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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the inauguration of the Tokaj Canoeing Tours Centre

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have an official speech for this handover ceremony. I might read out certain parts of it, but before I do so please allow me to say a few words about something that occurred to me while I was listening to the President and our fine former world championship silver medallist. This seems like a small ceremony, there are not many of us here, and this is not a high-profile national event; I doubt it is being broadcast live by CNN, the BBC or Hungarian public service television. Nonetheless we – all of us here – feel that this is something of great importance. What is happening to us now, what we are starting – or what we’re handing over on the completion of one part and the opening of new ones – is a great thing. Just by looking around, one can deduce that what we see here today is something momentous, as one can see what different walks of life people here have come from. This only happens when something is important not only for one sector or another, and not only for one profession or another, but when people somehow see that they have a common cause – regardless of their different professions, origins or places of residence. Here I see Mr. Péter Molnár – allow me to welcome you. I see winemakers who’ve just had an election here; you’ve had a local wine growers’ election if I’m not mistaken, and I congratulate you on that. I also see local councillors. If the mayor of a city attends an event in a small settlement, there is always something in the making there: they have noses for that, and can always sense it. The fact that Miskolc is here means a great deal: they also know that something momentous is happening. I welcome the Mayor. The Minister of State is also representing Nyíregyháza here. Ever since it’s been possible to cycle out here, the people of Nyíregyháza have also been able to feel that this corner of the country is theirs. We have people here from state administration: welcome, Ervin, and thank you for coming. We have here foresters, and while today the emphasis is on water, we have here some timber craftsmen: I welcome the foresters’ representative. I welcome not only local people, but also those who have come all the way from the Pilis Hills. We also have athletes here: I warmly welcome the pride of the area, who has just won a gold medal in the European championships; while he competes in the colours of Győr, everyone knows that he won his gold medal as a Tokaj man. Congratulations to you, too! So the fact that there are so many of us and that we came from such different places amply demonstrates that this is probably something great.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Without undue emotion, we can say that our gathering here today marks something momentous, because in fact we are talking about patriotism. There are two ways to love one’s country – or, rather, there are two paths leading to the love of one’s country. One can take the path of the intellect: sit and read, listen to music; intuition leads to one’s heart being moved. We must admit that only a minority of people attain love for their country in this way. The other path is through nature: one lives in one’s homeland and sees that it is beautiful. As you look around you here, you can see that it is beautiful. And then one sees that not only is it beautiful, but it is also accessible, and one’s access to nature is not barred. For instance, one has access to its waters, one’s children are cared for, camps are organised for them, they are taken good care of and they are taught. Then people also realise that love for their country can only exist alongside love for other Hungarians. This is difficult, because our kind are not too easy to love, but then we realise that we can only find paths towards one another if we do things together. And if we do things together, immediately everything begins to work. Today we are closing the first phase of such a programme, and we’re opening a gateway towards the next phase in a programme which makes patriotism a natural experience and embraces within the national community even those people with no such previous affinities. This is a great thing, which we call everyday patriotism, and I believe that what is happening to us now is that we are falling under the spell of our homeland. We see how this will happen – not only how it has happened to us, but also how it will happen to our children, and how it will happen to the parents and grandparents who will bring their children and grandchildren here. So we’re part of something great, and let us be proud of that.

When I thank those who took part in this project, I would like them to feel that they have not only taken part in a state development project, but in a great shared enterprise. To broaden this out further, I can tell you – and although I’m wary of slipping into the dangerous role of an oracle, you may perhaps take this from me – that from what we see of the future of Europe, only those countries which possess patriotism will remain standing. What we’re doing here now – opening up natural paths for people to join the community of those who love their country – at the same time also contributes to the country’s continued survival. Even if you can’t exactly put it into words, if you read or watch the news, if you try to make sense of what’s happening around us in the world, perhaps in your hearts you will feel that we live in an age when only those who love their country will remain standing. Those who do not will lose their countries – in one way or another, they will lose them. And we do not want to lose our country, because this is the only one we have. And so we may also see today’s event from this perspective.

With your permission, now I will say a few official things. The first and most important thing is that – urged on by our celebration today – a decision has been made, and soon, perhaps, work can begin on putting an end to the situation in which the cycle path ran into the water or the bridge, or ground to a halt on the other side. Finally there has been a decision now, through a combination of urging, hard work and fear. We have had the money for a long time, but finally we will widen this bridge: it will have a footpath, and it will also be possible to cycle across it. Perhaps this story gives me the opportunity to tell you that one must get used to the fact – we leaders in this country are used to this, but those less likely to be in leading positions are not yet used to this – that if one wants to do something, one must overcome resistance. Perhaps here I can say that we must come to terms with the fact that this is a country which plays “Ulti” [a card game for three players] – the essence of which is if someone wants to do something, then two others will cooperate to block it. The aim is to break through this resistance. This is the case not only in card games, but also in most areas of life in Hungary. But once you’ve broken through the barrier – as we see here – then nothing can stop you, and then you will have all you need and more. So this is that kind of country, Ladies and Gentlemen. If you want to do good things, you have to find partners right at the beginning, and you have to break through the barrier. If you succeed, you will see wonders: everyone who previously objected to your plan or had doubts about it will suddenly become its supporters. This is not done in a calculating way: we are the sort of people who don’t believe that things which were previously inconceivable can be done, and we are unable to bring ourselves to see the opportunity in the difficult situation in which we live. Therefore it is our responsibility, the responsibility of those people here – and almost all of us are of that kind – to help people break out of those situations from which they believe there is no escape.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

One opportunity to break out is to take possession of our own country. There is a reason for the strange name of the project that our friend Máriusz oversees as government commissioner: “Accessible Hungary”. This means that these programmes are all about something that should be natural, because one lives in one’s country, and obviously travels around it and has access to it. But if we think back to the past forty or fifty years, this wasn’t really the case. Often we didn’t feel a link with our forests, and we didn’t think that they could add to our general welfare – except through timber production. For instance, we didn’t think that, in addition to their original purpose, irrigation canals could be waterways on which we could travel in watercraft. Then when socialism collapsed and children’s camps were closed down and welfare institutions disappeared, we didn’t think that we would have to wait thirty years to create national networks again – whether they be “Erzsébet Camps” or outward bound camps.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is important that this year 7,500 students have enrolled in canoeing and cycling camps. It is also important to tell you that, while we Hungarians are fanatical about our athletes, looking up to our world-beating sportspeople as demigods, we are one of the least physically active countries in Europe. So we are good in the armchair, and we are strong as sports fans. But when it comes to getting up from our chairs, suddenly we are among Europe’s four least physically active nations, according to official data. This is not without consequences. Today, for instance, only 36 per cent of young people regularly play sport – although there are daily physical education lessons in schools. This clearly shows that we parents – and grandparents, if you’ll excuse me – will have much work to do before we take our children from the armchair back to the sports fields or the water.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would also like to say that, in the mind of the Hungarian government, there is a logical connection between areas which seem to be far from each other. By 2030 we want Hungarians to be leading lifestyles which are among the healthiest in Europe. Therefore we must simultaneously take up arms against unhealthy foodstuffs, we must try to reduce smoking, we must consolidate daily physical education in schools, and we must tend to our children and operate Erzsébet Camps and outward bound camps. I’d like to say that this year there will be Erzsébet Camps not only at Lake Balaton, but also in Transylvania. Naturally, for all this we need money. This meeting itself could not have happened if Hungary had not been able to take effective steps to move out of poverty, thanks to the efforts of hard-working people. This is what kills us: poverty crushes the soul, as you yourselves may have experienced in the past few decades. But finally it seems that we can leave the era of poverty and hardship behind, with wages, salaries rising at last. This means that we’re able to send our children to camps, we’re able to build jetties and landing stages and facilities such as this, and we’ll also be able to maintain them in the future. And the 2019 budget submitted to Parliament yesterday – the central budget – can also fill us with hope, because it continues to allocate priority funding to sports and leisure activities. This means that we have the chance to coax Hungary out of its armchair and become a physically active nation of sports lovers.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I must also tell you – in particular for the media’s sake – that we will continue to allocate significant amounts of money to the following: the construction of cycle paths; the promotion of hiking; horribile dictu, the funding of ski slopes; and we will continue the construction of sports and tourism centres like the one here at Tokaj. As regards the local people, I sincerely hope that, as a result of these projects, Tokaj will be famous not only for its wine culture, but also for being a thriving and dynamically developing sports and tourism centre of European repute. I hereby officially open the Tokaj Canoeing Tours Centre. May it bring you and your children many blessings and much enjoyment.

Once again I would like to thank everyone whose hard work has made it possible for us to be here today and to hand over this centre.