Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am happy that there are so many of us here, and, one year on, I am pleased that we can see each other again. I thank Zsolt Semjén for his introductory thoughts. If I’m not mistaken, the expectation placed upon me here is for me to put forward a conceptual framework which can be used in the course of our work in the coming year. This is to enable everyone in their own positions to more or less know within what conceptual framework other people interpret their particular situations when arriving at the decisions they make. If I’m not mistaken, year after year, it is also a mission of this gathering to seek to try to arrive at a shared interpretation of the situation of the Hungarian nation. This is to enable everyone – even those in completely different parts of the world – to take their decisions using the same thoughts as a starting point, just as we do here and Budapest or in any other part of the world. So in addition to the pleasure of being together and meeting again, these meetings also have an intellectual mission: to construct a shared conceptual framework. How else could one start to construct such a shared framework, but jointly – from a Hungarian point of view – analysing everything that has happened over the past year, trying to predict what will happen in the year ahead, and deriving decisions from this?
You are no doubt aware, Ladies and Gentlemen, that everyone says that information has become the most important thing in world: this is a universal view held in almost every part of the world; and there is undoubtedly truth in it, as information is extremely important. Yet we are now finding out that information on its own is worthless. Almost everyone can access information, and we have an infinite amount of it at our disposal: we can pile it up to the rafters. But that is not true knowledge: valuable knowledge is not acquiring information, but organising information, arranging information in the appropriately logical order, and using information to develop conceptual frameworks. Here at the meeting of the Hungarian Diaspora Council we are clearly faced with the task of taking the unlimited quantity of information we have about the world and collating it from the viewpoint of Hungarian interests. What does this immense amount of information mean for Hungarians, what goals can we set, what should we do, what projects should we – or shouldn’t we – embark on?
Well, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Therefore my message will necessarily be subjective, as I will organise this immense amount of information according to my duties as prime minister, and offer it to you for your further consideration. First let’s talk about what has happened in the twelve months since we last met. The most important thing to have happened in the past twelve months is that there has been a parliamentary election in Hungary. Its importance can be expressed in somewhat routine terms: a Hungarian government has been formed after an election, and it’s starting to implement its programme. This is undoubtedly true, but the Hungarian election was also important because recently we’ve learnt that without a stable government Hungary cannot have a stable economy. Hungary is one of those countries which does not have a stable cultural life unless it also has a stable government. In Hungarian culture in general, political stability – or the lack of it – has an impact on all other areas of society. Not every country is like this. There are countries with different cultures in which things tend to go well – say, in the economy – whether there is a government or not. There are countries where cultural life is unaffected by there being a government or no government. But over the past thirty years I’ve had the chance to learn that the likes of us, the Hungarians, need to feel that there is stability before they can all pull together in the same direction. And those who are older than me have been shown even more proof of this over the years. Hungarians do not expect to be told what to do – they don’t like that; they positively hate it, if I may put it that way, because they say “My house is my castle, and no one is going to tell me what to do.” But Hungarians do want to know more or less what the possible directions are, what they can put their trust in, what is permanent and what it is ephemeral. If they don’t know these things they lose confidence and the will to act. That is what this community is like: this is our culture, and this is what we should take as our starting point. So at any given time the most important thing for the Hungarian community around the world is stability: the most important thing is the stability of the Hungarian government and the Hungarian political system. The content associated with the realisation of that stability is not irrelevant, it is also important; but the most important thing is to have a stable government. To illustrate the extent of this and how much it is felt by people, I’d call your attention to the fact that we are the only European country where there haven’t been any early elections since 1990. Over the past twenty-eight years there has been at least one early election in every other European country. There is a single exception: Hungary. This is because somehow the Hungarian people tend to believe that even if they have elected at bad government, it’s still better to have a stable government that doesn’t function particularly well than to go through a period of upheaval. We are prepared to wait until the next parliamentary election to kick out those who need to be kicked out, and to invite in those we want to elect. This clearly demonstrates that the most important thing is stability.
Looking at things from this angle, the 2018 election – regardless of the winners’ party political colours – was extremely positive for Hungary, because it guarantees Hungary’s domestic political stability for the next four years. This is a great success, and a collective success, as in the end we elected a government not only for Hungary – we’ve done that before – but for the Hungarian nation: we created electoral legislation enabling Hungarians living beyond our present-day borders to also participate in the election. This meant that everyone sitting in this room – and hundreds of thousands of others outside this room who have no permanent residence in Hungary – were able to participate in the election process, and the result is that we’ve maintained and extended Hungary’s political stability for another four years. Indeed not only was it a success: it was a dazzling success. The characteristics of the electoral rules mean that between 2018 and 2022 we will again have a government with a two-thirds parliamentary majority. Therefore we will be able to maintain stability not only on legislative issues requiring a simple majority, but – if necessary, and if called for in the interest of the country’s stability and development – we will even be able to enact constitutional amendments. And this is what we shall do. You saw that immediately after the election – within two months of the 2018 election – we made such an amendment, adopting legislation on defence against migration which we had not been able to pass earlier, between 2014 and 2018.
So I will start by saying that the most important and most promising achievement of the past twelve months has been the maintenance of stability. In order to further emphasise the importance of this, I’d mention that until recently it had been unthinkable that European countries much bigger than us – and which traditionally were thought to be the most stable – would need more than six months to form a government after a general election; and there are serious questions over how durable such governments will be, if you follow me. I’m sure there are some of you here from Sweden, who can confirm that yesterday or the day before yesterday it emerged that the third attempt to form a government fell through – and God alone knows when they will finally have a new government over there. And I’m sure that last night you saw the news about the Brexit situation, its possible consequences and the stability of the British government. So we all appreciate that, in addition to the fact that the character of the Hungarian nation creates a demand for stability, the current political climate in Europe adds special significance to the political stability we see in Hungary today.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
If you will allow me to make an aside, I’d also frame this matter in a party political context, as the 2018 election resulted in a majority for the civic national and Christian forces, giving us the opportunity to create balance. From a historical perspective also, this is always important for stability: if you look back over the period from 1990 to the present day – or the recent history of our politics – you’ll see that our political community has spent sixteen years in opposition and twelve in government. If we can complete the present term, we will have reached equilibrium. But in my inaugural speech as prime minister I made no secret of the fact that we won’t be happy with a draw, because this government is a competitive one. We also have ambitions for beyond 2022, but we will discuss those when the time comes. If we look back over the past eight years, we see that in 2010 the mission of our government and parliamentary majority at that time was to turn the page on the troubled period known as the transition from communism: to adopt a new Constitution; to create a new economic model; to somehow delineate the country’s cultural ecosystem; to stabilise the situation; and to then start building the country within these spiritual and cultural boundaries. This is how the 2010 election led to constitutional amendment which enabled the creation of a Christian, national political system and a Hungarian economic model. In 2014 the people supported these decisions through their votes, and we received a mandate to consolidate this system – which is what we did between 2014 and 2018. The question now is what should happen between 2018 and 2022.
I suggest that when we are thinking about the future we should identify two time frames. There is the constitutional time frame, which determines our term in office: from 2018 to 2022. This is our third consecutive electoral victory, which overall – and I’ll say this for the benefit of the younger ones among us – is the fourth parliamentary majority for our political community, as we were in government once before, between 1998 and 2002; but that was so long ago that hardly anyone remembers it – and even we’re in danger of forgetting it. So our fourth term in office – or our third consecutive term – entitles us to think not only in terms of our four-year mandate as specified in the Constitution, but also to look further ahead, thinking in terms of an entire era, and daring to identify goals for Hungary up to the year 2030. This is what has happened after the 2018 election: the programme I submitted to Parliament contained a separate chapter identifying Hungary’s goals as a nation for the period up to 2030. First of all I’d like to say a few words about these. What does the current government judge to be the general goals which must conform to the nature of the community of Hungarians and which our community can set for itself for the period leading up to 2030?
The goals are ambitious ones. The first of these is for Hungary to be among the European Union’s five best countries by 2030. Here “best” means being one of the five countries that are the best in which to reside, to live and to work. We would like this position to be based both on our own judgement and that of the outside world.
Our second long-term goal is to raise Hungary up to become one of the five most economically competitive countries. It will also be worth talking about this later on. So we should be among the five most economically competitive countries.
The third goal that we can set for 2030 is to halt demographic decline. This, too, is highly ambitious. At first sight this will seem to be a very modest goal, because our demographic predicament means that we shouldn’t simply halt the decline, but reverse it and convert it into growth. But if you conduct a simple mathematical thought experiment, you’ll see that in order to move uphill after having been moving downhill, you must first halt the downhill momentum. Only then can we start to move uphill. So the question is when we will be able to halt the demographic decline. Our intentions, calculations, and possibilities suggest that we will be able to halt the decline by 2030, and after that be able to restore the country’s demographic growth. This means that by 2030 we must attain the magic figure of a fertility rate of 2.1: the starting point for growth. We currently stand at 1.5. This is far short of 2.1, and in terms of demography, it really falls very far short. But if we consider that in 2010 this figure stood at 1.2, and from there we managed to increase it to 1.5, it doesn’t seem unrealistic to reach an average fertility rate of 2.1 by 2030. So that is our third goal.
Our fourth goal is to rebuild the Carpathian Basin. To be more specific, this primarily means that we must physically interconnect the smaller territory of today’s Hungary with areas of the Carpathian Basin outside Hungary. To achieve this all motorways and dual carriageways must extend as far as the country’s borders, and we must build the rapid rail systems which will enable us to travel from, say, Kolozsvár [Cluj-Napoca] to Budapest. The legacy of the Treaty of Trianon is clearly demonstrated by the fact that today one cannot drive from Budapest to Pozsony [Bratislava] on a single uninterrupted stretch of motorway, that there is no motorway link between Miskolc and Kassa [Košice], and that there is no dual carriageway between Pécs and Eszék [Osijek]. And I could continue. So by 2030 all Hungary’s motorways must extend as far as the state borders, and we must create both road and rail links between areas of the Carpathian Basin outside Hungary’s borders and areas within our state borders.
An equally important goal for 2030 – and this is our fifth major goal – is to ensure Hungary’s energy independence. Energy will be the most important issue over the next ten years. As we see it, the issue of energy may also become an issue of sovereignty, and we want to pursue an energy policy which results in Hungary being able to achieve energy independence by 2030. This means that there should be a phased scaling back, and eventual ending, of our one-sided dependence on Russian energy. In addition to this Hungary should have an internal capacity to supplement its energy resources, and should also have access to energy resources from several diverse origins outside our borders. It is no accident that the Paks Nuclear Power Plant expansion project is such an important issue in Hungary. It is not simply a major project, and not simply an energy project: it is a project forming part of the very essence of Hungary’s sovereignty. When we discuss Paks, we’re also discussing Hungary’s sovereignty.
And the sixth important goal is that in parallel with setting about building the Carpathian Basin by 2030, we should also build Central Europe. Our approach to Central Europe is channelled through romantic language-based ideas and feelings. When we seek to define what Central Europe is, we essentially think in terms of novels, films, literary works and musical compositions. By contrast, it does not exist as an organised economic region. For instance, the fact that one cannot travel from Warsaw to Budapest by motorway clearly shows that Central Europe does not yet exist as an economic reality. There are Central European countries, but these are not connected together and organised into a single economic region. It is in the interest of us Hungarians that, if we manage to reorganise the Carpathian Basin, then the entire Central European region – including its territories beyond the Carpathian Mountains – should be in a single transport and economic infrastructure. And if necessary we should be able to pursue independent economic policy in both eastward and westward directions, and set for ourselves our own Central European goals. This will involve many things – from the banking system to connecting our transport systems together. In the field of politics this aim is embodied in the V4 [Visegrád Group].
So again, looking forward to 2030 we can identify the following goals: to be one of the five best countries in the EU in which to live and work; to be one of the five most competitive countries; to halt our demographic decline by 2030; to reorganise the Carpathian Basin by 2030; to attain energy independence for Hungary; and to build Central Europe as a single political and economic region. Perhaps that’s all I have to say about the period leading up to 2030.
The next question is how much of this we should implement by 2022. If we now change to a different time frame, I can say that during this electoral cycle I’d like to achieve four important goals. I’d express the first of these as making patriotism and the culture of patriotism a general phenomenon. This is no easy task. In Hungary cultural rivalry has been going on for who knows how long. Some call it a culture war, but I think that is an exaggeration – or an exaggeration from one point of view, and understatement from another, depending on how we look at it. So there is ongoing cultural rivalry revolving around the question of how we should perceive our own Hungarian identity. One camp – the camp we belong to – declares our national identity to be a source of pride; and we have no better advice for the outside world than that they should try to be Hungarian, because that is a very good thing. This is how we see it, and we derive energy from this patriotism; for us it is a source of pride, and it should be a part of our everyday cultural life. Because we are Hungarians, in parallel with this there is another culture: one of self-hatred. Within this, some people continually seek out moments and events in Hungarian history – which undoubtedly took place – in order to explain that in reality we should not only perceive ourselves critically, but with hatred; and so we should hate ourselves. I’m simplifying the message of this cultural school, but conceptually this is its essence. Therefore in Hungary in the next four years I would like there to be a cultural shift which strengthens the culture of patriotism and weakens the culture of self-hatred. The Government has no absolute means with which to achieve this, and it is not the only participant in this area – but it is one of the participants. In the period ahead we would like to use our limited – but diverse – range of means to achieve such a change. A key element in this – and I make no secret of this – is the creation of the National Curriculum, because we can exert the strongest cultural influence on our own community through the education of our children.
The second thing we have planned to achieve by 2022 is to significantly improve Hungary’s competitiveness: its economic competitiveness. I do not want to embark on a lengthy – and perhaps unnecessary – economic exposition, but, whether we like it or not, today the world economy in essence functions in accordance with global value chains. The question is the level at which a given national economy joins a global value chain. Our goal is to connect to the global value chain at an ever higher level, instead of at today’s intermediate level. I can best illustrate this by saying that assembling cars in Hungary is all well and good, but it’s even better to engage in the development of cars and to operate engineering development workshops and research and development centres. This involves connecting to the value chain at a different level than we do when simply performing mechanical work, the work of mechanics. We mustn’t disparage the latter, because there will never be an economy in which everyone is in a white coat, working in a laboratory. There will always be blue-collar workers, there will always be people with oil on their hands, and their work must be respected just as much as work with a higher added value. So we are under no illusion that physical labour will disappear from the Hungarian economy. But it is important that when we join the production of international value chains we should do so at the highest possible level. This is what influences, for example, decisions by the Hungarian government on what investments to support. Earlier the most important criterion was for investments to create jobs, and in terms of funding all other considerations were secondary. But in Hungary we have reached full employment, and so now when funding an investment the primary consideration will be whether it seeks to maintain or raise technological standards. And if it does indeed seek to raise technological standards, we will provide it with funding – but if it doesn’t, it won’t receive funding. I simply want to say that such apparently abstract considerations later manifest themselves in specific government decisions, and in the identification of criteria for the development of the economy. So this is the second important thing: tangibly improving the Hungarian economy’s competitiveness by 2022. The Government has already adopted decisions in this regard; yesterday we also made a few such decisions, and soon we will also adopt major comprehensive decisions in order to improve the competitiveness of the Hungarian economy.
An important part of the period between now and 2022 is the launch of new demographic policy measures. I’m sure you’re aware of the fact that a national consultation is currently under way. Here we’re engaged in significantly increasing our reserves of strength. We would like the Government’s economic policy tools – such as control over taxation and financial transfers – to be used in the service of improving our demographic situation. In all possible situations in which the state gives someone money – a social welfare benefit, a scholarship grant or anything else – it should attempt to serve the attainment of demographic aims. Wherever it is conceivably possible, we should try to make the availability of state funds conditional on demographic criteria: on having and raising children. You have surely seen this in our housing policy: we have a housing and home creation system in which those who make a commitment to raise children are given financial support for the construction of their own homes. Those who do not make such a commencement are not given financial support. So, using the taxation system, we would like to make considerations of this type the general rule in Hungarian economic policy. Consultations always provoke debates over whether or not they are a good thing, but the national consultation currently under way is specifically aimed at settling these debates in advance. Its purpose is to arrive at shared principles, and for there to be general agreement on demographic issues. This will give the Government the political foundation on which to be able to adopt measures, in areas ranging from housing to university scholarships, which will also seek to address demographic questions – and will, no doubt, provoke much controversy.
And the fourth of what we could call these high-profile and clearly definable goals to be achieved by 2022 is the building of an independent Hungarian army. Hungary is a strong country. There is one area in which, compared with our competitors in the region, compared with our neighbours, we are at a disadvantage: at the moment we are at a decided military disadvantage in terms of equipment and personnel. It is important to remedy this, too. A country cannot be strong without a strong army that is capable of defending it. The building of this army has already begun. This is why, for the first time since 1990, we have converted the role of chief of staff from a military position to a civilian position: the minister of defence. Therefore in the next four years our four special priorities are these: strengthening the culture of patriotism; improving our competitiveness; laying the foundations for a demographic turnaround; and building an independent Hungarian army.
After this, let’s look around us and see whether our surrounding environment will us help us to achieve our goals, and what we have to do to make our surrounding environment more supportive than it is at present. The first thing we should discuss is the immediate environment in which we exist: the European Union. In its present form the European Union does not benefit Hungary. The policies currently being pursued in the European Union are decidedly disadvantageous for Hungary, and therefore we would like to change them. In Europe the established method for doing this is the election – and we are in luck, because this is what is going to happen very soon. This means that we will be given the chance to change the things that we want to change, because next May there will be elections to the European Parliament. Naturally, everyone thinks that we will be electing members of the European Parliament – and this is true. But everyone also knows that in the overall architecture of the European Union the role of the Parliament is not like that of the parliaments of nation states: it is much more limited. So a parliamentary election in itself would not give us the chance to change aspects of European Union policy –which I will specifically talk about in a minute. I would, however, like to draw your attention to the fact that we will not only be electing a new parliament, but in parallel with this we will also see the expiry of the mandates of the commissioners currently on the European Commission. The European Commission can be seen as a European government with limited powers, the members of which are delegated by nation states. Once someone has been delegated, they cannot be recalled. We, the Member States, delegated people to that body five years ago. At that time, there were strong left-liberal majorities in the governments of most Member States, but over the past five years the balance of power has shifted, and more right-leaning governments have been formed in Europe. So when in 2019 the Member States delegate new members to the Commission, they will be delegating fewer left-wing members than right-wing ones, and therefore the composition of the European Commission will change. And this change in the composition of the Commission together with a change in the composition of the Parliament may result in change which is significant enough for us to also be able to change European policy. This is why we are looking forward to the May 2019 European elections with hope.
The least favourable – or rather most unfavourable – recent development for us is that over the past five years the European Commission has departed from its role as guardian of the Treaties. The European Treaties themselves state that it must apply European rules in a manner which is fair and which guarantees equality to smaller countries, regardless of political weight: regardless of the fact that Germany is a country of eighty-four million people, while Hungary is a country of ten million. Five years ago the Commission publicly announced that thenceforth it would function as a political commission. This means that it has acted not as a guardian of the Treaties, but as an enforcer of political standpoints; and this is the origin of most of the conflicts between Hungary and Europe. This why it did not support – and in fact continually objected to – our authorities determining energy prices, which here we refer to as reductions in household utility bills. This is also why it has opposed Hungary’s policies against migrants; because, for political reasons, it wants to see a different kind of immigration policy across the whole of Europe – including Hungary. This is why it has criticised us on the grounds of the rule of law. And I could continue. Therefore many of our disputes with Europe stem from the fact that the Commission – which should be protecting us and guaranteeing us politically fair treatment – is not doing this, but, as a political player itself, can be used as an instrument with which to exert pressure on Hungary. This situation must be changed. It has been an interesting experiment, but from our viewpoint – from the viewpoint of Hungarian interests – we can confidently say that it hasn’t worked. We have an interest in the Commission returning to its neutral role as guardian of the Treaties – a role which prior to 2014 it played with varying degrees of success, but at least with the intention of commitment to the role. So while we cannot foresee the extent of the changes in Europe, I think that we can perhaps identify the direction of these changes. I expect that after May 2019 we’ll find that we’ve been presented with – and that we’re part of – a more national, more right-leaning, more Christian, more nationally-inclined and more civic European political environment. The political commentators call this a shift towards the right, but that does not have a positive ring to it for everyone; so I’d far rather say that from next May we can expect to see European institutions which are more firmly attached to Europe’s traditional values and roots. And this will be a more favourable environment for Hungary than the one we have now.
We have a neighbour which is not a member of the European Union. Zsolt Semjén has already spoken about this: it is Ukraine, which is a special problem. Forgive me: Serbia is different from Ukraine in the sense that it is currently involved in negotiations with the European Union related to its future membership. So while Serbia isn’t a member of the European Union, quite a few chapters have been opened in negotiations. According to the EU, Serbia can be expected to join the European Union in 2025, but nothing of the sort can be said about Ukraine. Ukraine is a country for which there is no credible time frame for accession to either NATO or the European Union. This is why it’s in a special category. Furthermore, as Deputy Prime Minister Semjén has said, we are involved in a serious dispute with Ukraine. To avoid aggravating the situation, all I would say now is that I don’t see any chance of coming to an agreement of any kind with Ukraine’s current political leadership. We’ve made a number of attempts, and we’ve failed. And I have to say that we have exhausted all the spiritual and political reserves which are demanded by negotiations leading up to an agreement. There will be an election in Ukraine, a presidential election. I think that from our point of view it will be a great achievement if the situation doesn’t deteriorate between now and the election. And after the election we’ll see whether or not the current anti-Hungarian political climate in Transcarpathia and Ukraine continues, or if there will be a government which seeks cooperation with Hungary – a pro-Hungarian government or presidential administration, if you like. I don’t want to leave any room for doubt about the fact that we’re in contact with all the potential winners. And we’re already seeking to engage in the negotiations which after a more favourable political change will be needed to change this senseless situation – which is equally bad for Ukraine and Hungary – and to enable Ukraine to find its way back to the path which can be called Hungarian friendship or strategic alliance. This is the only path for Ukraine if it ever wants to join NATO and the European Union, because – whether one likes it or not – Ukraine is situated to the east of Hungary, and its path to both NATO and the European Union leads through Hungary. Therefore we have rights and possibilities. We expect Ukraine to engage in a friendly relationship with us as an ally, and not to oppress, harass or persecute those Hungarians who are today citizens of Ukraine. Give them what they are entitled to, and take advantage of the fact that Hungary is ready to take part in the development of Transcarpathia and the regions beyond, and to contribute to the stabilisation and rise of Ukraine. Perhaps I’ve said all I need to about the situation in Ukraine.
I don’t want to say much about Hungarian minorities now, because tomorrow there will be a meeting of the Hungarian Standing Conference, at which we will have a chance to review those questions. Ahead of tomorrow’s meeting, all I’d like to say here is that to my mind the era that we might call “one hundred years of Hungarian solitude” has come to an end. Over the past few years we’ve been able to develop good relations with the Slovaks, Croats, Slovenes and Serbs. Romania is a somewhat more complicated affair: due to the frequent changes of government over there, one doesn’t always quite know who one needs to establish relations with, and what the nature of those relations should be – but that’s another matter. Anyway, in essence with all other countries we’ve been able to develop relations based on trust, and everyone can see that cooperation is always more beneficial than confrontation. Therefore, at present the decisive impetus in our relations with the countries surrounding Hungary is the search for cooperation. And everyone can see that those who cooperate with Hungarians stand to benefit, and Hungary is prepared to cooperate with everyone – from Slovakia to Serbia. This is a completely new situation: this was not the way of the world over the past one hundred years. Of course it’s risky and perhaps a little self-important to describe a situation which has existed for a hundred years as an era which is now part of history on the strength of just two or three positive recent years; but let us be optimistic and believe that we’ve not just had two or three good years, but that we’ve brought an era to a close, and that we’re living through the first three or four years of a new hundred-year-long era. And let us trust that this cooperation will be advantageous for us all, and will be lasting.
Now I need to say a few words about transatlantic relations. I have to be cautious here, because the political views of the Hungarian diaspora are just as diverse as the political views of the community in Hungary. So on the subject of transatlantic relations, if I look around me here I see staunch Republicans and partisan Democrats. I don’t want to offend anyone’s feelings in this area, and it’s not our duty to pass judgement on US affairs, but I can tell you for certain that when the current US administration entered office, a change occurred in US-Hungarian relations. The underlying reason for this change is that the current administration does not feel that it needs to rewrite Hungary’s Constitution. This is a good thing, because, after all, Hungary is a sovereign country. When we were drafting our Constitution, the previous US administration felt the need to hand over diplomatic notes – sometimes officially, sometimes unofficially – in which they listed the points in the Hungarian Constitution which in their opinion should be rewritten. Beside the fact that this runs counter to the rules and presumed norms of international relations, we Hungarians do not take kindly to attempts of this kind by anyone, and in the past anyone making such attempts sooner or later found that they had bitten off more than they could chew. Obviously we didn’t bow to that pressure. If at some point you have the chance to hear Péter Szijjártó’s short chronicle of events, you’ll learn a great deal about international politics, and about how things happen. It’s not my duty now to waste your time, so all I want to tell you is that with the current administration not only are our military and economic relations thriving – which also did well under the Democrat administration – but our political relations are equally healthy. As a result, there is a good chance that the United States won’t exert pressure on Hungary which would divert us from the path of developing our national interests.
In this context I think it’s important to speak about another group of countries which we usually neglect: the trio of Turkey, Egypt and Israel. Because of migration, the stability of these three countries is a primary interest of Hungary. If political stability in Turkey falters, if the government in Egypt weakens, or if uncertainty rears its head in Israel, such developments in any of these three countries would lead to an immediate multiplication in the size of migration waves heading for Europe through Hungary. So we have an interest in there being stability in Turkey, Egypt and Israel. In addition, we have built much closer interstate cooperation with Israel, with much of the credit due to Israel’s prime minister, who is the first serving Israeli prime minister in thirty years to make an official state visit to Hungary – a gesture which we have since reciprocated. And I believe that we’ve been able to agree on most important issues of national strategy – Israel naturally from the viewpoint of the Jewish community and Hungary from the viewpoint of the Hungarian community. So I’m pleased that we’ve come to an understanding with this very important country – and don’t forget that living in Israel there are two hundred thousand Jewish people of Hungarian origin, who can be seen as Hungarians. So there is a major Hungarian diaspora community there. I’m pleased that this community has also been given the chance to feel involved in what is happening in Hungary, as Hungary is committed to Israel’s stability and to the existence of the Jewish state. This in turn creates an opportunity for the Israeli Hungarian community in diaspora to look upon Hungary with affection not only as their country of origin, but also because there is alignment between the interests of their new country, or the country they now live in, and those of the country they were born in. This is much easier to achieve in the absence of continual conflicts between the two countries which would demand resolution. That is no easy task, and we should be happy that now we’re not in such a conflict period, and that we’ve developed remarkably good cooperation.
And naturally there’s another circumstance that we should talk about: the transformation of the world economy progressing in parallel with the rise of Asia. In our trade relations we don’t want to promote ideological causes. Wherever there are business opportunities and major economic potential is emerging – and this is particularly true for China, but also for other Asian countries such as India, Vietnam and Indonesia – we strive for purely business-oriented relations without political preconditions, and seek to achieve the best possible export figures. I’d like to remind everyone that perhaps last year was the first in which the value of Hungarian exports surpassed the entire value of Hungary’s gross domestic product. And for a country like Hungary this is a fantastic achievement, because if these ten million people only had the standard of living made possible by the Hungarian domestic market, we would be living perhaps a third as well as we are now. For the Hungarian standard of living to be where it is now, and to be capable of growth, Hungarian exports must be successful: a market of ten million is not sufficient to operate an economic system that provides prosperity. We must produce here, and sell our products and services abroad. We are an export-oriented economy, and we will remain one: this is a function of our size. Therefore, we need access to every market in the world in order for our exports to enable us to guarantee Hungarian jobs, and maintain – or increase – Hungarian living standards. This is why we are not driven by ideological considerations when we build our system of economic relations with countries from Indonesia to India or China.
Well, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Now the only question left to answer is how you can contribute to this framework we are constructing for ourselves, and what we can ask of you. If I’m not mistaken, you’ve already had meetings related to evaluation of programmes. Zsolt Semjén has mentioned the programmes we’re implementing in the realm of the diaspora. I believe you’ve already evaluated them and you know them, so I won’t need to speak about them here. You can perhaps expect something else from me: I should clearly state that the funds for these programmes will continue to be available in the coming years. So if you’ll allow me, I’d like to put that on record. These funds are available: only yesterday, at a Cabinet meeting, we reviewed the current state of the Hungarian economy, and in the third quarter it showed growth of 5 per cent. Of course it’s in the nature of things that there will never be enough money, and there will always be more applicants lining up for every forint than the number of ways it can be divided up, but the heart of the matter is that the funds needed for the successful cultivation of a policy for Hungarian communities beyond the borders – including the operation of our diaspora system – will be available in the coming years. Indeed, in the future it will also be possible to create the necessary financial resources whenever these need to be expanded and developed.
Here it is perhaps worth pointing out that this firm commitment of mine will not be influenced by the fact that around 70 per cent of predictive analyses of the world economy forecast a minor decline or a crisis between 2019 and 2023. On Saturday there will be a meeting at which we will put together the economic policy action plan necessary for guarding against or managing this contingency, so that if it emerges we can immediately call on a set of measures to counter its effects. So Hungary has a “Plan A”. And almost immediately – by Sunday – it will have a “Plan B”, if you like. So we can implement one or the other, depending on the turn taken by the world economy. So Hungary is also preparing for an eventuality in which the 70 per cent of analysts who forecast a decline in the world economy within the next few years are proved right. So the first conclusion is that our financial resources are in order.
Recently you have continued to fight well – I have no complaints about that. The reports I’ve received show that, of all communities, the ones that stand up most firmly for Hungarians, the Hungarian cause, Hungarian pride and Hungarian honour are Hungarian diaspora communities. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for this. Zsolt refers to this as national loyalty. I am younger, and these words somehow come less easily to me. I’d simply like to thank you for having stood up for the honour of the Hungarian people in recent times. In relation to these efforts I think circumstances will change for the better. We will still need these efforts, but I think the situation will be easier than it has been to date. The European Parliament elections will change this. The US election has already made things easier, I believe. In the United States not only do we Hungarians say and think good things about ourselves, but sometimes the Americans themselves do, and this makes our situation somewhat easier. Only the other day I received the US Energy Secretary. I can confidently tell you that although he is a Texan – which I think is seen over there as being at one end of the spectrum, and he is a strongly southern man – we were absolutely on the same wavelength. The minister – who for fourteen years was a governor, if I’m not mistaken – has the character of a freedom fighter. Our friend was perhaps the longest-serving governor of Texas. After this event I will be meeting the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, who has come here to visit us. And as we are punching above our weight in our efforts to help protect Christians around the world, I think we will also find that we agree with each other. So as far as I see, overseas public opinion among those with non-liberal inclinations suggests that our position today is better than it was a few years ago. If such a change also occurs within the European Union, then I believe diaspora communities will find it much easier to represent Hungarian affairs than they did earlier. I expect the situation to improve. This doesn’t mean that we can sit back and relax, and it definitely doesn’t mean that there’s no need for your work. We will continue to need your work in the period ahead.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for your attention. I can tell you that things are going boringly well. We will have to get used to this, and I hope that this will remain true in the period ahead.
Thank you for your attention.