Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s State of the Nation Address
If 2022 was the most difficult year, then 2023 will be the most dangerous since the fall of communism; in addition to migration which is slowing becoming something of a permanent feature, two new enemies, threats are facing us: war and inflation, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in his state of the nation address delivered on Saturday at the Castle Garden Bazaar in Budapest.
The Prime Minister first welcomed the heroes of the post-earthquake rescue operation conducted in Turkey.
He said a hundred and sixty-seven Hungarian professionals and volunteers took part in the rescue operation conducted after the devastating earthquake that shook Syria and Turkey in which at least 44,000 persons were killed. Risking their lives, they rescued thirty-five people from under the rubble, he pointed out.
Several members of the rescue operation were invited to attend the state of the nation address; Mr Orbán and members of the audience welcomed them with a round of applause.
The Prime Minister said the most important question regarding the future is whether the enormous changes taking place in life in Europe – which are bringing about new intellectual, political, economic and military tasks – “will be a source of encouragement or discouragement for the Hungarian people.”
Recalling the period after 2010, he said “everything was so nicely laid out” as “we had fought through the rubble left behind by the socialist governments that were sent packing in 2010, the rubble of ‘Wild East’ socialism; we had got over unemployment, the phase of a shrinking economy, foreign currency loans, bad-tempered envy, the awe we had once felt for the West, sky-high energy bills, the gratuities paid to doctors, the wangling through life on benefits and a lack of ambition manifested in the attitude of ‘oh, it’s fine as it is’”.
“We were beginning to believe that there will be grapes and soft bread for everyone – as the poet says,” he said.
The Prime Minister stressed that a million people had found jobs, never before had this many people been in employment in Hungary, the Hungarian economy had tripled, and today the minimum wage was higher than the average wage had been during the socialist governments. “We also conjured up a national Christian Constitution that is truly worthy of us,” he added.
According to Mr Orbán, they reorganised the Hungarian State “with courage defying Brussels, if not death,” and pushing aside the obstructionists, they also built up a new Hungarian economy in which everyone was given a chance to find personal advancement.
“It was an arduous ten years, we sweated much, with knees and elbows bruised, there were even quite a few blisters, but we felt that it had been worth it […], we could almost see that Magyars, once more our name and story Shall match our ancestors’ in glory,” he said, quoting the National Song by Sándor Petőfi.
He said the Left should finally understand that many millions of dollars and influential supporters are not enough for victory.
The Prime Minister stressed that victory required heart; sheer luck was not enough.
Regarding the elections, Mr Orbán said the entire Left had combined forces against the government parties, “Brussels tried to bleed the treasury dry, while Uncle George and his associates rolled here forints to the tune of four billion dollars from America to supply their comrades with ammunition.”
“They took a tumble, they messed it up again… Not a little, a lot,” said the Prime Minister in continuation, adding that they will not get anything for their money either.
The Prime Minister said an election victory “is not something that is just thrown at you, especially not a two-thirds one. There is hard work behind it, and the result of the work that the people appreciate,” he stressed.
He said: naturally, there will always be disparagers who take the view that the government parties were simply lucky. If you are always lucky, you may well know something. For instance, you love your country, and are ready to fight for it. If needs be here at home, if needs be in the wider world, he highlighted.
The Prime Minister said when the coronavirus pandemic struck in 2020, he was hoping that the country would get over it and could continue where it had left off, could arrive at the destination it had always coveted.
He added that even if the lion and the lamb would not move in together, they were hoping that the Left, too, would finally understand that “there is one common homeland and we have no other.”
Mr Orbán said, after the coronavirus pandemic, rather than returning to the right path, the world had entered a phase of years of war. Everything has changed in both politics and the economy, the world has definitely taken a step towards the Wild West, he pointed out.
He said, in actual fact, ever since March 2020, meaning for almost three years, we have lived our lives under continual pressure, and this may well last for as long as four to five years.
“2022 was the most difficult, the hardest year of the 32 years that have passed since the fall of communism,” he stated.
He added that when the West entered the war with the sanctions, everything had to be re-evaluated. It was these efforts that consumed the months after the elections in April, the Prime Minister pointed out.
We need not surrender, we need not give up the goals we set for ourselves; we must only change the means by which to achieve them, he said.
Family policy will remain in place, so will the workfare economy, the agreement concluded with pensioners, and with it the thirteenth monthly pension, as well as the protection of household energy bills, he laid down.
The Prime Minister pointed out that the government was able to keep in Hungarian hands the strategic sectors that had been taken into Hungarian hands earlier, such as the banking sector, the energy sector and the media industry, and we would additionally also “re-Hungarianise” the telecommunications and infocommunications sector.
The promise made to the countryside will also remain in place, “we will launch developments never seen before; we will provide as much money as the Hungarian countryside had never seen before, not even at the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.”
To supplement production-based agriculture, “we will build up processing agriculture, will revive the Hungarian food industry that was destroyed through privatisation; also in the food industry we will have national champions who will stand their ground on the world market as well,” Mr Orbán listed.
He indicated that the plan for the integration of the eastern part of the country would not be abandoned either. “In addition to the Győr – Szombathely – Veszprém industrial zone, we will create a Debrecen-Nyíregyháza-Miskolc triangle,” he said.
He added that this required energy, much energy, so much as Hungary had never seen before. Therefore, they will build power stations, pipelines and power grids, “even if Brussels is not prepared to take part in this.”
Therefore, every year, there will be further decisions seeking to support families such as the one for this year, based on which women agreeing to have children do not pay personal income tax until the age of 30.
He highlighted that if 2022 was the most difficult year, then 2023 will be the most dangerous since the fall of communism; in addition to migration which is slowly becoming something of a permanent feature, two new enemies, threats are facing us: war and inflation.
He said if we want to return to a course of growth which we were forced off by the Covid pandemic, these are the two threats that we must avert, that we must conquer, “it is these that we must fight our way through.”
In the context of conquering the threat of the war, he said “if we could help it, we would simply put an end to it, but we don’t have enough strength for that, this is not our weight division.”
This has not been easy so far either, and neither will it be in the future because “we are part of the western world, we’re members of NATO and the European Union, and there, other than us, everyone is pro-war, or at least pretends to be,” he said.
Mr Orbán asked the question: Can Hungary afford to stay on the side of peace under such circumstances, diametrically opposed to our allies? “Naturally, we can as Hungary is an independent, free and sovereign state, and other than the Lord, we don’t recognise anyone as standing above us,” he said.
At the same time, he also contemplated whether “it is right, morally right for us to stay out of the war.” It is; in actual fact, this is the only right decision, he stated.
He said Russia had attacked Ukraine, and so we must let Ukrainian refugees in, “and we are doing the right thing to support them with the largest humanitarian aid campaign in the history of our country.” However, in the war in Ukraine, “it is not forces of good and evil that are up against each other, but the troops of two Slavic countries are fighting with each other a war that is limited in time and – for the time being – also in space,” he said.
He laid down that “this is their war, not ours.” Hungary recognises Ukraine’s right to self-defence, its right to fight against an external attack, but it would not be right in any respect, including in a moral respect, if we placed Ukraine’s interests before Hungary’s interests, he underlined.
Also in Hungary the Left are on the side of war, would supply weapons, would share in the financial burdens of the war and would sever contact with Russia, Mr Orbán stated.
The Prime Minister stressed that, in contrast to the Left, the government was pursuing a different line. “We’re not doing that. We’re not supplying weapons. We’re also careful with money because in the end even the money that we’re entitled to will be given by Brussels to Ukraine,” he said.
Providing humanitarian support for Ukraine does not mean the elimination of our relations with Russia because this would be contrary to our national interests, he added. This is why Hungary will not consent to sanctions related to gas, oil and the nuclear industry which would destroy Hungary.
We are maintaining economic relations with Russia, and advise the same to the entire western world as well because without relations there will be neither a ceasefire, nor peace talks, he pointed out, adding that the country will not consent to the placement of church leaders on the sanctions list either.
He said it was also important “to see beyond Brussels” as outside Europe everyone is aware of the limited significance of the war. The Hungarian approach is only an exception in Europe, it is general in the world, he laid down.
The Prime Minister said: the government takes the view that Russia posing a threat to the security of Europe is not a realistic option. Russia would not stand a chance against NATO, and will not be in such a situation for a long time to come.
He was critical of the fact that despite Hungary’s initiative launched ten years ago, to this day no common European army has been established.
Lives can only be saved with a ceasefire and immediate peace talks, Mr Orbán stated in connection with the Russo-Ukrainian war.
The Prime Minister said our pro-peace position and the others’ pro-war position only bring differences to the surface, and the fact that we are in full agreement on the strategic objectives becomes secondary: we want Russia not to pose a threat to Europe, and to have a sufficiently wide and deep space between Russia and Hungary, a sovereign Ukraine.
The difference lies in the means: according to the pro-war camp, this can be achieved by defeating Russia, while in our view, with an immediate ceasefire and peace talks, he stressed, adding that there is another weighty argument for our proposal: lives can only be saved with a ceasefire.
The magnitude of the loss of human lives is now in the hundreds of thousands; the pain, the rise in the number of widows and orphans, the waves of the sea of suffering can only be lessened with a ceasefire, he pointed out.
The Prime Minister laid down: NATO membership is crucial for Hungary. We are situated too much on the eastern edge of the western world to surrender it. He observed that “further in, it would be easier,” following the example of Austria and Switzerland, Hungary, too, could toy with the idea of neutrality. However, “history has not furnished us with this luxury.”
At the same time, he also stressed that NATO was a defence alliance, rather than a war alliance, a war coalition. Beyond common defence, NATO membership does not involve any further obligation, and Member States cannot expect each other to collectively attack a third country in the interest of some common military goal, he said.
He stressed that if some NATO members or a group of them wanted to carry out an act of war beyond the territory of the Member States, they must do so outside the boundaries of NATO. Those who want to, will join, those who don’t, won’t, he added. He also warned: those who believe that they are able to keep a war under their control, to manage it, to dose it in instalments – no matter how strong and powerful they may be – overestimate their own strength and underestimate the risky nature of war.
No Brusselites have given their lives in this war yet, but Hungarians have, Mr Orbán said.
The Prime Minister stressed that “we live here” and the war is being waged in the territory of a neighbouring country.
Meanwhile, in Munkács (Mukachevo) Hungarian symbols are being removed, Hungarian school principals are being dismissed from their positions and many are dying a hero’s death on the frontline, the Prime Minister laid down.
The Hungarian minority in Transcarpathia does not deserve this, Mr Orbán stated, adding that we expect “more respect for the Hungarians in Munkács, in Kiev, in Brussels and in Washington.”
He said Europe was presently experiencing the moments of being dragged into the war. It is precariously balancing on thin ice; in actual fact, indirectly it is already at war with Russia.
“If you supply weapons, if you provide the satellite information necessary for military operations, if you train the soldiers of one of the warring parties, if you finance the functioning of its entire state apparatus, and if you impose sanctions on the other party at the same time, it doesn’t matter what you say: you are at war, at least indirectly for the time being,” Mr Orbán said.
The Prime Minister stated that the threat of being dragged into the war had become permanent. It started with helmets, and continued with the supply of equipment not capable of extinguishing human lives. We are now at the stage of sending tanks, fighter planes are already on the agenda, and we will soon hear about “so-called peacekeeping troops as well,” he added.
The Prime Minister pointed out that despite all differences, he understood “our Polish and Baltic friends,” their history explains much. “But what about the others?” he asked.
Mr Orbán said a guarantee could have been given not to admit Ukraine to NATO, but they did the opposite and confirmed the earlier decision of 2008 concerning their admission.
The Prime Minister highlighted that in 2008 when Russia occupied twenty per cent of the territory of Georgia, under the leadership of French President Nicolas Sarkozy – who proved to be a brilliant negotiator – they managed to localise the conflict and to achieve a ceasefire.
When in 2014 Russia attacked Ukraine and annexed the Crimean Peninsula, the West led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel opted for negotiations instead of fighting, and for peace instead of war.
Then, too, there were pro-war forces, but there was a strong German-French leadership which was courageous and took action in time. This is how the war was ‘cancelled’ and the Minsk agreements were concluded, Mr Orbán explained.
He said a year ago the West decided not to isolate the conflict, but to elevate it to a pan-European level. It could have declared it a local, a regional war, or a military conflict between two Slavic states as Hungary suggested, he pointed out.
He said what had happened was another argument against “the Brussels superstate” and for strong nation states. When the Member States decided, there came peace, when “the imperial centre” did, there came war, he summed up the situation.
The Prime Minister said it was revealing how Hungary had lost its pro-peace allies. A year ago, the Germans were still there; however, a few weeks later, Leopard tanks are advancing through Ukraine towards the Russian border, “perhaps, they still have the old maps as well,” he said.
He said it was hardly believable that the Germans had turned around out of their own free will. Today, however, they pretend as if they had always been in the other camp.
He added that other countries believed that if not even the Germans were able to withstand such external pressure, then neither would they be able to, and so they had “filtered through” to the other side. “So, there are only the two of us left, Hungary and the Vatican,” he explained.
He said we must expect the war to become ever more savage and cruel, and so we must prepare for the tone being used against Hungary also becoming ever harsher and ever more hostile. “Provocations, insults, threats and blackmail,” he said, indicating that he cannot promise an easy ride, but the government will stand its ground.
He said “we are way past the exertion of diplomatic pressure respecting sovereignty.”
He recalled that in 2014, then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton only sent here “a good friend, a Goodfriend” in order to put pressure on the Hungarians with anti-government demonstrations and a few entry bans to change their minds.
In continuation, the Prime Minister said back then they had manoeuvred well, and the relief troops had arrived in the form of Donald Trump, “luckily, not here but in Washington.”
He added that instead of ‘a good friend’ US President Joe Biden had sent “a press man, a Pressman” to act as ambassador in order to pressure the Hungarians into the war camp at any cost, to press a declaration of accession out of us.
He said they should not go so far as to send a man called ‘Puccini’ – a putsch man – next time.
Mr Orbán said in 2024 there will be elections in the United States, and “our republican friends” are preparing for a return “with bulging muscles.” At the same time, he expects democracy to demonstrate its strength in Europe as well; he expects to see members of the public to become ever more pro-peace, to demand a ceasefire, peace talks and more sobriety, and if needs be to elect new governments.
He stated: there will be peace if the Americans and the Russians engage in talks with each other.
According to the Hungarian government, any further fighting will bring about not victory and peace, but the deaths of further hundreds of thousands, a widening conflict, countries becoming mixed up in an open war, a war lasting for years and the threat of a world war, he underlined,
He stressed that Brussels had unleashed trouble upon us with the sanctions imposed on energy carriers; the name of the disease is sanctions-induced inflation, while the virus is called ‘Brussels sanctions’.
He highlighted that in 2022 the sanctions had taken four thousand billion forints out of the Hungarian people’s pockets. This is how much more Hungarian businesses, the state and families spent on energy in Hungary due to the sanctions.
Businesses could have spent this amount on pay rises, the state on tax reductions or family support, and families on buying homes or on their children, he added.
He said only further sanctions are coming from Brussels instead of help. “The Brussels bureaucrats have not given the share of the European recovery programme we’re entitled to neither to Hungary nor to Poland on the basis of carefully-considered ill intentions.” In 2022, during the most difficult year, Hungary was not given access to funds that the Member States had taken out as a collectively loan, “yet, we Hungarians will have to repay the part falling on us.”
He pointed out that it was imperative that we should not regard inflation as God’s inevitable punishment. And while inflation is at a record high and is imposing enormous burdens on families, we must not be scared of it.
He said the government had adopted around two dozen measures with which to protect businesses and families. Through reduced house energy prices, an average family saves 181,000 forints a month. This is unique in the whole of Europe.
He explained that while the Left were demanding the lifting of the caps on the prices of food products, they would remain in effect until the government was able to start inflation on a downward course. The cap on interest rates will also remain in force, protecting around 350,000 families against extreme fluctuations in interest rates, he listed.
He said from 1 May the government would introduce monthly country and county passes that would be equally valid for bus and railway services. The county pass will cost HUF 9,450, while the monthly country pass will be available for HUF 18,900.
2022 was a year that could have broken the backbone of the Hungarian economy in two. Yet, in February, employment is higher than ever before, there are record-high foreign currency reserves, and the forint, too, has calmed down.
Against the background of and despite painfully high inflation, in 2022, the Hungarian economy broke as many as three records at once: never before had there been this many people in Hungary in employment, exports broke a historical record, and never before had we seen investments in Hungary in such magnitude, he summed up.
Mr Orbán promised to reduce inflation to a single digit by the end of the year.
He also said there was no excuse for paedophilia; children are sacred and inviolable, and it is the duty of adults to protect children at any cost.
This is Hungary here, and we must have here the most stringent child protection system in Europe, he laid down.
The Prime Minister said the necessary laws were in place and any missing ones would be put in place. However, on this matter not even a government with the utmost determination can succeed on its own. Here, we will need parents, grandparents, mothers and fathers as well as teachers because “gender propaganda is not some silly messing about, not some rainbow babble, but the greatest threat to our children,” he stated.
He said “we want them to leave our children alone because enough is enough,” there is no place for things of this kind in Hungary, and especially not in our schools.