Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the inauguration of the new centre of OBO Bettermann
5 May 2017, Bugyi

Before I should frighten anyone away, I will only take over the microphone, not the stage, and I won’t sing.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Mrs Genscher, Esteemed Bettermann Family,

I have a good little factory inaugurating speech, but I realised that the task that awaits me here is far greater than that. I have to do here three things at once. First of all, I have to welcome the world famous musician guests who came to our country in a manner that befits the occasion, I have to commemorate Foreign Minister Genscher in a European context, and afterwards I have to pay tribute to the human performance with the aid of which a project now opens its gates here by providing a living for hundreds of Hungarian families.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

If someone had told me when I was young, when we were trying to tune in to the programme of Radio Free Europe, if I remember correctly, compiled by a gentleman called László Kasza, by turning the knob of our Sokol radio, if someone had said that we can now see all these people in person in Hungary, and that, at that, all this would take place in a village called Bugyi, and the occasion would not be a new Woodstock, but the inauguration of a factory, and on top of that, a factory to be operated by a German investing in Hungary, if someone had told me this at the beginning of the eighties, obviously, I would have said that that they lost their mind. Yet, here we are, Ladies and Gentlemen, and the answer is not even evident at first sight, the answer to the question of what it is that connects these three things, or four things, musicians, the Bettermann family, the Genscher family and us, Hungarians together. But if you read the inscription at the bottom of the bust, you will find there the answer to this question, the question of what it is that connects us together. Obviously, the artists present are less aware of this because they lived their lives elsewhere, but it is the desire for freedom which eventually brought about the historic turn, in consequence of which we brought communism down without the loss of a single human life, and sent the Soviets home from here, both from Hungary and from East-Germany. The fact that we managed this feat – because the desire for freedom did not die in the hearts of the people –, this enormous historic feat is also down to their songs, their songs are also responsible. So we owe them gratitude, and it is good that they are here with us now as our success is their success, too. And evidently, all of Hans-Dietrich Genscher’s diplomatic feats, manoeuvres and genius, everything he did in the interest of building relations between East and West, equally played a part in this great achievement. The courage of German businesses, including the Bettermann family who started building economic cooperation between East and West at a time when we had no way of knowing that we would once live in a free world also had their lion’s share in the way things turned out. And of course, we, Hungarians who could hardly wait to regain Hungary’s freedom and independence in the spirit of the slogan “Russians, go home!” and to get rid of our oppressors, too, played a part in this historic outcome. So all of these factors are there in the sentence that you may read here, behind me. There is no power in the world which can stand in the way of human dignity and freedom for long. It is Mr Genscher’s optimism that can be traced in this sentence. This optimism of ours has since faded somewhat. There may regrettably be such power in the world, but not in Europe, that’s absolutely certain.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We may have seen pictures here, images of the demolition of the border fence, the demolition of the wall, and images of Trabants breaking through the border which finally led to the freedom of Europe. The Germans, as did our host here – and we now thank him for this – usually make a point of highlighting how grateful they are to the Hungarians as we were the ones to knock the first brick out of the Berlin wall, and we may add that the draught that blew through that hole in the brick wall blew away the entire communist regime. This is true, and we wish to thank them for remembering this. But paying tribute here to the memory of Foreign Minister Genscher, I must also say a few words about the other side of the coin. We, Hungarians, but I could also say that the Poles, the Slovaks, the Czechs and the Romanians, too, knew only too well that as long as there is no German reunification, there is no guarantee that our national independence and freedom will last. We always knew that in order for the peoples of Central-Europe to be free and independent on a long-term basis, the fulfilment of the geopolitical pre-condition which may be summed up in the unification of Germany is a must. Therefore, standing here at the foot of the Genscher statue, we bow our heads and remember with the greatest respect the German statesmen who never gave up the ideal of a united Germany. Bavarian Minister-President Strauss was evoked here before. I evoke now Helmut Kohl, and we have here with us on behalf of the Genscher family the wife of Foreign Minister Genscher. It is to them we offer thanks that the geopolitical pre-condition of the freedom of Central-Europe, German reunification eventually came about. So allow me this time not to accept the words of gratitude from the German people, but to thank the German people on behalf of the Hungarian people for having persisted in their dreams.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

And of course at this point I must also open a comment in brackets – in order to bring to mind a longer-term Hungarian dream – that Mr Strauss was a leader of CSU, Chancellor Kohl was a leader of CDU and Foreign Minister Genscher was a leader of FDP. Different party affiliations, but when it came to a national cause, there were no party disputes, there was only one thing, and one thing alone: German interests and German unity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is a good lesson for us, Hungarians as well. There is one other thing here I would like to tell you, this time by paying tribute to the Bettermann family. It is another question whether these two men, Hans-Dietrich Genscher and our host, Mr Bettermann had anything in common, other than that they knew each other, from the Hungarians’ point of view. And I have to say, yes, they did. We have a great many friends in Germany today who tell us this in private. We have a great many friends in Germany who stand up for us at home, within the confines of their homes. But we had and continue to have very few friends who, if needs be, stand up for us, for the Hungarian people, and stand up for German-Hungarian friendship even against the European mainstream. Hans-Dietrich Genscher was a courageous man who openly stated his views even when the main stream dictated otherwise, and loyalty and friendship were more important for him than any favourable leader on the cover of a newspaper the next day. He was always our friend, he was a true and sincere friend. This is why he always insisted that we, the Hungarians, together with the rest of the Central-European countries, must join the European Union because we are a European people, and our place is in the community of European peoples, in the European Union. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Genscher family through Mr Genscher’s wife for having always stood up for Hungary’s European affiliation and Hungary’s EU membership. And this is the point where we must also doff our caps to our host, Mr Bettermann because he is a friend of ours, not only off the record, and he stands up for us, and not only within the confines of four walls at home, but always and everywhere.

Dear President Bettermann,

I wish to thank you with a grateful heart on behalf of Hungary for all the friendship and persistence that you have steadily manifested towards us and with which you have helped our efforts. God bless you for this.

Please allow me to arrive with a big leap in the present day. There is a saying about the great transformations of the world in the past forty years, which is widely endorsed in the English-speaking world. It is a little cynical, but grasps the essence of the matter. It goes something like this: the worst thing about communism is what comes after. Naturally, people in the English-speaking countries never lived in communism, they have no idea what it is like to live in communism. So this sentence needs some adjustment: it is pretty bad when one lives under communism, but even when it is over, one still has to struggle with a very difficult inheritance. After communism one is poor. After communism, all the families are plundered and pillaged. After communism, the motherland, too, is poor. After communism, the national economy is destroyed. After communism, there is no private capital awaiting investment. After communism, one cannot stand back up on one’s own feet without assistance. After communism, it is always the speculators that appear first who want to make money out of money without creating anything valuable in the process. All in all, after communism, it is difficult. And without friends, things are simply impossible. This is perhaps a good opportunity now to thank all German entrepreneurs through Mr Bettermann who emerged in Hungary in the first difficult years after communism and believed that we have a future. The friendship of the Germans and Hungarians was important for him. I wish to note in brackets that the Hungarians are one of the peoples who do not just respect, but also love the Germans. So friendship mattered to them. They saw a business opportunity and had faith in us. They came here, built factories, created jobs, provided a living for Hungarian families and helped Hungarian entrepreneurs set out on the difficult path, the difficult path of family businesses which they themselves set out on 40, 50, 100, 150 years ago. And they gave Hungarian businesses supplier opportunities. Mr Bettermann, we greatly appreciate this, and we see your and your family enterprise’s success as our own success, too. We wish that you may experience many more business achievements such as the one we are celebrating today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to also say a few words about the Hungarians working here because I do not want anyone to believe that the results and achievements Hungary has enjoyed in recent years have been gifted to us.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Esteemed Workers,

The situation is that Mr Bettermann stayed here and is opening another floor here because you have proved with your work and efforts that you are able to work and perform your duties to the highest German standards. Naturally, it is the investors we should partly thank for the investments brought to Hungary, but we should be grateful at least to the same extent to Hungarian workers who proved that it is worth working together with them. And I know that Mr Bettermann always duly appreciated the Hungarian people and Hungarian families working here. For this, I would like to thank him. May God preserve this good habit of his. If I read my preparatory documents carefully, I saw that this plant is today the most successful subsidiary of the Bettermann Group, and we all play a part in this success. Including Hungarian politics, including investors, including customers, including Mr Bettermann, all the efforts of his family going back to many long decades, and also including the workers who work here. But likewise included in this success are the few localities in the neighbourhood – whose mayors I now welcome here – which agreed to host this factory and assist the joint continuation of this success story with their decisions. Bettermann Hungary is a success story, the joint success story of the Bettermanns, Hungarians and Germans. May God allow us to continue to build this success story for a long time to come.

Thank you for your attention.