PM Orbán: HUF 3 billion went up against 3 million voters, and the latter won

“It is not an exaggeration to state that Hungary performed exceedingly well in 2022,” even though this has been “Hungary's most challenging year since the fall of communism,” said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at an international press conference held on Wednesday in Budapest as part of a Government Info session.

Among this year's extraordinary achievements, PM Orbán cited the spring parliamentary elections, which in his view showed that Hungarians "did not ask for foreign intervention, did not ask for the ‘dollar left,’” adding that he does not believe this will change in Hungary any time soon.

The prime minister praised the sound judgment of the electorate since, in his view, “it is clear that Brussels and the liberals wanted a left-wing government." He added that it is safe to conclude that Hungary leads the EU in terms of stability and predictability because since 1990 it is the only country that has not had to hold early elections.

“Three billion forints worth of dollars went up against three million voters, and the latter won the April elections,” he concluded.

Moving on to economic achievements, the prime minister noted that the budget deficit has been reduced, even though 2022 was an election year. This is extremely uncommon in European politics but not unheard of in Hungary, as the same was achieved in 2018.

In the interim, tax exemptions for people under 25 were created, families received a significant portion of their taxes paid returned, and the elderly once again received their 13th month pension.

Furthermore, PM Orbán noted that Hungarian employment statistics are at a 30-year high, and 74.6 percent of the population is employed, demonstrating that we have been successful in maintaining a work-based society.

Alongside domestic successes, Viktor Orbán said that achieving an agreement with the EU and overcoming the "Hungarophobia" prevalent in the liberal world are both great achievements in his eyes. On this note, PM Orbán said he hopes that the pertinent agreements with the EU will be signed within the next day or two.

Regarding the war in Ukraine, Prime Minister Orbán said that “we have to stay out of it because there are a lot of Hungarians living in our eastern neighborhood, and this is a war that only has losers.”

Hungary has fulfilled its Christian duty by launching the largest humanitarian operation in its history to help refugees from Ukraine, but “those who supply weapons, those who train soldiers, those who finance one side — like the European Union — are already in the war,” and “we can only hope that we do not get more involved than this,” PM Orbán said.

While the war rages, only the two warring parties and the European economy suffer, he said, adding that “the challenge is whether Europe can avoid the recession that comes with war and involvement in war, namely, sanctions.”

Another top accomplishment in the prime minister’s eyes is Hungary’s resistance to ongoing migration pressures from both the east and the south.

Then there are the government’s efforts to mitigate the energy crisis — an “extraordinary achievement.” The state had to pay €10 billion more than before for the same amount of energy, and yet, it has managed to do this while still allowing people to benefit from reduced energy bills, which means around HUF 180,000 a month per household, the prime minister said.

"In 2023, the priority is to stay out of war, stay out of economic recession, and have single-digit inflation by next December,” PM Orbán added.

In the second segment of the briefing, responding to a question from MTVA regarding foreign support of left-wing parties and media, Prime Minister Orbán said that he doesn’t see any difference between the leftist parties and the liberal media. On the ongoing corruption investigation in the EP, PM Orbán said that Hungary is also part of the EU and should, therefore, not look at it as outsiders.

“We have our disputes with the European institutions, but this emerging hypocrisy is destroying the strength of the community. The only solution is to drain the swamp,” the prime minister said.

Financial Times’ Márton Dunai asked the prime minister about the EU’s financial package to help fund Ukraine. “The existence of an independent and sovereign Ukraine is also in Hungary's interest,” PM Orbán said, adding that Ukraine needs to be helped, but we think it is wrong to do so through the EU.

“We managed to block the original idea of a joint loan,” the prime minister continued, adding that Brussels then came up with the idea of taking the money that was already in the joint fund and using that as a loan fund. “This is not a good solution, but it is far better than the first one,” PM Orbán said.

When asked about his stance on teachers’ salaries, a hot topic in Hungarian domestic politics, Prime Minister Orbán said that their salaries must be increased.

“That's why in 2010, the first occupation to get a pay rise was that of teachers. (…) Teachers start with unacceptably low starting salaries. What the government can do today is ensure that there is a pay raise for teachers this year and next,” Prime Minister Orbán said.

Answering a question from 444.hu on bankers’ criticism of price caps, PM Orbán recalled that over the last 30 years whenever we have introduced any price controls, the bankers have always objected. “But price controls are not for the benefit of the bankers but for the benefit of poor people,” the prime minister concluded.

On the topic of energy independence, PM Orbán underlined that only the Paks 2 nuclear power plant can bring relief. “When we decided to go ahead with the project in 2013, it was supposed to be ready by 2023. Imagine if it could start generating power next year,” the prime minister said, adding that he hopes those responsible for blocking the project back then are realizing their error.

Several questions were directed at whether Hungary plans to join the eurozone. PM Orbán said that the value of the forint and the performance of the Hungarian economy have nothing to do with each other, as the current economic situation perfectly illustrates. According to him, while there is an argument for joining the euro, it is less powerful than the argument that joining the euro will slow economic growth.

If the Hungarian economy wants to grow and catch up, it is better to stay outside the eurozone,” he said.

On Benjamin Netanyahu’s election as prime minister of Israel, PM Orbán said that “in international politics, sometimes you lose friends only to gain them back later.” He added that there is no better feeling than being able to welcome on board an old comrade in arms again. “We were happy to hear about his election because HUN-ISR relations were at their peak during his period as prime minister,” he said.

Closing with a question from Croatian TV channel N1 about whether his wearing a scarf to a football match that had a map of Greater Hungary on it could be considered a provocation, Prime Minister Victor Orbán said, “this is a 1,100-year-old country, we are surrounded by historical symbols,” and this is what the country looked like in the past.

“If I wanted to provoke, I could have found a much better way to do it,” he concluded.