Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s acceptance speech after receiving the “Person of the Year” award

Good evening, everyone. May I ask your permission to speak my wonderful native Hungarian language?

Allow me to welcome the Prime Minister of Poland, President Kaczyński, the honourable members of the Polish government and representatives from Polish politics and Polish business. I listened to the laudation: if my father were here, he would be proud of me; if my mother were here, she would have believed every word.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When one receives an award, the first thing one must do is look around to see if there was some mistake. It seems that there was no mistake, and this award was indeed intended for me. This is despite the fact that, had you asked me about this, I would have been able to suggest a number of other excellent candidates, as the past few years have signalled the great initial steps of Central Europe finally finding its feet and the beginning of its renaissance. There are some excellent colleagues of mine in the V4 who could have been the person of the year – but without doubt I am the most senior of them, as I have been a Member of Parliament for twenty-six years and have been Prime Minister for a combined total of eleven years. So I gratefully accept the award with the greatest respect.

We must then ask the question: why was the person honoured in this way given the award? I am convinced that while awards are given to individuals, they are, in fact, given in recognition of causes: certain specific causes. And it is in the nature of causes that they can be represented through individuals. We have heard many things just now. I myself have trouble listing all the causes to which I have rallied over the past three decades: national independence, “Soviets, go home”, freedom, finding our way back to the West. But if I consider more carefully exactly why I have been given this award now, and what cause you have acknowledged with this award, I feel you must have acknowledged the cause of Central Europe. I am convinced that the cause which I stand for is that the Central European nations must preserve their identities, their religious and historical national identities. These are not just outdated pieces of clothing that one should discard in the modern era, but armour which protects us, in which we may engage in battle, which helps us to survive, and which may eventually make us successful. Believe me we are on the verge of some great times, and our whole continent is undergoing a process of transformation. The communities which will be successful, survive and be strong are those with strong identities: religious, historical and national identities. This is what I stand for, and this is what I am trying to protect. I regret to say that we must do so from time to time not only against the faithless and our anti-national rivals, but also from time to time we must do so against Europe’s various leading intellectual and political circles. But we have no choice: we must protect our identities – Polish, Hungarian and Central European identities – in the face of everyone; because otherwise there will be no room for us under the sun.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the award I see recognition of this cause. If you will allow me, I would say one other thing as a Hungarian to the Polish people. I am a country boy, and this has protected me from a lot of things in life, and a lot of trouble – but most of all from seeking to make politics unnecessarily complicated. Those who say that politics is about interests, calculation and cunning are right – and there is some truth in this. But let me tell you that politics does not work without friendship – not in your own party, in your own country, or in Central Europe. Polish-Hungarian relations will not be good if there is no friendship behind them, and if there are no personal friendships between the two peoples and the leaders of the two peoples. We Hungarians greatly appreciate friendship, as here in Europe we are an alien nation, without relatives: no one speaks our language, no one can read our literature, no one understands our culture; we are a strange people without relatives. A nation like this can indeed appreciate friendship. This is why, despite all difficulties, the Hungarian people value the Polish people’s friendship more than any of the friendships they have with the nations of the world. So while I appreciate that this award is given in recognition of a good cause, as far as I am concerned and as far as the Hungarian people are concerned, the value of this award is greatly enhanced by the fact that I have received it from the Polish people, and as a token of friendship.

I wish you all the best. God bless Poland!