Central Europe needs military, transport, and energy security guarantees, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said at Globsec, the region's most important foreign and security policy forum, in Bratislava on Thursday.

At a panel discussion involving the heads of government of the Visegrád Group countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia), Prime Minister Orbán emphasised that defence guarantees were mainly ensured by NATO membership, but added that military cooperation was also needed at a regional level. Accordingly a Central European combat group could be established by 2016 and the region's defence ministers have already agreed on coordinating military planning, he stated.

Photo: Barna Burger

Discussing energy issues, the Hungarian Prime Minister pointed out that cross-border cooperation and the completion of a north-south transport corridor from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic Sea are necessary to ensure transport and shipping guarantees, adding that it would seem that the European Union does not recognise the importance of the latter and so the realisation of transport routes linking the Baltic and Adriatic seas is lagging behind.

He said it is important that energy security should be guaranteed and urged the development of north-south energy infrastructure and the realisation of two-way transport within the gas supply system. The acceptance of nuclear energy is also part of energy security and opportunities for extracting shale gas should not be restricted, the Prime Minister stated, adding that enabling the "mobilisation" of Europe's coal resources is also an important goal.

In the case of energy issues, the emphasis should shift from disputes on regulation to reducing prices, since without it the European Union's competitiveness would deteriorate further, he pointed out.

Photo: Barna Burger

Regarding the South Stream pipeline project he said he regarded this as a "simple economic and pragmatic issue", citing the possibility of Russia stopping gas deliveries to Ukraine. The Prime Minister stated that this would cause problems not only for Hungary, as the country transports gas to Croatia and Romania as well.

Prime Minister Orbán also talked about the goal of building a new Central Europe, developing the widest possible cooperation between the states of the region; enabling the region to become the continent's engine of growth; using the crisis-management tools that are unique to the region, and the fact that Central Europe is politically stable.

Talking about his inauguration speech, during which he also referred to the situation of ethnic Hungarians abroad, he stated that a democratic Ukraine must observe community rights, including the rights of the local Hungarian minority. If Kiev fails to do so, "we have a legitimate reason to be worried" about the democratic nature of the future Ukraine, he said. According to the Hungarian Prime Minister, one of the most worrying signs was that one of Kiev's first decisions after the new Ukraine was established was to eliminate a language law favouring minorities. Asked what community rights he was referring to, he said that the Hungarians living in Transcarpathia would decide this question for themselves.