The prime minister started out by thanking the heroic Hungarian rescue workers who helped save lives in the aftermath of the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria.
He praised their bravery and willingness to risk their lives to save others, pointing out that these professionals' service and sacrifice serve as a reminder that in times of crisis, the true character of people and nations comes to light. Hungary has always been a country that can be counted on to help others in need, PM Orbán said, adding that the rescue effort in Turkey was a testament to this.
Turning to the questions impacting Hungary’s future the most, Prime Minister Orbán said that we have yet to see whether “the enormous changes in European life, which are bringing new intellectual, political, economic and military challenges, will enhance or weaken Hungarians' zest for life.”
Listing Hungary’s recent successes, Prime Minister Orbán said that since 2010, “1 million people have taken up employment. Never before have so many people worked in Hungary, and Hungarian economic output has tripled.” On top of this, the PM highlighted that today the minimum wage is higher than the average wage was during the previous, socialist government.
“We have created a national Christian constitution worthy of Hungarians. We have reorganized the Hungarian state, if not with death-defying courage, then with Brussels-defying courage, and we have also built a new Hungarian economy, putting aside the naysayers, in which everyone has a chance to find their own destiny,” PM Orbán said.
According to the PM, if 2022 was the most difficult year, then 2023 will be the most dangerous year since the regime change. “Alongside migration, which is slowly becoming permanent, we have two new enemies, two new threats. One is war, the other inflation,” he said.
“How do we overcome the threat of war?” Prime Minister Orbán asked. Hungary has only “one choice,” he concluded: to stay out of the Russian-Ukrainian war.
“Hungary recognizes Ukraine's right to self-defense, to fight against external aggression. But it would not be right from any point of view, certainly not from a moral point of view, to put Ukraine's interests before Hungary's,” he said, arguing that for Hungary, humanitarian support for Ukraine does not mean that we must end our relations with Russia.
On Russia as a threat to Europe and NATO, Prime Minister Orbán said that Hungary “does not consider it realistic to assume that Russia would threaten the security of Hungary or Europe.”
“In terms of conventional warfare, the war in Ukraine has shown precisely that Russia would not stand a chance against NATO,” PM Orbán said, adding that although we do not consider Russia a direct threat, Hungary requires a sufficient distance between it and Russia — that is, “a sovereign Ukraine.”
On Hungary’s commitment to NATO, PM Orbán confirmed that “NATO membership is vital for Hungary.” At the same time, “NATO is not a war alliance. It is not a war coalition. Membership of NATO does not imply any obligation beyond joint defense, nor can member states expect each other to attack a country together for some common war objective,” the prime minister said.
While those in Brussels “have not yet given their lives in this war, Hungarians have,” he said, adding that only ceasefires can save lives, not sanctions.
Meanwhile, we must face up to the fact that “the war is becoming more and more savage and cruel, so we should be prepared for the tone of the war to become more and more harsh and ruthless as well.”
Illustrating this, Prime Minister Orbán recalled that “we are long past the point of diplomatic pressure that respects sovereignty. Gone are the good old days when, in 2014, Hillary Clinton sent just a good friend to bring the Hungarians to their senses with anti-government protests and a few bans.”
In his view, it is fortunate that the Americans “have kept their sense of humor,” with President Biden sending a “pressman,” instead of a good friend, to serve as the ambassador to “squeeze the Hungarians into the war camp at any cost and to squeeze a declaration of accession out of us.”
The only solution to the war in Ukraine, according to PM Orbán, is for peace talks to take place between Russia and the United States. “We know that the negotiations will not be between the Ukrainians and the Russians. Peace will come when the Americans and the Russians negotiate with each other. That will inevitably happen, but the later it happens, the greater the price we all pay,” he said.
The other pressing question, as the prime minister noted at the beginning of his speech, is how to combat inflation, which was “unleashed on us by the energy sanctions from Brussels.” PM Orbán recalled that almost a year ago Brussels promised that sanctions would “bring an end to the war.” However, a year has now passed, and “the end of the war is not getting closer, it is getting further away.”
The sanctions took HUF 4 trillion out of the pockets of Hungarian families and businesses in 2022, and they also contributed to skyrocketing inflation across Europe.
“Inflation is like a tiger, and you only have one bullet. If you miss, it will eat you up. Please trust us, we will hit it. You can bet on it, we will have inflation in the single digits by the end of the year,” PM Orbán said in closing.