Prime minister Viktor Orbán - Photo: MTI

Orbán: Pandemic ushered in new era of world economy, politics

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Tuesday addressed the ninth China-Central and Eastern Europe summit, addressing topics such as the race for the coronavirus vaccine, constructive cooperation between East and West and world trade, the prime minister's press chief said.

The conference was held online due to the coronavirus pandemic, Bertalan Havasi noted. Orbán thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping for convening the meeting amid trying circumstances. The pandemic, which started a year ago, “wrenched us out of our comfort zones and started a whole new era in world economic and global politics while also posing a dual challenge to governments: they had to protect the lives and jobs of their people at the same time,” Orbán said.

Like in the early stages of the pandemic, “the whole world” is competing to buy a commodity in short supply, Orbán said. “At the start of the pandemic, it was masks and ventilators, now it is the vaccine,” he said. The ultimate solution to the crisis will be the vaccine, he said. “It is the lives of our citizens and the revival of our economy that is at stake,” he said, calling for “more constructive East-West cooperation based on mutual respect and good will”. Concluding an agreement between the European Union and China aimed at ensuring mutual protection for investments would be “a good step in that direction”, he added.

Orbán said Hungary was grateful to China for its help in view of current challenges, noting Hungary’s extensive acquisitions of Chinese medical equipment. Chinese companies, he added, had used investment opportunities offered by the Hungarian government, launching projects that “made China Hungary’s number one investor in 2020”. “We Hungarians support free and fair global trade, which now has more significance than ever before,” Orbán said. The fewer the obstacles to economic cooperation, the faster the economy can recover, he added.

The prime minister welcomed the establishment of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, saying that hopefully talks could soon start between the regional partnership and the EU on future cooperation. “The 17+1 formula could serve as an engine to achieve that goal,” he added.

Orbán paid tribute to the Chinese scientific community for developing coronavirus vaccines and thanked China for allowing Hungarian experts to visit production facilities and consult with Chinese experts. “I have received very reassuring reports from our delegation whose assessment allowed a licence for the vaccine to be used in Hungary in emergency situations,” Orbán said. He said he greatly appreciated the Chinese authorities’ cooperative stance during negotiations that led to Hungary’s purchasing the vaccine, adding that he expected the first shipment to arrive next week.

The prime minister also said that the pandemic had not prevented Hungary from performing its obligations in the 17+1 group. He noted that planning for the Belgrade-Budapest railway project was under way, alongside preparations to open Budapest’s Fudan International University.

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