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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the opening ceremony of ITU Telecom World 2019

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As the Prime Minister of the host country, I would like to enjoy the privilege of speaking in our own native language.

I extend special greetings to our President, Secretary-General Zhao and to Director General Gurry. I am glad that five years on you have chosen Budapest again. As leaders, we like to see this as a sign of stability, and we always value stability – especially when it coincides with the term of our leadership. We’ve seen a film here – I’m thinking of the first film – that sought to depict for us the digital future. It occurred to me that if the digital world really does develop at that pace, then it will be difficult to resist the temptation of imagining ourselves taking the place of God. Nonetheless, I hope it comes about.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You’ve come to us in exciting times. The excitement is not so palpable in Budapest, but across the whole of Europe. We have just chosen new leaders for the institutions of the European Union, and if all goes to plan, tomorrow we will be allocating portfolios within the European Commission: within the body for European governance. This will also be important for Europe’s digital development. And then we Europeans are confronted by the issue of Brexit, which will make the weeks ahead of us extremely exciting ones.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour to speak after the Minister from the Vietnamese government, and it is a marvellous decision for us to be able to go to his country next year. One reason is that Vietnam is a great country with which Hungary has been friends for many decades. When I was a small schoolboy we even supported the Vietnamese independence struggle with our small change; so good relations between Vietnam and Hungary are longstanding. But this is not the only reason that it’s exciting to go there, because our analyses show that over the next thirty years Vietnam will be the world’s fastest growing economy. This, at least, is what is shown by forecasts today. Next year it will be exciting to visit the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The ITU is a prestigious organisation, and we are honoured that for the second time you have decided to hold an important exchange of ideas here in Budapest. In the second short film you saw that we Hungarians have a track record in the digital world. We Hungarians are proud to have been there when the foundations were being laid: the Bolyais, Erdős, Neumann, Kemény and – last but not least – Tivadar Puskás were pioneers of digitalisation. I’d like to inform you that, both in the past and today, Hungarians have almost developed a sport out of attempting to think about one subject or another in a way that is completely different from the thinking of anyone else in the world. We Hungarians like to find a path where others see only dense thickets. An iconic expression of this Hungarian character and mentality is Rubik’s Cube: it is no accident that it was the brainchild of a Hungarian.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’m here today and I’ve undertaken to open this forum to make it clear to you, the most important players in the digital world, that Hungary is prepared and has started to become one of the success stories of the digitalising world economy. This is an ambitious goal for us, and the question that always arises is this: “All well and good, but what are the prospects of Hungary truly being a digital success story?”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The prospects are good – most of all, because Hungary already has a solid foundation for the digital economy. Today your host is a country that, in ten years, has fought from being the back marker of the European continent to being one of its frontrunners. Let me remind you that the first financial collapse did not take place in Greece, but before that, in Hungary. Our economy was still in recession in 2010, but today we can lay claim to one of the highest growth rates in Europe – if not the highest. Ten years ago there was massive unemployment, but today full employment is within our grasp. We have a modern industrial base, strong domestic and international industrial companies, and they are using the latest technologies. We are on a firm footing, and in Europe there are few more secure government budgets than that in Hungary. This in itself gives us reason to trust in our future success, and for you also to trust in our success.

Our prospects for success are increased by the fact that during the financial crisis we Hungarians not only managed the crisis, but also built a new kind of economic model; it’s true that this was within the European Union, but we built a model which was different from that of any other country. At the heart of this model are competitiveness, innovation and the spirit of entrepreneurship. And this approach fits perfectly within the digital economy. Since 2010 we have been making decisions that have not only dealt with the crisis, but have opened the door to the digital sector in the Hungarian economy. You’ve seen that Hungary has Europe’s lowest sales tax on the internet, at just 5 per cent. You’ve seen that we have excellent infrastructure that we’re developing continuously. We also want to be among the most successful and fastest in terms of our 5G network system. And we see this as a specialist, economic and non-political issue. And you’ve seen that recently we’ve opened a modern automotive test centre, built in the spirit of digitalisation, and in relation to self-driving cars an experimental centre which is one of the most – if not the most – state-of-the-art. I think it’s important to tell you that since last year this area of ​​digitalisation has been under ministerial control. We’ve created the largest portfolio in the history of the Hungarian government: managed under one roof, a minister coordinates the traditional real economy, the digital economy, innovation, research and university management. We have an army of specialists who think creatively, so the number of innovative companies is constantly rising.

Honourable Secretary-General, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today the digital economy generates 25 per cent of Hungary’s gross domestic product. Directly and indirectly the sector employs around 400,000 people, which proportionally is the third highest figure in the entire European Union. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, Hungary is already a digital economy in the heart of Europe. Here the future has already begun, and we trust that Europe will also turn in this direction at full speed. As a European and as the prime minister of a European country, I’m saying that Europe, the EU, should finally bring the debate on the digital economy to a close and finally act in unison. We need to understand that the world has changed around Europe. A world dominated by Europe is long a thing of the past – even though we here in Europe might not realise it, or might not have noticed it in time. The world is moving in a completely different direction. Today we’re still living in the world of the G7 and the G8, but if one reads, and reads the signs well, one can see that we’re heading towards – or perhaps have already entered – the world of the G2. Europe must adapt to this new situation and understand that, in this G2-based world ahead of us, institutions such as yours – such as the ITU – will play a much greater role than they do now. This role will grow, and Europe will need such organisations much more than it used to. Therefore Europe must support the ITU and similar organisations, otherwise Europe will not be able to fulfil its potential in the modern world we are facing.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is important for us in Europe to understand that we must give priority support to small and medium-sized enterprises. The stronger Europe’s small and medium-sized enterprises grow, the more successful our national economies will be. Honourable Secretary-General, with the economy becoming ever more digital, as Prime Minister the challenge I struggle with the most is that of developing policies which bring the benefits of digitalisation not just to a narrow elite and not just to a small corporate world, but to everyone. We politicians need to design and implement programmes that are responsive to the fact that digitalisation affects every aspect of our lives. Therefore we need to bring digitalisation to farmers in the most remote villages, to hospitals, to small settlements, to small and medium-sized enterprises, so that everyone – every citizen and every business – is a beneficiary and not a victim of the changes brought about by digitalisation. If we are unable to develop such policies, then in every country some people – perhaps a significant section of our populations – will turn against digitalisation. We need to make it clear that this will not dismantle our societies, but offer an opportunity for all of us to become more involved in our shared life. Even if we are citizens in a small village which is the furthest from Budapest, or if we do not belong to the elite, we can support ourselves and our family with skilled work.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To this end Hungary has already launched programmes collectively known as the Digital Prosperity Programme. I hope that at our next meeting we can report back to you on our successes.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In conclusion, today you are guests of a country that is not running away from the future and is not burying its head in the sand. It is a country which also sees the changes that are taking Europe towards new challenges. We do not want to hide, but to participate in the creation of this new world. We want to be winners in this exciting new epoch-making adventure. Here in Hungary the past ten years have proved that here the future can not only be planned, but also realised and created. It is worth visiting us not only now, but also on a bilateral basis. We ask that you come to us as often as possible, so that we can consult on these issues and gather best practices from Hungary and from your countries.

Thank you for coming to Hungary. Thank you for the opportunity to welcome you to Budapest. I wish you productive meetings and time well spent here in Hungary. God bless you all!