Viktor Orbán’s speech at the Visegrád Group conference “The Future of Europe”
Budapest, 26 January 2018
Good day to you all, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to all of you. We, the four of us, are not in an easy situation. Modern political thought has separated the thinkers from the doers. It is even advised that those holding office, let’s say leading a country, refrain from bringing up such thoughts – however exciting they may be intellectually – in case they constitute a disadvantage in political debates. We are in such a conflictual situation: we must say things which are both important and interesting. We took on this task when we launched our debate on the future of Europe. And this is exactly what I shall do now.
But before I contribute to the topic on the future of Europe, first let me, as a coordinator or a kind of a chairman, say a few words about the V4. Looking at it now, who would have thought ten or fifteen years ago, that the “Visegrád Four” would have such importance, or such achievements in terms of the economy and international politics? Back then there were surely only a few who thought we would reach this point by 2018. The V4 countries have fought hard to claim their current position. What’s more, these countries are friends with each other – although this hasn’t always been the case in our histories. Today, however, the V4 countries maintain decidedly friendly relations, with our history seen more as a common heritage. We’ve all paid the price for the freedom we’ve achieved. And we in the V4 share a common Central European vocabulary. This vocabulary contains words that are rarely heard to the west of us: words such as sovereignty, independence, freedom, God, homeland, family, work, honour, security and common sense. These are all part of our shared vocabulary. In other words, we understand each other and this shared vocabulary enables us to understand such complex matters as the future of Europe.
As far as the importance of the V4 is concerned, it’s enough to look at the figures. Obviously Robert [Fico] knows the history of the Slovakian economy better than I do, but I doubt that Slovakia has ever been through a period which was as successful as the one it is experiencing today. This is the period that, as Prime Minister, Robert Fico has opened for Slovakia. We look at the figures and we’re amazed by the speed of development. We’re slightly less surprised by the Czechs, as even under the Dual Monarchy Hungarians considered that region to be more developed and more industrialised; and the Czech Republic continues to hold that status. And then there is Poland, which from our perspective looks enormous. We used to wonder why it couldn’t make use of the fact that it is four times larger than Hungary, and had an internal market: its growth still wasn’t faster than the smaller countries. But in recent years that has changed, and it’s developing at an incredibly rapid pace. Let’s add up the performance of all four countries and look at, say, their combined volume of trade with Germany – which I think is a good European starting point: we can see that our trade with the Germans exceeds trade volume between France and Germany by 55 per cent; it’s twice as much as that between the UK and Germany; and it’s three times higher than that between Italy and Germany. This is a good indication that we’re not just loitering in the money distribution centre of the European Union clutching our hats and anxiously creasing their brims while we ask for special treatment. Instead we’ve become a group of countries with independent economic performance: the fastest developing region in Europe, that does not diminish the strength of Europe, but adds to it. And those countries profit from us which cooperate with us, which invest in our countries, or which pay into the EU so that we receive investment sums through the Cohesion Fund. So we are not receiving or requesting aid, but are a self-aware community which gives at least as much to the EU as the EU gives us. And we may perhaps even venture to say that the older Member States of the European Union profit from their cooperation with us.
As far as the future of Europe is concerned, I will be brief. There was a grand plan, and I remember it because I’ve been involved in this business for quite a long time. So there was a grand plan, and within it we set ourselves three objectives, called the “Lisbon objectives”: the euro should become competitive with the US dollar on international currency markets; there should be a single trade area from Lisbon to Vladivostok; and the EU should be the most competitive and most technically developed region in the world. In comparison with those objectives, we see the following: the euro is happy to have survived the 2008 crisis; instead of a trade area extending as far as Vladivostok, we’ve implemented sanctions against Russia; and in terms of competitiveness, the EU’s share in the world economy has shrunk from 25 per cent in 2000 to 20 per cent – and forecasts indicate that if things continue like this, it could drop to 12–15 per cent. Obviously Europe is in need of redesign. This is the impetus I was talking about – that there was a grand plan that collapsed, and which is no longer valid. This is the impetus in European leaders – for example in the French president, who is coming up with ever more new proposals; because we all feel that redesign and replanning is needed.
We are pro-Europe politicians, and our goal is for Europe to be stronger. We Hungarians don’t think that it is good to have a debate on whether we need more Europe or less Europe. The objective is to have a stronger Europe. Where there is a need for more Europe, there should be more Europe; and where more national competence is needed, we should let the Member States do their job. The objectives are clear. In our opinion the new blueprint must include a passage about a work-based society, about full employment. We must set a target of returning to the technological forefront by using digitalisation. We think that in the new, large-scale European plan we must have our own defence force, and in this new, large-scale plan we must not talk about a European Empire, nor a United States of Europe, but an alliance of free nations. Competences must be returned to Member States, where they would be in better hands. This is all possible and viable; the only question is whether the European Union will have the right quality of leadership to achieve these objectives.
All the things I’ve just mentioned were stalled by a hitch, an unforeseen accident. If in Europe today these were the only matters of debate, such debate would be calm. But in the meantime, a modern-day mass population movement has begun that has opened up completely new dimensions, cast everything in doubt and added a question mark to every sentence we had thought was fixed and declarative. Now it seems that we are only dealing with the period after 2015. But I would like to draw everyone’s attention to the fact that the support, the positive presentation and the development of a model European programme for migration did not start in 2015, and did not start with Willkommenskultur. It began in 2004, when a UN Secretary-General called Kofi Annan went to the European Parliament and gave a speech. He said that this would be the great question for the future, and outlined what Europe should do. He said that immigrants would need Europe, and Europe would need immigrants. He said that we must put aside our prejudices, open channels for immigration, and that societies in Europe must adapt. Migration, he said, is not a problem, but a solution. Between 2004 and 2015 we failed to realise that this process was actually underway in Western Europe. All this was revealed to us by the 2015 crisis, which brought all of us – Hungarians included – face to face with a dilemma: whether we wanted to accept the advice of Kofi Annan and history, by following the path being taken today by the Western European countries – the majority of which have turned themselves into immigrant countries; or if we did not want to become an immigrant country. We help those who need help – there can be no debate about that. We shall give protection to those who need it. But we shall not accept migrants, either now or later, because we do not want to become an immigrant country. We don’t want to solve our internal problems – such as population problems – with immigration, but with a family policy. So this is the new situation that we are all faced with. I frankly tell you that in the immigrant societies of Western Europe what I see are parallel societies, terrorism, the deterioration of public security and native populations losing the feeling that they are at home in their own countries. I find no attraction in any of these things, nor anything that would reassure Hungary. Instead we must distance ourselves from that and preserve our traditional ways of life.
In closing, I would like to point out that yesterday another UN Secretary-General attracted attention, when in European leftist newspapers he made public a study in which he repeated, more emphatically, what Kofi Annan said in 2004. The UN Secretary-General wrote that migration is good and migration is necessary, and the UN will play a role in developing a modern global agreement on migration, according to which it could be controlled throughout the world and migrants could be distributed across the globe. I’m saying this to point out that the conflict splitting Europe from within is not limited to Europe: we have to deal with a grand international United Nations treaty which is being prepared. We know the passages in it, and they are depressing and sad – but more than that, what we see in them is danger. It is clear, however, that the debate on migration is moving from the European arena to the global arena. And in the future Europe must also have an answer to this. So in essence this is how I see the future of Europe right now.
Péter, thank you for giving me the floor.