Paying respect to the leadership and European vision of Helmut Kohl, the prime minister’s speech touched on a wide range of topics from European party politics to the proper role of the European Commission as well as immigration, Islam in Europe and the competing visions of Europe’s future.
Strong member states make a strong European Union, the prime minister said again, and it was a mistake to let the European Commission take on a political role. There is no need to reach mutual agreements among member states on every political question, and members of the European People’s Party should find better answers to problems raised by the newcomer political parties in their countries, he said.
‘Today, the EU is rich but weak. With Brexit it grows even weaker, while our competitors grow stronger,’ the prime minister said. Europe is troubled by signs of a potential trade war with the United States, Brexit, the conflicts in Ukraine, and in times like these, leaders like Kohl, with his calm, imperturbable nature and bravery would be much needed, he said in the speech delivered at the Andrássy University.
‘Kohl was a gift of Providence,’ he said, ‘the ideal of the Christian, European man, who resembled Europe’ and he understood that even non-identical member states of the European Union may be equal, may be, as the German people say it, in “Augenhöhe.”’
Even if Hungary often poses a challenge to the direction that European politics should take, the prime minister said, Hungary, as a member state, does not aspire to a European political role. ‘Neither the country nor I have such an ambition.’ The goal for Hungary is to protect its national interest and Hungary’s league is the Visegrad Four, where Poland plays the leading role.
In Orbán’s words, Kohl understood why it was important for Germany “to have friends” and that Hungary is a natural ally. In Hungary, there is a memorial day for the deportation of German citizens, a German minority representative in the Hungarian parliament, and the number of schools and students attending German national education is growing.
In 1989, Hungary’s bold move to open its borders to the West set in motion the process of German unification. PM Orbán recalled that many in Europe were against these decisions, but the lesson was that German unity and Hungarian sovereignty go hand in hand.
Hungarians, unlike some in Europe, ‘don’t want to live on the German taxpayer’s money,’ PM Orbán said, emphasizing that according to the government’s plans, Hungary would become by 2030 a net contributor to the EU. He also recalled that Hungary protects the EU’s southern border, and thus it protects Germany as well, a point that Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel also made earlier this month.
‘When the moment comes, one must not hesitate, but make a decision and stand by it,’ as examples in 1989 and 2015 showed. ‘The protection of the outer borders is the precondition for the free movement within.’
Will there be a compromise in today’s migration debate within the EU? The prime minister says no, there won’t be a compromise, but there is no need for one either. There are immigrant countries, which are happy to receive migrants, and there are countries that are not immigrant countries. However, to both policies, a control over the common borders is a must.
In many aspects of politics, member states should tolerate dissenting views. Not just regarding migration, but also on other issues like family politics or how marriage is defined. It is unnecessary to try to convince one another over and over on questions that fundamentally belong to the authority of national governments, PM Orbán argued.
The EU has not seen in a long time such a tough period as the last five years. Electing Juncker, who has pushed a political approach as head of the European Commission, ‘put dynamite under British-EU relations and the spark of the migration debate ignited the fuse.’
The Juncker Commission proved successful in bringing about financial easing, stimulating many EU economies, and preserved the functionality of the EU, he said. However, Juncker’s Commission stirred conflict between eastern and western member states.
Today, according to the prime minister, we see an ideological line. When Juncker praised Fidel Castro, eastern member states ‘got over it’ but praising Marx! Uttering apologetics for Karl Marx (as the president of the European Commission did recently when dedicating a statue donated by China), a man who wanted to ‘abolish private ownership, nations, churches and religion and created modern-day anti-Semitism,’ was an insult. ‘Why do you praise this? Who lost his mind? Because someone did, for sure!’ Prime Minister Orbán said.
Meanwhile, today’s European Commission betrays harmful double standards when it is supposed to be representing the interests of all member states in debates over competition law. When it comes to the advantages of western member states concerning the free movement of capital and goods, Brussels ‘protects them in the name of the market, and I think that is right,’ the prime minister said. But when it comes to the competitive advantages of the East concerning the free movement of labor and services, it steps in to regulate inequalities. “This is not fair.”
Check back soon for a complete English-language text of Saturday’s speech. In the meantime, some additional quotes:
“Let us stand by the ideas and political family of Helmut Kohl. Instead of desertion, let’s take up the more difficult duty, let’s renew the European People’s Party and help it return to its Christian Democratic roots.”
“The People’s Party carried out the task that is every party’s fundamental duty: it represented the will of the people in decision-making institutions, thus it established rights to set the directions of European integration on solid grounds."
“Our liberal and leftist opponents want to bind us in spiritual stocks. They want to dictate to us what we should talk about and what we should not. They also want to tell us who may be a member of the people’s party and who may not. For countries that survived communism, these all bring up bad memories.”
“No doubt, we are the CSU of the EPP. We make up the right-wing, Christian Democratic platform of the European People’s Party. We think that instead of the anti-populist people’s front, the time has come for a Christian Democratic renaissance. Christian politics, unlike liberal politics, is capable of protecting the people, our nations, families, our Christian heritage, the equal rights of men and women, and our European way of life.”
“The European Commission takes money from the European people and gives it to migratns and NGOs. NGOs are, in reality, white-collar human traffickers.”
“The one who lets go of or throws away his past, or lets it be taken away, should not be surprised if he loses his compass for solving new problems.”
“We offer one unsolicited piece of advice because we have experience from Hungarian history. We advise everyone to treat with care the thought that Islam would be a part of any European country. It is good to know the response of Islam to that. We Hungarians know it. If, for example, Islam were to be a part of Germany, that would mean according to Muslim thought, that Germany is a part of Islam. That’s worth careful consideration.”
“[I]f we cannot accept, or at least tolerate, one another’s opinions on questions of immigration and finances, then let’s wait. Let’s wait for the European people to express their will in the 2019 elections. Then come what may.”