Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s address at Mathias Corvinus Collegium’s international conference, “Budapest Summit on Migration”
23 March 2019, Budapest

Should we ever want to punish someone in politics, we should do so by making them take the stage after President Sarkozy.

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,

I cordially welcome you all. If you allow me, I will speak my native language, Hungarian; not especially because of the audience – because I think they all speak English – but more for the Hungarian public and media. So, please accept it. We wish to thank our foreign guests for coming here. Something like this is a big adventure – You don’t know how big. You are the guests of an ancient country. This isn’t our topic today, so I won’t speak about it at length, but just to give you an idea of the profound and special nature of the country hosting you today, I’ll just mention three simple linguistic facts which demonstrate the depth of the Hungarian soul and the ancient nature of Hungarian history. If I refer to someone who has the same mother and father as I have – for example “brother” in English – in Hungarian we say that they are my body’s (“testem”) blood (“vére”): “testvér”. That is the Hungarian word I’d use for “brother”. If I want to talk about a woman that I want to spend the rest of my life with, in Hungarian I don’t have a “wife”, but “another half”. Or if I want to say that I want to live my life in happiness and in a good physical state, I don’t use a word like “health”, but specifically refer to being whole: “wholeness” – if it can be translated at all. Anyway, this is a peculiar corner of the world, and so it’s always an honour for us to receive guests, because we see it as an honour if someone is interested in the life of our country of ten million, our nation of fifteen million. I’ve received the task of summarising what has happened so far. I can briefly do this by saying that we’ve received what we expected from everyone: From the Czechs we’ve received a crystal-clear analysis; from the Spanish we’ve received a big Christian soul; from our Australian friends we’ve received the soberness of the English-speaking world; and from President Sarkozy we’ve received French elegance. That is proof enough that our meeting is worthwhile.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Everyone mentioned, even if only briefly, the specific role that Hungary is playing in the European migration debate, and we’ve mostly received words of praise. First of all, we thank you for them; but on the other hand we have both feet on the ground, and in a spirit of candour we’d like to downplay our prestige. What has happened? Today Hungary is playing a leading role in the debate on migration. Nothing justifies this. Hungary is a country of ten million people, and its army – while of high quality – is hardly threatening in terms of size. As President Sarkozy brought this up, I’ll just mention that when we speak with the Turks, I sometimes say that we have as many soldiers as they have deserters on any given weekend. Our per capita GDP is not comparable with the countries of those who’ve spoken before me. And while we Hungarians know that in Europe there is equality, we also know that size counts, and everyone has their own place in the world. Our place and size doesn’t single us out for such a prominent role in any European debate – especially a prominent role in a pan-European debate such as the one we’re playing in the migration debate. The first thing I’d like to point out is that this is an unnatural situation. The second thing we must mention in this context is that while it’s unnatural, we didn’t choose it ourselves. This is quite simply a consequence of geography and history, as Hungary is a border country: a border country towards the East, and a border country towards the South. And it plays a prominent role when some danger from the East or the South threatens Europe, our shared homeland. We found ourselves on the front pages of newspapers in 1956, because rebelling against oppression threatening us from the East – we had no other choice – propelled us to world fame. And today the situation is the same.

When migrants choose a land route instead of a sea route they necessarily come into Europe across Hungary’s southern borders. Whether or not we wanted this role, whether or not it’s fair, whether or not we like it, we are where we are; and as we want to defend our borders, this has granted us Europe-wide fame. Neither Hungary nor Hungary’s political leaders – myself included – want to play any kind of a leading role in Europe. We have an ancient Hungarian world, and keeping it in order, maintaining it and adjusting it to the needs of the future provides us with quite enough work as it is. But we’ve no choice, because – and I say this for the sake of our guests – we don’t want to live through a repeat of what we’ve already experienced: for want of an effective border, almost 400,000 people – mostly men of military age, unarmed but in military style – all of a sudden marching across our border and into Hungary. We no longer want to lack the physical power to stop or manage such a mass of 400,000 – which may not be armed, but which all the same represents a significant physical force. So we don’t want to relive this experience of being at the mercy of outside forces. And so it came about that we built a fence, introduced border defence, and turned to stand in opposition to the European mainstream. The Good Lord helped us, and in both 2010 and 2014 He allowed us to win a governing majority without the need for a coalition – and even allowed us a two-thirds majority in Parliament without a coalition, enabling us to adopt the constitutional amendments needed to protect ourselves against migration. We know that in Europe today this is a luxury, and as the Good Lord gave us these tools, we had to use them. Thus we found ourselves in the situation of organising a conference here today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Naturally I have plenty of things of my own to say, but we may not have time for that, because I’d like to comment on some of the thoughts of those who’ve spoken before me.

The former Foreign Minister of Australia advised us against the European reflex that runs thus: “There’s nothing we can do”. His experience from Australia is that the people don’t take kindly to such an attitude, and kick such politicians out of office. What blissful innocence! This is not the case in Europe, Foreign Minister. In Europe there is a mantra, a dogma which has been under construction for thirty years, and here the reflex “There’s nothing I can do” is seen as positive. Perhaps the people don’t like this, but when someone says that there’s nothing they can do, the next morning the media will resound with “soft power” hymns of praise for them. I’ll explain this to you. In Europe over the past thirty to forty years a conception has been developed which asserts that societies – and our shared world of Europe in particular – must be led not by individuals, but by institutions; and, they say, institutions are able to respond to every crisis – though perhaps slower than they should. Therefore, according to this European political conception, institutions – the bigger the better – are good, while strong politicians are bad. And so every strong leader who says “I’ll take care of it, I’ll undertake to solve what is said to be impossible” is judged critically, and at that very moment is attacked with the full force of European soft power. I’m not the one here who knows the most about this: President Sarkozy here can tell us from first-hand experience that, instead of receiving praise and recognition, in Europe a strong leader is automatically branded by the mainstream media as “dangerous”. There are obviously historical reasons for this as well.

My second observation relates back to what my friend Mr. Oreja said. We must rid ourselves of fear: we must “eradicate fear”, as he put it. This is very difficult in Western Europe. What I’m about to say now is an estimate. In my view, in the western half of Europe 85 per cent of the sphere which surrounds politics, but which can also influence politics – which for the sake of simplicity we should call “soft power”, comprising think tanks, NGOs, universities, public intellectuals as our Australian friend put it, and the media – is left-wing and liberal, and can act in coordination. Consequently, if a Western European politician thinks like a Hungarian and speaks like a Hungarian, the very next morning this 85 per cent will rip them to shreds. We aren’t any braver than Western Europeans, but the situation in Central Europe is that within the soft power surrounding “hardcore power” – surrounding the core of executive and legislative power – the left-right ratio is around 50 per cent. Perhaps it’s moving slightly in the Christian-conservative direction now, and this historical trend is in progress. This is why I can survive the responses to the statements I make and the approaches I adopt at home and abroad. Here in Central Europe I survive, but not in the West. Although we’re convinced that we’re right factually and morally, and that we represent Europe’s interests, perhaps no prime minister and country has ever had a reputation in Western Europe which was as bad as mine and Hungary’s today. This clearly demonstrates that while we’ll be fighting, and as long as we have our two-thirds parliamentary majority we’ll be fighting bravely, as I’ve said this isn’t a natural state of affairs. Therefore it’s crucial for Hungary – and perhaps this explains the hopes we attach to the Italians – for finally a large country to come along this path: not a country of ten million, but a big country like the French, the Spanish, the Italians or the Germans. But if I look around, I see that today there’s only one country where there may be a government which says what we do, says it the way we do, and stands for what we do. This is because it is also a border country, but one with maritime borders, and it is in its interest to also stop migration across the sea. As I see it, this country is Italy. But someone must come along with us, because we can hold out for a while, but we cannot hold out forever, quite simply because our resources are finite. We need a large country from Western Europe which at last says the same as we do; otherwise we Central Europeans will have held the line for nothing, and we will be defeated in Europe. That is enough, perhaps, about the political situation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Migration is something which attacks what President Sarkozy referred to as our greatest strength: our unity. It also presents a major intellectual and political challenge. On the issue of migration, Western Europe and Central Europe are clearly on distinctly divergent paths. This divergence is sociological in nature, and is something we have no choice over. What has happened in Western European countries over the past few decades has been the emergence alongside the indigenous population – with its original Christian culture – of a significant minority with a strong identity which has been growing much faster than the host population. Population ratios are continuously shifting to the disadvantage of the indigenous Christian population, and in favour of the new community, which is fundamentally Muslim. Therefore in Western Europe today the second most important question related to migration – immediately after border protection – is how to manage the consequences of what has already happened: now that they are here, how to manage our co-existence with them. And every idea and principle focuses on this, with ideology also seeking to identify the theoretical basis on which one might manage the co-existence of different cultures which clearly don’t intend to mix with one another.

Let me add in parenthesis that integration has many indicators, but generally I don’t regard them as genuine, and I don’t believe them. Hungary’s experience is that real integration can be measured with only one indicator: mixed marriage. If we are prepared to choose one another as partners, then we’ll have integrated with one another. If we don’t choose one another – or do to a mathematically insignificant extent – then we aren’t integrated. In this sense there are large unintegrated communities in Western Europe. And therefore every question focuses on this. By contrast, in Central Europe there are no such masses: we expend no energy on the issue of how to integrate migrants, because we don’t need to integrate what we don’t have. And all our efforts are focused on keeping things that way. Here in Central Europe we believe that there is a given situation: whether or not we deserve this situation, whether or not we are lucky, is irrelevant; but there is a given situation. We don’t have to live together with large masses of people who are civilisationally different from the native population, and we want to preserve this situation. So Westerners talk about how we can live together and how we can integrate, while we talk about how to have no need for such thoughts. This means that the two halves of European politics – the western and eastern halves – run on opposite tracks; and clearly principles one needs in order to defend the position that one doesn’t want such masses in the first place are completely different from those principles needed for explaining why and how you want to integrate them and live together with them. Therefore, both in terms of political action and intellectual approach, there is a pernicious divergence and discontinuity in European politics as a whole. I agree with President Sarkozy that we should somehow bridge this discontinuity, but at present no one knows how to.

I frankly admit that in this struggle we feel that we occupy the moral high ground. Perhaps this isn’t gracious, perhaps it doesn’t completely conform to the principle of Christian humility, but all the same in this debate with Westerners we Hungarians feel that we occupy the moral high ground. The reason for this is as follows. As we see it, they want to force on us their own situation and their resulting approach. We also have an approach, but we don’t want to impose it on them, and this is what gives us the moral high ground. We don’t seek to advise them on how to restore their countries to the situation they were in before migrants had arrived in large numbers: that is their business, their principles, their approach, their integration policy, their future. But we cannot accept that, based on their experiences, they should want to tell us how we should think and how we should mix with people who we haven’t had to mix with up to now. This leads us – and here I think I agree with our Australian guest – to the philosophical question of a community which is a sovereign state, which has borders, a population, a constitution and laws, and which has a certain cultural quality, and of whether that community has the right to insist on that cultural quality. Or must it accept the teaching of Westerners that the Western multicultural social structure is superior to our homogeneous structure, and that therefore we must make ourselves multicultural through migration? Does a country have the right to say no? One can debate whether multiculturalism will at some point result in a superior and more worthwhile world than the one we started with. That is a matter for debate. The question, however, isn’t that, but whether it is compulsory for us Hungarians to take part in this experiment. Or we may have the right to say, “Thank you, we don’t want to change, we’d like to stay as we are. We have our faults, of course, which we’re happy to go about correcting, but in essence we don’t want to change.” Does a country have the right to that? Naturally, for an anglophone this question is redundant, because the answer is obvious: it does have that right. But if you are a member of the European Union, which is a political integration, the answer is not quite so obvious. And in these debates today this is the reason that Hungary is suffering.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

These have been my observations, which should be followed by my address – but which I won’t deliver now, as that that would be extremely discourteous to you and our speakers. There’s perhaps one thing I’d like to share with you, and that’s the question of time horizon. There’s a famous Hungarian demographer called Pál Demény, who I’m lucky enough to meet from time to time, and I learn a great deal from him. This elderly gentleman says that migration doesn’t receive the attention it should, because in politics the time horizon is short, while in migration it is long. And indeed in politics – just as in all our lives – there are always matters that demand our urgent attention. These are the most important both for voters and politicians: matters that demand our urgent attention. Brexit, for example, to mention a more challenging issue. Migration is like that: the time horizon needed for consideration of migration is measured in decades. Let me now give you a few figures. I am fifty-six years old, and with God’s help I’ll still be alive in 2050. Someone who is forty today will still be alive in 2060, and someone who is twenty today will almost certainly still be alive in 2080. A ten-year-old – I’m sure there are many of you with children of around that age – will still be alive in 2090. And those who are born sometime around now, or as we’re speaking, will very probably even live to see the 22nd century. And we all belong to a community, the community of Hungarians who are alive today. Therefore we have a responsibility, each according to their age, but those in the age groups I’ve just mentioned have joint responsibility for the future. Those sitting here will live to see what Europe is like in twenty, thirty or forty years’ time, and in twenty, thirty or forty years’ time you’ll be talking about the actions that today’s European decision-makers failed to take. This is what we politicians must understand: that while there are always more urgent things, migration’s consequences present a threat over a time span of twenty to thirty years, and we must make decisions now. Otherwise in twenty, thirty or forty years’ time our descendants – and perhaps even we ourselves – will have to face consequences which we’ll regret.

I usually use UN data. In a 2017 forecast the UN states that by 2030 Europe’s population will have fallen by a few million, while at the same time Africa’s population will have grown by 448 million. Over a period of thirteen years, Africa’s population is predicted to have increased by around half a billion, which is why President Sarkozy spoke about this. In the next ten or so years Africa’s population will increase by a little less than the European Union’s current population. And meanwhile, Dear Friends, the gap in living standards between Africa and Europe will not decrease but, if things continue like this, it is in fact much more likely to increase. Consequently, I can tell you that it is as certain as a law of nature that the pressure from Africa towards Europe – meaning that they’ll want to come here from there – will intensify. And this will flood Europe. According to another forecast, taking its base year as 2010, the Muslim population of Europe will have grown from its current level of 41 million to at least 70 million by 2050 – when we should still be alive. Over the same time period the number of Christians will fall by 99 million. And in these figures I have not counted the masses of newcomers.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This means that if you don’t view migration with the same seriousness as we have done here today, if European politics does not place it on the agenda and does not make immediate decisions right now, then we will see the start of processes which will later be impossible to halt. Former President Sarkozy is right: the development of Africa cannot occur in five years’ time; its development must start now, so that we can take help there, and not bring the problems here. On the question of migration East-West unity must be restored, and we have to find a modus vivendi now, because it will be impossible later. We must act now on European unity, on border defence and on migration.

To conclude, I would like to welcome President Sarkozy’s proposal for a possible solution, which states – perhaps less philosophically than I am going to say now – that in politics the most important thing is the recognition of failure. I’m not saying that winning is easy, but it’s possible, it happens. Living with victory is easy, but the most important thing in politics – especially international politics – is the ability to admit defeat, to acknowledge failure.

And what we see before us now is a huge failure. Four years have passed since 2015 and, as uncomfortable as it might be, we have to admit that the leaders of the European Union and the current structures of the European Union are unable to solve the issue of migration and border defence. And if they haven’t been able to do that over the last four or five years, there’s no reason to believe that they’ll be able to do so tomorrow. Therefore, as President Sarkozy said, we must change the system. We must change the system, and just as a council of finance ministers from the members of the currency union was set up in the interest of the common currency, so we should set up a new body compromising the interior ministers from the Schengen Area countries. Powers related to migration and border protection must be taken away from the Commission, those powers must be restored to the Member States, and Member States should delegate their interior ministers to a new body so that the interior ministers can together answer the questions related to border protection and migration. If after the European elections at least this much can be achieved, then those European elections will already have proved their worth.

Thank you very much for your attention.