Xpat Opinion: PM Orbán In Berlin: ‘Hungary Too Has Something To Offer The Future Of Europe’

  • 13 May 2014 9:00 AM
Xpat Opinion: PM Orbán In Berlin: ‘Hungary Too Has Something To Offer The Future Of Europe’
Yesterday in Berlin, Prime Minister Orbán delivered a speech that laid out his vision of a Hungary renewed, a Central Europe that plays a driving force for growth in Europe, and important challenges that confront the European Continent.

“We expect the West to accept that what we represent is not something absurd, unorthodox,” the prime minister said, referring to the way that his government’s approaches have sometimes been labelled, “but [what we represent is] the idea of Central Europe.”

The economic crisis of 2008 required a departure from simply “copying” the West and has required a deep renewal of the country, new approaches that are now showing results. “The rhetoric of reform is popular political rhetoric in the European Union and structural reform is a popular expression,” the prime minister said. “But what has happened in Hungary is much more than this. Renewal means much more.”

In the address, delivered at the Europa Forum Conference of Germany’s public broadcaster, WDR, Prime Minister Orbán described the project of Hungary’s renewal, from a new constitution to a new labour code and new economic policies and asserted that these approaches make a serious contribution to confronting the challenges facing the future of Europe.

On those challenges, Prime Minister Orbán spoke of the need for member states to stop living “off someone else’s money,” to decrease the level of sovereign debt and not allow the deficit to exceed limits. This is why the new constitution includes a debt ceiling and a limit on government deficits.

The prime minister further called for the promotion of the dignity of work as a better alternative to the welfare state, a return to a Europe of nation states affirming the Christian heritage and culture of Europe, and an affirmation of values and policies that support marriage and family to address the demographic crisis. “History has proven that civilisations that are not capable of biologically preserving themselves are destined to disappear,” he said. “Our civilisation, Europe is not capable of this today.”

He repeated his assertion that energy prices in Europe must come down or Europe will never be able to compete in the global market.

Prime Minister Orbán went on to emphasize that the parliamentary elections in Hungary on April 6th were a victory for the Europe of the centre, holding at bay the radical left and right. In the changing tides of politics, he said, Hungary has maintained its stability.

“I am not saying that it is worthwhile for others to follow what Central Europe, more specifically, Hungary is doing,” Prime Minister Orbán concluded. “ I do not dare say or go as far as to say this, but what I do say that it is worth looking into what is happening in Central Europe and Hungary and accepting that Central Europe has serious recommendations worth contemplating as regards the future of Europe.”

Read the English translation of the entire text of Prime Minister Orbán’s speech below.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Speech at the Europe Forum Conference

Berlin, 8 May 2014

Good Day, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Elections have been held in Hungary, as an outcome of which I am now an MP in the seventh parliamentary cycle. I have been in parliament for 24 years - 18 in opposition and eight in government as Prime Minister. This also justifies Churchill’s saying that “politics is more dangerous than war, for in war you are only killed once”. Moreover, I have been an anti-communist for a good half a century, engaging in university and intellectual resistance movements. So, this 30 years experience empowers me to accept your kind invitation and even dare to speak about such a serious topic.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Above-all, we thank the West for Hungary’s accession to the EU ten years ago, that the West recognised its political responsibility and backed the joining of the post-communist Central European nations to the free world. We thank you for showing solidarity, and especially thank the German people, the leaders of the German people and personally Helmut Kohl.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Time has proven that the accession of the Central European countries to Europe is a common story of success. Central Europe is not at the periphery today, is no longer Europe in between, but one of the successful and rightfully appreciated regions of Europe that contributes to making Europe a success through its own performance. I believe that the time has almost come for Central Europe to truly be the middle of Europe and evolve into the motor driving the impetus of European economic growth.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

We too had to do our homework to be able to take advantage of this historical opportunity. After the collapse of communism, people were generally convinced that simply copying Western politics will resolve every problem. The fact that we have been liberated from the forces of copying Soviet-type solutions made it possible to begin to follow Western examples. It seemed that all we have to do to reach our goal, that is, freedom, as well as well-being characteristic of the Western world, is copy Western solutions.

Back in the early nineties, when the second period of following examples began, i.e., preparations for EU membership, it seemed that this is how the world works – the best thing for Central Europe is to copy the West that was torn away from us after the Second World War and spared by communism. To follow and adapt – this is the task of the political leadership in Central Europe.

This idea not only seemed natural in Central Europe, but Western Europe as well, which is why this did not seem absurd to those that talked about new Europe in respect of Central Europe, however, old Europe in respect of Europe spared from communism, whereas several states in Central Europe look back onto a European history of over one thousand years.

Then, ladies and gentlemen, everything changed all of a sudden. The economic crisis of 2008 struck. Hungary was the first country to financially collapse in 2008. We learnt that financial and economic system built by copying did not bear the load in our case. We saw how the Euro zone was also shaken and day after day see that the slice of the European economy in the global economy and global trade is smaller and it has less influence on world politics and trade.

After 2008, we had to rely on our own genius, energy and courage in Central Europe to find our own responses to the crisis. Hungary was fortunate, because the political mandate established as an outcome of the 2010 general election enabled us to come up with our own solutions and pull our country out of the economic quagmire with our own solutions. It is now also evident that this works. What I can tell you today is that we have renewed Hungary over the past few years, which has strengthened.

The rhetoric of reform is popular political rhetoric in the European Union and structural reform is a popular expression. But what has happened in Hungary is much more than this. Renewal means much more – it means a new constitution, new civil code, new criminal code, new labour code, as well as new economic policy.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have stepped into a new era thanks to the major transformations and efforts made over the past four years. Central Europe has the strength and self-confidence to set its own grand goals. We have the self-confidence, and we also have results to prove that, beyond copying, we dare to come up with our own suggestions in connection with the future of the whole of Europe. Ten years ago we asked the West to help and support the re-accession of Central Europe to Europe and the unification of Europe.

Today, we expect Europe to accept that Central Europe does not simply issue opinions about proposals elaborated in the West of Europe. Central Europe and, therefore, Hungary too has a something to offer to the whole of Europe. We expect the West to accept that what we represent is not something absurd, unorthodox, but the idea of Central Europe, which results and performance will rate, just the way it is with other ideas.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are preparing for the European elections. This is a time to face reality. In reality, Europe is full of woes. Leaders are worried about the new, extremist political forces, voters are worried about the lack of capacity of European leadership and both are worried about Europe’s diminishing influence on the global economy and politics and the consequences of this. A real earthquake map unfolds if we look at European politics. The way I conceive my task today is that, as one of the seismologists of the political community, I have to pose the question: where and why are these political tremors posing a threat?

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

There are few major problems worthwhile clarifying. I have to say that these are sensitive issues, which is why raising these is politically risky. Consultants generally usually don’t suggest raising these issues. However, I am convinced that we have no chance of identifying the real menaces, find a response to these that benefits the European Union and for the European Union to prevent the risk of an earthquake striking because of these unless we engage in open discourse. This is why we, i.e., those that belong in Central Europe, Hungary and as a political community have to raise these issues.

The first of these also defines the future of the European Union, which goes that here in Europe we cannot afford to live off someone else’s money, we sooner or later have to earn, work for and pay back every single Euro spent. This is why every member state needs to do their homework and none of the member states should hope to resolve its own economic problems with someone else’s money. This is exactly why Hungary paid back the IMF loan requested to avert the financial crisis before the deadline. This is also why we introduced a debt ceiling in the constitution, decreased the level of sovereign debt, do now allow the deficit rate to exceed the European Union limit, which in any case is prohibited by the constitution.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

The second issue that Europe has to face is that of demography. Tensions and fears indicate that mass immigration is not the solution to Europe’s demographic problems. History has proven that civilisations that are not capable of biologically preserving themselves are destined to disappear. Our civilisation, Europe is not capable of this today. However, mass immigration, which many propose as a remedy, creates tensions that only lead to more conflict and pose the threat of a political earthquake due to cultural, religious and lifestyle differences. Common sense dictates that Europe will prefer dealing with its demographic problems in the future in a natural way, by respecting and rewarding child-bearng and the family. This is why we introduced the family tax scheme in Hungary.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Most people in Europe continue to bond to the nation and bond most strongly to the nation in a political sense. Moreover, Central Europe’s accession to the EU has only reinforced this feeling, since proud states with a vibrant national sentiment joined the EU. This is why no-one can take national identity away in the name of Europeanness, nor can they take the feeling of national pride and devotion away from nations. This is why I am convinced that European politics needs to show more respect to nations in the future. This is a natural human need. National sentiment does not weaken, but rather strengthens a Europe comprised of nations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The way in which Christian origins, traditions and outlook upon life is not sufficiently acknowledged in the institutions of the European Union still hurts millions of European people to this day. Christianity is not only a religion, but is also a culture on which we have built a whole civilisation. This is not a choice, but a fact. If people feel that European politics is fighting against their own origins and are ashamed to admit that we are really a Christian continent, this will only alienate more people from the European Union. This is why the European Union needs to show greater respect for Christian culture in the future and why we need to provide more protection to Christian communities outside Europe in the context of the common European foreign and security policy.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

The next issue is the most difficult one, namely, families and the relationship between men and women. There are many of us in Europe that adhere to the Christian concept of the family. We are not saying that other forms of co-habitation are not possible; however, we have to say that in Christian Europe the family is the union between a man and a woman. The majority of people in Europe respect the family and do not want to accept the relativisation, expansion of the concept of family, which I too support, which, as such, diminishes in significance and is even mocked at times. This is also why we endorsed a special law on the protection of families in Hungary.

And finally, dear ladies and gentlemen, common sense suggests that Europe can only cope and move forward through work. This is why Europe needs to support employment, instead of unemployment. What I see is that the majority of people in Europe accept that work is needed instead of benefits. To achieve this, we need to give back dignity to manual labour.

Hungary and Europe will be strong if everyone that is capable of and wants to work has a job. If the private sector is not capable of giving everyone a job, which is currently the case in Europe, the state needs to step in, play a rational role and strive to realise full employment. This is what we call a society based on work in Hungary. We reduced the period during which unemployment benefits are paid from nine months to three months, and instead of providing benefits, the state attempts to offer everyone employment, which we will truly manage to perhaps next year. This is what we call the workfare state.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Finally, an economic consideration. The European economy is facing serious competition risks. We are losing in every competition factor in the United States of America and in most factors in Asia, whether this be the price of labour, labour flexibility, the price of energy, access to cheap financing, regulatory stability or the environment created for start-ups. From among these, the price of energy is, in my view, the most pertinent issue from the perspective of the future of Europe.

The system that functions today is doomed. In my opinion, energy prices need to be radically decreased in Europe of the future. I am also convinced that every other, otherwise important issue, is only secondary to decreasing energy prices. We are losing our competitiveness at such a pace that we need to focus on price reduction without neglecting other regulatory issues, however pushing these back in the order of priorities.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

We in Hungary have developed policies based on the principles I have espoused and what we have recognised. This policy approach is without doubt innovative and generates discourse. However, what in my view is an achievement is that it has not only generated economic results, but has also brought political success. The European centre won the general election held in Hungary a month ago by a landslide. In Hungary, it is not the radical, neither left nor right, but the centre that has been given the mandate to continue. Naturally, there are also radical parties in Hungary, both left and right-wing, but it is nevertheless the centre that has a two-third majority in parliament in Hungary.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

We know that tide changes. This is why in politics the question is never how high the tide, the tide of radicals is, but how high the dikes are. In Hungary, politics building on European cooperation, human dignity and common sense has built high dikes, which is why Hungary is stable.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am not saying that it is worthwhile for others to follow what Central Europe, more specifically, Hungary is doing, I do not dare say or go as far as to say this, but what I do say that it is worth looking into what is happening in Central Europe and Hungary and accepting that Central Europe has serious recommendations worth contemplating as regards the future of Europe.

Thank you for your kind attention!

By Ferenc Kumin

Source: A Blog About Hungary

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