Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I’d like to get my official duties out of the way: I hereby open this show.
However, we clearly didn’t gather here today in such large numbers to end this meeting after a couple of sentences. So please allow me to share a few thoughts with you. First of all, through you, I’d like to thank Hungarian farmers for in recent years continuously, dependably and strongly supporting the civic, national and Christian government in Hungary. In recent years my government and I have carried out our work in the knowledge that in difficult moments the Hungarian farming community was there standing behind us. And I’d like to think that in recent years you have also always been able to carry out your work feeling that the Hungarian government has been there standing behind Hungarian farmers. As proof of this I could quote figures, but perhaps you’d be less interested in hearing those. The important thing is that, after many years, Hungary has a government and a parliamentary majority which farmers can completely and whole-heartedly feel is theirs.
This is no accident: this is the case because – and I’m saying this to the young people among us, because the older ones can remember it – there were times when the most important task for Hungarian farmers wasn’t coming such expos; the most important task was literally a struggle for survival. One felt that we had fallen into a trap, that we were trapped between our own government and Brussels, and that we had to fight so that our land wouldn’t be taken from under us, that we had to fight so that there would be a future of any sort for Hungarian agriculture and Hungarian villages. If I had to put a time on it, I’d say that our cooperation truly strengthened around 2005, at the time of the first large farmers’ protests. If you hadn’t taken action then, there would have been no reason for us to be here now, because Hungarian farmland would have long ago been taken from Hungarian farmers. But Hungarian farmers took action, we formed an alliance, and in 2010 we finally reached the point at which a national government could be formed in Hungary. You know doubt remember that we sent the IMF packing, we settled and repaid the debt, we stood on our own two feet again, and we said that we must build an economy in Hungary that is good for Hungarians. And an economy cannot be good for Hungarians if agriculture doesn’t play a major role in it. The many modern things that we talk about are very fine. Of course sometimes we don’t precisely understand the meaning of the words that we use: modern, high-tech expressions like new industry, the new economy and industry 4.0. These are all very important things, but the most important of all is still the survival instinct, in which people first and foremost deal with what they understand, and what they have talent for. And the truth is that the area in which Hungary has the greatest talent is agriculture.
We have outstanding development engineers, and recently I opened the first phase of Europe’s most modern motor vehicle test facility. When I was preparing for that I learnt that the number of development engineers in Hungary has reached ten thousand, the number of hi-tech engineers is ten thousand; and so we are also strong in industry. But the truth is that for us that’s an away ground: our home ground is agriculture. And for as long as agriculture in Hungary is under threat, the Hungarian economy is also under threat.
Therefore we must give clear answers to certain questions, the most important of which is whether in the future we will have land: will there be European regulations with which they want to make it possible for foreigners to also buy farmland in Hungary? The answer is that this danger is a permanent one: such attempts are being made continuously. Therefore I’d like to ask you – of course now I’m not speaking about land, but about modern machinery, developments and investments – to be perpetually vigilant, and to continuously follow the Agricultural Chamber’s news bulletins on this subject. Its representatives are often in Brussels – more often than we are – and they are strongly representing you; they give accurate news reports, on when and what attempts are being made to enable foreigners to acquire Hungarian agricultural land. One of the pillars of our alliance – the alliance between farmers and the Hungarian government – is that we shall try to block this. The Hungarian government is keeping its word, and we continue to only agree to regulations in Hungary which do not make it possible for changes to occur in the primary precondition for sustaining the livelihoods of farmers: agricultural land in Hungarian ownership, and its legal status as such.
The second important question that we must answer is whether the big fish will swallow the small fish – or the medium-sized farmers. Think back to 2010, when we jointly created new agricultural policy with the Agricultural Chamber, our concept was that at least 80 per cent of agricultural land should be on small and medium-sized farms, and that about 80 per cent of agricultural subsidies should go to small and medium-sized farms, so that Hungarian agriculture based on medium-sized farms could flourish. The seven-year budgetary period used by the European Union for planning purposes will soon come to an end, and the new seven-year period is about to begin. There will be tough negotiations in Brussels, and then there will be tough negotiations here at home. These will be about how we distribute the resources among small, medium-sized and large players. I’d like to ask you to be active on this issue also, and to continuously represent the interests of small and medium-sized farmers. We also need large agricultural concerns, and of course they’re a driving force in Hungarian agriculture, but we mustn’t share out the resources in a way that takes away opportunities from smaller players – and especially medium-sized ones. And on this issue I’d like to make it clear that – especially if the Chamber stands by us, and the Prime Minister has a mandate for this – we shall continue to support a system of agricultural subsidies that seeks to carry on with agricultural subsidies policy which places emphasis on small and medium-sized agricultural concerns.
The third major question which we need to confront is whether or not we will see a continuation of the development in Hungarian agriculture which we’ve experienced in recent years, and which in all modesty – but certainty – we can say that the country is performing increasingly well. Obviously from your point of view this raises the question of whether it will be worth developing, investing and growing – or whether you should stop, draw in your horns and protect what you have. This is a very difficult question, and clearly this is the most important for your strategic economic decisions. I can see that there are storm clouds on Europe’s economic horizon. You can also see the figures showing that all sorts of uncertain trade wars are emerging in the world, and you can see the figures showing the increasing slowdown in growth in the economies of wealthy important Western European countries. And so you not only see real clouds in the sky, but metaphorical ones also. In spite of this, I’d like to make it clear to you that I think the Hungarian economy is strong enough to enable us to protect the opportunities for development that we’ve created for ourselves in recent years. So in my opinion the goal is not protection of the level that Hungarian agriculture has already attained, but development, investment and growth. It’s such a pleasure for me to be here, because clearly those who are here and who are displaying their products think – like we do – that behind such investments and developments there will be demand and business acumen of the kind embodied in the products here today. So I’d like to say to you that whatever news emerges – and there will be unfavourable news about the European economy – my advice is that in the coming years Hungarian farmers should continue to keep their farms on the path of development. Because even in a deteriorating international environment, Hungary is strong enough to support the developments of farmers. Exactly where, how and how much will be the subject for detailed specialist discussion, which we regularly conduct: for example on the phasing and means of increasing the size of irrigated areas, and the distribution of various forms of funding. These are all on the agenda for discussion in governmental policy-making. But the essence has not changed, because the essence is that in the upcoming period we expect expansion of the Hungarian economy and expansion of Hungarian agriculture. So I ask you to carry out development if you are able to. We shall give you the legal conditions necessary for this, as described by previous speakers. There are still unsettled matters to be dealt with: the legal regulations facilitating inheritance are not yet completely satisfactory; and the application procedure for tax-exempt status requires too much paperwork and too many calculations. We’d like to simplify, rationalise and streamline all these things, so that the allowances remain in place, the burdens on you are further reduced, and you can more directly organise your own farm businesses.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Of course it wouldn’t be right for us to act as if this Sunday is not the 26th, when the election to the European Parliament will be held. Of course that’s not why we’ve gathered here today – although in part it’s why I came here. But all the same, we must also say a few words about the European Union election. We must say a few words about it, because of course it’s very important for agriculture to develop, and we’re pleased that your farms are increasing in strength, and we’re also pleased at the strength of the Hungarian economy and the prospect of it growing at a rate of at least 2 per cent above the European Union average every year; but all this will be worth nothing if our country cannot survive. This is not a specialist agricultural question, but common sense tells us that it’s just as important for farmers as it is for city folk. Will Hungary continue to be Hungarian? Will Europe continue to be European? Will we be able to preserve our culture, will we be able to live in our own country as we have done up to now, and as we want to? Will the country and the culture that we hand over to our children be the same as the country and the culture that we received from our parents and our grandparents? Will Hungary still be Hungary?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The issue at stake in this election is whether or not we will be able to use our votes to replace EU leaders who support immigration with EU leaders who oppose immigration. If we’re unable to do this, immigration will not be stopped, as Hungary does at our southern borders, but central decrees from Brussels will be used to organise it. At first glance it seems that everything is all right: the southern border is secure, our police officers and soldiers are there, and the Hungarian government is visibly and determinedly battling with Brussels in order to protect the Hungarian character of Hungary. But I’d like to remind you that ever more plans are being prepared in Brussels for the transformation of the entire European continent into a continent with a mixed population. This is not in the interest of Hungary: it is dangerous, it is perilous, and I think that we Hungarians must reject it. Part of this plan, or such plans, is that in the next seven-year budgetary period Brussels wants to take away part of the funding allocated to Hungarian farmers – or European farmers in general – and redirect it towards bringing in migrants or supporting them. I think that we must prevent this, and so I think that this Sunday Hungarian farmers must also say “no” to immigration; and I suggest that on Sunday they vote for those candidates who are able to stop immigration and protect Hungary’s interests in battles in Brussels. We don’t need people who will represent Brussels in Hungary, but people who will represent Hungary in Brussels. This is also in the interests of farmers, so I ask Hungarian farmers to vote on Sunday and to support the anti-immigration forces. Being biased, if you will allow me I would also say that they should support the candidates from Fidesz and the Christian Democratic People’s Party.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In summary, I’d like to say that although, of course, money doesn’t grow on trees – and money won’t grow on trees next year either – we will have development opportunities. Today the main constraint on the development of Hungarian agriculture isn’t a shortage of money, but a shortage of well-developed programmes. We’re not prevented from increasing the area of irrigated land by financial constraints, but by a shortage of carefully developed plans – prepared by farmers together with the Chamber – which define the precise developments they want in order to increase the area of irrigated land. It’s not a shortage of money that imposes restrictions on the types of funding that you’d like for the purchase of machinery, but the ability to buy the type of machinery that will reliably and durably serve your development in the coming years, without any superfluous capacity. Let me repeat, precisely what we should spend money on and how much is today determined by cooperation with the Chamber of Agriculture, in the spirit of the alliance forged with farmers. On the whole I’m optimistic about the future of Hungarian agriculture, and so I’m also optimistic about the future of Hungary.
Here I’d like to add a brief sentence or two to stress that although we’re talking about agriculture, we’re also thinking about villages. You yourselves can see the problem of the number of children coming into this world declining in relation to the number of people leaving it. This is a problem in itself. But in addition to this, the number of people leaving villages is higher than the number being born in villages and staying in villages. I find it hard to believe that Hungarian agriculture can have a future if villages disappear. Therefore the Government has launched the Hungarian Villages Programme, the goal of which is to at last create living conditions in villages which match those in towns and cities. The British say – and I agree with them – that you can have a truly high quality of life in the countryside. This can be the case if there are roads, if there are crèche facilities, if there are nursery schools, if there are jobs, and if you can use the roads without breaking the axle of your car as you drive out of your yard. So there’s a lot of work ahead of us. We’ve just launched a major village development programme, and we’re going to start these projects. My fellow Member of Parliament Mr. Gyopáros – who came to the Hungarian parliament from Csorna – is in charge of this programme. It started this year, and it will gain in strength over the coming year. This is a signal which we’re primarily sending to people living in villages, but also to farmers. The message is that there is a future for Hungarian agriculture and also its natural environment: Hungarian villages. And if you support us in the coming years as you have done in past years, then the Hungarian government will deliver on this village development programme – the Hungarian Villages Programme – and will provide Hungarian agriculture with a secure background.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is where we are in May 2019. Thank you for your support so far. I’m also personally grateful for always having been able to rely on you. I ask you to continue supporting us in the period ahead: this Sunday, and then in the upcoming local elections. I ask you to support your minister, so that he can represent you within the Government as effectively as possible. Please support the Chamber of Agriculture – the Hungarian farming community’s most important organisation; because in international debates its voice is louder and more potent than that of the Government itself. Therefore I ask you to continue to honour the leaders of the Chamber of Agriculture with your trust, and to assist the work of the Chamber with your involvement. On the whole I think that at last we no longer have to talk and think about how we’ll survive the next few years: now we can talk about how we’ll grow. In this I wish all of you every success. Let’s believe in the future of Hungary!
Go for it Hungary, go for it Hungarians!