Speech by Viktor Orbán at the Atreju 2019 event held by the Brothers of Italy party (FdI)
21 September 2019, Rome (Roma)
Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I thank Madam President for her invitation, and I thank you for the interest you are showing. The interest you show is both flattering and touching. You are Italians and I am Hungarian. The population of Italy is six times that of Hungary, and its area is three and a half times that of our country. The size of your GDP belongs in another category. You have a huge army, and Hungary’s can’t be mentioned in the same breath as it. Italian is spoken around the world, while Hungarian is spoken only by us. In such circumstances your interest is truly an honour.
I’ve been thinking why it might be that you are interested in Hungary. I think that there are two reasons for the interest shown in us by Italians. Everyone who’s familiar with the map of Europe will know that since 2015 there have been two key countries on the continent: Italy, as Europe’s gateway on the sea; and Hungary, as Europe’s gateway on dry land. This similarity has aroused your interest. Secondly, from 2010 onwards, in Hungary we’ve created our own state model – which was immediately attacked in Brussels, by the European Left, and also by the American Left through networks allied to George Soros. This made Hungary a black sheep, but it also made it interesting for the outside world. This is the second reason for so many people being interested in Hungary.
Before I share my thoughts with you, we need to address the question of whether it’s possible for an Italian to understand a Hungarian. After all, these are two different countries; and we Hungarians spent almost fifty years under communist oppression and occupation, while you were free. I’ve come up with a few reasons for why Italians and Hungarians might be able to understand each other. Firstly, the northern part of Italy belongs to Central Europe, and it was once our neighbour. Then one of the best-known Italian brands is Illy coffee, the name of which comes from a Hungarian: Ferenc Illy. The basis of this brand is a Hungarian family name. And the Italians wrote the most beautiful song about the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, which begins with these words: “Avanti ragazzi di Buda…” So a people who can sing about the sorrows of another people better than that people themselves definitely understands us. When I add that the current coach of the Hungarian national football team is an Italian – Marco Rossi – there’s a better chance that you’ll understand what I’m going to say to you, and that I’ll be able to answer your questions. To sum up, there’s a chance that today we’ll be able to understand each other.
For you to understand my thoughts, it’s worth getting to know the position from which I’m speaking. I’ve been in politics since 1984 – since my youth in 1984. Between 1984 and 1990 I organised anti-communist student resistant movements. Of course the fact that we took part in the anti-communist resistance and fought for democracy is disregarded by many people in Brussels when they try to lecture us on democracy: something which they received as a gift, but which we had to work hard for. After the first free election in 1990 I became a Member of Parliament, and I’ve been an MP for thirty years. I’ve won four elections and I’ve lost four elections. My conception of politics is that it’s a service and not a career, and so even when I lost I stayed in politics, and didn’t join corporations or try to make money on the speaking circuit, but I continued in my work, and I am serving Hungary. In order for you to understand me, I need to say that I’ve formed a government on four different occasions – my first at the age of 35. Since 2010, in the course of governing Hungary, we’ve won three consecutive elections, each with a two-thirds majority, and with no need for a coalition partner. The governing party is united, and the Government is also united.
It’s good for you to know, and it’s useful to know, that Hungary is a structurally conservative country: we’re the only country in Europe where, since the first election in 1990, every parliament has served its full term of four years. There has never been an early election. If we needed to locate today’s discussion within the present-day Hungarian political environment, I’d have to say that in Hungary your Madam President would occupy a politically central position, and I’d stand a little to the right of her. But I’m not a philosopher, and neither am I a political scientist. When I speak to you, I’m speaking from experience. I’m speaking from the position of an active participant: not from the position of a scientist or an analyst, but that of a political fighter.
So the first issue which arouses interest is migration. As I see it, in 2015 an invasion set out for Europe. From the very beginning one could see that nine out of ten migrants were not refugees, but economic migrants. Whoever claims that this couldn’t be known is not telling the truth: it was possible to see this clearly, and every European leader knew it. In 2015 I saw that there were leaders in Europe who were going to ruin the European way of life, European culture, and through this the European economy. I always knew that the Left has an intellectual conception which uses migration in its service and in its interest. The Left’s intellectual conception is that Europe should move beyond the age of nations and Christianity, and that the continent should step into a post-national, post-Christian age. And in the conception of the Left, the mission of Brussels and the European Union is to assist this transition. In opposition to this, and confronting this conception, the Right speaks about an alliance of nations. I must also say that in my experiencethe Left has an interest in migration: an interest. Firstly, it serves its ideological goals. And secondly there is a racket: a cartel of lawyers, social workers and people working in the social sphere who join forces with people smugglers to construct an economic mechanism which activates an enormous amount of money. I know that a lot of people will accuse me of peddling a conspiracy theory, but I’ve seen, I’ve experienced and I firmly declare that when they bring in migrants, the Left is in fact importing voters. Sooner or later they will give them citizenship: migrants will become citizens with voting rights; and they are Muslim people who will never support policies which are based on Christian foundations. This means that if a large number of migrants come into Europe, the chances of being able to gain majority support in Europe for politics built on Christian foundations – and of the Christian Right being able to govern – will decrease and finally disappear. The Left knows this, and this is precisely why it’s doing what it’s doing.
Dear Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,
After 2015 the Right in Europe had great difficulty in finding its feet again. From the Right we launched a counteroffensive. We declared that of course there are crisis regions in the world and there are people who are suffering, but the right approach is for us to take help over there, and not bring the problems here. And some countries have formed a loose alliance based on this platform of taking the help over there and not bringing the problems here. Such countries are the V4, including Hungary, Austria, Bavaria, and – with Salvini – Italy as well. Since then the Left has shot down the Austrian government; Bavaria has retreated; if I’ve understood correctly, in Italy the Government has been separated from the people; and there are attempts to create a turnaround within the V4. Now our task is to try to pull the newly formed European Commission out from under the domination of the Left. There’s a chance of achieving this – or, to be more precise, there’s more chance of achieving this than there’s ever been. I see that the Left are launching a new offensive: new left-wing politicians are appearing who have learnt nothing; I see that old colleagues are returning, like Mr. Renzi; I see that the Italian nominee for a seat on the European Commission is my old colleague. The same thing happens everywhere: the Left let in migrants and put up taxes. Whichever country we’re talking about, the Left always make these two mistakes, without exception: they let in migrants and put up taxes. They’ve learnt nothing from their past mistakes. The issue of the migrant redistribution quota is on the agenda again. I see that my colleague Prime Minister Conte has been here with you, and he advised you to cross-examine me on why Hungary isn’t offering more help to Italy in the area of migration. I’ll say this here, and I’ve said this to him: Hungary stands ready to offer assistance to Italy in any way it can. There is one way in which we cannot help: we cannot help by allowing migrants to be transported into the territory of Hungary from anywhere. That is impossible. But if you are finally determined to defend your borders we can help you in that. And if you commit yourselves to transporting migrants who are already here back to their homelands, we can help you in that. We will not accept an immigration quota, but we will gladly accept a repatriation quota. So if Prime Minister Conte asks us to take a few thousand migrants from Italy back home to where they came from, then Hungary stands ready to do this and to offer help in this.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The upcoming period in international politics will be an exciting one: there will be an election in Austria; there will be an election in Poland; there will be local elections in Hungary; and we’re also waiting for Italy to return to the club. This is the situation in international politics this autumn.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
If you have the patience, I’d like to say a few thoughts on what is happening in Hungary. What is the economic and political model that we are building in Hungary, and what are the chances that it will be successful? By way of introduction, I’d like to say that I haven’t come here to lecture or talk down to anybody. I don’t want to give advice to the Italians. Neither do I want to intervene in Italy’s domestic political debates. And I’m not claiming that what is good for Hungary is also good for other peoples, or that what works in Hungary will work elsewhere. I’m not saying any of that. I’ll simply describe for you the situation in Hungary as I see it from the position of the Prime Minister.
Dear Friends, Madam President,
In Hungary we have developed a model of political and state theory, and we have built a state on this intellectual basis. We refer to the intellectual foundation of this as Christian democratic, and we call the state which is based on it a Christian democratic state. The following question arises: where did Hungary find the courage to take this upon itself? It happened like this because the way in which we interpreted the great 2008–09 economic and financial crisis in Europe was completely different from the way it was interpreted by the other Member States of the European Union. And we thought that the response that they gave to this crisis would be unsuccessful, because they misunderstood the true nature of the crisis. In the European Union they thought that the financial crisis was a routine cyclical crisis, of the sort that happens from time to time in the history of capitalism. This wasn’t what we thought. We thought that the 2008–09 financial crisis was the sign of an epochal change in the world economy. Therefore the reaction to it could not be the same as a reaction to a cyclical crisis: it needed to be reacted to as the sign of a great realignment in the world economy. And I’m convinced that the type of state model, conception of democracy and economic policy with which the European Union – and within it Italy – reacted to the crisis does not offer an answer to the true problems that manifested themselves in this crisis. Therefore we offered a different type of answer; and this gave rise to a Christian democratic political framework and a Christian democratic state.
We also thought that intellect and the capacity to innovate does not depend on the size of a country: why couldn’t those qualities also be found in a small country? So we threw ourselves into the task; and the model that we started to build in 2010 works and is successful. Its political success is self-evident: we’ve won three consecutive parliamentary elections, each with a two-thirds majority. But our Christian democratic economic model is also successful. In 2010 unemployment stood at 12 per cent, and now it’s 3.5 per cent and we’re approaching full employment. State debt was 85 per cent of GDP, and now it’s falling to under 70 per cent. The budget deficit was always above 3 per cent, and now it’s between 1 and 2 per cent. Nowadays economic growth in Hungary is between 4 and 5 per cent, and wages are rising at a rate of 8 to 10 per cent. Poverty is falling dramatically and the middle class is continuously expanding. So in addition to being supported by the people, as expressed in election results, the model that we’ve created is also successful in the economic sphere, and has brought results. Now I’d like to say a few words about this model.
This model has a foundation and three pillars. The foundation is a new Christian constitution, which was adopted in 2011. We used our two-thirds parliamentary majority to write a new Christian constitution with two-thirds majority support. And in order for everyone to understand its essence we adopted this constitution at Easter. If you’ll allow me, I’ll recite a few passages – in English, as I can’t speak Italian – from this constitution, which is the foundation of our system. The following is written into the Hungarian constitution: “We are proud that our king Saint Stephen built the Hungarian state on solid ground and made our country a part of Christian Europe one thousand years ago. We are proud of our forebears who fought for the survival, freedom and independence of our country. We are proud that our nation has over the centuries defended Europe in a series of struggles, and enriched Europe’s common values with its talent and diligence. We recognise the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood. We value the various religious traditions of our country.” And the Constitution also says, and I quote: “The protection of the constitutional identity and Christian culture of Hungary shall be an obligation of every organ of the state.” And our constitution also says, “We hold that the family and the nation constitute the principal framework of our coexistence, and that our fundamental cohesive values are fidelity, faith and love.” That’s written in the Constitution. And it continues, “Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman established by voluntary decision, and the family as the basis of the survival of the nation. Family ties shall be based on marriage or the relationship between parents and children. Hungary shall encourage the commitment to have children.” Such things are written into the Hungarian constitution, and that’s why I said that your Madam President would be in the centre in Hungarian politics. And this constitution provides the foundation for our politics.
The three pillars which support our system are the following. The first is the family, which must be defended and which clearly can only be the union of one man and one woman. And a feature within this pillar is that we think of the family from another perspective: we think of it from the perspective of children, and we say that every child has the right to a mother and a father. In accordance with this we have a family support system: tax allowances; women who have had four children – regardless of whether or not they are now adults – will be exempt from income tax for the rest of their lives, and I’m working to ensure that this will also be the case for women who have had three children; we provide loans for people starting a family, and if children are born these loans do not have to be paid back; school textbooks, crèches, kindergartens and school meals are free. Despite this, my Dear Italian friends, I cannot say that things are as they should be. I can’t say that. Despite this, things are not as they should be in Hungary, because it’s still the case that far fewer children are being born than are needed. And I dare not tell you that we shall definitely be successful in reversing this negative trend; but I can definitely say that if we don’t act with that aim in mind, it will never be reversed. And I’m not willing to support a policy which seeks to correct the shortfall in children being born by bringing in migrants. The best migrant is one’s own child.
The second pillar in this Christian democratic political system is the nation itself. In our way of thinking the nation is sovereign, therefore it shall not be forced to subject itself to the laws of any form of global governance. It is the product of culture and history and is an irreplaceable treasure, and therefore it must be protected. And only we may say who can and who cannot settle on the territory of our state, together with our nation. Only we have the right to say that. Everywhere around the world the nation is protected, except in one place: in Europe. This is abnormal, and we must change it.
The third pillar which forms the structure of the Hungarian political conception of the state is what we call Christian freedom. Christian freedom is originally a theological category, but we don’t use it in this sense: we use it as a political category. It contains a distillation of the political approach which defends the Christian way of life: Christian freedom means that we have the right to defend our own Christian way of life; we have the right to defend everything that – derived from Christianity over the course of two thousand years, from the accumulated lives of successive generations – has created a Christian culture. We are free to defend it. This is the political meaning of Christian freedom. If you observe European politics sufficiently closely, you’ll see that Ursula von der Leyen, the new President of the European Commission, is also making attempts at this: she wants to initiate a portfolio in the European Commission which bears the name “Protection of the European Way of Life”. You know that in Brussels it’s not possible to say “Protection of the Christian Way of Life”: that wouldn’t be allowed, it’s forbidden. But it’s permitted to say “Protection of the European Way of Life”, although it means the same. So we hope that this portfolio will be formed within the European Commission.
In conclusion, Madam President, Ladies and Gentlemen, the fact is that people who think like we do in Hungary, and you here in this marquee and many others in Italy, need to recognise that we are in a minority among the European political elite, but we are in the majority among peoples and citizens. We must recognise this. And as our opponents are large, wealthy, strong and well-organised, we are forced to fight a battle which is unjustly difficult. We are fighting for a good cause in unfairly difficult circumstances. The bad news I have for you is that this is how it will remain: this battle will always be unfairly difficult for us. Those who commit to it must realise what they are committing themselves to. There is one mistake that we must not make: we must not descend into self-pity. We must do what our forebears taught us, when they said: “Trust in God and keep your powder dry.” That’s what we must do. And it’s worth reminding ourselves, Italy and the whole of Europe, that Europe was made great and was given its mission in the world by the fact that we created a way of life in which the work that each one of us did – the labour of every working European – simultaneously served one’s own interest, the good of one’s country, and the glory of God. In Europe we must find the modern form of this. And if we succeed in this, Europe will be great again.