Zoltán Kovács (State Secretary for International Communication): Good morning – we cordially welcome you all to today’s event. There was a Cabinet meeting yesterday, and following that meeting the first Government Info of 2019 is being hosted by Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary.
I shall now give him the floor, and naturally after that we will answer questions.
Viktor Orbán: Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, while wishing everyone a happy New Year, it is indeed the case that you will have to make do with me today instead of Gergely Gulyás.
In yesterday’s Cabinet meeting we discussed and decided on a number of questions, some of which I will speak about later. We made some decisions about projects in the Hungarian capital city. The Mayor of Budapest also attended the meeting. We listened to the Finance Minister’s report on economic performance in the 2018 budgetary year, and I would like to inform you about some of the data included in that. Our current knowledge suggests that economic growth for 2018 will turn out to have been 4.6 per cent, our public debt will have fallen to 71 per cent, and the reduction in the budget deficit will be confirmed to have exceeded our expectations – with the deficit standing at 2 per cent. Household consumption increased by more than 6 per cent, and growth in gross wages and total earnings was over11 per cent. In summary, the Minister of Finance informed us that the economy is stable, growing strongly, and that this can be expected to continue in the year ahead. As we say in Fidesz, Hungary is performing better – and this is what we expect to see in 2019. And all I will add to this is that I can see that Hungary’s finances are clearly stable and in good hands, and that this is a credit to the work of the Minister of Finance and the Governor of the Hungarian National Bank.
The next agenda item we discussed was the national consultation on the protection of families. Allow me to present some facts to you. We received back 1,382,000 questionnaires, and I would like to thank everyone who took part in this consultation. Of these 1,382,000 completed questionnaires, 8 per cent were received online, and the rest through the post. You probably remember that this was the eighth national consultation since 2010. The participation rate in this consultation was the third highest among these eight; this clearly indicates that the situation of families, the question of having children and demographics is an important issue – and perhaps one of the most important issues – not only for the Government, but also for the whole country. You are aware of the Government’s position: we believe that the prospects for continuing the history of Hungary – for the future of the country – lie with families, and over the last eight years we’ve doubled the amount of family support available. But this consultation shows that more measures are needed – indeed voters expect the Government to enact further measures. Following the summing up of the consultation, the development of government measures has begun, and I hope that sometime at the beginning of February, in my tenth annual “state of the nation” address, I’ll be able to present the Government measures to be taken on the basis of the consultation.
The Government has decided to launch a commemorative period: it will be a Hungarian memorial period lasting almost two full years, entitled “Thirty Years of Freedom”. The reason for this is that the fall of communism – or what we call the anti-communist constitutional revolutions – became a reality thirty years ago across Central Europe, and therefore also in Hungary. We have created a commemoration committee, we are inviting the Speaker of the House to kindly commit to chairing it, and we have asked – or commissioned – Gergely Gulyás to be the Government’s representative on this committee.
And finally, the agenda item in the Cabinet meeting on which we spent the most time – because it is perhaps the most important, certainly in a political sense – was the question of the upcoming elections to the European Parliament. The Government first listened to a technical briefing on the country’s readiness to hold the European Parliament elections next May, followed by a briefing on a public opinion poll which was conducted in December, and which asked Hungarian voters what issues they consider to be the most important in the context of the European election. An overwhelming majority of them – 52 per cent – considered the most important issue to be immigration. In consequence of this the Government’s view is that we are approaching an important – and perhaps fateful – European election. So far Hungary has been the only country in which people have been able to declare their opinions on immigration and migration: in a referendum, a parliamentary election and a national consultation. Hitherto in other European countries there has been no possibility for this, and so this European election is a great opportunity for Europeans to declare their opinions on immigration. The Hungarian position is well known: only we should decide on who we live alongside; we do not support migrant quotas; we do not want a permanent immigration mechanism; we do not support migrant visas; and first and foremost money should be spent not on migrants, but on our own citizens.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In this context, at the Cabinet meeting it was also stated that clear goals should be set for the European election. We have set two such goals. It is Hungary’s goal for anti-immigration forces to be in the majority in every institution within the European Union’s institutional system: as a first step, anti-immigration forces should be in a majority in the European Parliament; a few months later they should be in a majority on the Commission; and later, as a result of national parliamentary elections, we would also like them to be in a majority in the European Council. Our second goal is to be – as has been the case in the past – the most successful party in Europe; but at all events we want to be the most successful within the European People’s Party. In 2009 we won 51 per cent of the vote, and in 2014 we won 56 per cent. We would like to remain Europe’s strongest party after the elections. In this context, we listened to Péter Szijjártó’s account of the UN Migration Compact. I regard the outcome of the vote on this as a partial success, as in the UN nine EU Member States did not vote for the migrant compact: nine Member States of the European Union did not vote for it. And if the balance of power continues to shift as it has done lately, this number could – and will – increase in the future.
There is one other interesting thing I would like to draw your attention to. Everyone now repeats the truism that the European Commission is struggling with a deficit of democracy. This is understandable, as it is the nation states – the governments of the day – that delegate members to the Commission, and therefore the latter lack a kind of democratic legitimacy, a European-level democratic legitimacy. This is why the EU invented the institution of the Spitzenkandidat: the “lead candidate”. We are now putting into practice a Hungarian version of this. For this reason our party’s list for the election to the European Parliament is led by the person who we will also be nominating for membership of the Commission, because we would like the commissioner who will later represent Hungary on the Commission to have the democratic legitimacy of the backing of the Hungarian people. We are convinced that with this solution we can improve the quality of democracy in the Commission.
If you will allow me, I would like to share a few more thoughts on this with you which highlight the important fact that migration and immigration will clearly and inescapably be the main issue in the upcoming European election. We don’t normally talk about this, because in the contemporary media world sound bites rule, and there is no demand for long explanations. But even so, I can perhaps tell you that migration will not simply be the main issue in the elections to the European Parliament, but an issue which will transform the whole of European politics from the foundations up. This is happening day in day out, every day – today included. This is what we are living through. In my opinion this is the defining political process in Europe today. Note how the conventional distinctions between political parties – which we traditionally classify as parties of the Right or of the Left – will give way to a more important distinction: the formula which determines them as either pro-immigration or anti-immigration. Likewise note how important it has been for a party to identify itself as anti-European or Eurosceptic, and how that will diminish in importance compared with its stance on immigration. Or let us just think about how this debate on immigration and migration is reshaping our relationship to Christianity. It is clearly strengthening our ties to Christian culture, elevating the protection of Christian culture to the level of a political obligation, and it is also defining Christianity itself as a European way of life. This is a new phenomenon in European politics; in relation to immigration, all these issues – equality between men and women and freedom of religion – have become the most important. The debate on migrants is also reshaping our debate on sovereignty, as now that debate centres on the question of who has the right to decide what new people a community – one European country or another – will or will not live alongside: whether it is possible to force onto such communities groups of people who are alien to them; or whether they alone have the right to decide on the admission of such people. Clearly those who promote immigration do not respect the right to decide of those who do not want to take in migrants – even though that is a democratic decision. We respect the democratic decisions of those who support immigration, their decisions to take in migrants – and indeed the fact that they regard such a thing as desirable. They, however, do not respect our position; and neither do they respect our decisions with which we reject all this. I would also like to point out that migration is such a momentous issue that it could – unless we focus our attention on it – dismantle the structure of the European Union itself: we can easily see that the migration debate also lies behind Brexit. It is also clear that the issue of migration is changing the developmental course of European societies. Up until now we have had a single European civilisation, within which there have emerged independent countries with distinct national characters. This is now changing: instead of our single civilisation, in Europe there will be two different civilisations. There will be a mixed civilisation, which will build its future on the co-existence of Islam and Christianity, on a mixed civilisation; and here in Central Europe we shall continue to envisage Europe as a Christian civilisation. We express this by saying that Europe should remain the continent of the Europeans. And, in the context of debates on liberal and illiberal democracies, I would also like to point out to you that clearly every liberal democrat is also a supporter of immigration.
Furthermore, in the New Year I was in Brazil, where I passed on Hungary’s best wishes to Brazil’s new president, and where I saw that this European migration debate is spreading beyond the borders of our continent, and is also appearing as a live debate in the internal political affairs of other continents. This obviously relates to the fact that the UN has elevated the issue of migration to a global level; but at the same time it clearly brings like-minded political figures closer together – even if they live on different continents. For instance, one finds the definition of Christian democracy – which seems most appropriate for us here in Europe today – not in Europe, but in Brazil. The Brazilian president said something like the following, if culturally I translate his election message into Hungarian – naturally with Hungary substituted for Brazil: “Hungary before everything, and God above all.” So clearly in global politics we are seeing the emergence of new ideological trends, along with parties which can contribute not only to the debate on migration, but also to the associated growing European cultural debates which are now becoming global.
So finally I would like to repeat that Hungary is ready for the elections to the European Parliament, and we will be able to faultlessly hold the election here in our country. The election programmes of both the pro-immigration and anti-immigration forces are progressing smoothly, and both sides are making headway in articulating them – I’m not questioning our opponents’ performance in that department. We have also clearly articulated our goals, which I should like to repeat: the Hungarian government would like to see anti-immigration forces form a majority in every institution of the European Union; and we want Hungary’s larger governing party Fidesz together with the Christian Democratic People’s Party to jointly remain Europe’s most successful parliamentary party.
This is all I am able to tell you about the Cabinet meeting. Should you have questions about these issues – or about any other issues – I will be happy to answer them.