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Address by the Hon. Minister at the Italy-Hungary Business Forum

Milan, 12 October 2017

(The authentic text is only the one actually delivered)


Minister Pèter Szijjártó (Minister of Foreigni Affairs)

President Michele Scannavini (President of ICE-Agency)

Dear entrepreneurs, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very happy to open the Italy-Hungary Business Forum. It is a double pleasure for me to do so with my colleague Pèter Szijjártó, with whom I have had the privilege to establish a wonderful friendship and intensify our political dialogue. Our relationship is so strong and our meetings are so frequent that Undersecretary Amendola was on mission in Budapest only two days ago.

Italy and Hungary share a great common history. It is sufficient to think of the courage of the many Italians who went to fight for the independence of Hungary in 1848-49. They belonged to the Italian Legion led by Alessandro Monti, a Lombard Colonel who went to the land of the Magyars to support the desire of freedom of the Hungarian people.  

Only a few years later, Hungarians returned the favour with the Hungarian Legion that followed Garibaldi in the “Expedition of the Thousand” in Sicily. Not everybody knows that one of the Palermo’s central streets, Corso Tukory, is dedicated to the memory of one of the Hungarian patriots who were sent to Sicily. 

These historical events have fostered a “common sentiment” between Italy and Hungary. A common history that has consolidated our relationship also in other areas, such as that of business, which we are continuing to strengthen today. 

We are here in Milan, the economic heart of Italy, and I hope that its quick and intense pace of living might give new impulse to our bilateral relations. 

Milan is a city that never misses a business opportunity and that keeps up with global markets. I can confirm that it is very quick-paced: this, for me, is only one of the three important business events scheduled here today: 

– I will sign a Protocol of Understanding between the Foreign Ministry and Borsa Italiana;

– later, I will attend the Italian-Arab Business Forum.

In a world marked by unrest and uncertainty, the Government has an essential mission to accomplish: generate confidence and stability in order to assure companies the right climate for making investments. Today, we can say that we have worked in the right direction: the confidence in Italy has returned to pre-crisis levels among consumers, companies and investors. Another tangible factor is the growth in GDP which, according to the estimates of the International Monetary Fund, is forecast to grow 1.5% in 2017. Another factor that is currently positive is the industrial production index, which is growing for the seventh consecutive month with a peak 5.7% rise in August. 

Also our business partnership with Hungary is on a constant uptrend. Ever since 2013, trade has never stopped growing. 

In 2016, the Italian-Hungarian trade volumes almost reached 9 billion euros (8.98 billion; with Italian exports amounting to 4.4 billion euros and imports totalling 4.58 billion) and the uptrend was also confirmed in the first semester of 2017: +5.2% in Italian exports and +18.5% in imports of Hungarian products. 

According to OECD forecasts, Hungary’s GDP will grow 3.8% in 2017, exceeding the world average of 3.5%. This rise proves wrong all those who think that European Union Countries can no longer offer interesting growth trends.

The European Union has greatly invested in Hungary. Italy too has made large investments in strategic sectors like energy and banking. 

Today, more than 2,000 wholly or partly owned Italian companies operate in practically all sectors of Hungary’s economy.  

A very large number of Italian large and small and medium-sized companies put their stakes on Hungary ever since the early ‘90s, when its economy was very different from what we know today. It was like opening a credit line to Hungary’s economy because those companies bet on the future of Hungary and of our economic relations. 

The Hungarian Governments that have succeeded each other over time have paid back our trust with the ambitious reforms, pragmatism and reliability that have stimulated high growth rates.   

Today, we have convened in this Business Forum to make a further quantum leap in a large number of sectors, thanks to the strength of our bilateral relations but also to the vital thrust of the hundreds of Italian and Hungarian companies taking part in this initiative. 

In particular, I am convinced that the conditions are now right to boost our industrial partnerships and create an increasingly favourable climate for those investing in growth. The opportunities are there and so are ambitious projects. We must exploit them together. 

Suffice it to consider the fact that Hungary is a Country crossed by four pan-European corridors, with a very capillary railway system and 6 airports assuring international connections. In this perspective, it is crucial to continue developing interconnections between our two Countries, such as the Port of Trieste to better connect Hungary with the Adriatic Sea. 

Today, I am speaking on behalf of numerous Italian businesses that are very interested in developing infrastructure, plant engineering, the medical sector, the defence industry and digitalisation, just to mention a few fast-growing sectors. 

I have wanted to begin my reflections with the friendship between Italy and Hungary, backtracking in time and recalling the heroic acts on both sides in the 19th century. 

I have also wanted to recall the investments made by Italian companies immediately after the fall of the Berlin wall and the extraordinary reforms passed by Hungary over the years. 

But I would like to conclude with an appeal to our common European homeland, of which we are all citizens. Because, beyond the different sensitivities on specific topics – such as migration – Italy and Hungary share a common European destiny. 

With the Rome Declaration of last 25 March, Italy, Hungary and the other EU Member Countries transmitted to citizens a strong message of confidence in the future of Europe. We both know that magical formulas or predetermined models do not exist. The essential factor is the political will to support the European integration project that has pulled us together after the tragic separation that followed the war and that has enabled us to distribute prosperity thanks to the free market and the free movement of capital.  

The challenge that Italy and Hungary must meet together is and remains political in nature. On our farsightedness, the scope of our ambitions and our determination in defending the heritage of European unity, will depend the future of the common European project and therefore also the level of prosperity generated by our trade and companies. 

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