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Speech by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the inauguration ceremony for the new Commander-in-chief of the Hungarian Defence Forces

Honourable President of the Republic, Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are here today for the handover of command of the Hungarian Defence Forces. But first of all, I would like to thank the members of the Hungarian military for their work during the pandemic, those who served in the Defence Forces Hospital, on vaccination buses and at the vaccination centres, as well as their colleagues who have been on patrol in public spaces. In addition to their work combating the pandemic, the Hungarian Defence Forces have reliably performed their normal duties. They have been vigilant in guarding the borders of our country and Europe, they have fulfilled their tasks in missions and have played their part in the fight against terrorism – precisely befitting the Hungarian soldier’s many centuries of glory, a modern national army and the armed forces of a NATO member state.

Honourable Officers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the years before 2010 and the adoption of our national constitution, the Hungarian political elite committed grave errors. They failed in their duty to their country and their soldiers. They abolished conscription, but failed to replace it with the creation of a modern, effective, professional army. Technical equipment degraded, and could have been at home in the Museum of Military History’s Cold War collection. In essence, they brought our army to the brink of ruin. We thank God and the fortunes of war that in those times we did not have to take up arms to defend our country. At the same time, it was only thanks to the superhuman efforts of our soldiers that we were able to carry out our international missions. By 2010 the situation was unworthy of our centuries-old military traditions, our constitution and our international obligations; but it was an even greater insult to the self-esteem of the Hungarian people – and especially of Hungarian soldiers. We were the little boy in the playground, always wondering who would protect us if the big boys picked on us. The national government was handed a weak country and a weak army whose only reassurance was the NATO badge on their uniforms. Even under these circumstances, a series of military exercises and missions proved that the Hungarian soldier is as good – if not better – than any Western counterpart. Our soldiers have therefore earned the right to serve their country in conditions which are comparable to those of their counterparts. As every schoolchild knows, for a strong army you need three things: money, money and money. In 2010 we inherited three things: debt, debt and debt. Before we could start developing the army, we therefore had to put our country’s finances in order. A whole country has given years of its life to getting the Hungarian economy back on its feet. We needed successes in the economy, in family policy, in helping poorer groups in society to catch up. And we also needed stability, predictability and hundreds of billions of forints in the budget for development of the army in order to embark on one of the modern Hungarian state’s greatest undertakings: to build up an effective army, and a defence industry alongside it. This historic change was achieved by you under the professional leadership of General Ferenc Korom, Commander of the Hungarian Defence Forces. The fact that we have come so far is the shared success of the commander and the minister providing the political leadership and bearing the political responsibility. We thank Ferenc Korom for fulfilling his commitment and leading the Hungarian Defence Forces from a state of hopelessness to a land of hope. Thank you.

Ferenc Korom: I serve my homeland!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The only thing that can give a free and independent country confidence and self-assurance is its own strength, its own national army. This is especially true when God has placed that country in a wind-blown part of the world such as that occupied by us Hungarians. There have always been applicants for the role of organising Central Europe: the Turks, the Entente, the Germans, the Soviets. For our country and the whole region the results have, without exception, been disastrous. Central Europe must be built by us, jointly with the peoples who live here. And cooperation requires more than good intentions: it requires strength. We know that truth without strength is worth little. This is why, together with financial stability and a pulsating economy, we need a powerful army. You are soldiers, well-trained soldiers, and you know the historical question: “Who will die for Danzig?” And who died for Budapest in 1956? No one will risk their own skin for a Hungarian city. And even if they do, even if they take NATO’s mutual defence guarantee seriously, we will not find an ally who will defend our country for us – alongside us, with us, perhaps; but certainly not instead of us. If we are not strong, we are lost. Our cause has always breathed its last before the oft-promised relief forces could arrive. So scanning the horizon for the arrival of others is pointless. When our homeland is in distress, it is we who must defend it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable President of the Republic,

In Europe today Hungary is the land of peace. Our task is to keep it that way. Our task is to build a strong modern army, so that no one will ever think of attacking Hungary: not another state, not a terrorist organisation, not through invasion by migrants. The Hungarian army must be a deterrent – in conventional warfare and in cyber defence, in guarding our borders and in the fight against terrorism. In addition to preserving the army’s integrity, disciplined internal order and military ideals, the new commander’s task will be to integrate the army into Hungarian society, to attract tens of thousands of young people, to prepare them and to train them to defend their homeland and to respect military ideals.

God above us all, Hungary before all else!

Commander, I wish you much strength and good health in your work.