Speech by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the 21st session of the Hungarian Standing Conference (MÁÉRT)

17 November 2023, Budapest

I cordially welcome Your Eminence.

Good morning everyone.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’m grateful for the invitation. I don’t think that a change of genre is needed. I think that what I need to do – or should do – is what I’ve done in previous years: give you an overview of the context in which our policy on Hungarian communities abroad should be understood. COVID thinned us out a little – I mean in terms of the number and frequency of our meetings. So it’s been a long time since we’ve met in this circle. Even before COVID the world wasn’t looking good: you could see that in ever more parts of the world life was becoming dangerous. And in the recent period – post COVID – there are now not only one but two serious armed hotspots in the vicinity that’s relevant to Europe. There are all kinds of statistics from the UN which I won’t bore you with, but they’re about how armed conflicts have proliferated in the world in recent years. And the conclusion of the most recent of these final studies, if I’m quoting it correctly, is that a quarter of the world’s population lives in zones that are affected in some way – directly rather than indirectly – by the regional armed conflicts that have developed. So since we last met, all we can say for sure is that the world is a more dangerous place than it was. 

In addition, we’ve suffered losses: We’ve buried Miklós Duray; and in recent weeks we’ve been shaken by the passing and loss of our friend and brother István Pásztor, which has been a great pain, and only partially alleviated by the circumstances at his funeral, where I was present to see for myself that the work he did was a real, strong and lasting achievement. I have always – and perhaps we all have – been encouraged by István’s work, because it’s rare that you meet someone who commits to the impossible and then succeeds. And if a more in-depth analysis of Hungarian-Serbian relations is written one day, we’ll see that István Pásztor was a key player in the strategic alliance that we’ve been building with the Serbs in recent times, and that this alliance is slowly developing into friendship and cooperation. God rest his soul, we’ll be grateful to him for a long time to come. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As far as the situation’s concerned, perhaps we should talk first about the situation of our communities in the Carpathian Basin as I see it – briefly and only tangentially, as the authentic news sources are themselves personally present here at this meeting.

The elections in Slovakia have revived an old dilemma, after we failed to get into Parliament there – once again. And so there’s renewed focus on the question of whether there’s any sense in and any future for ethnically-based politics, not only in Slovakia, but in the Carpathian Basin in general – especially considering the deteriorating demographic indicators. We’ll still have some work to do on collectively thinking about how Hungary can provide meaningful assistance to our Hungarian compatriots living in Felvidék, but on our side I’d like to bring this debate to a conclusion. So the Hungarian government’s position is that the question of whether there’s a future for ethnically-based politics is an exciting one, but the answer is quite simple: as long as there’s an ethnic foundation, there’s a future for politics based on it. And it’s our collective responsibility to have an ethnic foundation, and we’ll exchange views on this with our Hungarians who are engaged in political work in Slovakia. I’m not evaluating the situation, but I’d just like to convey my good wishes and hopes to President Hunor Kelemen, because he faces a difficult year. There will be four elections in Romania, all of which will be a serious test for Hungarians. Of course, while respecting the strict rules of international law and interstate relations, President Hunor Kelemen and the Hungarians living in Romania can all count on us doing what we can to help the Hungarians living there.

Turning to Ukraine and the Hungarians living in Transcarpathia, this is the most difficult and painful point of Hungarian life in the Carpathian Basin today – and this is where I see the least chance of the clouds lifting in the short term. Perhaps it’s worth talking a little more about this later, but at the moment there’s almost nothing that Hungary can offer Ukraine, given that they’re going down a path that we’re convinced will lead nowhere – and we don’t want to lend them a helping hand on that path. I won’t open that long debate now, but I’d just like to point out that in any war the key issue – even if you’re waging a war of defence, and Ukraine was attacked and was the target of aggression, and they’ve been waging a war of defence – is that you must define your war aims precisely. If there are no clearly defined war aims, then it’s morally unacceptable to risk the lives of a country’s citizens. If there are war aims, then it’s possible to measure the war aims for which it’s justified to sacrifice people’s lives in defence of a national community. But if the war aims aren’t defined, then the horizon of the whole situation will be confused and it won’t be clear how long something should be continued, when to stop and when to change – when to change strategy. The problem with the Ukrainian-Russian war is that there are no well-defined war aims. We’re in constant doubt about what exactly is happening. For example, is the retaking of Crimea a war aim or not? So I’d like to point out that it’s very difficult to help a country that’s at war but which has no war aims – at least not in an internationally recognised, official form; because our Ukrainian friends are obviously talking about something among themselves, but they’re waging an armed war, an armed struggle, without internationally recognised and defined war aims. In addition, Hungary has always been of the opinion, and we’re not in a position to change our opinion, that if a conflict breaks out – even an aggression, an invasion, an attack, which the Ukrainians have suffered – then we must try to localise the conflict. That’s what we did during the Crimean crisis, when Europe still had teeth or claws or strength – when it had biceps. It had strong German leadership, and together the French and the Germans localised the conflict with the Minsk agreement. They didn’t resolve it, but at least they localised it. In the current conflict they’ve chosen the opposite route. They’ve chosen – against our advice – a different policy: to globalise the conflict. The whole world is slowly being dragged into this conflict, without being able to settle the conflict and the problem that caused it. So we’re not in a position to change Hungarian foreign policy on Ukraine, but doing so fills us with the worst of feelings. We can provide humanitarian aid, but we won’t take any steps that would bring us closer to war. The victims of this situation are the Hungarians living there, because the foreign policy that Hungary’s been pursuing is making it more difficult for them to stand their ground there in Transcarpathia. But we can offer them, promise them and give them nothing other than our full support: they can count on us in everything. We don’t promise or commit to changing our strategy on this matter, because that wouldn’t be rational: it wouldn’t serve the interests of Hungary or of the entire Carpathian Basin.

Moreover, the strategy that the Western world devised to help Ukraine has clearly collapsed. This is a taboo subject which cannot be discussed in Western Europe, but because of our two-thirds majority we in this country are the only ones who can afford the luxury of straight talking. But it’s absolutely clear that when the West threw itself into the Russo-Ukrainian war it had a three-pronged strategy: Ukraine would win on the front line, it would fight, and the West would provide support – IT, financial and technological support; the Ukrainians would win on the front line, the Russians would lose on the front line, and this would lead to a change in domestic politics in Moscow; and there would be a new Russian leadership that would be better to negotiate with than the current one. That was the strategy. It’s turned out that the strategy has failed on all three prongs. At such times there are two things you can do. One is what the Western world’s doing today, despite our continued opposition, and that is to not face reality and say that everything must continue in line with what we’ve been doing up to now. The other option, which I initiated at the last EU prime ministers’ summit – and in written form since then – is to have what in European language is called a period of reflection. It’s to pause for a moment, give ourselves a few weeks, analyse the situation, not respond to every emerging question with combative dynamism, but to sit down honestly and seriously behind closed doors and consider whether it makes sense to continue what we’re doing, or whether we need to do something different. Let’s admit that Plan A has failed and come up with a Plan B. So it’s not a question of abandoning Ukraine, but of developing a Plan B that’s better for the Ukrainians, better for the Hungarians living there, and that makes more sense from the point of view of European security as a whole – rather than continuing the current hopeless struggle, in which thousands of people, or even tens of thousands of people, are dying and disappearing in the course of a kind of Christian, internecine civil war. Let’s not forget that the Second World War, which of course we tend to look at through a different lens, was a huge blow to European culture. But so was the First World War – because it was, when viewed through a well-chosen lens, nothing less than a civil war within Christianity. It weakened us so much that in San Francisco a few days ago we could see that there are now two suns in the sky – and neither of them is us. Before the First World War, and even before the Second World War, it would have been impossible to talk about world affairs without Europe being sufficiently – or even decisively – present. The fact that we’re not there is due to the two world wars and everything we’re doing now. So, on a broader horizon, perhaps it would be worthwhile for European leaders to adopt an approach that’s different from the one we’re adopting now.

To sum up, I’d like to tell the Hungarians of Transcarpathia that they can count on Hungary’s support in every respect. We find it regrettable that, while Ukraine is waging a bloody war, a war of defence, it still has enough capacity and strength to harass the Hungarians. So there’s no point in our being excessively polite. The situation is that the Hungarians living there have been tormented for years. And our schools – which are a key issue for us – are constantly being harassed, and they want to close them down or convert them into Ukrainian schools, and deny the Hungarians living there the right to use the Hungarian language and to use it in schools. I’m not exaggerating – I know that at first sight it may seem like that, but I’m not exaggerating – when I say that, with regard to the Hungarian language and education, the situation was better in the Soviet Union than it is now in the Ukrainian state. This is the reality that we Hungarians have to face.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There are, however, more pleasant places in the Carpathian Basin. I’m not saying that in Croatia the only difficulty is being born and from then on things are easy, but our Hungarians living there have become part of a great success story. Schengen, which has eliminated the borders between Croatia and Hungary, is a fantastic historical change that opens up new opportunities and prospects, and I very much hope that accession to the euro will also fulfil the hopes of Croatia and the Hungarians living there. Nevertheless, observing the history to date of countries joining the eurozone, I tend to find that after such a historic night has passed and the moment has arrived, the following days tend to be more bittersweet than the earlier celebrations. But we hope that this will be different for Croatia, and that joining the eurozone will bring tangible benefits and success for the Hungarians living there.

There are also mysterious countries in the Carpathian Basin where – despite their size – it’s difficult to understand what’s happening. You’d think it would be easy, but it’s difficult to understand. One such country is Slovenia, where you need to have your wits about you to get your bearings. There the whole transition from communism has followed such an unusual script and such an unusual internal dynamic that you don’t know when you’re in real life and when you’re watching a puppet show. In any case, our wish for our Hungarians living in Slovenia is that they won’t be harassed in the way that they have been recently. These unfortunate and silly accusations of conflicts of interest need to be dropped, and a lesson needs to be learnt from the success of Serbian-Hungarian cooperation, according to which if there’s no reason to maintain a historically tense relationship, why not turn it into a friendly relationship? With Slovenia, this would be possible. I won’t bore you with the fact that Slovenia’s mechanism for forming a government is not only the most complicated in the whole Carpathian Basin, but – I’d venture to say – perhaps in the whole of Europe. There the replacement of a minister and the appointment of a new one involves extremely complicated parliamentary procedures – what from here look like unimaginably complicated parliamentary procedures. But our wish for our Slovenian friends is that they overcome the growing uncertainty that’s developing there now. This would also be in the interests of the Hungarians living there.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I don’t think I’ve left anyone out, given that I met the Hungarians from Burgenland yesterday. For some mysterious reason, we usually listen to the Hungarians from Burgenland within the framework of the Hungarian Diaspora Council. I’ve never understood why this is so, but perhaps the fault is in my wiring. Maybe it’s because we’re a conservative government and we respect traditions, even if they’re not very reasonable. “Aha!” we say, “They’re with the Viennese!” Yes, that’s an argument. We’ll have to think some more about that one, I think.

I’ve already mentioned the people of Vojvodina in connection with István Pásztor. Perhaps all I have to do there is to wish Bálint Pásztor success in the work he has now taken on – especially as there’s not much time to prove himself, with elections over there in December. You can count on us, and we’re happy to go and help you in the campaign itself. You can also count, Bálint, on the fact that there will certainly be invitations from the Serbian governing party to come and support them. We’ll do this, of course, but we’ll never do so in a way that bypasses Vojvodina or the Hungarians in Vojvodina. So call us if you need us, and of course we’ll go. I don’t want to sell you a pig in a poke, but we’ve managed to establish strategic cooperation with the current Serbian government. In the light of the past and hope for the future, this will prove particularly valuable in the period ahead – as ever more of us will come to realise. Therefore it’s not in our interest to see changes there that could call into question the results that we’ve achieved in the past with the groups that are now in power, with Serbian political groups.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

I’d now like to say a few words about our wider environment. I’d describe the intellectual and political debates in Europe today that we’re engaged in – and here I’ll use the language of Brussels – as a debate between connectivity and decoupling. The issue plaguing Europe today is that we’re seeing the transformation of the world economy and the decline of European influence. We’re seeing it unfolding before our eyes, either in our lives or symbolically – I’m thinking of the recent G7 meeting in San Francisco, which culminated not in a G7 meeting, but in the meeting of the Chinese and American presidents. Maybe it wasn’t a G7 meeting, but a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. But anyway, the point is that there are two suns in the sky – and, as I’ve said, neither of them is European. So a world power system and a world economic system has been created from which Europe has been excluded, in which Europe has been downgraded. When deciding major issues the opinion of the Europeans is seen as a decorative addition at best, and not a significant, influential factor to be factored in. It seems that China, with its economic growth slowly but surely leaving the Western world behind, will make the agreements with the United States that will settle the world’s great affairs. For us here in Europe it’s a crisis, a crisis of self-esteem and self-respect, which we’re not used to. We were used to being the most beautiful, the smartest and the richest. At most, there’s something of the first still left, but as time goes by the importance of that is diminishing: that advantage is also receding.

So the situation is that Europe needs to answer the question of what could be the sensible thing to do in such a changing environment that’s unfavourable to it. And this is where what I was talking about earlier comes in: that in Europe at the moment there are two schools of thought. One school of thought – which are part of – define themselves as believers in connectivity. “Let’s compete and trade”, they say, “Let’s try to strengthen ourselves and regain those heights, let’s get back to the high shelf where we once were.” But we can only do this if we transform ourselves, if we compete, and if we can win as many events as possible – or at least win a place on the podium – in these competitions in various industrial, cultural, economic and technological fields. The other school of thought says that it’s better to be defensive, to close ranks, that it’s fine to keep what we have, and that there’s no greater ambition than that.

Two words are used: “decoupling” and “derisking”. “Decoupling” is the more honest and the cruder one. It means taking stock of relations, and dismantling what’s been established – for example the economic relations with China or Asia. “Derisking” is the more polite, more European form of this, which doesn’t say one should separate, but only says that when establishing these relations risks should be minimised. But the direction of both is the same. This is the debate we’re in. This debate hasn’t been settled, and it comes up in every European Council meeting, every prime ministerial summit, in one context or another. What should we do – compete, defend, close, open or trade? Given Hungary’s historical characteristics, its industrial structure, and the fact that it’s impossible to maintain today’s standard of living or a higher standard of living economically by building on an internal market of ten million people, we must cooperate and trade with the whole world. Because only then will we be able to earn enough revenue to maintain and raise the standard of living in a state like Hungary. A standard of living like that in Hungary today can be maintained or increased, but isolationism will inevitably be accompanied by impoverishment and a decline in living standards. So rather than practising isolationism, we should be in the camp of countries that support connectivity. This is what we’re doing, and have been doing in recent months.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Just to give you a sense of the true dimension of the downgrading of Europe, in 1990 six of the ten largest economies in the world were Western. Six out of ten! Today, according to projections for 2030, Britain and France will no longer be among the world’s ten largest economies. Only one European country will remain in the top ten, and that will be Germany – in tenth place. The world’s top nine economies won’t be European. One of them will be Western: obviously, the United States. The others will be from other parts of the world. This is the new situation! This is the world we’re in, and we need to adapt to it. It’s within this that we have to be successful, and it’s from this that we must draw our conclusions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Having said that, I’d perhaps like to say a few words about whether today the European debates are helping Hungary, or whether they’re just adding to the problem. In addition to the debate on connectivity and cooperation versus separation, other major dilemmas and debates also weigh on European politics. The default position is that the European Union is more helpful to Hungary, and that the value it adds is greater than the dilemmas it causes. This ratio seems to be equalising: so today we’re having to fight battles in the European Union that don’t help Hungary’s development. In the coming months two major debates will take place. I ask you to pay attention to these, the outcomes of which will largely determine Hungary’s room for manoeuvre in the coming decades.

One debate in the EU is about whether we should maintain the principle of unanimous decision-making – which is now narrowed down, but still exists on important issues – or whether we should switch to the principle of majority decision-making. The big players are calling for the second one: for the switch. Without embarking on a long historical digression, I can say that this debate wouldn’t have arisen at all if the British hadn’t left the European Union. The basic power structure of the European Union was balanced between the federalists and the sovereigntists in such a way that the British – or the British and Central Europe – always argued for broader national powers, while the French and the Germans always argued for greater centralisation. These are two European traditions. There’s no point in going into it here, but European politics is characterised by the constant and simultaneous presence of the tradition of the Roman Empire and the tradition of the European states created by the various tribes which emerged after the Roman Empire. Each of these traditions is represented by someone, and it’s the balance between the two, their relative proportion to each other, that determines the state of affairs in Europe: whether we’re moving towards some kind of federalism and centralisation, or whether we’ll find a state of equilibrium in which nation states don’t have to fight for their own sovereignty within Europe. With the British leaving, that balance was upset. It was a superb balance, and I spent six or seven years in that environment, when, together with the British and the V4 [Visegrád Four], we were able to maintain a state of equilibrium, and Hungary’s sovereignty wasn’t threatened by any attempt at federalist centralisation along the lines of a United States of Europe. But the departure of the British meant that the representatives of the other tradition immediately created new instruments. If the British were still in the EU, then we wouldn’t have to deal with phrases like “rule of law”, “conditionality”, and “economic governance”: they wouldn’t exist. They couldn’t have been created, because the British and the V4 were always able to prevent the creation of such instruments. But now there are no British, so the countries of Central Europe have no blocking minority. And every now and then instruments emerge – always for ideological reasons, and with an eye-catching motive that’s sometimes based in morality. But in fact all such instruments point in the same direction: to force the EU Member States to surrender ever more decision-making power to the centre, to Brussels. The clearest manifestation of this is the debate I’ve just started talking about: whether or not to convert the unanimous decision-making system that still exists to a majority system. It’s not a simple dilemma, given that it requires a treaty change, which itself requires unanimity. So getting rid of unanimity would require a unanimous decision. As long as there’s only one country that’s opposed, it won’t happen. There was a meeting in Berlin recently where this was the subject of a discussion in the Chancellery, where I presented the Hungarian position, word-for-word as I will do here. For Hungary, this is taboo. Hungary considers unanimous decision-making to be the last guarantee of the protection of the national interest, and in the next one hundred and twenty years no parliament in Hungary – whatever its composition – is likely to vote in favour of this [abandoning unanimous voting]. So we’d better take it off the European agenda. These are strong arguments, but the other side can also keep its issues on the agenda; and so for the time being we’ll have to order the postponement of a daring patriotic hussar’s ambush, as this will come up again and again.

This is particularly true in the second big issue that you should pay attention to, because you’re also being treated as an accessory in a debate which is really about the enlargement of the European Union. You’ll have noticed how much we’re suddenly talking about – how much people in Brussels are starting to talk about – enlargement of the European Union. So that there’s no misunderstanding, I’d like to make it clear that this isn’t a sign of an epiphany on their part, but rather that we’re witnessing a political manoeuvre which says that since there are already ten candidates – including Ukraine – for membership of the European Union, then if we were to take them on board, the European Union would expand from 27 to 37. And this would include the Turks, of course. And if it were to expand to 37, then the mechanism we have now – including the question of votes, the composition of the bodies, the competences – which works with a 27-member EU, wouldn’t work with 37 members. So it’s really a question of using enlargement as a kind of moral argument in order to carry out internal restructuring. It’s also said that there will be no enlargement until we make the internal structure capable of absorbing countries. And there’s a big debate on this. This is proceeding in this European way. The way it’s done in Europe is that the French and the Germans have gathered together some excellent brains – distinguished former diplomats – and they’ve created a council of wise men who have worked for a year to produce a document. This has no official status, we don’t know what it is, no country is behind it, but it floats in mid-air like Mohammed’s coffin. It’s a paper full of all kinds of internal EU restructuring. No one needs to take responsibility for the proposals, as they’re written by non-political actors, but now every government essentially sees this as an informal Franco-German proposal, and is already looking at what it needs to prepare itself for. I’d suggest that you also study this, if you have time, bearing in mind that whatever the outcome of the debate, it will certainly affect Hungarian communities beyond the borders, and the Central European states. At the moment I haven’t seen a single proposal on the table that it would be in Hungary’s interest to support. Not a single one! So I think it’s worth taking a well-founded conservative position here: if you can’t help, if you can’t improve, then at least do no harm! In a given context that is also a fine political achievement. So we’d suggest that this isn’t the time for fresh ideas in European politics, but that we should be happy that what works still works. Where we should change in Europe is much rather in the sphere of trade policy and much less in the sphere of the functioning of the institutions. 

Furthermore, I propose that this is the point at which we need to talk about the most serious immediate political challenge facing Europe today – not in the historical or strategic term, but in the short term. And that is the issue of migration. I well remember those debates, back in the early 2010s, before the great migration wave of 2015 had even started, but when the problems of migration were already present in the former colonial countries. The debates were about the European Union’s capacity for integration and its ability to absorb groups and masses of people from outside the EU. And I also remember the debates that were voiced from the self-confident position of a Europe that really was in better shape and stronger at that time: that we were strong enough to integrate those who were coming to Europe; and that, in addition, the demographic trends in Europe meant that we would need them to be able to maintain our economic and welfare systems. And I well remember that in those debates I always found it strange that people talked about new arrivals in Europe as if they were some kind of cell clusters of economic policy or economic technique that would come here and work, and that if they worked and we could provide for them, if we could give them accommodation, give them housing and educate them, then the problem would actually be solved: integration would have taken place. But the truth is that those we let into the European Union weren’t talking machines or robots: they were people. And they were people in the way that people are: with their cultures, with their histories, with their souls, with their ways of thinking. Migration isn’t a rational export of labour, but an opening of the door to a cultural phenomenon – the consequences of which were not weighed up at all by those who opened that door. We’ve been punched, kicked, hacked at, stung and bitten for building a fence and for saying “no migration, zero, there’s no need, the best migration number is zero, and we want to stay out of any kind of distribution, redistribution and so on”, but I continue to say that we insist on it being up to the nation state to decide who can enter our country, who we’ll live with and who we won’t live with. No one can decide that for us, and so we bless our luck, we thank God that He’s given us the strength to hold to our original position in the face of constant pressure. Because now, after the terrorist attacks in Gaza, the premise, the anthropological approach, that we’ve adopted is clearly seen: those who come and enter don’t simply bring – in the best cases – their capacity to work, they don’t just bring their significance in demographic terms, but they bring their culture, their civilisation, and their outlook on life. Perhaps His Eminence will forgive me for saying this, but since – from a religious or spiritual point of view – the Muslim world is stronger than the Christian world at the moment, we cannot even hope to promote integration through the power of the Christian religion and worldview. A secularised, liberal Europe doesn’t have that capacity. So it requires strong faith to believe that we’ll be able to achieve some kind of integration along that traditional line, along the line of Christianity and the tradition of conversion. Indeed, here I see a position that seems almost unreasonable. Moreover, those who lead the countries of Western Europe today don’t think in terms of this type of integration. They think that just as they’ve secularised us, just as they’ve secularised traditional Christian communities in Europe, in the same way they can in the future secularise those coming from other religious backgrounds. But for the time being those people are reluctant to comply with this great idea, and they don’t want to be secularised at all: they feel at home in a completely different philosophy of life, feeling that their lives are fulfilled – and, furthermore, of a higher order than the secularised lives we live in Europe. Therefore as we see it, in line with our previous perception, in Europe today the possibility of integration – the possibility of real integration – is extremely low. And, in our view, to base an immigration policy on this is a temptation of God. So it’s best not to try to do so. We must maintain the position that only the Hungarians can say who can reside on the territory of Hungary and under what conditions. We must tighten up the rules. The current rules are too permissive, because we have an Immigration Act from 2007, which was written long before the migration invasion, and it’s leaking and not sealing properly. And therefore a new Immigration Act needs to be created. I think that Parliament may already have this on the agenda, and may even have begun debating it. It must be made clear that no one can reside in Hungary who’s not a Hungarian citizen or a citizen of the European Union, and about whom we’re unable to say under which of the sections of the Immigration Act he or she may reside in Hungary. So we must operate a very transparent, clear, clean, traceable and enforceable system, otherwise we’ll be swept away by the Westerners. Let’s not forget that over there the Western Europeans have adopted a new migration package, which has some remarkable and positive elements. One example is the idea of establishing cooperation with countries on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, in order to limit the flow of migrants from there. Hungary’s also playing a role in this, not only financially, but also from a security and military point of view, which is why there will be a Hungarian military presence in the Sahel region. So these are sensible proposals which are not bad directions. But on the whole the proposal is unfortunately not acceptable, given that it seeks to distribute the incoming migrants. It’s true that some of them can be refused if we pay money, but in the event of an emergency – which would be determined by the Commission, completely independently of the Member States – resettlement could be enacted on an unlimited scale. We consider this to be unacceptable. They also want us to pay if we don’t take in migrants from elsewhere. And this pact also forces us to create a migrant camp or migrant ghetto capacity for distributed migrants according to a European quota. Of course we’re not complying with this. So regardless of whether or not there are migrants in Hungary, the new package, the migration package, would require us to build migrant camps to accommodate thousands of people. We cannot accept these, nor do we want to implement them. So there will be a major conflict which in the next six months – as you’ll surely see – will further colour or increase the conflict situations which I’ve just described.

To sum up, what I wanted to say to you is that the world surrounding us is extremely important for us, because I believe that an isolated Hungary has no future, and that there can only be a future for a Hungary that – in the spirit of connectivity – is intelligently integrated into the world economy, the changing world economy and world political order. But today the world that surrounds us is in a state of disintegration: everything around us that has been stable is in a visible state of disintegration. There’s nothing heroic about this disintegration. So the European Union, which I think is on the path to disintegration, won’t collapse, implode or explode. So this process won’t possess a heroic, dramatic or epic quality. It won’t even have that: it will quite simply be disintegration. What’s happening is that we make a decision and then we don’t implement it. It isn’t implemented by the institutions, and it isn’t implemented by the Member States. Nothing happens. In the beginning there are minor consequences, but then nothing; and we slowly get used to the fact that our decisions aren’t being implemented by either the institutions or the Member States. The number of these cases – there are a lot of them, and we’re trying to monitor them – is increasing, which is the clearest proof of the decay of a form of integration. It’s not spectacular, but it’s eating away at the culture of cooperation every day. 

So the world that surrounds us, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Hungarians from beyond the borders, is a world of disintegration. The question is, what should we do? I think we must resist. We cannot hope to do so now, because the country’s current size and strength are not enough to hold together what’s in the process of disintegrating: it’s too big for us, we don’t have the strength, and instead we would disintegrate ourselves. Let’s not do that. In the coming years what we can and must commit to – and this is what I propose – is that in the years ahead this should be the essence of Hungarian national strategy: while the world around us is sliding apart and disintegrating, we must strengthen the mechanisms of Hungarian cooperation, of Hungarian unity and Hungarian cooperation. So our response to this disintegration should be unity. Let’s try to strengthen our cooperation. The year of 2023 hasn’t been an easy one: as perhaps you’ll remember, I haven’t been able to promise and commit to more than being able to maintain the institutions we’ve established in the past, the institutions you’ve established – from sport to culture, from science to community life. But there’s no possibility for expansion. And in 2023 there’s been very little. We’ve handed over many things and so appearances seem to contradict what I’m saying, but those were developments that had been initiated earlier, which we’ve just handed over now. And we’re finishing everything we’ve started, because we’re not leaving anything half-finished. But in 2023 we could no longer launch new projects with the momentum that we showed in previous years. In 2024–25 we need to return to expansion, growth, development and strengthening. The financial basis for this will be in place. The good news is that yesterday employers and employees – not the Government, but the stakeholders who actually run the economy – agreed to raise the minimum wage by 10 and 15 per cent next year, to be effective not from January, as is the custom in Hungary, but from 1 December. This shows that life is returning to the Hungarian economy, and that we’re succeeding in pulling the economy out of recession. So there will be growth again, and this will also provide an opportunity to restart Hungarian development programmes beyond the borders. This isn’t only because it’s the right thing to do, because it’s morally right and follows from our thousand-year history; it’s also because – by strengthening Hungarian cooperation and collaboration – we can respond to the challenges posed by the disintegration of the world around us.

Thank you very much for listening. With this hope, I wish you a successful meeting.