Speech by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at a staff convocation celebrating the Hungarian Police’s centenary
6 March 2020, Budapest
Ladies and Gentlemen, please accept my greetings and respect.
One hundred years is a long time. There is much to look back on. This is a shared past: it is not only the history of the police, but also the common history of modern Hungary. And let us also remember what binds together all former and current members of our police force over its one hundred years. The Hungarian language can create apt and powerful images. The Hungarian uses a single word for standing one’s ground [helytállás]. This is when someone fully delivers what is expected of them in their situation. Yes, the former and current members of the Hungarian police force are bound together by their capacity to stand their ground in fulfilling their duties.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
No one-hundred-year period in Hungarian history has only contained moments of which we can be proud. And there is no profession – particularly in the realm of state service – which has not seen its moral resolve put to the test by the past one hundred years. In this the police are no exception. As a member of the anti-communist resistance, who decades ago was subjected to police procedures, I could share some personal experiences with you. But not even such dark tones and dubious periods can erase the fundamental fact that over the past one hundred years the Hungarian police and Hungarian police officers have stood their ground, and today they can proudly declare themselves members of a body which renders great service to the nation.
For example, I checked the police records of a difficult year – 1940. It was a complicated and burdensome year. As we’ve heard, the Trianon peace diktat imposed restrictions on police numbers. Naturally this didn’t prevent the wily Hungarians from over a number of years secretly including members of the defence forces among police ranks, men who went on to serve their country well. Anyway, in 1940 there were 142,765 reports filed with the police, and 102,968 successful investigations. There were 73,603 recorded crimes and 52,213 active inquiries, with 62,448 people held in police custody for shorter or longer periods. You – the police – used arms on 137 occasions, and 151 police officers were injured while serving that year.
When Hungarian territories were re-annexed, the police marked out the new borders and organised border surveillance and defence. As you can see, when talking about the past one hundred years it is no exaggeration to use the term “standing one’s ground”.
As for the present, what most distinguishes it from the past is that in the field of law enforcement today one sees debate at a philosophical level on an international scale. This was not the case earlier. Of course there were debates – for instance on what constitutes proportionate police action, rules on the use of arms, or the relationship between armed institutions and a one-party state. But now the debate is of a different nature, being about the role and future of communities: do communities exist at all, or are they just mere fiction? And if they do exist, are they good or bad things? Is it a good or bad goal to use police actions to protect communities? Does only the individual exist, and must everything therefore be subjected to his or her fulfilment? Or are there additional collective interests which take precedence over the individual, and which must be protected?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The answer to these questions depends on whether we see the police as a desirable and worthy body that guarantees the security of our shared life, fills us with pride and is therefore to be supported; or if we see it as a necessary evil, an obstacle, an armed wing of the state which uses the force of law to block the path of individual fulfilment. This centenary offers a good opportunity for us to take a stance on this issue in the name of the Hungarian state. I want to make it clear that today’s Hungarian constitutional order and the life of the state stand on the foundations of the traditional European concept of culture and the individual.The basic assumption of the Hungarian Constitution is that man is a dual being: capable of aspiring to the highest goals, and even of turning towards qualities of the supreme and the divine; but equally capable of surrendering to animalistic instincts. This is most spectacularly manifest when great artists commit shockingly violent crimes, but this innate duality is not their sole preserve: it is there in all of us. Our conception is that this has been the case since the creation of humanity, and will remain so for as long as human laws rather than divine laws prevail on Earth.As we heard earlier, “order is not self-sustaining”. Therefore the Hungarian state today sees value and dignity in subordinating one’s selfish inclinations to the interests of the community, in self-control rather than wantonness, in humility rather than excess, in a preference for the great and the sublime over the petty and the base. Therefore our constitutional rules, constitutional order and governmental system see the existence and work of the police as necessary – in the interests of the community – in restraining, and indeed disciplining, the sometimes dominant worst side of our inner selves, our violent outbursts and our predatory greed. Not only does it provide restraint and discipline, but – in the hope of a fair trial and judgement – it delivers to the courts whatever and whoever rejects the rules designed to protect our community.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This debate only seems to be abstract and theoretical: in fact it has very practical consequences. I have observed that those who see collective interests and protective legal rules as an unnecessary restriction on the freedom of the individual generally support migration and support drug liberalisation, prioritise the rights of criminals over those of victims, seek to weaken rather than strengthen children’s natural sex identities, and also seek to restrict the work of armed institutions – including that of the police. But we, the other party to the debate, believe in a balance between the individual and the community. For us our communities – for example the family and the nation – are not a burden or a restraint, but the potential bearers of a good and beautiful life. We believe that order is the foundation of freedom. Therefore we are defending the borders, stopping migrants, siding with victims, condemning and eliminating the prison business and raising our children to have a healthy attitude to the family and the nation. We are supporting our police officers and are proud of their successes. As I see it, in this debate time is also vindicating us. After an era of liberal and global illusions, we are on the threshold of an era of newfound sobriety. This is what you can see in Europe’s changing, tougher migration policy, in the robust state action being taken against the coronavirus, and in the general strengthening of state bodies across Europe.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We value your work, and also want to recognise it through financial rewards. I know that there are still tasks ahead of us in this regard, but you know that it is not due to a lack of will. We not only recognise your personal achievements; we also respect the members of your families, who accept the consequences of life in the police on life at home, and so we broaden our attention to include them. Finally I would like you to know that your work is important not only for the life of this ten-million strong community of Hungarians. Your achievements are also important on the international scene.The world has always been based on competition between nations; this how it was and how it will be. Competition also plays a major role in the economic potential and prosperity of individual countries. And in today’s turbulent world, order, orderliness and security have become particularly precious commodities, and their value will continue to increase even further. The strong positions Hungary has achieved in the world economy and diplomacy are also due to the fact that the country can function in order and safety, and in these circumstances the economy can thrive. This is one reason why every day you can experience the confidence of the Hungarian people, which you have earned through work spanning the decades.
May you succeed in preserving that confidence. Happy birthday. I wish you strength and good health. Hungary before all else, God above us all.
Go for it Hungary, go for it Hungarians!