English Translation provided by the Hungarian Government
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am extremely fortunate not to be delivering a state of the nation address in the Hungary of one hundred years ago. I say this because this year is the centenary of the Trianon peace diktat. One hundred years ago the Hungarian prime minister’s name was Károly Huszár. If he had given a state of the nation address, he would have had to say that we had suffered tremendous loss of life in the Great War, in which not a single family was spared. Together with our allies, we came out of the hostilities on the losing side.
The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy – which provided the state framework for our lives – had been destroyed. He would have had to say that peace in society had come to an end and that the life-force of the Hungarians was being consumed by a state of civil war. The communist putsch delivered the coup de grâce. There were all kinds of experiments here: a constitutional monarchy, a people’s republic and a communist Soviet republic.
One hundred years ago all that the prime minister could have told his audience was that none of these had worked. In fact, we had reached the point, we had sunk so deep, that our enemies were watering their horses wherever they chose on the streets of Budapest. And if the unfortunate prime Minister had been able to see into the future, he would have had to say that within just four months the diktat ending the war would be proclaimed.
Not only did this diktat end the First World War, it also ended the era of Hungarian history leading up to it. The diktat saw two-thirds of the country’s territory and 63 per cent of its population shorn from us; thus one in three Hungarians found themselves outside our borders. The verdict was obviously a death sentence. History has not recorded a nation that could survive such a loss of blood. Those responsible for the decision were versed in history, and delivered their verdict in the light of that knowledge.
Count Apponyi, who led the Hungarian delegation in negotiations, was right to say that Hungary’s grave had been dug. The loss was devastating in itself, but even more traumatic – if that were possible – was the fact that state formations such as Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were being constructed around us. Indeed, as if all this were not enough, the diktat after the Second World War made the Soviet Union one of our neighbours to the east: “Hello, I see you’ve got a limp,” as the joke goes, “Here’s a hump for your back as well.”
Enemies all around us. This meant political quarantine, economic isolation, debilitated national defence, cultural solitude and spiritual loneliness. So we hunkered down and set our sights on survival. We knew we had to wait: wait until the enemy state formations weakened, and the key was duly given to us. This is what happened. Legend has it that one hundred years ago Apponyi also said that although Hungary’s grave had been dug, we Hungarians would be there at the funerals of our gravediggers.
And indeed with our own eyes we saw the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the dismantling of the Soviet Union. Today, one hundred years after the Trianon death sentence, I can tell you that we are alive and that Hungary still exists. And not only are we alive, but we have escaped from the grip of the surrounding circle of enemies. Instead of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, we now have Slovaks, Slovenians, Croatians and Serbs.
Surprisingly, I see that, together with Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia on re-established national foundations, we can find a common voice and broad cooperation. We can even form alliances.
History has once again given the peoples of Central Europe the opportunity to build a new system of alliances based on their own national interests. Thus they have the ability to protect themselves from threats approaching from both the East and the West. How have we been able to withstand this one hundred years? How were we able to find a way out of this hopeless situation? There is an answer to this question: a short sentence that for hundreds of years has aided us, and which has been passed down by every generation to the next. As a prime minister of Hungary, after one hundred years, I can say nothing other than this: “I believe in one homeland.”
Ladies and gentlemen, after an anniversary of one hundred years, an anniversary of ten years: we also have a tenth anniversary. Ten years ago people put an end to the nightmare of socialist governance, and the national government began its work. People’s hopes and despair were brought together to produce the two-thirds election victory of 2010. The country was on the verge of bankruptcy and trapped in the International Monetary Fund’s life-support machine. Unemployment was sky-high, families were burdened with debt, and foreign-currency debtors were virtually underwater – if that could be described as water. Despair was more than justified.
But of course there was also hope: hope that can fill us with spirit, that can enable us to rally, that can dispel our sense of decline and the worthless philosophy that things can only get worse; hope that convinces us we can find the upward path and that Hungary will once again be a byword for what is fine, and that it will be worthy of its former glory.
We cannot know how many were desperate and how many were hopeful, but perhaps that does not matter when the flood is approaching. In such times what is important is to convince people not to give up, but to take action, and to believe that there is a point in renewed effort and mustering their remaining strength. This is the secret of all crisis management.
In my decades in politics, I have observed that every success story – the success story of every rising nation – begins with the strengthening of self-esteem. Just think of the two most recent Western examples: Trump’s America and the success of Boris Johnson. And I have also noticed that the personal self-esteem of citizens in a troubled country can only return together with that of their nation. So the key to upward progress is the restoration of national self-esteem.
So in 2010 we set ourselves the goal of proving to ourselves – and, of course, to the world – that we are still somebody, and not the people we seemed to be, anxiously cowering as we pleaded for IMF loans and EU money. The programme was simple. It was to reveal who we really are, to show that we are the Hungarians: with one thousand years of Christian statehood, monumental cultural achievements, a dozen Nobel prizes, 177 Olympic gold medals, a sublimely beautiful capital city, superb technical and IT professionals and a rural Hungary blessed with agrarian genius.
We thought that we would either find our path or create one. And as we saw that the paths marked out for us by Brussels and Washington were not viable, we were forced to create a new one. Ten years ago I thought that a people who had invented Rubik’s Cube could also figure out how to solve a seemingly hopeless crisis.
In all modesty, ten years later I can say that we did indeed figure it out, we managed to do it. We took a deep breath, laid the foundations, and finally we had a Christian, national constitution. We thank our president in that constitutional process, Pál Schmitt! God preserve you – vivat, vivat, vivat! We sent the IMF packing, we repaid the money they lent us before the due date, we created 850,000 jobs, we put an end to freeloading, we put our finances in order, we gave workers respect and appreciation, families received recognition, large families received enhanced recognition, we launched the unification of the nation, and we connected Hungarian communities across the borders with the motherland. And in the economic reports published this week in Brussels, the whole of Europe can read that the entire continent’s fastest-growing economy in 2019 seems to have been that in Hungary.
For ten years we have been debating how to evaluate the economic and social model that we have built in Hungary: it’s been called illiberal, post-liberal, Christian Democrat, a “democtatorship”, an authoritarian and hybrid system, and goodness only knows what else. No wonder commentators are so vexed, because a convent like our state system cannot be found anywhere else in Europe today – perhaps only in Poland.
They refuse to accept that in this part of the world, dispensing with liberal theorising, we can derive our freedom from three simple Christian laws: we have acquired the ability to distinguish between good and bad; God has created all of us in His own image, so we are all equal – regardless of origin and skin colour; and Christianity teaches us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Europe has forgotten that the world of political freedom can be built from these laws. What has happened and is happening in Hungary cannot be expressed in the liberal language of Brussels Eurobabble. In Brusselese it cannot be said that the Hungarians have not only taken their axe to a big tree, but to a primeval forest, and have managed to make their way out of it. With an IMF brain one cannot understand that we summoned up the courage to resist, even though we were in the grip of international capital, the banks had a stranglehold on us, we were drowning in debt, and international financial experts in sharp suits were demanding austerity measures from us.
With a Brussels or Washington mentality, it is not even conceivable that on the EU’s eastern border there is a down-at-heel country on its knees, accounting for only about 2 percent of the entire European Union, which still declares that there is something that it won’t have: austerity. Instead it declares that there will be a Hungarian way of life, tax cuts, production instead of debt, work instead of welfare benefits, enterprise instead of sharp practice, a patriotic economy instead of globalist wheeler-dealing, national identity and character instead of servility, and Hungarian children instead of migrants.
Looking back now this was more than risky, and was a bold adventure at the very least; but we could also call it Hungarian bravura. Today I see that the key to success was that the Government was not left to its own devices – probably because we never ruled over the heads of the people, we never ignored them, but we found a way to act together with them. This is called governance based on national consultation.
Nobody believed us, and they wouldn’t have bet a penny on us. Instead, there was malicious mockery and doom-mongering scorn. The loudest prophets of doom were those who led the country towards bankruptcy before 2010. Interestingly, Hungary was led to bankruptcy by a government of former communists pursuing liberal policy.
This example strengthens the conviction that in fact there is no such thing as a liberal: a liberal is nothing more than a communist with a university degree. If we had taken their advice, right now Hungary would be in the intensive care ward, with the tubes of IMF and Brussels credit attached to every limb. And the fingers on the valves regulating the flow of credit would belong to George Soros. This is no exaggeration. I’ve been plying the craft of politics for more than thirty years now, and with my own eyes I’ve seen George Soros attempt to plunder Hungary on three separate occasions.
The first time was in the early nineties, when he wanted to buy up all the country’s state debt: all of Hungary’s state debt in the hands of one person, the fate of every Hungarian in the hands of George Soros. It’s spine-chilling even thinking about the situation we managed to avoid. Gratitude and recognition are due to József Antall for preventing this from happening. And I remember 1994, when Soros wanted to plunder us a second time. He tried to acquire OTP Bank, which was then the uniquely dominant Hungarian retail bank. No less spine-chilling is the vision of almost every Hungarian’s money in the hands of one person. Gratitude and recognition are due to Gyula Horn for not allowing that to happen. Today the soaring success of OTP is proof that he was right to do so.
Even young people can remember the third attempt. In 2015, people-smuggling networks disguised as human rights organisations brought hundreds of thousands of migrants to the Hungarian border. And when Europe was already straining under the weight of migration, Soros announced that he was ready to offer credit to finance the settlement of one million migrants a year. Please bear in mind that the Soros Plan, the planned settlement of foreign population groups, is still on the agenda: the operation is in progress and we must man the defences, stoutly and unwaveringly.
Young audience members, for you all this is history. I also realise that over the past ten years a generation has come of age which doesn’t know the meaning of the word “austerity”. A generation has come of age not knowing the Balatonöszöd Speech, the police attack, or having people’s eyes shot out. When young people hear the words “Nokia box” they only think of a telephone – or perhaps not even that. Ten years ago our aim was for our children and grandchildren not to have to come face to face with these abominations. But we have to talk about them, because someone who has never seen a bear will not be afraid of one; and if one day one comes up to you, you won’t know what to do. It’s as well to know that the bear isn’t a cuddly toy.
Dear friends, we have literally been through this whole period of ten years together. If my calculations are correct, we’ve used eight national consultations to decide on the most important issues. Together we’ve agreed on the Constitution, reductions in household utility bills, social questions, the banking tax, family support, and rejection of the Soros Plan.
Those who want to lecture us on democracy should first show us something even resembling our national consultation. By now we are almost used to the fact that anyone in politics today who doesn’t dance to the tune played by the liberals will immediately be branded a populist. This is a new version of the term “class enemy”. But, dear friends, a populist is someone who makes promises to the electorate that he knows he cannot keep. Those who make promises and keep them are not populists, but democrats. And we Hungarians should not hesitate to place our selves in that category.
We are now preparing for another national consultation. We are again irresistibly drawn back to this. For decision-makers in Europe the rights of violent criminals have taken precedence over those of law-abiding people. They make a mockery of justice and the sound instincts of honest people, and defend perpetrators instead of victims. This dangerous phenomenon has also reached Hungary. We can expect intense debates and international trials of strength related to this. Therefore we must once again arrive at points of consensus so that the Government has a base to stand on and something firm under foot.
Foreign-funded – and, of course, Soros-affiliated – organisations and their hired lawyers are abusing legal protection to launch a host of lawsuits in order to extract large sums of money from Hungarians and make pay-outs to violent criminals – and, of course, to themselves. This plethora of lawsuits – twelve thousand of them – is costing billions of forints. We can no longer look on passively, and so we are launching another national consultation.
Ladies and gentlemen, I do not want to leave the stage without speaking about the Gyöngyöspata case. We are talking about one of Hungary’s beautiful and attractive small towns and the people who live there, to whom I send my greetings. In that town about 20 percent of the population are Hungarians of Roma origin, living alongside a majority of 80 percent.
A court ruling citing segregation has stirred up public opinion by awarding large sums of money to some Roma residents. Furthermore, this money would need to be paid from local government funds, which cannot provide such an amount. And so this would bankrupt the entire town. This is happening at a time when Roma families – or many of them, at least – are embarking on a change in their way of life.
We cannot speak dispassionately about the great change represented by the fact that tens of thousands of Roma families have taken up offers of work, and that after working in public works schemes tens of thousands of them are making headway in the private sector. They are living off the proceeds of their work instead of welfare benefits, they are raising their children properly, and they have thus earned recognition from all of us. Their children are attending kindergarten from the age of three, something which prepares them for school and gives them the chance of keeping up with their peers from more advantageous backgrounds.
It is well known that the Government has openly committed itself – and I also see this as my personal responsibility – to eradicating poverty in Hungary. We have therefore also committed ourselves to the advancement of Roma families. Indeed we have also succeeded in establishing consensus across society on this point. This court ruling, which has once again set the people of Gyöngyöspata at odds with one another, has struck this promising process like a bolt of lightning.
I hardly need to say that George Soros is also financing the organisation initiating these court proceedings. As you can see, nothing is a coincidence. I want to make it clear that we shall not allow ourselves be distracted from our goal. We continue to believe in a Hungary which is a safe home for all Hungarians, and which gives everyone the opportunity to live a good life. We continue to reject the notion that origin or ethnicity should be a stigma or disadvantage, or that conversely it should confer any advantage or privilege. And to receive money everyone –regardless of origin – must work.
Ladies and gentlemen, this centenary and tenth anniversary encourage people to project the two periods on each other. What does the past ten years look like when embedded in the past one hundred years? When I made that comparison, I became nervous about what I was going to say. I was anxious that what I need to say to you, to the honourable Hungarian public, would simply not be believed.
People would think that I was shamelessly blowing my own trumpet. But this is not about me. It’s not even about the Government, but the performance of Hungary as a whole. And so I have chosen to tell the unusual truth. It’s a thankless enterprise, as history is history and culture is culture, and ultimately this is what shapes the attitude of peoples.
Hungarians have lost the habit of seeing themselves as a successful people. Hobo [the Hungarian blues singer]was right: we were down for so long that we don’t know what it means to be up. And when at last after much struggle we get to a higher place, we don’t believe reality – or even our own eyes. When we can no longer avoid calling success, development and record highs by their names, then of course we add that these are only temporary and lack solid foundations – and are in fact not due to us, but to external circumstances. In this we are inexhaustible and invincible.
Lord, what a rapturous speech the American President could base on the following sentence, which I say with caution – and even trepidation. The facts show that the past ten years were the most successful decade in the past one hundred years of Hungarian history. So instead of rapturous rhetoric and rapturous enthusiasm, let’s hold true to the Hungarian style, to the emotionless world of cold facts.
Longer periods of growth are rare in the history of our country. But since 2010, economic performance has grown at an average annual rate of 2.8 percent – and since 2013, after the crisis management period, at 3.8 percent a year. Earlier we could only achieve such growth with foreign debt. But the growth of the past ten years has occurred while maintaining external and internal fiscal balance: current account surpluses, fiscal discipline and a declining rate of government debt.
In summary, sustained growth alongside external and internal balance has not been characteristic of any other decade in the last hundred years of our history. All of this has happened with wealth inequalities remaining moderate by European standards, so that the benefits of growth have been spread across a wide section of society. Vulnerable groups – young people, those over the age of 50, women with children, and the relatively unqualified – have been able to find employment.
Wages have also started to rise, with the minimum wage and the guaranteed minimum wage for skilled workers doubling. For fans of economic statistics, wealth inequality in Hungary is the lowest in the entire European Union: in Germany and Austria the difference is 79 percent, while in Hungary it is only 45 percent. The policy of general tax reduction has therefore been a success, with a rising tide lifting all boats.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have reason to marvel if we add to all this the fact that in 2019 decisions on investments reached an all-time high: 101 large investments worth HUF 1,700 billion. And 60 percent of the value of these investments has come from the East. In this we see the meaning of the policy of Eastward Opening. To this we can add that in 2019 we broke our export record.
Around the world there are 35 countries capable of generating exports of over $100 billion, and we are among that 35. We are ranked 94th in the world in terms of population, but 34th in terms of exports. In the world rankings for exports we’re in third position in seed production, fifteenth in grain production, seventeenth in livestock production, eighteenth in pharmaceutical production and twentieth in car manufacturing. I repeat: in the world rankings!
This has been achieved by a country of ten million people. Is there any clearer evidence of talent and hard work? What I’m prompted to note here is that we could see more moderation from those who are scathing in their criticism of Hungarian teachers, and the quality of our education and vocational training.
The workers, professionals and engineers operating state-of-the-art factories here in Hungary all come from our schools and universities. Let’s show more respect for Hungarian workers and Hungarian engineers! Not to mention teachers. I know that many people are concerned about the relatively high share represented by the automotive industry in Hungary, and the questions hanging over the future of that industry. I want to reassure everyone that Hungary is already part of the new era in the automotive industry, with significant capacities here for the future production of electric vehicles.
Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve learned a lot over the past ten years. This is valuable knowledge, and we’ve sweated for it. For example, we’ve learned that a country cannot be taken seriously and cannot have national self-esteem without a national army. How can a country be proud of itself if it cannot defend itself? We need a strong, modern army that can halt attacks from our surroundings, fulfil its obligations anywhere in the world, and link us to a major alliance system in times of global turmoil.
Technology is important, weaponry is important and military diplomacy is important. But most important of all is the soldier: we need good soldiers and good officers. This is why I am pleased that the officers with us here have accepted my invitation today. Welcome! Everyone can see that the Hungarian army has returned. I ask you to make sure that soldiers are not only present at party events, but also at governmental and civilian meetings, and that they occupy their respected place in Hungarian life.
Let it be as it was long ago. We also learned that Europe is not in Brussels. Europe is us, and we do not have to measure up to the tired Brussels elite, who will soon be disillusioned even with themselves. We used to think that Europe was our future; today we know that we are the future of Europe. We have learned that threats of a caning from Brussels are not the end of the world. We have learned that we can withstand far more than we once thought we could. We can withstand much more because today the Carpathian Basin radiates strength. This strength stems from the realisation that being Hungarian is something good, uplifting and full of promise.
We no longer sit in rapt wonder at every kind of liberal folk-tale about the self-regulating market, good capitalism, the European Union and the beautiful world order. We live in our own way, according to our own rules and our own decisions. Our nation knows this: Hungary comes first. Those who dispute this need to tell us what on earth comes first, if not Hungary? There is no sensible answer to this, so let’s be satisfied with the fact that Hungary comes before all else.
Ladies and gentlemen, so this looks quite good. It is understandable that there are some who call this the Golden Age. But I have bad news for them: that time has not yet come. In fact, looking forward to the years ahead, we have cause for concern. I see the arrival of particularly dangerous years – including 2020, the present year. We need to take serious action to protect what we have already achieved. And if we don’t want to be forced onto the back foot – but want to continue to progress, develop and resume our ascent – our efforts must show soldierly grit. We are threatened by the climate crisis, by demographic decline and by sinister shadows gathering over the European economy. Instead of talking about a golden age, today I need to sound the alarm.
Ladies and gentlemen, the climate crisis is not a new issue. Hungarians are well aware of this. This is most of all thanks to President of Hungary János Áder, who has tirelessly fought against apathy and indifference. We have finally reached an agreement in Brussels: we are aiming for the European economy to be carbon-free by 2050. This is difficult, but it is possible in Hungary as well.
It is also true that 2050 is a long way off, and politicians have never been so poor that they haven’t been able to make promises – especially when no one knows where they will be in 2050. Climate protection has become a political fashion, and a lot of empty talk is tarnishing the gravity of the matter. If we truly fear for our land, our natural environment and our climate, then it is time to act and not simply talk.
When I talk about climate change, I do so not only as prime minister, but also as the father of five children – and indeed as a grandfather. I mention this because I am annoyed by the stupidity of those who seek to portray children as a danger to the climate. I’ve read that there are some who preach that the most effective way of saving the planet is to not have children. This is complete insanity! Yes, let’s save the earth, but if we have no children or grandchildren who are we saving it for?
Our Constitution also says that we bear a responsibility for future generations, and that is why we must protect the wonderful ecology of the Carpathian Basin. To put it bluntly, protecting the climate and nature is truly our Christian and patriotic duty. I can inform you that this week the Government has adopted a climate action plan. We have designed a programme to reach 90 percent carbon-neutrality for energy production in Hungary by 2030.
This also shows that we believe that in 2030 we will still be the people being held to account. On July 1 we will begin to eliminate illegal landfills and punish the polluters. Within two years we want to be able to show you a clean, orderly and well-kept country. We are banning the sale of disposable plastics and facilitating the return and recycling of glass and plastic bottles and metal cans. Thirdly, we will protect our rivers from waste coming from outside the country. We are already running a pilot programme, and the results are encouraging.
As I see it, we will be able to remove all plastic from the Danube and Tisza rivers. We will take strong action against multinational companies operating in Hungary, requiring them to use environmentally friendly technologies. In parallel with this, over the next two years we are providing SMEs with funding of HUF 32 billion for renewable energy production. We will plant ten trees for every new-born baby. This will translate into one million new trees per year, and so by 2030, we will have increased the country’s forest cover by 27 percent. Sixthly, over the next ten years we will increase the capacity of solar power plants, which will not only be environmentally friendly, but will also provide cheap energy for Hungarians. The seventh point is that electric cars will not only be the preserve of the rich, as we will support the introduction and use of affordable electric cars.
From 2022 onwards, new buses in our towns and cities must be electric. And finally, like the Poles, we are introducing green government bonds. Whoever buys such a bond will be supporting climate protection, because the Government will undertake to spend the money it raises through this only on climate-friendly programmes. Let us take action, instead of simply whining! This is my advice to Hungary.
Ladies and gentlemen, at this point one year ago I announced the Family Protection Action Plan. Now I shall report on the results in the language of numbers. First, let’s be modern and “sexy”: according to Google Analytics – such a thing exists – the tenth most popular internet search term was “baby-planning credit”. More than one hundred thousand people have received these loans. Interestingly, around 33 percent of the recipients of allowances for those awaiting children live in small towns, 29 per cent in villages, 21 per cent in provincial cities, and only around 18 per cent in the capital.
This also shows that we still have spare capacity. Dealers are having difficulty meeting the demand for large family cars. The construction of crèches is going ahead at full steam, with ten new infants’ places being added every working day. Income tax exemption for mothers with four children has also begun. This is making life easier for 40,000 families.
Although not included in the Family Action Plan, one step forward has been taken – or even two steps – in the fight against infertility: the state has purchased private companies treating infertility. This is also justified on the grounds of bioethical considerations related to embryos. But the most important thing was to make examinations and interventions – and even medicines – freely available to all. Today public service providers can serve everyone who turns to them. And important steps have been taken for parents caring for children with extreme dependency and for families with diabetic children.
It is also good news that between 2010 and 2018, 90,000 more children were born than would have been if the trend leading up to 2010 had continued. More good news is that the number of marriages has surged upwards, and the number of divorces has never been so low. The number of miscarriages is steadily declining, and is at a historic low.
The bad news is that the population decline has not stopped: Hungarians are still an endangered species. In 2010, 60 percent of parents’ preferred number of children were born, and although ten years later this figure has risen to 70 percent, there is apparently still a financial deterrence. A child is not a question of money, but money still matters. If we really want to make a difference, we need to cross the Rubicon: we need to build a country in which those making the commitment to have children are financially better off than if they had chosen not to have children.
Dear friends, we know what we need to do to achieve this, but we just don’t know if we will have the money to do so in the coming years. Either way, I’m determined – and I’m even trying to win over the Minister of Finance. I know that sooner or later mothers with three children – as well as those with four children– must be exempted from personal income tax. I also know that today mothers receive 70 percent of their previous year’s average earnings in the first six months after they have given birth to a child, and that this should be raised to 100 percent, and then they would receive more money in the first six months following childbirth than they would have if they had not given birth.
I also know that we have successfully introduced free language examinations and free driving tests for young people, and that this should be extended to mothers on maternity leave, so that they can gain the skills that they can use later in their work. Today these are just intentions, Ladies and Gentlemen. They may be commendable and vital to our future, but we must cut our coat according to our cloth. This will be especially true in 2020 – and, unfortunately, in the decade ahead. But we commit ourselves to making gradual but unwavering progress
Ladies and gentlemen, and finally the sting in the tail, the ominous shadows, or the bird of doom that haunted our childhoods: it seems that the European economy – and particularly the economy of the eurozone – has come to a halt. If it grows at all in 2020, that growth will be microscopic. We could casually dismiss this as their problem, saying that they didn’t worry too much when we were floundering in crisis. The problem with that attitude – apart from its lack of class – is that some 85 percent of Hungarian goods are exports to those countries. That’s where we make our sales, or that’s where they buy from us. So their problem is also our problem.
The only question is how much of a problem it will be for us. Looking at the economic data for 2019, at first I couldn’t believe my eyes: Germany’s industrial production declined significantly, while Hungary’s increased by 5 percent. This is a difference of at least 7 points in our favour. As an aside, in Bern in 1954 [in the World Cup Final]just one would have been enough. In 2020 we will face a true intellectual and economic policy challenge. Will the Hungarian economy be able to grow if the EU economy stagnates? Can our paths diverge, as they did in 2019, as they did last year? And if so, for how long, for how many years?
What processes will this trigger in the Hungarian economy, and what impact will it have here on people’s lives? And, dear friends, it is a matter of particular concern that in the West unemployment has also begun to increase. As I see it, in 2020 – and perhaps even in the following years – we will have to concentrate our efforts on preserving jobs. If there is work, there is everything – this law will definitely not be superseded. We know that at times like this we must reduce taxes. This has already proved successful, and this is what we are preparing to do now: we will reduce the taxes on small businesses and on employment.
And you can also rest assured that, no matter how much turmoil there is in Europe, we will preserve the value of pensions, as this is what we’ve agreed with seniors. But do we have enough financial room for manoeuvre, and will this be enough on its own – especially as European national economies are about to dive headlong into an economic world order with technology based on digitalisation and artificial intelligence?
In plain Hungarian, we will have to simultaneously preserve jobs and modernise them. Furthermore, today Europe is at a disadvantage compared with the other giants. In the US and China there is higher growth, lower unemployment, and they’re spending more on the growth-generating areas of innovation and defence. By contrast, Europe has been unable to muster military capabilities, tech giants with the ability to shape the future, or a civilisational mission. The other great powers understand that, whether we like it or not, competition in the world is unceasing. Europe appears to want to drop out of the competition, however. It also wants to restrict competition within the EU in the fields of taxation, employment and services.
Sometimes I have the feeling that people in the West have learned nothing from our history, and fail to understand that socialism destroys nations. If we don’t want Europe to be swept aside, we will have to create cooperation among EU Member States, so that – in competition with one another – they can bring out the best in themselves. If Hungary, the Hungarian system of taxation, the Hungarian social system and the Hungarian labour market were regulated within the economic order of a United States of Europe – as the opposition here at home proposes – then our economic growth would also come to a halt. Our economic structure would become rigid, and instead of integration and growth we would enter a period in which we were treading water. Dear friends, this is why we must also be cautious in the matter of joining the eurozone. I advise that we do not board a train to an unknown destination.
Ladies and gentlemen, that was the bad news. It was more than we would have liked. Finally, it’s good news that 2019 was a busy year of campaigns and elections, which has come to an end. We have finished campaigning for another two years. Both 2020 and 2021 will be about governance and the continuing work of country-building.
I know that there are some who find this less interesting, and are far more interested in the 2022 election struggle. They are already asking me about our election tactics for 2022. That’s a long way off! Today all we can say is that we’ll heed the advice of one of my favourite political philosophers, a certain Muhammad Ali: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” I can tell you that we’re doing well at stinging, and while not all the preconditions for floating are in place yet, they will be by the beginning of the campaign. We’re not burying our heads in the sand, as we can see that the opposition is already making its preparations.
All life that grows, crawls and hops in field and hedgerow is welcome on their team, just as long as they can clamber back into power. They’re already trying on their uniforms, but the results are jarring. There are some fairly avant-garde ensembles: Nazi-style Arrow Cross jodhpurs, together with red waistcoats sporting rainbow-coloured badges. This reminds me of what the Szekler peasant said when he saw a tortoise for the first time: “Either this is something, or it’s going somewhere.”
In politics the best way to find out in what direction people are going is to look at the programmes of the parties. But here again with the opposition this isn’t easy to determine. It’s like the newly-wed couple, when, as the wife is serving dinner, she says “The only dishes I can cook are poppy-seed pasta and chicken stew.” Her husband asks, “And which one is this?” So, Ladies and Gentlemen, this is where we stand with our opponents, two years before the election.
But let’s now concentrate on Hungary. The achievements are those of the nation, the responsibilities are those of the Government. It is an old wisdom that if the nation does well, it should receive all the praise and glory; if it doesn’t do well, it is because it has been governed badly. Now our duty is to prepare the nation for the trials we face in the years ahead. We must not find ourselves with an empty pantry, and without reserves of dry gunpowder. There is no need to be afraid: if anyone knows all too well that challenges, tests and decisive trials are all part of a nation’s life, the Hungarians know it.
The only thing we can ask – and which we do ask – is for Hungarians to live and flourish in prosperity and security in their own homeland, which they deserve in return for their work and sacrifices and those of their ancestors. Let’s not be bashful: let’s say loud and clear that over the past one hundred years our forebears made great sacrifices, and that over the past ten years we, too, have worked hard. We have always given more to the world than we have received from it. Hungary deserves to be successful. Let us show everyone that those who dig traps for the Hungarians will fall into their own traps.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have fought and won many great battles. Those ahead of us will be no easier. Many of us believe that to be still standing here after such a century of history is proof that God has plans for this country. With all due humility, we can only say that we stand ready for the call, and we are ready for the journey into the next one hundred years. Hungary before all else, God above us all!
Go for it Hungary, go for it Hungarians!
Translation produced by the Hungarian government