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Jun 16, 2017

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s address in Parliament before the start of daily business

12 June 2017, Budapest

Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable Members of Parliament,

In March The Hungarian government launched a national consultation, which has now concluded. This was the most successful national consultation to date. I asked to speak before you today to inform you of the results and consequences of this national consultation. We who stand on European civic foundations believe that those in our cultural spheres possess the critical faculties needed to appreciate, deliberate on and determine important questions. This assumption and belief is necessary – indeed indispensable – for foundations upon which democracy can and must be built. A nation can only build its future on the foundations of the system of democracy if it believes in the common sense and sense of responsibility of its own citizens. This is why we civic, national and Christian democrats introduced the method, the institution of the national consultation. This practice is a good one, because it offers people a chance to express their opinion more than once every four years – more than simply in nationwide elections. Since 2010 we have from time to time asked the Hungarian people about some important – indeed crucial – issues. We have never sought to conceal our goal: we have sought to create common areas of understanding; common areas of agreement which allow the people, their elected parliament and government to act with a common will. I am convinced that this forms the foundations of Hungary’s achievements today: this is how we managed to rescue our country from financial disaster; this is how we managed to curb prices; this is how we managed to provide jobs for hundreds of thousands of people; this is how we managed to increase wages; and this is how we managed to set Hungary on the path of economic growth. I cannot claim that this agreement can ever be one hundred per cent, and that it can ever be full – that would hardly be conceivable in a free society. But I can tell you that in its size and strength it can be sufficient to authorise us to regard it as a national position: the position of the Hungarian nation and the Hungarian people. We know that on the surface the issues are full of noise, chatter and talk – day in, day out; but we also know that serious matters usually take shape deep down, slowly and with careful consideration. And at this depth, Honourable House, a new unity has been created in recent years: a new national unity; a spiritual and political unity of action. It is a conception which has been elevated to a political programme, and which urges us to take joint action when needed. This conception is unifying the Hungarian people, and places the Hungarian government at the head of this programme and action. The essence of this conception is the following: we want a Hungarian Hungary and a European Europe.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We live in a time when the mainstream political class in Europe – which lays claim to power as a matter of course – brands the practice of consulting voters as populism. Even today, we Hungarians never cease to be surprised by this. We grew up with the legacy of Lajos Kossuth, believing it to be valid on both sides of the Iron Curtain. To quote Kossuth: “All for the people and all by the people. Nothing about the people without the people.” It is painful to learn that in Brussels these sentiments have fallen out of favour.

Honourable House,

We have initiated consultations five times since 2010. The facts show that people are increasingly interested in public affairs: they have opinions, and want to voice them. It is instructive, useful and beneficial for a nation and its elected government to sing in such harmony from the same hymn sheet. We started the series of national consultations in 2011, with one on the new Fundamental Law. This was followed by our social consultation and our economic consultation in 2012. In 2015 we asked voters about immigration, and this year about Brussels.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To remind and enlighten ourselves, let me survey the issues on which we have so far made decisions together with the Hungarian people. As part of the national consultation on the new constitution, those who returned the questionnaires agreed that the Fundamental Law should make mention of the obligations of citizens, in addition to their rights. Today this is the strongest pillar of the Fundamental Law. The citizens who gave their opinion in the social consultation requested that the state restrict the private interests of public utility providers within fixed boundaries. This resulted in the systematic reduction of household utility charges. As part of the same consultation, two thirds of respondents took the view that state assistance must be provided for those with mortgage debt denominated in a foreign currency. This led to the foreign currency debt rescue package. As part of the economic consultation, nine tenths of respondents said that there is a need for a fair sharing of burdens among the state, large corporations, banks and the people. This resulted in taxes imposed on multinational corporations, and led to the legislation on the accountability of banks. In the economic consultation respondents took the view that businesses which create new jobs should be given tax benefits. This led to the Job Protection Action Plan, as part of which businesses were given targeted payroll tax allowances. The Job Protection Action Plan now affects almost one million workers. In the national consultation on immigration, ninety per cent of respondents supported the tightening of immigration regulations: nine tenths of those returning completed questionnaires were in favour of stricter regulations, under which immigrants illegally crossing the Hungarian border could be detained. And this is the situation today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Hundreds of thousands of people stated their views in every one of the national consultations held to date. Until now, the social consultation questionnaire had been completed by the most people: one million one hundred and forty thousand people. The current number of one million six hundred and eighty thousand is a new record, well above the previous one. To clarify, 94 per cent of respondents chose to return the questionnaires by post.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As of the beginning of the last week of our current session, we have analysed one million four hundred thousand questionnaires. Our findings are as follows. Those who replied unanimously supported protecting the reductions in household utility charges. Almost everyone participating in the consultation wants illegal immigrants to be kept under supervision until the authorities have ruled on their applications. There is full agreement that activities assisting illegal immigration – such as people smuggling and the popularisation of illegal immigration – must be punished. Ninety-nine per cent of those completing the questionnaires think that organisations funded from abroad must be required to register that fact, and must agree to disclose to the public the identities of countries or organisations on whose behalf they pursue their activities in Hungary, and the purpose of those activities. On job creation, the people took the view that we Hungarians must keep the right to decide on the future of the Hungarian economy. An overwhelming majority also believed that in the future we must continue to insist that we Hungarians should have the right to decide on our taxation policies.

Honourable House,

The majority of Hungarians therefore believe that today Brussels is sitting back-to-front on the horse. The majority of Hungarians believe that we must not allow Brussels to take powers away from us, we must not allow them to force migrant resettlement programmes upon Hungary, and we must not allow them to interfere in the determination of taxes, wages and utility charges in Hungary.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I must also say a few words about the fact that in Brussels a number of people are outraged, asking why we say “Let’s stop Brussels!” The answer is simple: because we do not want to give any more power to Brussels. The European Union is not Brussels, but a voluntary alliance of independent European nations. This is a European idea: the European people’s joint plan for peace and development. Hungary is not anti-European, and it never has been. The opposite is true: we represent a truly European position. We are defending the current European agreements, including the present division of tasks between the Member States and Brussels. The Hungarians are not the ones who have changed: we remain committed supporters of the European Union and the original plan for Europe. As we see it, it is Brussels that has changed its tune. Hungarian common sense finds it inexplicable that Brussels is openly siding with terrorists. The patently absurd lies of “Ahmed H.” are more important to them than the Hungarian people’s security. We find this unacceptable.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Something else I cannot let pass without mention is the absurd situation which has emerged in Brussels nowadays, in which a financial speculator who has ruined the lives of millions is defining the way forward. European leaders bow before George Soros, who tells them what Europe should do – and in Brussels this is somehow seen as natural. If someone were truly so eager to help the unfortunate millions in the Middle East and Africa, they wouldn’t spend millions of dollars on financing a network of political activists disguised as human rights warriors, but would use that money to create jobs, schools and hospitals where they are needed. If someone is serious about wanting to help, they need to take help to where it is needed, rather than bring the trouble here, down on our heads.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I ask you, the members of the Hungarian parliament, to side with Hungary rather than Brussels in the disputes between Brussels and the Hungarian government. I ask the members of the Hungarian parliament to side with the Hungarian people in the battle between Hungary and the Soros mafia. I ask that none of you saw off the branch you’re sitting on; because those who support immigration, those who would dismantle the fence, those who would settle in Hungary migrants with unknown pasts and identities – and equally unknown intentions – are acting against the people, against the Hungarian nation, against our country. This is why now also, after completion of the national consultation, I want to make it clear that as long as I am Prime Minister of Hungary and have the privilege of standing here, the fence will also stand on the southern border. As long as the country is governed by Fidesz and the Christian Democrats, we shall not yield to any blackmail from Brussels, and shall reject the mandatory migrant resettlement quotas. As long as the civic, national side constitutes the line of defence, the country will be defended, and we shall also defend the results we have achieved so far through such hard work. As long as Hungary remains on democratic foundations, it shall not accept Brussels’ attempts to curtail its national powers by stealth – because Hungary is a strong, proud European country.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The defence of Hungary is not a theoretical matter – and certainly not an ideological one. Put literally, our very existence is at stake. Therefore I must also say a few words about the significant economic results that, after seven arduous years, we have succeeded in achieving. So there is much at risk, and there is much to protect. Minister for National Economy Mihály Varga will give a more detailed account of the state of the economy, and so I will try to confine myself to the most important facts. In seven years we have succeeded in laying the foundations for a workfare economy, instead of a benefit-based economy. In the past seven years employment has increased more in Hungary than in any other European Union country. While at the end of 2009 Hungary had the second lowest employment rate in the Union, by the end of 2016 it was above the European Union average, lifting itself up the European rankings from its inherited position at number twenty-seven to number twelve. And I believe that we can do even better. Since 2010 the increase in the minimum wage here has been the third highest in Europe, meaning that in Hungary now it is more worthwhile to work than it was previously. The average wage increased by an annual rate of 13 per cent. According to the latest figures, annual wage increases were 19 per cent in the healthcare sector, 15 per cent in the construction sector, and 14 per cent in the social sector and public administration. The pay of those working in education has risen once again, this time by 8.5 per cent. Increases in the minimum wage and the guaranteed minimum wage of 15 and 25 per cent respectively – which are now matters of fact – have also had a significant impact. The unanimous view in the economy is that a genuine process of narrowing of wage disparities has now started.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

And, in the normal way of things, if we work, results will also come. In the first quarter of this year The Hungarian economy showed annual growth of 4.2 per cent. The viability of the Hungarian model is now recognised everywhere – even by those who had previously voiced disapproval and concerns. Every financial and business centre is continually upgrading and improving its projections on the Hungarian economy’s prospects. According to its own forecast, even the European Commission records Hungary as being among the five countries with the highest growth rates in the EU. The Hungarian economy’s rate of growth is now more than twice that of the eurozone, which currently stands at 1.7 per cent.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I will conclude my list at that point, and Minister Varga will present you with the latest facts in full detail. I just want to say that Hungary is now on the right course, and we have every reason to be optimistic. We have a future once again. And we have achieved these results on a national basis, by pursuing our national interests. I suggest that we do not put at risk what we’ve achieved for the sake of some vaguely-defined utopia – whether it’s called the United States of Europe, open society or anything else. We have learnt – because history has taught us – that what we ourselves have struggled and fought for is really ours. And history provides ample experience to prove how easily we Hungarians can lose everything if we place our fate in the hands of others. In this, the most successful national consultation to date, the people have once again emphatically declared that we cannot accept our future being planned in Moscow, Brussels or Washington. The decisions that concern us shall be adopted by us in Budapest. This is not some recommendation, but the expectation of one million seven hundred thousand people.

Honourable House,

The clear increase in illegal immigration in Italy, the increasing pressure on the Hungarian border and the continuing terrorist attacks in cities across Europeare sending us the clear message that mass migration remains Europe’s prime challenge. The long-term nature of mass migration and the migrant crisis is also foreshadowed by the fact that, despite clear opposition from the people, pro-immigration forces in Brussels and the Member States have not given up on the plan of settling millions of migrants in Europe – as advocated by George Soros in his plan, that was also made public. It would not be good for this to lead to a narrowing of our horizons, our prospects and our perception of reality, as other serious European issues have also emerged on the horizon. It is enough to highlight the fact that the jobs of thousands of Hungarian lorry drivers continue to be threatened by ill-conceived rules adopted in Brussels relating to workers. If we are not alert and do not stand up for our economic interests, this practice may quickly spread to other sectors, and may detrimentally affect Hungarians working abroad and travelling abroad for work.

I wish to inform my fellow Members of Parliament that we must prepare for debates in the autumn which will focus on the future of Europe. Hungary is a European country, a member of the European Union, and will remain a member. Therefore these debates are also about our future. The election at the weekend in France shows that the rebellion of the European people has also reached France: the parties of the old elite – the Socialists and the People’s Party – have simply been forced from the field of play. There will be elections in Germany in September, and we can expect the two great continental powers to make attempts at transforming Europe. It remains to be seen, however, whether this will make assertion of Hungarian national interests in Brussels easier or more difficult. Today all we can say is that the extent of the prospective attempts to transform Europe is wide and deep. An indication of this is that Brussels has already released a document on possible directions for the development of Europe. This was followed by four volumes of reform proposals: these are on social affairs, the deepening of economic and monetary union, European defence policy and globalisation; and these will soon be followed by a fifth reform package – on the future of the European budget. We can look forward to debates on weighty issues: the negotiations will be intense, and their consequences will be long-term. Today all I can tell you with certainty is that the national consultation took place at the best pace and at the right time; and at the best possible moment it has hammered into place the route marker posts between which Hungary can and must proceed in the debates ahead of us.

I would like to thank the Hungarian people for having assisted in our work by taking part in the consultation. And thank you for your attention.