It is an honour to welcome you. Good morning.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak. Our meeting here once a year is a distinctive kind of occasion, and it brings to mind an old Szekler story: they ask an old Szekler if it’s true that he’s an expert in everything, and he replies yes, everything is one of the things that he’s an expert in. That’s a little like the situation I’m in here, because at times like this I ought to talk about everything, and then a little bit more: about the mechanisms driving everything. It’s not an easy situation for me. This is a freestyle form of address, and perhaps the description given to it by the President as he invited me to speak – presentation – is the most accurate, as it’s the least restrictive. So I’ll try to sum up the situation in Europe as I see it from the office of the Hungarian prime minister – and of course I’ll mostly talk about Hungary.
I’d like to begin by saying that nothing satisfies us: when the world doesn’t talk about us we say that we’re being ignored, and it’s as if we don’t exist; but when it starts talking about us, giving this or that opinion on us, we feel that it’s unfair for the world to be focusing its attention on us. There are more peaceful times, and there are times when the world takes things too far. That’s the point at which we are now. Those of you from America are well aware that one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry when one reads that the US president’s negative attitude on the issue of Ukraine is due to the influence of two people: the President of Russia and myself. At times like this one really doesn’t know what to think, because clearly there’s no upper limit on nonsense. But when one sees that this isn’t only an opinion in the newspapers – because they’re full of nonsense, and that’s part of freedom of speech – and such absurdities are repeated in congressional proceedings for impeachment in America, then one really holds one’s head in one’s hands and one can’t decide whether or not it’s good for the world to know about us: whether they should pay attention to us or leave us alone.
I see other similar exaggerations. Yesterday or today I heard that apparently a European leader has said that relations between Russia and Europe should be improved, and they hope that I’ll convince the Poles to change their attitude. Well, first of all it’s not the job of the Hungarian prime minister to take on impossible missions – because changing the Polish position on Russia is absolutely impossible. So I’d warn anyone against trying to do such a thing – but I’d especially warn a prime minister not to try it. So the Poles are the Poles, and what they think about their neighbours is what they think: it can’t be changed, and it’s not for the Hungarian government to attempt such a thing. The Poles will decide for themselves what they’ll do. One thing is certain: Hungary has always stood by Poland, and it will continue to do so in future. This was even the case in very difficult times; and this was the case in World War II, when we were on opposite sides, and our main ally at that time captured, invaded and devastated Poland, deporting and partially liquidating its people. At that time we opened a corridor and let into Hungary those Poles who were fleeing their country. So Polish-Hungarian friendship is on a firm foundation. It’s also true that history has placed its seal on this, because after the War the reward given to the Poles was the same as the punishment given to us; but this is just one of the absurdities of Central European history. Anyway, the point is that the first thing I have to say is that we shouldn’t lose our sense of proportion, we should retain our ability to make sensible judgments, and we should avoid either overestimating or underestimating the role, opportunities and influence of Hungary, while keeping our feet on the ground. Let’s pursue foreign policy and take on roles suited to Hungary’s capability and strength, and under no circumstances take on what others clearly want to impose on us – to refer back to the example I gave just now.
To briefly return to Ukraine, I can inform you that, despite repeated attempts, we’ve not yet been able to meet the new President of Ukraine. Since our last meeting there has been an election in Ukraine, which was important for both Ukraine and Hungary. In Ukraine in recent years we’ve seen anti-Hungarian governance, and we hope that the political elite led by the new president will change its thinking and policies, accept Hungary’s outstretched hand and seek to work with Hungary rather than pursue anti-Hungarian policies.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before I delve into a description of the situation in the country, allow me to talk briefly about the diaspora, because I get the feeling that in our annual meeting more attention is paid to what I say than to the diaspora itself, and that is not right. I think we should take a snapshot of the situation. I’m talking to the population in Hungary now and not you, because you obviously know what the Hungarian diaspora is and how much we count on it. Zsolt [Semjén] – the Deputy Prime Minister – accurately described the dilemma emerging from the development of Hungarian political history: the diaspora used to mean Hungarians who belonged to us, but couldn’t return home, and who had left what for the sake of simplicity we should describe as the ancient Hungarian area of settlement, or the Carpathian Basin. The situation has changed inasmuch as today the number of our compatriots living in the diaspora outside Hungary’s borders and unable to return to Hungary for political or physical reasons is infinitesimal, perhaps barely perceptible. So the meaning of diaspora has changed. They live in communities in countries that are not part of our traditional thousand-year-old Hungarian area of settlement, our home, our homeland in the Carpathian Basin, our nation in the geographical sense. I asked for a summary of how we stand, and in the government summary I see that the number of Hungarians living in diaspora is about 2.5 million. This is a huge number! We’re talking about a nation of ten million. This expresses everything – most of all our history, and the history of the dispersal of our people – but it shows the importance of the diaspora; because if we have a country with a population of almost ten million in Hungary and we have 2.5 million people in diaspora, the latter represents a huge proportion. The proportion of Hungarians living in diaspora is far greater than the attention paid to you in Hungarian public discourse, and far greater than the extent to which we’re able to integrate you, as an opportunity, into Hungarian economic, foreign relations and foreign policy. Of course I’m well aware of the fact that census data elsewhere, especially in English-speaking countries, means something other than it does in Hungary, but it’s the only fixed starting-point from which we can think about who live as Hungarians across the world, and where. And here I see that, according to the latest census in 2015, 1.4 million Hungarians live in the United States. It would be good to find them, although it’s not that simple, and there’s a very wide range in the strength of their identities as Hungarians. There are some here among us today who have a very strong, fresh sense of national identity; and there are others who see themselves as Hungarians only as a memento of their ancestry. But this means that we have some kind of relationship with them and they belong to us; and this is something we can work with. As regards Canada, the 2011 Canadian census shows that 316,760 people there think of themselves as Hungarians. As far as those who emigrated to South America is concerned, I can see that the number of Hungarians living across that continent is estimated at 125,000. The Hungarian diaspora in Israel is approximately 200,000 people. According to the 2011 census in Australia, 69,000 people declared themselves to be Hungarian. The census data is also valuable because the question is an open one: nobody’s ancestry is being forced on them, and they are the ones who can freely declare their origins. So in an official census they are the ones who declare themselves as being Hungarian. And now we come to the most difficult question: the European diaspora. This is because we are members of the European Union. There is free movement and a unified labour market, so here the importance of state borders seems to be diminishing – which further reinforces the notion that Hungarians in Europe can move freely between where they live now and Hungary. Nevertheless, our compatriots in Western Europe are still counted by us as being part of the diaspora. So I see that there are 178,000 Hungarians in Germany and 80,000 in the United Kingdom. According to Austrian statistics, there are 60,000 Hungarians in Austria, there are 22,000 in the Netherlands and 17,000 Hungarians in Sweden.
After this I’ll briefly talk about the current programmes through which we’re seeking to turn to our advantage the fact that we are a world nation which is dispersed across the world – here I’m not primarily addressing you, but the Hungarian public, so that they understand this situation better. Of course dispersion is always in the first place a loss, because people have left us; but if one is able to link together Hungarian communities in different parts of the world – and of course the Hungarian state must be able to do so – then a loss is immediately turned into an advantage. Those who have left are far more able to add to the nation’s strength, and therefore the feelings that are evoked in us are not of loss but of opportunity. This is why the Hungarian government is running programmes to reconnect the communities of Hungarians living in diaspora with the bloodstream of the Hungarian nation. We have launched the Kőrösi Csoma Sándor Programme, through which we send 150 young people on scholarships out to diaspora communities. The budget for next year includes the financial resources it needs to operate, and we even plan to increase the number of participants. We have our Mikes Kelemen Programme, which seeks to identify, register, collect, bring home, accommodate and use – both here in Hungary and in other communities across the Carpathian Basin – artefacts of our heritage which are threatened with destruction. This programme was launched on 1 January 2014, and its terms are guaranteed. We operate collection points in seven overseas countries, and according to the register I have here, 3,740 crates of endangered artefacts previously taken from the country have arrived back in Hungary. We have the Julianus Programme, which is about creating a register of Hungarian heritage and historic sites. This programme was launched in 2013, and it has identified 434 Hungarian heritage sites in forty-six countries around the world. We’re continuing this work. This planet of ours is not so large as to prevent us from naming, marking, identifying and – where appropriate – maintaining all the Hungarian historic sites on it. Then we have a programme that is in part related to the diaspora: the Without Borders! Programme. This was launched in 2010 with great difficulty – because it requires a lot of organisation, and it centres on allowing students from Hungary to take class trips to areas beyond Hungary’s borders. Every year it enables tens of thousands of young people to make these trips. We plan to reach a target of 100,000 schoolchildren this year – but Zsolt says that we reached that target last year. Every year 100,000 young Hungarians receive state funding to visit areas beyond the state borders of present-day Hungary, and try to establish personal links there. And of course we also have newer programmes. In 2019 we launched the meetings of Hungarian weekend schools, which operate in twenty-seven countries, and which we’d like to continue. And as part of the diaspora programme we plan to support the Rákóczi Federation again in 2019 in its activities enabling young people living in diaspora to visit Hungary. There isn’t a Hungarian emigration and diaspora centre, but we’d like to see one created, and that is a goal we’ve set ourselves for this year. We’d like to start leadership training for young people in diaspora. We’d like to further develop the Kőrösi Csoma Programme, and so forth. Perhaps these are the most important elements. Clearly you’ll receive detailed information from the Minister of State and the state officials dealing with diaspora issues. I just wanted to highlight some of the programmes so that the Hungarian public following us can see who the Diaspora Council deals with, who it involves, and what programmes Hungary is running. There are many important things in Hungary that the Hungarian people know less about than it would useful – and perhaps necessary – for them to know.
After this, let’s turn our attention to Hungary, if you’ll allow me. We’re in the middle of an electoral cycle. Of course I could talk about the Hungarian political situation within a broader historical context, I’d like to do so, and maybe I ought to, but now I’d like to leave it on one side, because we’ve done that before and I trust that we’ll be able to do so again in the future. Now I’d rather restrict myself to the very simple political fact that somewhat narrows my horizon: the fact that we’re in the middle of an electoral cycle. So the electoral cycle in Hungary is four years: the last election was in 2018 and the next one will be in 2022. We can count on this, given that Hungary is the only country in the European Union where, since 1990 – since Central European countries have had free elections – there has never been an early election. This is something that few people know. There have been early parliamentary elections in every other European country – even in Germany, which is well-known for its stability. There’s only one country on the continent which was never had an early election. I’ve talked about this once before at a meeting with you. I don’t think that the reason for this is simply that the main parties which saw in the transition from communism – the MDF, the SZDSZ, Fidesz, the MSZP, the Smallholders and the Christian Democrats – grasped the essence of constitutional stability so well and therefore created a structure in which the constitutional framework was likely to strengthen cohesion and cooperation. Obviously this was also the case, but in fact what has been more important has been an underlying cultural idiosyncrasy: Hungarians are well aware that the starting-point for everything is political stability. Perhaps it was a year or two ago when I said that I’ve been in international politics for thirty years, and I know countries where it’s not particularly important whether there is or isn’t a government. Recently we’ve seen a parliamentary election in a country where there have been four elections in four years, and this fact is not reflected in that country’s situation. So there are countries without stable government where the economy, culture and foreign affairs are doing well. And there are countries and peoples with a mentality – probably for cultural and historical reasons – which means that if there’s no central government and it’s not clear how to go forward, then everything stops, slows down, there’s delay, confusion and extreme caution. I think that the storms of history have taught Hungarians that it’s better to know the way forward. Until we know that precisely, we need to conserve our energy. I think that Hungary is one of those countries where political stability matters, and I think it’s good that there haven’t been any early elections since 1990 – despite the fact that those in opposition demand them. And they always do. This is the norm. And even when perhaps the opposition parties demanding such elections are right in claiming that it would be good to have them, if we look at the overall situation from a historical perspective, we clearly see that in not having them we’ve gained a national advantage in the international race.
So we’re in the middle of an electoral cycle, and the peculiarity of this particular mid-term situation in Hungary now is that this year we’ve had two elections. One was the European Parliament election. The other election was due to the fact that when we changed the constitution in 2010 we decided that the length of local government mandates would be distinct from that of parliamentary mandates, with local government representatives being elected for five-year terms. So on every occasion the gap between national parliamentary elections and local elections increases by one year. This was also the case this year, with the local elections falling in the middle of the parliamentary cycle. This is difficult for a government, and every election in the middle of a parliamentary term is a big challenge, as we’re halfway through the work we’ve scheduled for our four-year term. This is when difficult decisions are usually made, and this is more or less the case now with us, with the results of the decisions tending to come later. So in Europe a midterm election is always risky, because if one doesn’t get enough support the opposition can justifiably claim that the Government should cash in its chips immediately, because it’s lost the confidence of the people. So for a government it’s important that it can win such a midterm election. Of course the beauty of local elections is that everyone wins: the interpretations put on them are so wide that everyone declares victory – and the Government also has the opportunity to do that. I interpret the local elections as an indication of how many people say the Government should continue its work, and how many say it shouldn’t, and if we look at the total number of votes cast, then I can say that a clear superiority emerges. I could quote numbers, but they were in the newspapers. Despite the fact that the governing parties suffered painful losses in important cities, we interpret the local elections as showing that we have received a mandate to continue in government. So now, when I speak to you, I speak from this position, and the Government will continue to govern for the next two and a half years and implement its programme.
At the heart of this programme is a two-word phrase: “strong Hungary”. So the goal of our government – now in its third term since 2010 – is to turn Hungary from a weak country, a weakened country, into a powerful, vital, dynamic, goal-setting, strong Hungary. If we look at the situation from this point of view, the stability and power of a country in the modern world is based on financial stability and strength, and from this point of view, on a daily basis you can see in the news – even in the biased international press – that the economy is on financially stable foundations. It is rare – perhaps unique – for a country in the European Union to continuously reduce its national debt year on year. I may be wrong, because the Germans are capable of doing so, but the point is that we are among the very few countries that are reducing their state debt every year. Hungary is one such country. Our credit is somewhat diminished by the fact that this has been imposed on us by law, but it’s increased by the fact that we made this law. But the bottom line is that we abide by it, and this is why every year Hungarian government debt has been falling and our financial situation can be described as stable. You know the growth figures, but these are deceptive. The fact that Hungary has growth in the range of 4–5 percent of GDP is a very good result, but we should remember that as Hungarian exports account for about 85 per cent of total Hungarian production, the Hungarian economy always reacts sensitively to the world around it. This is why when the international environment sometimes cools down, when there’s an economic slowdown, we must always announce economic protection action plans; because a deterioration in our export markets presents us with serious challenges. And now we’re about to enter such a period. So this economic growth is fine, but I’m not looking at the absolute number: in order to maintain the pace of our progress in catching up with Europe’s most advanced countries, the Government’s target is to always exceed the European Union’s average growth by 2 per cent. Regardless of whether the overall figure is an increase of 3, 4 or 5 percent, as long as we keep to this target – as long as we achieve this 2 per cent margin – the route or the track that we’re running on is a good one.
I don’t want to talk about wages right now, because obviously you’ve heard a lot about that from your Hungarian relatives. But I want to talk about poverty, because in this cycle, the 2018 electoral cycle, one of the most important commitments is to eradicate poverty. This includes Roma integration, and so we’re presented with two huge tasks. People are human, and so they’re also prey to questionable motivations – for example, sometimes they’re vain, they like to achieve recognition, and they like to do things which make them feel that they’ve left their mark on the world. There’s something of that in all of us. Of course one tries – with more or less success – to keep these things under control, and the KDNP is part of the Government so that this can be with more success. So we have that desire, we want to do great things, and – knowing our history – one of these great commitments is for us to be the government and the governing force that can say it has eliminated poverty in Hungary. Now of course there’s always debate about this, because this is one of the most important issues in the debate between the European Right and the Left; and here, without reference to the facts, each side seeks to characterise the other’s position as completely illegitimate. Therefore on this issue in Hungary it’s very difficult for one to see things clearly. Fortunately, there are people in the world working on research into poverty and exclusion. I’d just like to point out that not long ago one of the world’s leading researchers on inequality – an American – gave a long interview posted on their website, in which they strongly asserted that in Hungary the number of people living in severe material deprivation has fallen to its lowest level in decades. One of the reasons given for this was the fact that last year the number of Hungarians returning to the country was higher than the number leaving. That was the first year in which this has been the case, and we hope that it wasn’t an exception, but the beginning of a trend. One of the co-researchers in this study said that through its labour market programmes the Government has made superb progress in helping Roma citizens to integrate into the system. This research added that today in Britain or the United States one could not publish an opinion claiming that the Hungarian prime minister’s economic policy is good, because no one would even pay attention to it. So much for reality. But to return to the point, there can be no question that we dealt with the effects of the 2008–2009 economic crisis without abandoning the goal of reducing inequality and reintegrating those on society’s periphery. This is a major difference between the crisis management policies of Hungary and, say, Greece: while I think Hungary handled the crisis well, Greece became a debt colony. In any case, in this area we’ve achieved encouraging results. Such things are not spectacular: one of the programmes through which we’re trying to help involves selecting thirty Hungarian villages considered to be the poorest in Hungary. A separate programme was launched for these thirty villages. And we also identified a group of three hundred villages deemed to be the poorest in Hungary. The latter programme is not as intensive as the one for the thirty poorest villages, but it’s still a very powerful development programme. This is not the same as the Hungarian Villages Programme, which is something else, but within it we’ve specifically targeted poor, ghetto-like villages for modernisation and transformation. I hope that next year I can report on the results of this.
A strong Hungary. Hungary is a family-oriented country. The thinking of the Hungarian people is family-oriented. In my opinion even the country’s extremely high divorce rate doesn’t alter this fact. According to Zsolt this rate is falling, and there’s always a debate about this, but Hungarians tend to remarry. This clearly shows that in itself divorce doesn’t prove that Hungarians don’t want to live their lives within families. I’m convinced that the strength of a country is also determined by whether it feels at ease with itself – whether its people can lead their lives in a way that best suits their instincts and culture. And as Hungarians are family-friendly and family-oriented, they obviously only feel comfortable when they see that families are not only important to them, and that this is not only a personal matter, but that this is also important to the community. They want to feel that they always have parliamentary representatives, legislators and a government that shares their feelings on this: that the family is important, and that there should be help for families in general – and their families in particular. Now Hungary is doing a lot to keep families strong, because without strong families there won’t be a strong Hungary. Of course what this requires most of all is children. In Hungary there’s a debate about what we mean by “family”. We made an attempt to create a family protection law, and at that point we realised that it’s not easy to define what a family is: is a childless couple a family, and is a mother raising her child alone a family? And we realised that on this there’s no room for clever argumentation, so it’s better not to define it, because somehow one feels what a family is anyway. It is a community of love, and – subject to the constitutional constraint that naturally in Hungary only a man and a woman can marry – all forms of cohabitation within this are families and worthy of support. But, even though in itself it doesn’t define the family, the most important thing in a family is children. And this is why Hungary’s position is that we should reverse a forty-year trend. Hungary’s population has been in noticeable decline since the early eighties. The problems obviously started earlier than that, but they first came to the surface in the early eighties, and this has been the case ever since. So every year for the past forty years Hungary has suffered population loss, because the number of children being born has been lower than the number of people departing from us. This trend should be reversed. This is very difficult, because while they have a strong sense of community when it comes to the nation, when it comes to their own lives Hungarians are at least as individualistic: “My home is my castle”, and “It’s my life”. Any intrusions or interventions that they feel to be an attempt to get him them do something will be met with immediate resistance. So it’s not easy to help Hungarian families, because they must be helped while at the same time respecting their autonomy 100 per cent. So having children must be promoted without anyone feeling that they’re being coerced or that they’re personally part of any state goal – and they must absolutely not feel that their own lives are being interfered with. Incidentally, those who attack our family policy always attack us on these grounds: they always claim that in itself family policy is de facto intervention in people’s personal lives, and is therefore wrong. This is the usual “liberal-illiberal” debate, which I don’t need to recapitulate here. But the essence of the matter is that it would be desirable if the number of children being born could be at least as high as the number of those who are leaving this world. According to international statistics, this will require a fertility rate of 2.1. We are very, very far from that: we won’t achieve it in the short term, and perhaps only in ten years at the soonest. Today our goal is to slow down this process. This is also very difficult. Scientific disciplines dealing with the family make it clear that the success of family policy depends on long-term efforts, and so if we can persevere with family policy, if it is consistently pursued in the long term, its results will be far better than if the support system is changed from one electoral term to the next. This is the lesson which the French have taught Europe, because they are doing this well. So this will be possible if we manage to maintain the same family-friendly policies and measures encouraging people to have children over the longer term: over ten to fifteen years. Of course there are two ways of doing this: keeping the same government; or treating the policy as permanent, regardless of any change of government. Here in Hungarian politics everyone has different preferences. We obviously support the former way. However one looks at it, if we manage to maintain prolonged and consistent family policy I think we’ll have tangible results in ten years’ time. At the moment there are merely encouraging signs, and tangible results will only come in the decades ahead; but that’s no reason not to continue our family policy. This year we announced a number of measures within a family action plan. I won’t list them all now, because any of you interested in Hungary’s policy will have heard about them all in the media. I’d just like to say here that they’re working well, and hopefully there will be another, second, family protection action plan next year. Minister of State Katalin Novák is working on this.
When we speak about a strong Hungary, Hungarians think of a vigorous national culture. There are fortunate nations who never need to think about how much longer they will be here in the world. The Germans and the English-speaking peoples – or even the Slavs – don’t have to think about this too much, because the world is hardly imaginable without the Slavs, the Germans or the English-speaking peoples. But we Hungarians think that it’s easy to imagine a world without Hungarians. There are few enough of us, and we’re scattered far enough around the world for us to think that a world, a human world, is possible in which there are no Hungarians – or that if they exist, it will only be as zoological curiosities and in no way as a community or a nation. So our instincts are different, and therefore we need to focus on our national culture – because it is our national culture that sustains us. There will be a Hungarian nation for as long as we speak Hungarian, and as long as we still have our culture derived from the Hungarian language. So when we talk about a strong Hungary, it necessarily means a Hungary with a strong, vibrant national culture. Therefore – and here again we come back to the liberal-illiberal debate – I have no doubt that the Hungarian state must not be neutral on cultural policy issues. The maintenance of national culture is a government duty. The meaning of national culture may be open to debate, but for us there is no question that maintaining and strengthening our national culture cultivated in the Hungarian language is a state task, and this is how we shall continue to see it in the future. It directly follows from this that for us national culture is naturally a source of enjoyment and naturally a mode of self-expression; but it is also a means for preserving national identity. And this third factor is at least as important – or perhaps more important – than the first two combined. Furthermore, I see that we’re moving towards an ever more monochromatic, globalising world, and understandably any colour is interesting when it stands out from the greyness of global uniformity. So I think that if we want tourism, if we want tourists from abroad, if we want to profit from the fact that Hungary is a country with a special culture, then we must emphasise our distinctive qualities and we must emphasise our uniqueness, because people are interested in uniqueness. They’re curious about Hungarians because we’re not like them, and they’re curious about how the world can be imagined, organised and made liveable in Hungarian. This is why they come to Hungary – not to see things which are the same as those that they’re already familiar with at home. Although the money is needed in a thousand different places, this is why the Government has always seen development of cultural policy as one of the most important spending areas. There’s always debate about this, as after all we’re Hungarians. One such outstanding commitment to cultural policy has been the restoration of Kossuth tér in Budapest, the main square of the nation. Kossuth tér is the drop within which the ocean of our conception of cultural policy or national culture is made visible: if you walk around the square you’ll be able to identify exactly what that is. And even if you look at a map or a photograph of Kossuth tér thirty years ago and compare it with how it is today, you can see the direction in which we think Hungarian culture should proceed. Kossuth tér used to be a parking lot: it was the country’s parking lot. And now it is the nation’s main square. But we’re sitting in the Castle Garden Bazaar, and we feel that the Castle is just as important. In the system of Hungarian constitutional symbolism, the symbol of modern democracy, the modern Hungary and the constitutional system based on the participation and votes of its citizens is the Parliament; while the symbol of our ancient past and ancient constitutionality, the one thousand years of Hungary, is the Castle – here, where we are now. And so it was intolerable that, even just a few years ago, the Castle Garden Bazaar was one of the world’s most endangered monuments. The fact that we’re sitting here now, and our surroundings are like this, is a clear expression of our cultural policy. Similarly, everywhere that cultural policy issues are discussed, this is seen as being well expressed by the Liget Programme, which I can say without any exaggeration is now the largest cultural development programme in the Western world – the largest cultural development programme in the entire Western world. And let us give thanks to God for the fact that we’ve been able to complete three quarters of the work on it, and that the transfer of power in Budapest in the recent municipal elections will affect only a quarter to a third of the entire project. That part will be seriously affected, because they’re stopping it – or trying to stop it. There’s a debate about it, and we’ll see how it turns out. So even if it hasn’t been completed, at least two-thirds of that extremely uplifting project has already been implemented. And I’ve only been talking about Budapest. I hope that you have a chance to visit our provincial cities and towns – and even our villages. It’s worth looking at the main squares of Hungary’s provincial towns and cities, our historic buildings: you’ll be able to see that this country knows that culture and cultural heritage are extremely important to it, and that this is true all the way from the smallest village to Budapest, the capital of the nation.
When we talk about a strong Hungary we cannot avoid the question – the sensitive question – of a strong army. In Hungary in 1990 people understandably thought that the issue of Hungary’s security would be resolved as soon as we became a member of NATO. There was much truth in this belief, but it was not the whole truth. Our NATO membership is extremely important – although one can see a warning sign in the recent statement in an English weekly by the French president, which you may have read, in which he refers to NATO as being “brain dead”. It’s not closely linked to the subject of our discussion today, but while in 1990 we may have thought that NATO membership would fully guarantee Hungary’s security and that NATO equalled security, this is certainly not the case today. Security is NATO plus a national defence force. So without a national defence force, NATO alone will be unable to provide for our security. This is why we needed to start building a modern Hungarian national army. This process is moving forward. I wouldn’t have minded launching this programme a year or two later, because there are so many other things making demands on limited financial resources, but neighbouring countries have begun military modernisation programmes on such a scale that there is the need for a response. This is because we cannot afford to allow the disparity in strength between the Hungarian army and the armies of countries around us to increase beyond a certain level. That was the threat we were facing. If such a disparity grows too far, then later technological factors will mean that it cannot be eliminated – or not without a horrendous level of effort and expense. Therefore our national defence force development programme had to be started earlier than we’d originally planned, because we cannot allow the forces of the surrounding countries to become significantly more advanced than that of Hungary. Of course the optimal situation is for them not to be more advanced. This will be the case by 2026. So, according to the current programme, by 2026 we’ll have reached the point at which – even without NATO – the Hungarian army is capable of guaranteeing the security of the Hungarian people, and defending the state borders and Hungary’s accumulated assets in the face of all humanly imaginable threats; here we’re not thinking of a world war, but a regional conflict. We can state with complete confidence that this will be the case by 2026. Today I can only say that we are approaching that position. We’re not lagging behind to the extent that this will become a lost cause, and by 2026 the Hungarian army will have become one of the dominant military forces in the region. This doesn’t alter the fact that Hungary’s foreign and regional policy revolves around peace, coexistence, alliance-building and cooperation; nevertheless security considerations cannot be completely countermanded.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In terms of foreign policy a strong Hungary first of all means acknowledging our situation, which we usually express by saying that no sane country will try to change its address, its house number or location. Perhaps one could imagine a Hungary with a more fortunate location, but Hungary is where it is, and that cannot be changed. From a foreign policy point of view this means that we live our lives within a triangle, a triangle of power. How one describes it depends on whether you’re facing the map or have your back to it, but let’s put it this way: Berlin to the left, Moscow to the right, and Istanbul to the south. This has been the case since the conquest of the Carpathian Basin – no, I’m exaggerating, not since then; but it’s been the case for a few hundred years, and it seems that it will remain so for some time to come. And whether we like it or not, no matter what ideology we pursue, foreign policy is the science of realities. This is the reality: Moscow, Berlin and Istanbul form the triangle within which we have to live our lives. Here we need security, prosperity, Hungarian culture, Hungarian life and Hungarian civilisation. Our conception is not that we should be on one side or the other, but that we must maintain good relations with each of the three power centres and pursue policy which gives all three of them an interest in our success. This is extremely difficult, especially when one or two of the three are regularly in opposition to one or two of the others. But since politics is supposedly an art, and nothing in art is impossible, so nothing is impossible in politics. And today, for example, no matter what relations are like between the three of them, today all three countries have an interest in Hungary’s success. If you ask the Germans, Russians or Turks what they want for Hungary, what kind of Hungary would serve their own national interests, then in all three countries they’ll answer that they have an interest in a successful Hungary. And I think that this is a foreign policy position that we’ve made great efforts to develop, that we’ve fought hard to achieve, and which we should maintain in the future.
Finally, a strong Hungary is also characterised by its ability to promote integration, by its cohesive power and its will. The operation of the Diaspora Council is evidence of this, but maintenance of the national community will also be demonstrated by tomorrow’s meeting of MÁÉRT: the Hungarian Standing Conference of Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin. The position we’re in now is that Hungary has the strength not only to talk about Hungarians being able to stay in their homelands, but also to do something about it. This is not easy. You know about the figures relating to population movements in Central Europe, and about how many people from Central European countries are leaving – mainly for Western European countries. This also affects Hungarian communities. The situation now is not like it was in the early nineties, when they came to Hungary – although to some extent that’s still true. The situation now is that they can move on from Hungary to the West unhindered. So the general European problem has reached the Hungarian communities. And since it’s in our interest for Hungarian communities to be able to prosper in their homelands – and this is now a national interest, and not simply a social or humanitarian consideration – we must give them opportunities or support them economically, so that they find it worthwhile staying in their homelands. This is why we’ve announced a responsible neighbourhood policy. This means two things. Firstly, it’s not in our interest for there to be an increase in the gap between Hungary’s level of economic development and the economic development of neighbouring countries. But since we don’t want to stop, because we want to develop, and we don’t want to reduce this gap by going backwards or stagnating but keep going forward, there’s only one option open to us: to try to raise them up along with us. Therefore we’re pursuing economic policy that’s not only good for Hungary, but also good for Serbia, good for Croatia and good for Romania – and if they’d allow it, it would also be good for Ukraine. So we have an interest in the pace of development in Hungary being matched by our neighbours – or at least by the areas on the other side of our borders, so that people there don’t want to come here, but want to stay there. This is the essence of responsible neighbourhood policy, and this is why we’re now implementing economic development programmes with the Serbs, the Romanians, the Croatians – and even with the Slovakians – in order to develop those areas across our borders where Hungarians live. Indeed, since one of our most important economic policy objectives is that the return on Hungarian investments made outside Hungary matches the amount taken out of Hungary in return on capital invested in Hungary, it’s in our interest that the economies of neighbouring countries develop. I don’t want to talk about this at length, but we have an outward investment programme. This also has a time horizon of ten to fifteen years, with the following goal. As I’ve said, 85 per cent of Hungary’s gross domestic product comes from exports. Large international companies operate in Hungary, not out of a sense of social responsibility, but to generate profits for themselves; and they regularly take a proportion of these profits out of the country. What we’re aiming for now is that Hungarian companies operating abroad bring home at least as much in terms of profits as are taken out of Hungary by foreign companies. This demands large investments. The largest investment of this type – investing abroad – in the history of Hungarian economy was made last week, when MOL bought an American stake of more than one billion euros in Azerbaijan. So we’re making progress on this. There are also less spectacular developments. I’d just like to point out that for this type of investment the principal target is obviously neighbouring countries, so that we can make a profit as well as help the development of these countries. Thus Hungary can grow and develop along with its neighbours, which is a prerequisite for Hungarians beyond the borders being able to stay in their homelands – or at least not feeling that they have to leave their homelands for economic reasons. So this is how the pieces of the puzzle fit together.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have one final thing to say about the diaspora, and if Árpád will allow me, I’ll finish by saying that this is Budapest itself. The kind of leadership Budapest has makes a difference, but overall from a certain viewpoint it doesn’t matter, because Budapest is the capital of the nation, and we include the diaspora in the nation. So there’s no getting away from the fact that, for a nation scattered across the world, there must be a place – and I don’t want to exaggerate now – which is actually a “sacred city”: the city of the Hungarians, the city which you have to go to at least once in your life, wherever you live. This is a little like Jerusalem for the Jewish people; in the same way, for us Hungarians Budapest is the capital of the nation. And so while Budapest is home to its residents, and it’s important for us to attend to the comfort and needs of those who live here, we also need to see it as the capital of the nation. And of course the city belongs to the people who live here, because it’s their home, but in fact it also belongs to all Hungarians, because it’s the capital of the nation. So Budapest is important to us, and I really hope that what we’ve achieved – or at least have come close to achieving – will not be lost in the coming years.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Sorry, Árpád, but there’s one final thing. This is an important spiritual or moral issue, so I’d like to talk about it here at the end. Because the fiercest struggles of recent years and the fiercest struggles of the years ahead are all related to migration. You know the Hungarian position, so let’s tell it like it is: we have an anti-immigration government. It’s better that we say it – it’s said about us by others anyway, so let’s recognise it. We should focus more on analysing what this means. We are anti-immigration because a country with a dwindling population must not delude itself into thinking that it can exchange like-for-like, and that the amount of people it loses by natural processes can be made up for by those arriving from abroad, because the replacement is in like-for-like units. This may be the conclusion arrived at according to liberal economic policy calculations, but there will always be a difference between the work culture of those who have been lost and the work culture of those coming in; we see such problems in the world, and we see that this is not like-for-like replacement. Hungarians can only be replaced by Hungarians. This is our perception, and so we’re anti-immigration, because we don’t want Hungary to delude itself into thinking that it can solve its population decline without relying on its own efforts. Let’s not believe this, but instead remind ourselves that we’re in trouble and that we must do something to escape from it. Let’s not choose an easy solution, as easy solutions lead one astray. So we shall continue to fight migration, because the global phenomenon of migration is here to stay and will not go away. Africa is just beginning to stir. So far Asia has been the problem: people have come to us from Pakistan, Syria and so on – from more than eighty countries – and in doing so have trampled across Hungary. But the truly large masses will start moving in Africa. So we will continue to need an anti-immigration policy. I don’t want to present all the arguments here; beyond the demographic one I’ve just mentioned, there are obvious security interests, and we have obvious economic interests. But why am I bringing this up here? I’m bringing it up here because we take a tough stance on immigration, and a significant proportion of potential immigrants are indeed people in great need, people in difficult situations. This always raises a problem of conscience. We listen to the Vatican’s standpoints in this regard, and we listen to our own: it doesn’t feel particularly good to stop people in distress at the Hungarian border with very clear, firm determination and declare that according to international rules we will only allow in those whom we’re obliged to admit under the Geneva Refugee Convention, and not economic migrants. This isn’t a simple task. And although I don’t want to stray into party politics, there are our opponents here, and in Hungary we have to face up to the fact that there are several pro-immigration parties, and there are many pro-immigration forces in Hungarian politics. Brussels itself is a pro-immigration power centre. A significant number of the ruling parties in Western European countries are pro-immigration and think differently from the way we do, so we’re under constant attack. And the main thrust of the attacks is that we have hearts of stone, that we’re not good people, and that we don’t help people who need help. It’s very important that on this we speak clearly, with crystalline clarity, and clearly state that Hungarians are good people, that this is a good country, a good nation, a nation that aspires to what is good. And we should state that our people are very receptive and indeed willing to take action in the interests of what is good – but in a different way from those who are pro-immigration. Our position is that help must be taken over there, and the problems must not be brought here. Because the solution is not to let in migrants, but to help them create a life worth living where they were born. This why help must be taken over there, not problems brought over here. What I’m about to say now will be boring, but I will read out the individual acts of assistance that Hungary has provided to those areas experiencing migration outflows in recent years.
Reconstruction of ruined houses in the Iraqi town of Tel Eskof: 580 million forints. I won’t read or all the items in detail, but I just want to present the list to you. One year’s worth of funding for medical supplies at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Erbil: we have provided this. Reconstruction of a school in Alkosh, school building in Erbil, support for programmes promoting population retention and the return of Yezidi refugees in Iraq. Humanitarian assistance to the Syrian Orthodox Church. Educational, cultural and home-creation projects in Latakia and Homs. Reconstruction of an orphanage in Homs through Polish-Hungarian intergovernmental cooperation. Humanitarian assistance to the Syrian Catholic Church: 310 million forints. The Diocese of Maiduguri in Nigeria: school and hospital construction worth 310 million. School and hospital construction in the Diocese of Sokoto in Nigeria – these are Christian areas incidentally: 324 million forints. Refugee return and agricultural support programmes with the Protestant Church of Christ in Nations, Nigeria: 162 million forints. Reconstruction of the Melkite School with Greek Catholics in Idlib. Reconstruction and maintenance of the Al Riaya School in Damascus, worth 794 million forints. Making the homes of families returning to Homs habitable. Assistance to refugee families in Jordan, in collaboration with the Jerusalem Latin Patriarchate, the Jordanian Vicariate. Upgrading of the energy efficiency of a school in Marka. Constructing a seminary and church building for the Assyrian Church of the East. Supporting job creation and family retention activities with the Syriac Maronite Catholic Church of Antioch. Reconstruction of medieval churches in Lebanon together with the Holy Spirit University. Provision for refugee families, together with the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. Together with the Armenian Evangelical Church, provision of care for refugee families in Syria: 310 million forints. Support of 505 million forints for the Open Hospitals Programme in Syria, providing free hospital care in Damascus and Aleppo. Contribution to the reconstruction of the Christian-majority city of Bakhdida with the Syrian Catholic Archepapy of Mosul. Construction of Um al Noor Primary School in Erbil: 320 million forints. Support for the operation and expansion of the Saint Raphael Eye Clinic in Mbuji-Mayi – a wonderful man, Brother Richard Hardi, works there: 320 million forints. Reconstruction of the Trappist Cistercian convent in Talkalakh in Syria. Supporting the development of the Migbare Senay hospital for the poor in Addis Ababa. Support for the maintenance of the Mai Aini refugee camp. Repeating this by spending another 161 million forints, and repeating it again with a further 161 million. Supporting the operation of a malaria clinic in Adamawa State, in partnership with the Lutheran Church of Nigeria. These are state programmes, specifically Hungarian state programmes. In addition, Hungarian Interchurch Aid is providing food for internally displaced persons in northern Iraq, and is rebuilding housing, schools and water networks in Alkosh, Bakhdida and Bashiqa. Five schools are being rebuilt in Karamlash, Bashiqa, Bakhdida and Tel Kaif and a water network in Bakhdida, and there is a programme to support Iraqi Yazidi refugees and enable them to stay in their homeland. The Hungarian Maltese Charity Service supports Palestinian and Jordanian projects worth 70 million forints, and is carrying out hospital reconstruction in Aleppo. Beyond this, we have a scholarship programme for young Christians from areas affected by migration: we bring them here, train them, and then take them back home. They are people who’ve been forced out of their own countries, usually because of their Christian religion. We provide them with special scholarships within a programme worth more than 1,380 million forints. In addition to this we have a programme that not only focuses on areas affected by migration, but includes other countries; and when we provide scholarships to attend Hungarian universities with 100 per cent Hungarian government funding, we do so on the basis of nationality and regardless of people’s religion. I’d just like to make clear that while we’re pursuing a very firm anti-immigration policy, you have no reason to be ashamed of it, because meanwhile we remain faithful to our sincerely-held assertion: help must be taken over there, but the problems must not be brought over here. Hungary is a good country, a country of good people, and we help where we can.