In that vein, the prime minister’s speech today and the Q & A that followed at this year’s 27th annual Bálványos event – in which he pointed to failures of the European Union brought on by a crisis of leadership, asserted that the departure of the UK from the European Union diminishes Europe to a mere regional power, and urged the building of a common, European military – certainly did not disappoint.
The West, Prime Minister Orbán began, faces troubles and peculiar challenges on a scale that it has not seen for a very long time.
Brexit, the migration crisis and the pressure it puts on Europe, the recent terror acts in European cities – even in Germany, which seemed to Hungarians like a safe haven – the phenomenon of a figure like Donald Trump becoming the Republican presidential nominee and reflections on his speeches, each of these issues could have filled an entire discourse, he said.
What connects all of these? the prime minister asked. What’s the common root of these issues?
The European dream and the American dream seemed to be built on one, common foundation: each generation felt that if they studied and worked hard, they would be better off than the preceding generations.
“This was as banal as two times two equals four,” he said. The youth of today, however, don’t enjoy such security. The economic dominance of the West seems to be fading compared to new challengers, China and India. At the root of today’s challenges in the western world, according to PM Orbán, we find an economic crisis. And when European and western decision-makers are unable to find solutions to this root issue, it has become a “crisis of the elites.”
“If a person is afraid, he will not undertake great things. If he’s afraid, he will be on the defensive,” and thus, great things cannot be achieved. This is why, the prime minister explained, the western world seems to be paralyzed.
Following the decision by British voters to leave the European Union, we see the European Union diminished, PM Orbán said. The European Union has become a mere regional power, and we see that it has little influence even over conflicts in its immediate neighborhood, like the conflict in Ukraine.
That means, the prime minister said, that European leaders must stop referring to the European Union in the same way they did 15 years ago. Instead, Europe must admit its mistakes. In PM Orbán’s words, those mistakes included increasing the power of the European Parliament, allowing the European Commission, an unelected body, to act as a political power and even to override the European Council, and allowing new, long-term policies to go forward without the unanimous agreement of the member states.
The result is a European Union that has become more disconnected from the people. As an example, PM Orbán pointed out that Hungary is the only country in the European Union where the voters will have a say on the European Commission’s compulsory migrant resettlement scheme in a public referendum to be held on October 2nd.
Turning to the United States, the prime minister mentioned the nomination speech of Donald Trump, in which he proposed developing the world’s best secret service, border protection and ending the “democracy export” policy of the west, in order to more effectively counter terrorism. This would be a wise approach for Europe, PM Orbán said, where Europe puts stability first, before forcing democracy on its neighbors. Otherwise, he said, “migration is going to kill us.”
When heads of states prepare to gather in Bratislava, Slovakia, in September, the European Union’s challenges will feature prominently on the agenda. The political leadership of the old elites will try to act as is everything was okay, he said, but Central and Eastern Europe’s leaders will propose change. That is, in PM Orbán’s words, because the “New Europe” is still living the European dream, where new generations, if they work hard, still have hope of achieving more than their parents.
In this regard, Hungary and Central Europe remain a point of certainty in an uncertain world.
Q & A
Following his speech, Prime Minister Orbán responded to a number of questions in an open forum.
On NATO, Brexit and a common European military
NATO membership is a good and important thing, he said. It contributes to Hungary’s security and it’s protective umbrella, from the perspective of Central Europe’s security, is an existential question. At the same time, he noted, the fundamental position has changed, calling into question whether NATO in its current form is sufficient to guarantee the peace of the European continent.
The United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union significantly decreases the military power of the continent, he said, and we cannot remain from a military policy perspective in such an undefended position. A European military must be established, according to the prime minister, one which would be a genuinely common military force, with a joint command structure, operating with a common language and joint military assets.
National budgets should incorporate the military industry into economic policy. God forbid that they would have need to use it, but if Europe did this then, over the course of years, it could have a European military that could work without the Anglo-Saxons and the Russians, he said.
Migrants and the human traffickers are inundating Europe because they see that it’s weak, he said. An alliance cannot sustain itself without a common union military.
On the Visegrád Four
On the Visegrád Four group, comprising the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, Prime Minister Orbán called for a deepening of the cooperation but not in oppostion to the EU. “As long as the EU exists, we Central Europeans can better advance our interests from within than if we were to try to do the same from outside.”
He spoke up in favor of the Polish proposal to have common parliamentary sessions among the V4 and to work toward a common V4 military, one that is not the same as the European military.
On the US presidential election and immigration policy
One of the principal supporters of the pressure imposed on Hungary related to immigration is the United States, the prime minister said. The US does not encourage and support those who do not see immigration in a positive light and who do not see value in it. This is the position of US Democrats and, because the Democrats hold the presidency, that’s the official policy of the country.
It’s not inconsequential, therefore, who the future president will be and what he or she thinks about immigration.
It’s understandable that Americans, from their perspective, see immigration as a positive thing because that’s how the United States was built. “But they need to see,” he said, “that in this story, we are the Indians.”
On the October 2 referendum
Those who do not go to vote in the referendum leave the decision to the others. The purpose of the referendum, he said, is to give the Hungarian government a “mandate as strong as an ox” as it prepares for the EU battles anticipated in the autumn.
While the Hungarian government continues to give considerable assistance to Subcarpathia, the prime minister at EU summits always asserts that, at a minimum, visa-free travel should be granted.