in making sure China is a responsible stakeholder in the world. There is no question of its very rapid growth, which is enormously beneficial to the Chinese people in material ways of lifting them out of poverty. But as China plays a greater role on the world stage we also hope that China will learn more about our Western values, about what we’ve been discussing here today – democracy, rule of law, freedom, protection of minorities, independent judiciary, free press, the things that we consider our birth rights in the transatlantic alliance. Because we do want, as China gains in influence, for it to be a responsible influence in the world, and I think increasing the ties between the European Union and China is one more way of helping to have that influence run toward China and how it thinks about its future.

STAFF: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much, Madam Secretary. Thank you very much Mr. Prime Minister for informing the public. Thank you for coming. God wish you good work.

PRN: 2011/ T50-02