Press statement by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the government end-of-year international press conference
Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.
In Hungary it is a constitutional custom to hold an international press conference, either at the beginning or the end of the year, preferably with unrestricted opportunities for anyone who is interested in asking a question – or, if they wish, to give us their comments. So I welcome you to this end-of-year press conference. As you have heard, there will be a government meeting this afternoon, and tomorrow we will inform you about this in some form. Before we give you the floor, if I may, I would like to briefly summarise the Government’s view at the year’s end of what kind of year 2022 was for Hungarians.
What I can tell you is that this has probably been the most difficult year in Hungary since the fall of communism – certainly as far as my memory serves. The whole European continent – and Hungary within it – has entered a new era, an era of dangers, and this has marked it out as an extremely difficult year for Hungarians. But alongside the bad, the good aspect is that achievements in difficult years are always rated at least twice as highly as otherwise. It is therefore no exaggeration to say that Hungary has performed exceptionally well in the most difficult year among the last thirty. In a few points I have summarised what this means.
First of all, Hungary performed exceptionally well in the parliamentary election – because this year there was a parliamentary election. And this was not just about the formation of a government; it was also a real fight for freedom. In this election Hungary’s independence and sovereignty needed to be defended, because international actors were involved in the Hungarian parliamentary election in a way that they had never been earlier. Purely on the basis of the facts that have emerged, it is safe to say that an amount of dollars equivalent to some 3 billion forints was pitted against 3 million voters – and the latter won. That was a great achievement. Furthermore, with their decision the Hungarian voters created something of the utmost importance: a stable, reliable government capable of taking action. And, as everyone knows, and as the whole of Europe can tell you, in difficult times a government’s greatest virtue is its ability to take action. This looks like a continuation of the tradition that has distinguished Hungary from all other European states since 1990: since 1990 no other country – certainly not in the EU – has had no early elections. It is safe to say that in terms of stability and predictability, Hungary ranks first in the whole of Europe – even the Germans, famous for their stability, have had at least one early election; Gergő [Gulyás] says that they have had two, but that is still more than us, on zero. So for the time being it seems that we have managed to preserve this “Hungaricum”. What also adds value to this electoral performance is that it is clear that Brussels and the liberal world wanted a left-wing government. Later we will definitely talk about the fact that the agreements that needed to be concluded with the EU were not concluded in time – but we could have concluded the agreements on the relaunch fund, for example, as early as the summer of 2021: all the circumstances existed and everything was in place. These were not concluded with us because they wanted a change of government in Hungary, and they did not want to give us the money before the election. It is as simple as that. And I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that the same objective is now being pursued with Poland – where Brussels also wants to see a left-wing government. This explains the wrangling over European money between the Polish government and Brussels. Summa summarum, the bottom line is that Hungarians wanted to have nothing to do with foreign intervention, and nothing to do with the dollar-fuelled Left. And I don’t think this situation in Hungary will change any time soon.
Hungary’s second extraordinary achievement in 2022 was to stay out of the war. We should definitely stay out of the war, partly because there are many Hungarians living in that neighbouring country, and partly because war is always bad; people are dying every day, and hundreds of Hungarians have already died in this war, having been conscripted into the Ukrainian army. And we are faced with a war which is not only taking place in a neighbouring country, but which has the peculiarity of so far only producing losers: the losers are the two opposing sides, and a loser is the European economy. We are suffering very heavy economic losses, we are paying the price of the sanctions war, and 2023 will confront almost every European country with the challenge of whether it can avoid the economic downturn or recession that is the direct result of the war and of European participation in the war – which we call sanctions. The Hungarian viewpoint is that if you want to avoid participating in a war, do not let yourself be dragged into one. I think that most of Europe is already in this war, having been dragged into it. Anyone who supplies arms is in this war – at least up to their ankles. Anyone who trains the soldiers of one of the warring sides is knee-deep in it, and anyone who not only trains individual soldiers but also provides operational or leadership training is in the war up to their waist. And anyone who fully finances not only the military expenditure but also the costs of operating the state of one of the belligerent sides – as the European Union is now doing to the tune of 18 billion euros – is in the war up to their necks. I very much hope that Europe does not get itself neck-deep in this war. In any case, Hungary has – despite great international pressure – managed to stay out of all this and maintain the position that what is needed is an immediate ceasefire, immediate peace talks, and peace itself. Alongside all this we have fulfilled our human and Christian duty to help those in need, and – although this is not our war – as soon as it broke out we launched Hungary’s largest ever humanitarian operation in order to help the Ukrainians. We took a huge number of people into Hungary or let them pass through, and we provided care for everyone; anyone who wanted to stay here was able to stay here and have access to everything that a Hungarian has access to in Hungary today.
Hungary’s third outstanding achievement in 2022 was that we continued to stand our ground against migration. This is a difficult task every year, but this year was special because the refugee situation means that we are the only European country under pressure from two directions at the same time. The southern migration route has been added to by a flood of millions of refugees from Ukraine. No other country – but perhaps Romania to some extent – is subject to both pressures at the same time. Under these circumstances it was difficult to maintain the defence of the southern border. Hungarian police, border hunters and soldiers thwarted more than 250,000 illegal border crossing attempts, which is a fantastic achievement. We owe them our thanks.
Hungary’s fourth extraordinary achievement was that we were able to cover the costs of increased energy prices. One has to realise that in 2021 we paid about 7 billion euros for all Hungarian energy imports, for the whole national economy, but in 2022 this increased to 17 billion euros. So this year we had to pay 10 billion euros more for the same amount of energy, and we had to generate that money. Hungary was able not only to generate this 10 billion euros, or 4,000 billion forints, but at the same time to also preserve the essence of the price protection system related to household utilities for the general population and families. I say this for the benefit of foreigners, because obviously Hungarians have heard this countless times before. Foreign journalists may not know that in Hungary energy price relief means that every family receives around 180,000 forints a month in support. This is about 450 euros a month. I do not know of any other country that can give every family – every family in the country – 450 euros in support every month through the price of energy. The good news – but more on this later – is that we have not only solved this 10-billion-euro shortfall in funding for 2022, but if you heard the Finance Minister yesterday you will know that we have also solved it for 2023.
Hungary’s fifth extraordinary achievement this year was that we were able to maintain our work-based economy and set records. Never before have so many people in Hungary been in work as this year – which has been a difficult year. Employment is at a thirty-year high, with 74.6 per cent of people now in work. I would also like to point out that this was an election year, and yet we managed to reduce the budget deficit. This is very rare in European politics. It is not unprecedented in Hungary, because we did so in ‘18 – we reduced the budget deficit in an election year – and we did so again in 2022. At the same time this year we restored the thirteenth month’s pension, we introduced tax exemption for people under 25, and we gave back a substantial part of the tax paid by those with families.
And Hungary’s sixth extraordinary achievement was that we managed to reach an agreement with the European Union. For me this is an extraordinary achievement, because we had to overcome the Hungarophobia that prevails in the liberal world today. And despite this Hungarophobia we had to reach the agreements that perhaps will actually be completed in the next day or two and signed by us in person.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
After this, I will say a few more words about how I see 2023 emerging from the winter fog here. Once again, the most important aim for Hungary in 2023 will be to stay out of the war. Another important aim will be to stay out of the European recession, so that economic growth in Hungary is not negative but positive. By the end of next year we would like to cut inflation to single digits on a December-to-December basis. And today, at the government meeting, we will hopefully decide to extend the tax exemption already available to young people under 25 to women up to the age of 30 who commit to having children. This is what our 2023 looks like. We will be defending, but we will not abandon our great ambitions: sovereignty, freedom, full employment and support for families. We will not abandon these great goals in 2023 – even in the face of the difficult circumstances we face.
Thank you very much for your kind attention. If you have any questions, I will gladly answer them.