Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s statement in Parliament, responding to reactions to his address before the start of daily business

25 September 2023, Budapest

Mr. Speaker,

Thank you for the floor.

First of all, perhaps for the first time in many, many years, I can say that I was impressed by something said by Ferenc Gyurcsány, which showed us someone who trusts his wife and stands by her. I wish you every success! I think the former prime minister is mistaken to say that Hungary would wage war against anyone. We’re not waging any war against anyone; what we’re trying to do most of all is to create national cooperation in Hungary and around Hungary. The former prime minister asked if in general we’ve got closer to being a strong nation. It’s difficult to answer this type of question at the best of times, but perhaps I can venture to say that we’re closer to a strong Hungary than we were in the kind of country we had under Ferenc Gyurcsány’s government. We can say that with certainty. I’ll go one step further. Because, having listened to your proposals, I see good reason for my suspicion that the plan, the matrimonial plan, is to restore the Gyurcsány era in Hungary – although this time not under the husband’s name. I’d like to make it clear that I don’t think Hungary wants another Gyurcsány era, by whatever name it’s known. Hungary won’t ask for a repeat of the era from which it was only able to extricate itself through years of toil and sweat. So, with great respect, I can tell DK [Democratic Coalition] that we’re not in a position to support their ambitions for government.

Jobbik. We’re now on the threshold of the season, at the beginning of the season, and therefore perhaps more courteous language is still acceptable. So when the Member speaking on behalf of Jobbik made an untruthful claim I won’t say that she lied, but rather that here we’re confronted with a knowledge deficit. So the suggestion that in the last ten or thirteen years Hungary hasn’t done everything it could to achieve the greatest possible independence in its energy system is a claim that can only be the result of a lack of knowledge. When the Government started its work in 2010, Hungary was connected to the outside world by two interconnectors, and when the war broke out it was connected by six. Six is more than two. So it’s clear that in the period before the war we pursued a policy that enabled Hungary to obtain energy not only from two alternative sources, but from many more: from six, in fact. I think that in a serious statement in Parliament this fact shouldn’t be ignored. I’d recommend caution again when describing price caps as a communist institution – especially as many European countries are using price caps. You might think that France is communist, although at first sight this doesn’t seem self-evident. But they are using such institutions. And I certainly don’t want to get into the argument you put forward – which isn’t too easy to understand – which claims that restricting the price of something leads to a price increase. To us that seems to be quite absurd. 

As for the comments made by the leader of the Jobbik parliamentary group, it’s worth reflecting for a moment on the link between peace and a ceasefire. I don’t think that the debate is about what kind of peace there will be, because that’s the second step. The first step is called a ceasefire. What Hungary wants isn’t a peace plan whereby someone comes from somewhere and puts forward a peace plan which makes everyone happy and stops the war. What a childish idea! In reality, what happens is that there’s a war, the parties can be persuaded to agree to a ceasefire, and then peace negotiations can begin after the ceasefire. So what we need isn’t a fantasy of what a just peace would be like, but for people to stop killing each other. The first step is to have a ceasefire. If there’s a ceasefire, there will be a time, a space, in which to start talking about how to make the ceasefire last and how to convert the ceasefire into peace. This is the approach I’d like to propose to you. Speculation today about a just peace isn’t taking us closer to a ceasefire, but further away.

Nor do I completely understand why several of you are constantly propagandising in favour of bringing hundreds of thousands of guest workers into Hungary. Why do we need this? In Hungary, there’s a clear rule, which I think is a good rule, and which must be observed. The rule says that the number of guest workers that can be brought into Hungary must not exceed the number of job vacancies. Why do you want to change this? Figures like 500,000 are being thrown around. What nonsense is this?! What nonsense! Let’s retain the law that’s in force in Hungary today, according to which the number of guest workers to whom we can give permission to enter Hungary must not exceed the number of job vacancies; because Hungary belongs to the Hungarians, and Hungarian jobs are primarily for Hungarians. Why do you want to change this? It’s a good rule!

After this, allow me to ask the leader of the Jobbik parliamentary group – since he’s already taken a stand against migration – whether it would be possible to ensure that your party leader, who’s a Member of the European Parliament, doesn’t vote for pro-migrant motions in Brussels. That would help Hungary a lot!

Honourable Member Mr. Ungár,

You don’t understand the sense in which Hungary is a climate champion. It is one in the sense that almost all countries aspiring to development have to overcome the dilemma of wanting to grow while at the same time reducing their harmful emissions. This gives a ratio, and on the basis of this ratio you can determine who is able to do this and who isn’t. This is measured in historical terms. Since 1990 Hungary has been able to do this. There’s a lot of growth, and emissions are lower than they were before 1990. I hope I’m not greatly mistaken, but as I recall in the past period there have been 21 such countries, and we’re one of them. We’re among the best. Why aren’t we proud that Hungary’s solving this difficult problem well and is in the club of climate champions? 

Is it possible to build a national consensus on foreign policy, and especially on geostrategic issues? Very difficult! Very difficult, Honourable Member! The reason is that in the Western world at the moment foreign policy is based on ideology. They talk about the need to represent values in foreign policy. This makes it very difficult, because we generally disagree on values, which is why we’re in different parties. If I base a foreign policy on values, I make unity impossible. It’s possible to create unity in foreign policy on the basis of interests: we assess one another’s national interests and try to act together on that basis. Even though we’re parties with different principles, we see whether we agree, we see whether we think similarly about the Hungarian national interest, and whether harmony can be created – which can’t be ruled out. And then we represent this, on the basis of our interests. But we cannot do this on the basis of principles. If we look at European foreign policy, we see that everywhere, in all foreign relations, there’s the demand to pursue an ideologised foreign policy. This is one reason for us wanting to pursue our own foreign policy. Today European values are about three things: war, which they believe should be supported, because they believe it’s morally right; gender, because they believe it leads to freedom; and migration, because for some reason they believe that the world will be a better place if people from different corners of the world can move freely. These are the three European values we have today. This is what they’re building European foreign policy on. How will we build consensus on this? We don’t agree with it! We’re on the side of peace, not war; we’re in favour of the traditional family model, not gender; and we believe that migration isn’t good, but bad, and that it’s good for everyone to live in the place that God has chosen for them as their homeland. We won’t be able to reach a consensus! I’m not saying that we shouldn’t strive for it, because – even if it’s unsuccessful – striving for consensus in itself improves the spirit of cooperation, and on the whole this is good for the country. So, although I see the difficulties, for my part I don’t want to reject the proposal that the Government and the opposition left-wing parties should try to seek consensus on foreign policy and geostrategic issues.

With regard to what the Honourable Member said about the war, I can tell you that the war and its outcome isn’t the result of a wish list, but a matter of strength. The assertion that it’s a realistic possibility for Russia to use military force to reach Hungary’s eastern border is something I have to class as nonsense: it’s not simply a mistake, but folly. Let’s look at the numbers, the proportions and the strength. Today we can see that Russia’s fighting a difficult war with Ukraine. How could it defeat NATO? How could Russia get to the borders of NATO? There’s no way it could, Honourable Colleague! You can be sure that there’s no scenario that would lead to Hungary and Russia sharing a border once more. There will be no such thing! They won’t get here! This scenario isn’t to be expected, because we’re members of NATO, because NATO is much stronger than that, and this development cannot happen. And this is true not only for the Hungarian border, but also for those of Poland and Slovakia. So the danger of Russia even approaching our borders isn’t a realistic assumption. Foreign policy based on this is based on a false axiom, a false hypothesis. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This film thing in Sweden doesn’t bother us in itself, because the nature of art is that you’re free to choose your own subject and form your own opinion on it. We have no interest in what films are made in Sweden and how they affect Hungary. We’re indifferent to that. What does concern us, however, is what Swedish schoolchildren are taught about Hungary. Now, that’s something we do care about! Because that’s not a question of artistic freedom, but a question of state policy. If what we see in that film about Hungary is taught in a state school, in the state school system, then that’s something that elevates the problem to the level of state policy, to the level of international policy. And we shall not accept that. This also raises the question of whether there’s any urgency about Sweden’s membership of NATO. I don’t see any such circumstances. There’s no threat to Sweden’s security. Nothing is threatening it. We have no military relationship with Sweden that we need to be worried about. Keeping the Gripen [fighter jets] is an interesting question, but in fact there are at least ten other offers on the table. The question of what Hungary buys from whom shouldn’t be a factor in a political decision! Let’s be serious!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The fact is that there’s no threat to Sweden’s security, and there’s no strategic aspect of Swedish-Hungarian relations that would be damaged if Hungary were to demand respect from Sweden, and only then be prepared to make a decision in its favour. The analogy with Finland is, in my view, unrealistic, given that the Finns haven’t waited a single minute to join NATO on account of Hungary. That would have been true if Hungary had been the last country to ratify Finland’s membership of NATO. But that wasn’t the case! We weren’t the last, so to bring up this issue in any sense demonstrates a lack of knowledge – if I may use that term again. 

It’s good that we’re talking about this, although now perhaps the most important question isn’t whether – as the Honourable Member said – it’s right to base foreign policy on emotion and to relate to a country on the basis of whether or not we like that country or its governing party. It is not right! So I’m not proposing a foreign policy that would seek to base Hungarian foreign policy on affection for particular governing parties. This is why Hungarian foreign policy is never, as you said, a matter of betting on one result down to the last chip – and especially if that chip’s red. But it’s certain that there are countries with governments that constantly attack Hungary, and that – let’s be frank – not only attack Hungary, but give money to you people to assist you into government instead of us. So who was it that bet all their chips on the turn of a single card? Wasn’t it those who gave the money? Isn’t this a question that should be put to the Americans? We’re cooperating with everyone, while a US governing party has taken the opportunity to give you money to bring us down. Who bet their chips on what? So in US-Hungarian relations, should we be the ones explaining ourselves? Really? Is this a joke?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The fact is that Hungary is ready to cooperate with everyone. The essence of foreign policy is that a country collects friends and not enemies, collects goodwill and support. This is what we must strive for, and Hungarian foreign policy is also ready to cooperate with the US administration of the day, regardless of its party colours.

The issue of the release of data has also been raised. I can tell you that we don’t release any data, the laws in Hungary are clear, and don’t allow the Government to do so.

Demography. In asking me, the Honourable Lady has come to the right person. I don’t think you’re being fair when you criticise the Government for not mobilising all available resources for family support. The figures I’m working from indicate that 5.5 per cent of our gross domestic product is spent on family support. This is 2,400 billion euros more than it was in the Gyurcsány era, and it’s the highest in the European Union. So it doesn’t seem fair to criticise Hungary on an issue for which it’s the best performer in the European Union. Maybe we should do more, and I think you’re right that we should do more. But this isn’t because we’ve done nothing, as you unfairly say, but because the issue is serious, the challenge is great, and more needs to be done. I also agree that there’s a deeper problem, which it’s perhaps not reasonable to try to explain or discuss in statements before the start of daily business. But, as we all know, having children isn’t a question of money, but fundamentally a question of the heart. We cannot activate hearts, but what we can do is to ensure that those who want to have children aren’t faced with an existential obstacle that would divert them from this intention. This is what we can do, but I don’t think we can do any more. And neither is it fair of the Honourable Lady to claim that we’ve phased out family support schemes. No! There’s no such situation! There will be nothing like... No! No, no, no, home renovation support has nothing to do with family support, whereas CSOK [the Family Home Creation Allowance] does. There will never be a time when the CSOK scheme is abolished and not replaced by some other form of support. This scheme will be phased out by the end of the year, but another will be announced from the beginning of next year. Not only will we keep the Village CSOK Programme, but we’ll raise its threshold. We could keep the Urban CSOK Programme – for which there’s been a decline in interest – in this form; but I don’t think this is a sensible proposal from you, because we can see that the CSOK support scheme in towns and cities is no longer sufficient. Instead of maintaining it, we need to start a new scheme there, and we’ll be launching it in January. So what you say – that something’s been lost which hasn’t yet been replaced by something else – isn’t true. There will be no such situation. And perhaps we can even agree that family policy should fundamentally be based on support for mothers. The Government will welcome any proposals you make in this regard. 

I don’t agree with my colleague Bertalan Tóth, who claims that everything we’ve talked about so far isn’t good news for the Hungarian people. I think it’s good news that we’ve managed to protect every job. The recent very difficult period – with COVID and then the war – hasn’t led to a fall in the number of Hungarians in work; on the contrary, despite the crisis the number of people in work has increased – even in the last few months. So we’ve succeeded in protecting jobs. Inflation has been high, but we’ve also managed to protect pensioners, because the Minister of Finance has been able to adjust the public finances to enable us to pay the pension increases that pensioners are entitled to by law. We’ve been able to do this so far – to pay the outstanding amount in accordance with the existing laws – and we’ll be able to do it again in November. The fact that we can protect pensions in these circumstances is, I think, good news and a major achievement. I can think of several European countries where, with inflation at 17 per cent, pensions have been increased by 2 per cent; there’s more than one country where the inflation situation has been resolved to the detriment of pensioners. But Hungary doesn’t want to resolve the inflation situation to the detriment of pensioners. You did that, Honourable Member, by taking one month’s pension from them. That’s what you did! We haven’t done this, and we don’t want to do it. So for pensioners the good news is that this isn’t the Gyurcsány era, and therefore we’ll give pensioners the amount they need to live on, in the face of inflation. And in the same way we’ll fight to ensure that by the end of the year wages have risen by at least as much as inflation. We’ll see if we can do that. At the end of the year we’d very much like to see that real wages haven’t fallen year-on-year. This is very difficult and it might not be possible, but we’re doing everything we can to make sure that it happens. And I can tell you now with certainty – sorry, I can tell you with a high probability – that in 2024 we plan to see wages growing faster than inflation. So there will be real wage growth again in 2024, and hopefully in 2025.

I don’t want to offend my fellow MP Bertalan Tóth, but I sense some kind of psychological defect when I hear that you’re rooting for the prospect that Hungary won’t receive EU funds. Do you think this is normal? So the fact is that we’re legally entitled to a certain amount of money from the European Union. This is something that the Hungarians are entitled to, and it cannot be denied. It’s something that we’re entitled to, and for political reasons it will only be given to us with great difficulty, with all kinds of tough negotiations – if it’s given at all. And you’re happy about this. Is that good? I don’t think this is normal. This is definitely a psychological defect. How can you root for your country to be disadvantaged? Your representatives sit in the European Parliament and regularly speak out on this issue there in Brussels, saying that Hungary shouldn’t be given these funds. I suggest that you persuade them to stop doing this – they’re Hungarians after all... In this matter, as my fellow MP Péter Ungár has already spoken about how good it would be to create some kind of consensus, in this matter... Will it be stolen? What? Are the teachers going to steal the money that should be given to teachers from Brussels? So at least... So at least support that! Don’t make it difficult for them: at least support the salaries of Hungarian teachers, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I can inform my fellow Members of Parliament that there’s a rule that doesn’t allow any investment in Hungary to receive more aid than the additional revenue it generates for the state. All the scare stories that you’re telling us – that the Hungarian state subsidises investments with amounts exceeding those that come back to Hungary – are simply wrong! This is ruled out by law, and these laws not only existed, but are still in force. So you can be sure that in Hungary all investment support is recouped by Hungary.

This brings us to the question of the automotive industry. In Hungary today there are around 140,000 people directly employed in the automotive industry. In line with international standards, this should be multiplied by four to find out – or get the figure of – how many families are directly or indirectly supported by the automotive industry. A rough estimate is 500,000 people. So in Hungary today, 500,000 people provide for their families in jobs related to the automotive industry. The European Union has decided that after 2035 the factories currently operating in Hungary won’t be able to produce cars – at least not cars of this kind. So there are two options. One is to close them down, to close these plants. Imagine Győr without Audi, after they’ve closed it down! Kecskemét: no Mercedes factory. The BMW factory would only continue operating for ten years and it would be finished. Imagine that! The only way to avoid this – and the only way to salvage the livelihoods of the 500,000 families who work there and are directly linked to them – is to make technological changes in these factories and establish industrial units alongside them that will keep them operating after 2035. If there’s a battery factory next to the car factory, there will be car factory jobs. If not, the factory will close. What you’re saying, what those who are arguing against the battery factory are actually advocating, would mean the closure of Hungarian industrial capacity in the automotive industry today. Are you aware of what you’re saying? I suggest that you think about it, and let us discuss it. I’m convinced that it’s in Hungary’s interest to preserve the mechanical engineering capacities in which people earn their living today, by complying with the strictest environmental rules and by providing a reliable, calm and collected response to all the public’s fears. This is possible, this is what we’re working on, and I ask you not to obstruct this, but instead to support it – just as opposition parties in all Western European countries do. It’s also absurd that in Hungary it’s groups that consider themselves to be green that are attacking battery factories. Do you know what the slogan of the Greens in Germany is? Batteries: part of the future. These are your comrades! Observe what’s happening there!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This issue of water demand always comes up. I’d like you to know that more water leaves Hungary than comes in. This means that we have a surplus, and we can use this. If we want to, and if we need to, we can transport this water anywhere through the Hungarian water supply system – if we need it! Hungary isn’t suffering from any kind of water shortage today, and if the demand increases, we’ll be able to meet that demand. This is a very simple question of mathematics: the Danube yields more water in five seconds than the battery factory [near Debrecen] uses in a year. Don’t make clowns of yourselves! So what I want to tell you is that neither environmental considerations, nor water industry considerations, nor employment considerations support the position that Hungary shouldn’t adopt Europe’s most modern technology. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Finally, I would also have liked to respond to my fellow MP Mr. Gelencsér. But as I see it, his contribution was nothing more than a hopeless struggle to make sense. I can’t do anything about that, but I’m rooting for him.