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Jan 16, 2017 - Zoltán Kovács

PM Orbán: 2017 will be the “year of rebellion”

We have seen a fundamental shift in global politics in recent months. Positions and policies are moving in a different direction, changing in response to public outcry and voter dissatisfaction. The old guard are being taken to task.

In Europe, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been at the forefront of this revolution. Though initially he had to go it alone, the prime minister’s unwavering determination to protect the European Union through border reinforcements and strict border controls eventually has “changed the terms of the debate” in Europe about how to respond to the migration crisis. Once denounced as a rebellious populist, his approaches have proven successful, not just for Hungary but for the continent.

Having blazed a trail, the prime minister has opened the way for other leaders and voices to follow. One area in particular where he has been consistently outspoken is the need for a strong European Union of nation states that limit the power of unelected Eurocrats to dictate policy from Brussels. The year 2017 will be, according to PM Orbán, the year when the nation states of the EU rebel against Brussels, “sometimes openly, sometimes by stealth”. 

Last Friday morning, during his regular, public radio interview, the prime minister predicted that we will see two major battles play out in this year of rebellion: one on the issue of migration, and the other on economic strategy. “We shall have to defend our sovereignty” on both fronts, he said.

“There will be a tough fight between the politics defending the self-interests of the European states and the centrist will of the European Union trying to take away more and more competencies. This will be the defining dramatic tension of the year 2017,” he said.

We can already see the signs. French presidential candidate François Fillon, who PM Orbán described as having “a program of rebellion”, has a fundamental dislike of European asylum policies and is pushing for change. The presidential election in the United States of America is another indicator.

President-elect Trump won in no small part because of his stance on immigration and his promise to bring industry back to the United States. The Trump Administration will have many differences from the outgoing one, the prime minister said. “The Obama administration was globalist; the incoming is not.” 

PM Orbán said that the new administration will be bolder. They do not equivocate, do not overcomplicate things, “and this, by the way, used to be a competitive advantage of the US.” In comparison, the new administration consists of self-made people, who, unlike the outgoing one, never talk about who they know, instead they talk of what they have achieved.

Although the changing global political agenda is important, PM Orbán is focused on how it impacts events here in Hungary.

The Orbán Government’s efforts to help business in the current economic climate have seen investment in Hungary increase. "Orbanomics” is paying off as businesses grow and Hungarians have started to spend again. Property prices are up, pension packages are better, healthcare and education are improving, and compared to six years ago, an average family with two children has an extra 360,000 HUF (approximately 1,170 EUR) to spend annually.

“Nothing succeeds like success,” PM Orbán said, borrowing from the English proverb

For Hungary, rebellion is a fundamental part of the nation’s hard wiring, putting the interests of the Hungarian people before anything else. But interests in Brussels will not give up easily, according to the prime minister, meaning that “all of a sudden” we’ll see sentences appear in proposals that limit the government’s competencies. For example, in a proposal regarding the “Energy Union”, a sentence popped up that asserted that a national government will no longer be able to decide on the price of energy and, if put into effect, that would mean that Brussels would undermine Hungary’s government policy of cutting utility prices.

In the case of migration, Hungary has reintroduced alien detention for an indefinite period, which “goes against the principles of Brussels.” However, “every law that makes it easier to commit acts of terror should be changed” and the principle of allowing aliens to wander freely until their asylum case is decided upon creates a clear vulnerability.

On the issue of civil society and recent reports that the government is considering a new policy, PM Orbán said that NGOs based in Hungary must operate with transparency. “Hungarian citizens must be given the right to know about all public actors, who they are and who pays them. We have the right to know,” he said. “So, we want transparency.”

It’s clear where the prime minister stands amid these shifts in political trends. Where globalists continue to try to impose decisions that run counter to the interests of the Hungarian people, the prime minister remains a formidable opponent.