Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech in the European Parliament
26 April 2017, Brussels
Dear Mr President, esteemed Vice-President of the Commission, dear Members of Parliament,
The European Parliament is once again holding a debate on Hungary. I came here to you to Brussels, to participate in this debate. During my nearly 30 year tenure as a representative, I have always highly valued debate and the confrontation of different views. Democracy is based on reasoning, and it also gives the moral basis of the European Union. I am convinced that better decisions are made, when they stem from debate and not unilateral revelations. With my participation, I would also like to help you make an informed decision, when Hungary is on your agenda. I remember that the resolutions of the previous Parliament did not stand the test of truth. Just think of the visible and universally embarrassing failure of the Tavares Report. You may know that we Hungarians never give up the fight, and I will today once again try to apply the power of common sense in this debate. We have a dispute with partly with you and partly with an American financial speculator. I know that the power, size and weight of Hungary is much smaller than that of the financial speculator, George Soros, who is now attacking Hungary and who – despite ruining the lives of millions of European people with his financial speculations, and being penalized in Hungary for speculations, and who is an openly admitted enemy of the euro – is so highly praised that he is received by the EU’s top leaders. But this is no reason to condemn us based on falsehoods, because fairness does not depend on a country’s size.
I came here to protect my country in this debate. But it is also important to give you an account of the success stories. In 2008 we started from a point where Greece was. The government of Hungary at the time was the first to turn to the Monetary Fund and the EU for a loan. Since then, we have fully repaid this money, ahead of maturity. Since then, we have created hundreds of thousands of jobs. Hungary is on the road to the lowest unemployment rate in the European Union. This is 4% currently. We have created a workfare society, we are giving jobs instead of benefits to everyone who wants to work. Our aim is full employment. Our budget deficit has exceeded the level you required for years – it was 1.8% recently – the state debt is decreasing, and our economic growth is steadily around 4%. We have a number of problems to solve, but we have reason to be proud. I am convinced that the success of Hungary is also a European success, and the EU is in great need of success stories nowadays. It would be foolish if this fact did not get enough attention, due to ideological differences.
Esteemed European Parliament,
It seems to me that there are several issues that may be of interest to you. The news has spread that the Hungarian government – using the power of law – has closed the Budapest-based private university of American financial speculator George Soros. The rector of this university wrote the following to the lecturers and the students of the institution, I quote: “We would like to emphasize that the existence of the Central European University is not threatened by anything, the university will continue to operate under any circumstances.”
This charge is therefore baseless. It has no factual basis. The situation is absurd. It is like when someone is accused of murder and convicted, while the victim of the alleged crime is alive and well. And pointing and shouting “murderer” at the convict himself. The reality is that the small amendment adopted by the Hungarian National Assembly affects 28 foreign universities operating in Hungary, and does nothing but unifies the rules that apply to them, closes the possibility of speculations and abuses, demands transparency, and eliminates the privileged position these institutions enjoyed over European universities. You are European legislators. It is my duty as Prime Minister of Hungary, the leader of an EU member state to ensure that European and Hungarian universities are not in a disadvantage compared to their competitors outside the EU. No matter how vast and rich person their owner may be.
The other issue on the agenda is the national consultation, recently announced by my government. I would like to inform you that it has become commonplace in Hungary in the past decade to regularly ask for the opinion of our citizens. In the past years, we have held four national consultations. I wholeheartedly recommend this method to you. During the current consultation, the Hungarian government has asked for the support of the Hungarian people, in order to formulate its position on concrete issues to be represented in Brussels.
I would like to make it clear that the commitment of Hungary and the Hungarian government towards the European Union cannot be questioned. Hungarian politics has been built on this base for the past thirty years. This is the reason I gave my signature and the reason why I fully agree with the recently adopted Declaration of Rome, and the programme of my party family – the European People’s Party – adopted in Malta. At the same time, Mr President and Mr Vice-President, we are in many respects dissatisfied with the functioning of the European Union. We are formulating criticism because we want to correct mistakes and we want to reform the European Union. We are convinced that we can only regain the trust of citizens towards European institutions, if we do everything we can to eliminate the causes of bad and inefficient operation. For the therapy we need a clear diagnose and the unequivocal names of our maladies. I for one, but we Hungarians in general are in favour of straight talk. We talk clearly and unambiguously, so everyone can understand, even if we know that this may not appeal to everyone. We on the other hand are irritated by the restrained political language, unable to name things for what they are, that has become widespread in European public life nowadays. But I don’t think that we should expect the same temperament and debate-style in all 28 member states of the European Union. This is the reason I personally like European political culture and the reason I find it exciting. If you break down your prejudices against us, you will find a refreshing, innovative and creative way of political thinking. This is also true for the consultation.
I am convinced that Hungary’s results are due to this. Regarding the questions raised by the national consultation questionnaire – to put it in a straightforward way – the basic stance of the Hungarian government is contrary to the intentions of the Commission. Our position is clear: we do not want, and do not think it is in accordance with the founding treaties of the Union, to settle migrants in our country in a mandatory way. The decision on who we live with can only be made by the Hungarian citizens. It is important information that George Soros and his NOGs want to transport one million migrants to the EU per year. He has personally, publicly announced this programme and provides a financial loan for it. You could read this yourselves. We reject this. We do not want to lose the right of national ratemaking for public utilities, because we fear that this would increase the burdens of the people and once again lead to a drastic prices increase, from which Hungarian families have suffered enough. And we do not want to entrust the Union with the right of formulating our taxation policy – currently under national jurisdiction – either, because we think this would undermine our competitiveness. And we don’t understand why the Commission is criticising the Hungarian public work program year after year in its annual report, which is an important element of the workfare and not welfare society that we built. These are currently debated issues. Our position is that we do not want change in these questions, we don’t want to reorganise national and Union competences in these matters, thus we are defending the current status quo – formulated by our common will. Hence the term “Stop Brussels”. Is this a sin? We adopted the current set of rules – that we now want to defend – together, they are also common EU achievements. I don’t think you can consider the Hungarian position and the Hungarian consultation anti-European for this. It is also true that our vision is based on a strong Europe of strong member states. In such a Europe, member states bear responsibility instead of running away from it. Responsibility for state debt, the budget and border protection.
We want to influence decision making here using the tools of debate, reasoning and persuasion. I advise anyone who does not like the position of our country to contend their own arguments with ours, so we can fight this debate, but please, do not condemn us because Hungary has her own, independent opinion.
The third issue is the regulation on non-governmental organisations. The currently discussed Hungarian proposal – I mean the proposal discussed in Hungary – follows the American example. Many countries of the Union and if I am correct, even this Parliament, in the framework of the Pieper Report is dealing with the complicated question of how we can make the operations of financially strong foreign external lobbies, willing to influence democratic decision-making, transparent to everyone. The Hungarian legislation builds on the principal of clarity and transparency. We want nothing else but to be able to know of NGOs what kind of money and what kind of interests are behind them. This does not undermine their constitutional rights to have their voices heard, represent their interests and be able to organise themselves freely.
It is also important to note that the attitude of the Hungarian government has been free of detours and consistent on wanting to comply with the rules of the club, and we have always complied so far. We are aware that EU membership comes with not only rights, but also obligations. We have tried to resolve the conflicts of the past years through dialogue and negotiations. I am glad to inform you that as a result of this we have been able to conclude – by mutual consent – such complicated issues as media regulation, the new Hungarian constitution, the transformation of the judicial system, or the development of nuclear energy. These are successfully concluded cases. I would like to assure the Vice-President that we will strive for this outcome on the issues currently on the agenda.
Dear Mr President,
Hungary is a proud country. Hungarians have always considered themselves an important nation, devoted to the Christian values of Europe, and wanted to have their say in the decisions that concerned them. My government in Hungary is working to strengthen Hungary’s commitment to the European Union. Our work has been successful. The European Union’s support is the highest among member states in Hungary, over 70%. And we are proud of this. Believe me, people will support, but will only support the European Union if it is fair and built on open debates, capable of admitting that it needs reform from time to time.
Dear Mr President,
We have always given you respect. I would like to ask you, when Hungary is concerned, please be critical of the prejudice, please stick to the truth and I ask you to always apply the same standards. Only this way can we be worthy of being called Europeans.
Thank you for your attention!