Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s State of the Nation Address [full text in English]
February 10, 2017, Budapest
President Schmitt and Mrs. Schmitt, Madam Dalma, Prime Minister Boross, Hosts, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is good to see you all again, for the nineteenth time – which is a large number, even in scoops of ice cream. [Laughter] It reminds me of an anecdote I heard from Bishop István Szabó, in which two little boys are listening to the Mass. “This is boring”, complains the first, to which the second replies, “It’s supposed to be”. [Laughter] Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, this is something we certainly don’t have to worry about today: 2016 was far from boring, and 2017 also promises to be intriguing. There has been – and will be – much agitation, surprise, scratching of heads, furrowing of brows and rubbing of eyes. Soon we will be asking each other whether everything we see happening and taking shape right before our eyes is indeed possible. A year or two ago who would have thought that History would ignore the predictions? Who thought it would laugh and thumb its nose at the prophets of liberal politics, and energetically flip the bird at the beneficiaries and guardians of the prevailing international order: at the globalists and liberals, the power brokers sitting in their palaces with ivory towers and television studios, at the swarm of media locusts and their owners? Who thought that it would mock all those who believed, taught and spread belief in the inalterability of the global liberal world order – and who skimmed the profits and ill-gotten gains from that world order? “The nations have had their day”, they said, “off to the museum with them – together with those who believe in them”. For us simple citizens, our last remaining chance would be to accept all this and resign ourselves to it, and if we didn’t want to spend the rest of our lives wailing over our manacled and incarcerated conceptions – if we didn’t want to remain hopeless losers – then we would have to stand in line and acquire a taste for the liberal flavours of the open world/
But, Ladies and Gentlemen, History didn’t read what all those clever people wrote. It didn’t read that History itself is at an end, that its channel and direction of flow have been predetermined, and that it may only flow between well-built dike walls. History didn’t read all that: it simply had no idea that its time was over, that it was a spent force. Suddenly it raised its hand and said “Excuse me, but I’m still here, and I’d like to show you a few new, surprising things”. It took a sharp turn, broke through and swept away the carefully designed dikes and departed from its predetermined course. Yes, ladies and Gentlemen, this is another clear indication that History is us – not just in Hungary, but throughout Europe. In our flesh-and-blood selves, with our thoughts and ideas, plans and hopes, we do not like – and will not allow – others to tell us or decide for us why we are on this Earth, how, why and what we should or shouldn’t do, or should or shouldn’t think. Yes, my dear friends, it was good to see – precisely on the sixtieth anniversary of the 1956 Revolution – what a great thing freedom still is in this world. How was all this possible, in the year of our Lord 2016? The ancient Greeks would call it hubris: a mixture of complacency, excessive pride and narcissism. Arrogance and superiority, one would call it in today’s language. A common mistake among humanity’s rich and powerful is to believe that they can act like God and be immune from the consequences. They declare supposedly incontrovertible facts; they push utopias onto other countries and peoples; they decide what others can or cannot say, and what they can or cannot believe in; they decide on membership of elite circles and they believe their global power is unquestionable. Money, the media, global governance and an open global society – in 2016 people in many places around the world had had enough of all this. There was Brexit, the US presidential election, the ejection of the Italian government, the Hungarian migrant referendum – and perhaps there is still more to come. Oh people, “you are finally beginning to be great”; but of course using the poet Petőfi as a shield will not stop the sinking liberals saying that listening to the people is an act of pure populism – which, as we all know, is a “bad thing”, and is in fact “harmful”. In Europe properly house-trained politicians must not say things like that.
Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, that is exactly what happened in 2016. There has been an uprising by those who are not usually asked, whose voices are not usually heard: those who are not at home in the world of the media; who have been pushed aside by the wheels of the global economy; the seemingly weak and vulnerable; those who have been forced into economic and cultural straightjackets; whose mouths have been gagged in the name of political correctness; who were promised a share of the profits of the global economy and global governance. They demanded the return of their homelands, of their economies and social opportunities. They demanded the return of the world in which they once felt at home: the wide and diverse world of nations. This is the message which flowed and is flowing from the American, French, Italian, Dutch and Austrian election campaigns: the attacking side is “exposed at the back”, as they say in football. European nations preparing for elections are speaking in such dark and apocalyptic terms that we Hungarians find it difficult to fathom. Yes, leaders in opposition and government alike – citizens of the world who until now have been urbane, nuanced and cultured – are today talking about their homelands’ survival, the horrors of globalism, the wave of fundamentalist migrants assaulting their national identities, and an endless digestive tract of financial capital that has swollen to global proportions.
What has got into them? From here in Central Europe, the first thing that comes to mind is that prosperity has made them all mad. As my mother sometimes says, “things are going so well for them they don’t know what to do with themselves”. It’s an unusual thing, and we find it difficult to understand. Family and community assets that have accumulated during seventy years of peace, high salaries, excellent universities, mountains of fine art, roads, airports, high-speed trains: a Western European life in the EU that the whole world envies and aspires to. They, after all, are the rich; we are the ones who go over there to work in the hope of higher salaries. A confident West that is sure of its future and an Eastern Europe that worries about its future: this is how things have been up until now, and this is what we are used to. But in fact if we listen carefully we can understand that they have serious doubts about their future. Of course the important people in their important club simply sneer: for them this is all far too boorish, rough and malodorous. They aren’t used to the sudden rush of all kinds of unfamiliar peoples breaking in through the border town of Dévény, with songs which the modern age had thought were forgotten. But, dear friends, this is not a debate about style or taste. And we too are members of the European Union: we cannot distance ourselves from this either, and the bell also tolls for us. This is not a game, and the stakes are real – in fact they are the highest imaginable. The people of the West feel that the history of their generation and future generations could indeed be at an end. And this is not exaggeration or poetic licence. Can they continue the way of life they inherited from their parents, or will something change forever without their consent – and indeed against their will? Will they have the right to their own culture? Will they be able to protect Europe’s non-material, intellectual assets? Will they have the chance, as they have had thus far, to study in good schools, to make a living from properly paid work, to prosper, to acquire property, to create their own homes, to raise families and to grow old in dignity? And will there be security without the threat of terrorism, and will life in big cities be free of fear? Regardless of the prosperity and affluence of today, within the European Union the future is now casting a shadow on the present. That shadow is a long, dark one. And this isn’t being pointed out by envious Eastern Europeans or ludicrous old Soviet propaganda. This is different: Western Europeans are saying all this about themselves, about their own situations and their own future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In 2016 the battle lines were thrown into sharp relief. The nations rose up against the globalists and the middle classes rose up against their leaders. In our community, the European Union, this means that we, the sovereign nations, stand in opposition to the federalists, and the voters stand in opposition to the Brussels bureaucrats. None of this happened like a bolt of lightning, and it didn’t happen overnight. This prickly, bitter fruit has been ripening through long years of dissatisfaction. But why did dissatisfaction become rebellion? Until now, we have been taught that mature Western democracies are of a higher quality than Central European democracies, the latter having only just shaken free of communism’s grimy shackles. Because over there in the West democracy not only means free elections, but is far more about the living tissue of freedom: an adaptive and flexible organism which continually responds to change and over time is autonomously self-correcting. This may once have been true, when the European democracies were at their zenith. But since then the era of “open societies” has been established in the western half of Europe and across the Atlantic. And with this came its system of policing political thought: political correctness. A few years ago democracy in the European Union was still based on argument: the careful weighing of pros and cons, openness of speech, free thought and free association of ideas, and an intellectual life that threw the new and the vibrant to the surface. This is one reason it was also so attractive to us Hungarians, who like to meet friends and shoot the breeze in bars and coffee houses. The new political system known as the “open society” did away with all this. Democracy based on argument was replaced by democracy based on correctness.
From an ideological perspective this means that liberal ideology turned against the ideology of democracy, the latter being the ideal of a community organised on a majority basis, according to the will of the majority. From a political perspective, the open society means that – instead of elected members of parliament and governments – true power, decisions and influence must be put in the hands of people who are part of the global network, media gurus, unelected international organisations and their local offices. From an economic perspective, the open society means that people, ethnic groups and cultures are stamped out to size like hamburgers, so that they can be turned into merchandise. Countries are transformed into railway stations, with everyone being able to move in and out freely. And finally, through dismantling the rules of economic self-defence, the foxes are let into the henhouse, to engage in free competition. And, if the foxes keep winning, nobody can do anything about it. [Laughter] And if the poor, slowly-awakening citizens do after all dig in their heels, they’ll be flooded with a few million migrants: “If these fuddy-duddies in Europe, who are unwilling or unable to shake free of their Christian roots and patriotic feelings, won’t take heed, then let’s dig deeper and replace the subsoil of European life. Let masses of people from different religious backgrounds – who have been raised with different morals and different traditions, and who have no idea about Europe – come and teach us a lesson”. This is how the world’s most bizarre coalition of people smugglers, human rights activists and leading European politicians was created, with the aim of systematically bringing millions of migrants into Europe. Where will all this lead? [Applause]
So the question is, where will all this lead? Today, in early 2017, we can state in summary that the lords of globalist politics are not searching for the fault within themselves, but are instead blaming the people and nations. They have decided they will not surrender their positions, but will crush any will of the people that opposes the open society and liberal governance. They have declared that if elections in a certain country are not won by their ideological partners, by the liberals, then in that country democracy no longer exists. They have declared that the people constitute a danger to democracy. And since the people are dangerous, those who earlier were hysterically fearful for press freedom are now suddenly demanding that the press, the media and the internet be subject to restrictions. If someone thinks that Hungary’s “royal” public television is not impartial and neutral enough, they should switch over to the American channels occasionally. It will be refreshing to switch back again. [Laughter, applause] If the dissatisfied masses do not shut up, or the media fails in drowning out their voices, they are stigmatised, condemned and disowned. And in this regard not even the new American president can be shown mercy. So it is no wonder that in Europe extreme pressure is becoming the norm, with the valves eventually giving up under the strain, and the people – since they have no choice – rising up to vote out those defending the liberal way of life.
So this is how life stands in midwinter 2017, Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. President. And that is enough of that, because we didn’t gather here today for an assessment of the EU, no matter how tempting the possibility of global governance may be to a Hungarian. [Laughter] But what is the state of Hungary’s affairs, and those of the Hungarian people? First of all, it is worth evaluating Hungary in terms of European and Western processes. From this perspective it is clear that we have already put our uprising behind us. Compared to us, the current rebels are debutantes. In 2010 we were among the first – or perhaps we were indeed the first. We announced our own Hungarian political and economic system, which we have constructed in seven years of hard work. It is made to measure and according to our taste. It is a Hungarian model created from our traditions, our instincts and our way of thinking: a system of national cooperation. It is national because it springs from within us. [Applause] It is cooperation because we want to prosper not at each other’s expense, but while helping each other. And it is a system, because its foundations, walls, roof, components and fabric are held together by the rules of common sense, while the timberwork was produced under the iron laws of economy and history. This is why we must insist that the cast-iron guarantee for tax reductions and wage increases must always be the competitive Hungarian economy. The mortar which binds the walls of the Hungarian model is courage: something without which no political structure can remain standing – especially here in the windswept openness of the Carpathian Basin. It was with courage that we had to draw new borders between politics and the economy, between the state and the market, and also between tried and tested ideas and new ones. And during all this the country’s stability could not be allowed to waver for a minute. The stability of politics is a rule that commands all others – especially in times of crisis. When our twentieth-century leaders failed and became incapable of leading and directing the country – especially in times of crisis – we became defenceless in the face of our enemies and those who bore us malice. This was a great lesson. The result was the loss of the country, subjugation and misery. Loss of political stability is a luxury we cannot afford, and it will not happen while we are at the helm. This is something on which we stand absolutely firm. [Applause]
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We were the first to rise up when we decided to send the IMF packing, to call the banks to account, to tax the multinationals and to scrap forex loans. We rose up when they told us it was impossible to put our finances in order while also jumpstarting economic growth. We set out to do so, and we have shown them a Hungarian economy that has been continuously growing for the past four years. We rose up against unemployment, which they claimed was something we had to live with in a modern market economy. We set full employment as our target, and aimed for the creation of one million new jobs. Seven years have passed and we already stand at seven hundred thousand new jobs. [Applause]They also wanted to prevent us from reducing families’ household utility charges, but eventually we managed to break the resistance of the big energy providers, of Brussels and of the opposition, and we introduced the reductions. The government of the United States at the time, Brussels and even Berlin declared that the migrants must not – or at least cannot – be stopped. We resisted, we drew a line, built a fence, recruited border hunters and stopped them. We defended Hungary – and with it, incidentally, Europe. [Applause] And with the migrant referendum we barred others from deciding whom we should and shouldn’t allow into the country. [Applause] We will of course be letting in genuine refugees: Germans, Dutch, French and Italians, terrified politicians and journalists, Christians who have been forced to leave their homes and who here in Hungary want to find the Europe they have lost in their homelands. [Laughter, applause]
Ladies and Gentlemen, members of the association,
We were black sheep, but now we are a success story, and this is also acknowledged – although perhaps reluctantly – by those who don’t like what we have achieved and how we have achieved it. Nothing succeeds like success. We have reached a stage at which the credit rating agencies are successively upgrading us. In 2016 we finally saw a positive change in the lives of the lower middle class: people who work for a living, but earn relatively little. Wages are increasing, family debt is decreasing and consumption is rising. It is about time, and they have worked hard for it; it isn’t aid, a gift, a benefit or a handout, but a genuine remuneration and genuine performance – with the acknowledgement and respect which goes with that. It would not be a good thing for work that pays less and requires less knowledge – but is nevertheless hard – to be valued less. It would not be good to bring in cheap labour from outside to fill such jobs, as is the fashion in the West. Instead I call on us to value each and every job, every job done well, and the workers who do them. We must be capable of sustaining and running our own country. [Applause] We need everyone to contribute, meaning that in future we must continue to respect Hungarian cleaning ladies, road workers, dock workers, hod carriers and labourers. This is why we are increasing the minimum wage by 15 per cent and the minimum wage for skilled workers by 25 per cent. We are one nation and one country, and they too have a place in our common future. [Applause]
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is difficult to make statements on the future with certainty. As we have seen, things can be turned upside-down from one day to the next. Nevertheless, we cannot shed the responsibility to think ahead. Governance and the country’s administration should be cautious but alert, just as when fog descends on the land. Despite all difficulties, with due caution what I can tell you is that the future of Hungarians – including that of schoolchildren and pensioners – is assured. Hungary is developing and gaining strength. We did not receive it as a gift, we did not win it, and it wasn’t blown into our sails by others: we – all ten million of us –worked to achieve it. We are gradually working off our debt, our economy is growing continuously, wages are increasing continuously and we will soon achieve full employment – meaning that everyone will have work. I am personally committed to ensuring that no child in Hungary will grow up without seeing their parents work. [Applause] Our borders are protected, public safety is in hand, and the police are dedicated and successful in the fight against crime. Disaster management personnel are in position and continuously on standby. Our soldiers are waiting to once again serve in one of Central Europe’s major armies. Our family support system is wide-ranging and diverse, in a way that is practically unique in Europe. Children begin nursery school at the age of three, and 318,000 of them receive free meals. We take care of them, prepare them for school and compensate for some of the disadvantages they bring with them from home. Free textbooks are received by 730,000 schoolchildren. In addition to being taught, at school they also receive guidance. Physical education on an everyday basis, religious studies and ethics will remain on the curriculum – and in fact we are further improving their quality. They move on to our secondary schools, and the Hungarian state is now also financing the acquisition of additional professional qualifications. Since 2010, the European Union has assisted over 97,000 Hungarians to have the opportunity to study or teach abroad.
Between 2013 and 2017 teacher’s salaries increased by an average of fifty per cent. By 2018 the salaries of lecturers and researchers will increase by 27%. Consultant doctors and pharmacists are receiving a two-step pay rise of 207,000 forints. Nurses’ wages will increase by an average of 56 per cent by 2018. We have renovated 71 hospitals, built 23 clinics and renovated 54 others; 27 new ambulance stations have been built, and we have renovated a further 35. We have concluded the foreign affairs and foreign trade agreements required for our secure development, and we are pursuing independent foreign policies. Hungary’s success is in the interests – or at least does not conflict with the interests – of all the important players in the world economy and in world politics. According to the latest figures, published only yesterday, Hungarian exports have again broken all previous records. This means that we are becoming increasingly competitive throughout the world. Following the recent visit by the Russian president, we are expecting the Chinese prime minister and the Prime Minister of the State of Israel; from July we will be directing the work of the Visegrád Group and in the autumn the leaders of 16 Central European states will meet in Budapest. [Applause]
In summary, what I can tell you is that we have no reason to worry about tomorrow. Families will be getting back on their feet and we will be pulling ourselves together financially. In Hungary tomorrow does not cast a shadow over today. If everyone does their job properly and we abide by the law, then everything will go well and every year everyone will be able to take a step forward. This is all well and good, but we are still far from being able to say that this is enough. So far we have no reason to brag; on the contrary, my advice to all of us is that now is the time to be modest – because now we have something to be modest about. [Laughter, applause]
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I must admit that what gives me headaches is not tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow. What will happen to the Hungarians and the Hungarian way of life in 15 to 20 years? It is heartening that we are now seeing the highest number of births since 2010. The number of marriages is increasing, and population is declining at its lowest rate in years; but a decline is still a decline, no matter how slow. How many children we decide to have is one of the most personal decisions that we make, and although it is a personal decision it is also one of the most important for our community. I too know that changes in this can only be expected over several decades. Success depends precisely on the reliability and tenacity of our family policies, but I want to say that no decisive breakthrough has yet been achieved on this important front. Accordingly, the Government is providing all possible assistance to people who decide to have children. [Applause] They say that it is generally impossible to show a correlation between demographic indices and changes in the standard of living. But I believe that there is indeed a correlation between a nation’s will to live, a people’s discovery of themselves and changes in demographic indices: between whether a nation is capable of believing in itself and in the future of its offspring, and the number of children it wants to raise. It is my firm belief that there is a correlation between what over the past seven years we have been striving to achieve and the fact that the nation wants to become younger; because what individuals cannot achieve – turn their old age into youth – is possible for the nation. A people that has begun to age can still become a youthful people: it is up to its members, and it is a question of will. It is also good that children are entering the nursery school education system at the age of three, and that the state is paying for school meals and textbooks. But in the meantime are we raising them to love their homeland, to be patriotic and to have a patriotic frame of mind? Will Hungary be their shared passion, as it is ours? Will they too have a sense of national justice, which is fuelled by patriotism? Will they understand that the only way we can avoid being the slaves of other peoples – and the only way we can remain an independent nation – is if, first and foremost, we declare ourselves to be Hungarian? These are all things that we should take care to teach children in school, because it is only through this that our children can understand what links and binds us together. And I must admit that today I do not yet see any guarantee of this. As if all these question marks were not enough, robot technology and the digital revolution are knocking on our door, and having made their impact on the economy they have now reached the world of life sciences. Not only are machines, technology and knowledge changing, but we are also slowly having to face changes to our very existence, and to what makes us human. We are pushing the frontiers, crossing ancient borderlines, boundaries separating species and the borders between living creatures and man-made machines. We are on the verge of challenging God. The achievements of science and the gradual conquest of disease are inspiring, but the long-term implications are also worrying. We must also prepare for these changes. But perhaps I’ve moved too far ahead, so I’ll stop there – let’s leave something for next year’s speech.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In 2017 Hungarian politics will need to respond to five major issues. It must defend us from five major attacks. Accordingly, in 2017 we will need a new national policy. As early as the first half of this year, Brussels will try to ban reductions in public utility charges. Their plan is already on the table: they want to replace countries’ independent energy policies with central regulation, which would strip Member States of the right to determine the price of energy. The question will be whether we should defend reductions in public utility charges and insist on our right to determine energy prices, or once again entrust big corporations with the task of setting of utility charges.
The issue of migration will also remain on the agenda. Despite the fact that illegal immigration raises an insoluble problem and the threat of terrorism, and despite the bloody reality and the terrible events seen throughout Europe, migrants can still move freely around Europe until their claims have been finally ruled on in the courts. The question for 2017 will be whether we should detain them and keep them in detention until there are final verdicts on their applications. And in 2017 we will also need to take up the struggle against international organisations’ increasingly strong activists. In addition, in 2018 there will be elections in several countries – including here at home. It is a problem that foreign funding is being secretly used to influence Hungarian politics. I think that on more than enough occasions we have proved that we are capable of deciding on our own fate. So the question is whether we should yield to covert foreign attempts to exert influence. We are not talking about non-governmental organisations fighting to promote an important cause, but about paid activists from international organisations and their branch offices in Hungary. Are we going to do something to at least ensure transparency, and make these issues publicly known? We must also recognise, Ladies and Gentlemen, that here there are large predators swimming in the water. This is the transnational empire of George Soros, with its international heavy artillery and huge sums of money. What makes this worse is that, despite the Hungarian people declaring its will in the quota referendum, the organisations of George Soros are working tirelessly to bring hundreds of thousands of migrants into Europe. They are working to divert the Hungarian parliament and the Hungarian government from the path that has been determined by the people. In 2017, do we want to talk straight and on the level? Or, as I heard recently: do we want to lay our straight-talking cards on the level table? [Laughter] In 2016 it also emerged that Brussels wants to take away more and more spheres of competence from Member States. In the language of Brussels the codename for this mission is the Social Pillar. On a previous occasion Brussels has already prevented a radical reduction in taxes by the Hungarian government. We are allowed to increase taxes, but not to reduce them. So the question is, do we want to keep tax policy within the national sphere of competence, and if we do, are we capable of doing so? Should nations be free to decide on their own taxes? And finally we must prepare for Brussels attacking our job creation subsidies. Many countries, including Hungary, use this simple tool of economic development. So the question is this: should nations be able to decide whether they want to give employers incentives to create jobs, or should this right also be transferred to Brussels? If we want Hungary to continue being a winning country in 2017, we Hungarians must provide a clear response to these five questions. In fact behind all five questions there is the issue of national self-determination. So we have returned to the starting point: nations against globalists, sovereigntists against federalists. If we want sure and solid answers, we must come to an agreement with the people. We must ask them and gain their support, as we have done on every important issue so far. It is not enough to state that we shall not allow these things. What is important is that the people of Hungary also shall not allow decisions affecting them to be made over their heads.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There is just one question left to discuss. Did the Government lead the country well in 2016? This is a question we could easily sidestep, because it is more a question for the electorate than for ourselves. But I will not sidestep it: you know very well that I believe in open speech. In addition, if we search for an answer, we will ultimately learn a lesson. No matter the wage increases, the tax cuts and full employment, and no matter how good life might be, the typical Hungarian thinks that they’d like to see a government they are satisfied with. [Laughter] This is how the Hungarian mind works, and since this is the case one must never be offended at the voices of dissatisfaction. As it is I’ve already seen more than enough offended prime ministers, and believe me, it’s not an inspiring sight. [Laughter, applause]
But taking offence isn’t the only thing we must avoid; we must also never become hesitant. The Hungarians have suffered enough from hesitant, helpless and plank-headed leaders, [Laughter, applause] from those who always explained to their audiences that circumstances were robbing us of our dreams, ruining our plans, tying our hands.
My friends, this is just one step away from self-pity, and for decades we were plagued by self-pity. Consoling each other while idly sitting in the lukewarm waters of helplessness with our eyes raised skywards, while denigrating and envying those who wanted to do something about the situation: this was the culture of socialist governance. This is what we freed ourselves from, and this is the source of all our achievements today. [Applause] We have succeeded: Hungary has finally succeeded in stepping out of the culture of self-pity and into the culture of action.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Sándor Márai taught us that we don’t know the meaning of mediocrity. This is also the cast-iron rule for Hungary’s political leadership. The Hungarians can never be satisfied with mediocre leadership and a mediocre government: we need more, and we deserve more. But the question is this: what makes a good administration and what makes a good leader? In my opinion, good administration takes people to the finish line so that that when they get there, they feel that they hadn’t needed leaders at all.
May 2017 be a year which, when it is over, we feel that it went by like a charm.
Go Hungary! Go Hungarians!