Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the 6th meeting of the Hungarian Diaspora Council
November 30, 2016, Budapest
Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is a difficult form of presentation. If I understand correctly, you are paying me the honour of listening to my thoughts in the presence of the press, and then without the press. This really is an ingenious way of arranging things.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our community, the Diaspora Council, was established to come together every year in order to review where we stand: what the status of the Hungarian nation is at home and in the wider world. And once we have done this, if necessary – and generally it is necessary – we approve an action plan, to decide what we wish to achieve in the next year. As we are a world nation, a gathering of Hungarians solely from the Carpathian Basin does not express or embody the will of the entire nation; without the Diaspora Council – without the organisations comprising the Diaspora Council and their members dispersed around the world – the Hungarian nation cannot be complete, and cannot be fully united. Together with us, your mission and duty is to come together each year, and to determine our place, identify our position, and define what we need to do. In general, deriving from the history of the Hungarian nation, there are two types of duty for the government of the day and the men and women who feel responsible for our national community: the defence of our country and the strengthening of our country. More than 1,100 years ago our ancestors chose this windswept area for us: a place which has always been a crossroads, which has therefore been traversed not only by routes for trade, but also by routes for war. The European continent has received few civilisational shocks and threats which did not, one way or another, pass through us – or, rather, trample on us. Therefore the gut instinct which always leads us to first think about what kind of danger we are facing is in no way exaggerated.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Naturally the extent of these threats has significantly decreased over the last two decades, as Hungary is not alone in Central Europe, having managed to build several important communities around itself, and having managed to join already existing communities.
When Hungary became a member of NATO, we guaranteed for ourselves the highest level of security that is attainable today. Naturally this does not mean that we would not need an army of our own – and here the conditional mood is particularly appropriate. Undoubtedly we have military forces. But if we look at the military development programmes taking place in Europe, and in our neighbourhood, and the fiscal resources that are available for those programmes, one can clearly see that one of the important tasks for the next few years will be to ensure that we do not fall below the strength of the region’s other armies. And we must ensure that there are also security developments in Hungary – within NATO, but on a national basis – which render the Hungarian Defence Forces a potent army capable of actually demonstrating its strength.
Another form of defence was Hungary’s accession to the European Union. This decided on a long-term basis a very old debate – perhaps, I could say, an unfinished debate; the crucial question is how a mother country of ten million can provide its citizens with the greatest existential security and the best possible well-being. And we must recognise that if a country of ten million only thinks in terms of its own market of ten million, then both the security of our provision and living standards and the achievable level of living standards and prosperity will be lower than with an economic strategy which also relies on exports. Therefore, if Hungary is to thrive, it must be a member of a wider trade and economic area which creates opportunities for us. After World War I we lost a considerable percentage of our territory. Moreover, the territory we lost contained our natural resources, and that left to us did not offer rich mineral deposits or sources of energy. Therefore we have to make the most of what we have by relying on our brains and muscles. This means that Hungary can only live by hard work: hard work and achievement. Furthermore, as a market of ten million we are small, and we therefore also need significant export performance. And so if Hungary was to reach a high and secure standard of living, we would have to join and become part of some larger economic area. The obvious solution to this problem was presented to us in the European Union.
In the meantime we realised that we could not ignore the geographical and historical fact that within the European Union we are part of Central Europe. This means that Hungary did not join the European Union as a separate country – though from a legal point of view this is undoubtedly true. In truth it was Central Europe which joined the European Union, and the fact that Hungary is not only part of Europe, but also of Central Europe – and an important part of it – is something which we are expressing ever more clearly in our policy strategy. Now that the Poles, the Czechs, the Slovaks and the Hungarians are representing their strategic interests together in the Visegrád Four formation at regional or EU level, Central Europe has more influence over European affairs than it has ever had – or at least since the kings of the Árpád Dynasty, and definitely not since King Matthias.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
An advantage of our meetings is that they are not one-off occasions, but we can talk about a series of meetings – meetings which take place once a year. And so we do not always have to start again from scratch with everything, as in the past we have already said a good many things upon which we can build our latest thoughts. This also gives us the chance of reading what was said at the previous year’s meetings. This is very instructive reading material, and I suggest that you also read your own words again – and not just mine – after a year has passed. You will see how much of it remains relevant, and what has lost relevance over time. I did just this yesterday evening, when I was preparing to come here. I re-read the account of our last conversation, and listed the statements which are still valid today. I shall start with a summary of these as the foundation for the thoughts to follow.
The first thing we said at this time last year – and I believe this has withstood the test of time – was that today no one questions the success of the endeavours and reforms which we enacted after 2010 to renew Hungarian society and the economy. Perhaps one year ago this statement might have sounded overconfident. It does not any more. When one tells the American president-elect that we did not visit the White House in recent years because we were seen as a black sheep, and he replies by saying that he knows the feeling, and that therefore this fact “is positive rather than negative”, you feel that time has proved you right. The argument over whether we are a black sheep or a success story has been settled by the observation that we were a black sheep, and this is the very reason that ours is a success story. This, in effect, is what we can say about the reform endeavours of the past several years.
Our second statement a year ago was that Hungary’s economic achievements make it part of the solution in Europe, rather than part of the problem. We also said that we must say this with due modesty, in order to avoid the mistake made by those who kept recommending themselves to us as the only lifeline in our attempt to modernise our economy.
The third statement we made which has stood the test of time was that we are in the midst of a global upheaval: we are living in the era of a great global realignment. It is a considerable task to perceive, to understand and to process all the things that are happening and to build them into our own national strategy. And it is a considerable task to decide when to accommodate trends, or when to resist, and sail into a headwind. This statement, I believe, holds valid. Look at the political processes which have taken place in the past year, the British withdrawal from the European Union, the surprising American presidential election result, and the assumption that it was not just an election, but the beginning of a new era which presents the opportunity to define an American answer. All this supports our earlier comments on the great global realignment, which means that our lives are not merely passing by one day after another: we are living in an era which is gradually moving away from the world as we once knew it.
A fourth statement we made a year ago was the optimistic statement that we all have a good chance of seeing the new world order which will emerge from this upheaval. We shall see the new world order into which the world is slowly growing, and painfully sliding.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
If you read analyses about the future of the world today, you will come up against the recurring statement that, in the century ahead, four of the world’s five most important economies will be located in the Pacific region, in contrast to earlier periods, which were typically characterised by Atlantic dominance. And this now universally accepted and undisputed fact will also have consequences for the future of Europe.
We also made the fifth statement that the world economic order based on the dominance of the West is coming to an end. We likewise said that these changes will also result in the redrawing of the military map of the world, and the era of the Western world’s military dominance is also coming to a close. We can attach a large question mark to this, as it is not yet clear, but if we look at what is happening in Asia, perhaps this statement also appears to hold water.
And we also said that all the economic and military policy developments also have geopolitical implications. Earlier the emphasis was on a political discourse based on human rights and philosophical foundations. This will now change. If we can even speak of a continuing human rights discourse, the emphasis will be on the first word of the phrase, rather than on the second. What, after all, does it mean to be human? What must we do to protect humans? What does it mean to be human in the modern era? What are the valid responses to bioethical and other new challenges that we should build into modern economic and social policy? The shorthand of commentators is that the era of political correctness is coming to an end. This is also true – though leftists or those attached to left-wing world traditions claim that political correctness is nothing more than self-imposed restraint. But we in politics did not have that feeling at all: we did not agree to impose any restriction upon ourselves, and yet, we were restrained. What’s more, we received a brand on our foreheads. When we dared to speak about the nation, we were branded as nationalist. When we started talking about matters related to the creation of human existence, we were dismissed as clericalist, feudalist and mediaeval. When we started talking about the family, and we said that we were taught in school that the natural order of things is that there is a man and there is a woman who together form a couple, and they will have children, we were branded as sexist and homophobic. So I, for one, did not see this political correctness as some self-imposed restraint, or as a synonym for right-thinking, fair, decent and honest behaviour, but rather as political oppression; because those who did not share this outlook were branded, shamed, blacklisted and there were attempts to ostracise them. This is the truth. Political correctness as a mode of speech was one of the most obvious tools for the intellectual oppression of the world. We now hope that we can finally rid ourselves of this – or at least that we have managed to knock away the American leg of this form of intellectual oppression. Here in Europe we still have problems – there is no doubt about that. But I hope that there will be imminent changes which will alter all this, and that we can return to an era of politics in which freedom, free debate and free discourse are the key words, and in which one need not fear expressing one’s thoughts freely. An era in which one need not fear being automatically excluded from the community of reasonable and honest people because of the conservative nature of one’s thoughts. So our hope is that the world will return to freedom. As we say here in Hungary, in bad English: instead of liberal non-democracy, we can finally return to democracy – the essence of which lies in freedom.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We also indicated this a year ago – albeit subtly. And the US presidential election has also made it clear that an era of foreign policy based on the export of democracy can perhaps come to an end. A year ago we also expressed our hope of this. There is an idea that we can export our own political philosophy, which is rooted in Christian culture and is crossed with the Enlightenment, together with the institutions which are based on those traditions, regardless of cultural structures, traditions and roots. This approach calls on us to impose these values on every part of the world, believing that it is healthy for everyone in the whole world to follow our model, regardless of their religious background, cultural background or development as a nation. We hope that this idea – this stupid, simplistic and crude idea that democracy can be exported to places where it is not in much demand – will disappear from world politics. This does not mean that we should not stand up for ideals, ideologies and our eternal human values in every part of the world; but under no circumstances must we do so in a form which is constructed and wrapped up into a package of exported democracy. We should do so by giving the people living in a given culture and territory the freedom to decide the political system which is best suited to their own lives.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our seventh statement a year ago – and regrettably, this continues to be true – was that the European economy remains sclerotic and inflexible, and in the face of global economic challenges it cannot respond at the speed demanded by our ever faster changing times. Regrettably, this is the case. In Europe today we can also observe – and this is something we Hungarians cannot change – that, until the eurozone comes to terms with itself, the performance of the European economy will continue to be as highly erratic as it so obviously has been up to now. The countries forming part of the eurozone – and they are large, true heavyweights – are stagnating. Meanwhile, those countries which are not part of the eurozone – such as three of the Visegrád Four countries or the Scandinavians – are doing fine, with economic growth rates two to three times higher than the eurozone. But the eurozone accounts for the main body, and the decision must be made on whether the members withdraw and abandon this plan, or press on and carry forward the programme which has now come to a halt, and back up common monetary policy with common fiscal policy, common economic policy and common responsibility. They have to move in one direction or another, and until that happens we shall stay where we are right now, and in this situation we cannot expect better economic results than those experienced over the last few years.
Our eighth statement a year ago was that the issue of immigration is here to stay in the longer term. On this we hit the nail on the head. There is now full agreement that we are not speaking about a one-off migrant invasion like the one we had to endure in 2015, but we are in fact facing a global phenomenon which will be part of our lives over the next decade, and which will require our constant attention. We must monitor it continuously, and we must give answers to the questions it raises. There will perhaps also be an opportunity to talk about this in more detail today.
Our ninth statement a year ago was that if our continent of Europe carries on like this, it will cease to be a democratic continent. This is a bold claim, and perhaps many may even find it insulting. But compared with a year ago, this, too, is common currency, as one can clearly observe that on a number of issues the so-called mainstream elite, the political leadership of our continent, are increasingly moving away from their own people: the people who elected them and who form the basis for their exercise of political power. This is true of the economy, it is true of some security issues, and it is particularly true of the issue of migration. And if this distance between the people, the voters, and the leaders they have elected opens up to become an unbridgeable gap, democracy itself will be endangered. This is exactly the nature of European politics today. Will there be democracy in Europe or not, can the will of the people and the decisions of the political elite come closer together or overlap once again? The political changes which we see in Europe are all reactions to this situation. One of these reactions is Brexit. Another could be the referendum in Italy at the weekend, and yet another could be the presidential election in Austria, also this weekend. Clearly, this will be the main issue in the election being held in the Netherlands in March. And if you followed the preparations for the French presidential election, in which the centre-right elected its own presidential candidate, you might have noticed that there as well this issue was central. In France, will it or will it not be possible to restore the intellectual and political unity between the people, the voters, and their leaders? This is the most important item on the agenda, or the meaning of the items on the agenda, for the presidential candidate.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
So in Europe today we are confronted with an issue of democracy. Our next, tenth statement from last year was again related to migration, and it noted how the driving force behind the whole migrant crisis was created by an absurd coalition which had emerged between people smugglers, dictators pursuing flawed policies in their own countries and Western European civil human rights organisations and NGOs. Here we could mention some of our own citizens by name, but this would not be in good taste, as we have not gathered here to pay tribute to one or other of our friends. There is no doubt, however, that Hungarians, working against our own national interests, also play a prominent role in enabling the operation of such networks in this region.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The next statement we made was that at present Hungary should concern itself most with the reinforcement of the mother country. We established that the greatest help for Hungarians living in diaspora communities is for the mother country to continuously grow in strength: economically, intellectually, spiritually and morally – and also in terms of foreign policy influence. A poor mother country is unable to pursue a good diaspora policy. It is only possible if the mother country is strengthening, expanding, growing, increasing, prospering and earning ever more prestige. This forms the foundation to enable us to pursue a diaspora policy which is both financially and intellectually outstanding. As I recall, we agreed on this last time.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I can tell you that the latest unemployment figures were released this morning, and these show that, in the latest quarter, unemployment in Hungary fell to 4.7 per cent: to below 5 per cent. We are close to a situation which we can call full employment. Experts say that when the unemployment rate is somewhere around 3.5 per cent, there is effectively no unemployment – because in a continuously renewing labour market some temporary unemployment is an unavoidable phenomenon. In a country with unemployment of 3.5 per cent one can state that effectively everyone has jobs – or everyone who wants to work can find a job. Hungary is very close to this. This was no small feat, as we were tormented by the communist era, and we were also tormented by the transition which followed – that murky twenty-year period. In these periods social strata and groups came into being in a benefits-based environment. In Hungary entire groups emerged which could balance their books in the benefit-based economy, and transferring them from that economy to the economy of work demanded extraordinary efforts from them and the political leadership. If they could exploit the benefits system, if they could exploit their local government contacts, if they cleverly exploited the generous opportunities in the family support system, they could put together a decent sum: a monthly amount which was higher than, say, the minimum wage for working people. This state of affairs was untenable. This is what we call a benefit-based economy. And it was from here that we had to make our way to a work-based economy. It was a long time ago, and not everyone can remember this, but in 2010, 550,000 people were claiming monthly income support, which was a social benefit substituting for a wage. This figure is now somewhere below 200,000. This amply demonstrates the number of people for whom we have succeeded in creating job opportunities – whether through public works schemes or economic expansion. And now we can confidently state – and this is one of the main explanations for the attacks of western leftists – that Hungary is no longer a benefit-based society, but a work-based society. This, I think, is closer to the national character generally attributed to us Hungarians, and it demands that at any given time the country’s economic policy must simultaneously meet standards of fairness, performance and justness. I am convinced that in a work-based economy we are better equipped to rise to challenges than in a benefit-based economy.
Well now, Ladies and Gentlemen,
On the whole I can tell you that the improvement in unemployment also clearly reflects the general state of the economy. Unless we do something extremely stupid – which, being Hungarians, can never be ruled out – and unless we lead ourselves into some political calamity, and unless our leaders lose sight of common sense – which wouldn’t be unprecedented – we can continue on the course we have managed to chart for the Hungarian economy. And we can reckon on the continuous strengthening of Hungary in the five years ahead of us. This is not down to just sheer luck – although you need luck as well – but primarily to the hard work that the community of Hungary has completed in the past six years. And I’m not talking about the Government, but about every Hungarian who was willing to work. This constitutes the structural security of the five years ahead of us.
In order to achieve this success, we also needed to not be alone in our success. It is a fine, romantic idea to imagine that everyone else is much less successful than we are, and we race on regardless. But life does not offer us this opportunity, as it’s rather difficult to be successful alongside unsuccessful neighbours, as everyone can experience in their own lives. And just as it’s difficult to keep our neighbourhood safe, tidy and prosperous if all our neighbours are much worse off than we are, this is also true of politics. So we have a vested interest in having successful neighbours, because, in fact, we can only truly rise and grow in strength as a region. With the Visegrád Four – with the Slovaks, Czechs and Poles – we have found a community in which there is trust, dynamism and strength, and which will account for most of Europe’s economic growth over the next five years. With this, the external environment for Hungary’s economic achievements is now in place. It is therefore our fundamental interest, our regional interest and also our national interest, that the position of each member of the Visegrád Four continuously strengthens.
I should perhaps also say a few words about the region to our south. You may have seen the Foreign Minister’s statement yesterday, in which he said we do not accept a future European Union decision not to enlarge the European Union in the next five years. Naturally we aren’t talking about Turkey here, but the states of the Balkans: primarily Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia. We believe that it is best for Hungary if its southern neighbour and the adjacent successor states form part of the same economic community, of which Hungary is now a highly-regarded member. In other words, if we succeed in helping as many of the Balkan countries as possible into the European Union. At present the chances of this happening are not very good. Within the European Union they call this condition a state of “enlargement fatigue”, in which people have had enough of the whole thing, and would rather put an end to it: the continuous shaping of the EU and enlargement of the community is subordinated to the instinct of first preserving that which already exists. This appears to be a rational approach, but in this instance it is not valid in politics, as we need ever newer resources, and without further enlargement the European Union will not be able to renew itself. In the same way, the Visegrád Four’s accession to the European Union was a wise decision, as we can now clearly see that if we were not members, the EU’s economy today would be stagnating. We, the new member countries, have brought economic growth to the European economy. This will be no different in the future. New Member States may be a burden for a year or two, but thereafter they significantly contribute to overall European economic growth. This is also true of Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. The admission of these countries to the European Union is both in the interest of Hungary and Europe as a whole.
The situation to the east of us is difficult. The Ukrainian prime minister has just paid a visit to Hungary. We all see the instability prevailing there, and it is not at all in Hungary’s best interests. We have managed to conclude a strategic agreement with our Ukrainian friends. It seems that in the next two to three years we may be able to divert Ukrainian-Hungarian relations onto an upward path – just as we did, for instance, with Serbian-Hungarian relations. With regard to the latter, it is a long time since they were as balanced as they are now – if indeed they have ever been as balanced as now. This means that if we manage to implement this joint plan with the Ukrainians, which particularly focuses on the development and advancement of Transcarpathia, then from your point of view – from the point of view of Hungarian diaspora communities – this means that not only is Hungary on an upward path, but so is the region, and so are the neighbours who surround it. And so the regional preconditions for our prospective achievements will also be in place on a longer term basis, and this is an important part of Hungary’s ongoing strategy for communities outside the borders. What implications does what I have just said have for Hungarian diaspora communities?
First of all, in recent times Hungary has been able to provide services – and of course, the word “services” is not the best way to describe them, because it has no soul, but the Hungarian language does not lend itself to a better alternative right now. The kind of cooperation these represent – our mobilisation of qualified people, resources, and even at times financial resources in order to strengthen and support the continued survival of Hungarian diaspora communities – will also be available in the future. Indeed, not only will they be available, but they will even be extended. So you should start thinking about what kinds of measures you would like to deploy and use – measures which you have been unable to use before, because the financial resources necessary for their deployment were not available. The Hungarian economy has generated the necessary funds this year, and in 2017, as far as we can see, it will also generate them in next year’s budget. But as I’ve said, we can plan ahead for quite a few years by increasing the resources we mobilise for cohesion of the nation. We have the ability to do so, and we also have the political will. So the first message or conclusion from my speech is that you should not hesitate to make plans for the period ahead, in the way you have done so far.
The second conclusion from all that I’ve said is that we should gradually commit to embark on something more serious in the world: something which goes further than our own survival. I feel that we are entering the group of countries in the world which are not only able to look after themselves, which are not only able to allocate resources to strengthening themselves, but could also do some good for the rest of the world. I suggest that you start thinking about what that could be. I suggest that for each year you set a goal or two which does not divide our forces, but combines them: a goal which is a great national undertaking for the year and which focuses on Hungarians’ ability to help around the world during the year in some important cause. It should be a cause which is seen as important by the world and also by us – not something hypocritical, but something which comes from the heart: something which we can mobilise resources for. As far as I can see, in this respect our younger generation is in good shape – or, to put it with due modesty, a section of it is in very good shape, which is prepared to take part in a mission like that. As I see it, the ideal of voluntarism and participation is not absent among young Hungarians living in the West either. So I suggest that every year the Diaspora Council should place on its agenda a goal, related to somewhere where there is trouble and the people are in need – in Asia, Africa, or who knows where exactly. The Diaspora Council should define precisely what it is that we Hungarians will do, what we will accomplish in the coming year. We are able to partly or fully provide resources for this, but obviously we shall need large numbers of people, personnel, volunteers. For this purpose we could launch charitable campaigns and collections, also at global scale. I suggest that we come out of our bunker and lower our defences, come out into the world with a friendly and optimistic approach, and commit to do something which our size, history, culture and the limits of our capacities permit, and accomplish that. Every year there should be one such undertaking outside the Carpathian Basin, and specifically outside the Carpathian Basin: a morally sound and well-founded act accomplished not for our own benefit, but as an offering to the world. I suggest that each year the Diaspora Council finds a way of identifying Hungary’s contribution to the resolution of global humanity’s torturous suffering, to relieving at least some of that suffering and fulfilling the responsibility we should all share. This is the second thing we can say.
The third thing I ask of you is that when as leaders of diaspora communities you think about the future as Hungarians, you should also think about our communities living in the Carpathian Basin beyond our current state borders. You should also build relations with them. We shall also mobilise significant resources for those communities. The reunification of the Hungarian nation is ongoing, and while there are political and legal limits, there are also political and legal possibilities. You all know about dual citizenship. You can see that we seek to promote and support our educational institutions and churches in the Carpathian Basin as much as our resources permit – and sometimes even beyond. This has its signs, and its results. I would like the Hungarian diaspora to form links not only with the mother country, but also with the other communities of the Carpathian Basin. This would be an approach which is worthy of a world nation.
These are the three things which follow from what I have said. Please continue to support us and protect us. Thank you very much for all you have done in recent years to defend the mother country. Let us set overall annual goals, and Hungarians in diaspora communities should strengthen their relations not only with the mother country, but also with the other Hungarian communities in the Carpathian Basin. I wish you all much strength and good health in the attainment of these goals. Thank you for your attention – it has been an honour to speak to you.