In the following, we publish the unabridged English text of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech, delivered at the 25th Bálványos Summer University and Student Camp at Băile Tuşnad (Hungarian: Tusnádfürdő) in Romania’s Hungarian-populated Szekler Land region on 25 July 2015.
Our brief summary of the speech can be found here.
Allow me to welcome attendees at the open university camp. I am glad to have the opportunity to be reunited with Bishop László Tőkés, I am pleased to see dozens of my old fellow combatants, and I particularly welcome the Szekler flags I can see. Thank you all for coming. Following my success last year in causing uproar (provoked by my presentation on the end of the era of liberal democracies and the advent of illiberal democracy), this year my task is not an easy one: the bar has been set too high. Having searched through every available dictionary on political philosophy, I drew a blank: I could find nothing that representatives of today’s western ideological mainstream could find sufficiently offensive compared with last year. And now Bishop Tőkés has just said that at times he finds it hard to keep track, and warned us that we should not overdo the Brazilian-style on-the-ball tricks, because we might trip over our own feet.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A year ago I said that we are living in times when anything can happen, and this is still true today. Who would have thought that Europe would be unable to protect its own borders, even against unarmed refugees? Who would have thought that things would get to the point at which, for instance, the head of the Islamic community in France would publicly suggest that the French State could hand over redundant Christian churches, because there is a demand for them to be converted into mosques? Who would have thought that the United States was tapping the telephone conversations of German political leaders? This has finally been revealed, and it is not the end of the world. And who would have thought that we Europeans would act as if nothing had happened, and amicably continue free trade talks with a counterpart who probably knows our negotiating positions before we do ourselves? And furthermore, who would have thought that the Americans would deploy weapons in Central Europe, and the Hungarian parliament would find itself pondering the thorny question of whether or not Hungary should sign up to this? And who – other than us – would have thought that by the end of 2014 Hungary would be the second-fastest developing country in the entire European Union?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The uncertainty of the future may even prompt us to consider the nature of the future in a political context – or more precisely, the nature of being able to understand the future. We tend to conceive of the future – or, to be more exact, knowledge of the future – as if we were a captain navigating our ship into the unknown: we are at the prow, with telescope in hand, scanning the horizon for unknown shores. Those with the sharpest eyesight or the most powerful telescope will be first – the first to possess knowledge of the future. It is as if the future stood before us, out there in the unknown, like an undiscovered continent which existed in the real world and was waiting for our approach. But, dear friends, the nature of the future is completely different from this. Its most important characteristic is that it is not fully-formed; indeed, it does not exist at all, and will only occur hereafter. Therefore, there is no point in straining our eyes to see the future. It is better to think of the future as if we were rowers in a race, sitting with our backs to the bow. Like rowers, we can only see what is already behind us, and that which happens to come within our field of vision. We must direct the bow of the boat towards the future, and as the shore unfolds before our eyes, we must deduce the future from that which we already know. In other words, in thinking about the future we are not competing to looking far ahead of us, but rather competing to understand the past. The winners will be those who can better understand the past, and who can come to the right conclusions more swiftly and more courageously. This is the starting-point of political leadership and planning.
This is good news, because to understand we need intelligence – we need brains – and across the world nothing has been as intelligently distributed: everyone is convinced that they have a little more of it than others do. If we think about the future of the European Union, and our own future within it, we should first examine the past of the European Union. Despite all our sharply critical remarks, we must point out that the European Union is in itself a great success: in terms of peace, development and welfare. It is nevertheless true that up until 1990, the peace that had endured since World War II was not due to us Europeans, but to the Americans and the Russians, who decided on the affairs of Europe for us; there is no doubt, however, that since 1990 the success we have achieved has been our own success. Whatever problems may weigh on our minds now, this fact cannot be negated – even by events since 2008.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At times there are phenomena which enable us to understand a given era, and which encapsulate its essence. In our lifetimes, modern mass migration is just such a phenomenon. Looking through this window, we can see the whole world. It is by this that the world is framed, and it is through this that we can understand where we are and what awaits us.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let us speak plainly: the intensification of modern-day mass migration is a consequence of political processes. The countries of North Africa once functioned as a defence zone protecting Europe, absorbing the masses of people coming from Africa’s interior. And the real threat is not from the war zones, Ladies and Gentlemen, but from the heart of Africa. With the disintegration of North African states this line of defence has been spectacularly breached, and North Africa is no longer able to protect Europe from a vast flood of people. As a result, a problem has developed on a truly unimaginable scale. I agree with former President Sarkozy, who said on French television just the other day that the current wave of mass migration is only the beginning. There are one point one billion people in Africa today, more than half of them under the age of twenty-five. According to Mr. Sarkozy, before long hundreds of millions of people will have nowhere to live, and insufficient food and water. Following in the footsteps of today’s migrants, these people will leave their homelands. In other words, what is at stake today is Europe and the European way of life, the survival or extinction of European values and nations – or, to be more precise, their transformation beyond all recognition. The question now is not merely what kind of Europe we Hungarians would like to live in, but whether Europe as we now know it will survive at all. Our answer is clear: we would like Europe to remain the continent of Europeans. This is what we would like. We only say “we would like this”, because this also depends on what others want. But there is also something which we not only would like, but which we want. We can say we want it, because it depends only on us: we want to preserve Hungary as a Hungarian country. It is important to point this out over and over again, although this may appear a cliché in our circles. Yet we must point this out over and over again because there are some who think otherwise. However incredible it might be, and however difficult it might be for us to acknowledge it with the intellectual and spiritual reserves at our disposal, there are indeed some who think otherwise.
The European left, dear friends, do not see immigration as a source of danger, but as an opportunity. The left has always looked upon nations and national identity with suspicion. They believe (and take note of their choice of words) that the escalation of immigration may fatally weaken – indeed eliminate – national borders, and in historical terms this would also constitute the attainment of the left’s as yet unimaginable long-term goal. Although this may sound absurd at first, if we focus in on Hungary, it is likewise perhaps no coincidence that in 2004 the Hungarian left incited animosity against Hungarians in neighbouring countries, while today they are ready to welcome illegal immigrants, whom they would greet with open arms. Quite simply these people, these politicians, do not like the Hungarian people – and they do not like them because they are Hungarians. Similarly, a fair number of centres of financial and political power in Brussels also have a vested interest in erasing national structures, and eliminating national identities. Just imagine, Ladies and Gentlemen, what would have become of Hungary if the left had had the chance to form a government in 2014. It is a shocking thought, but let us just imagine it for a second: within a year or two, we would not have been able to recognise our own country; we would be like a refugee camp, a kind of Central European Marseille.
We know that meeting a bear in the woods is no laughing matter – and neither is a parliamentary election.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Here must note that the upsurge of migration is also related to the fact that some people see the West’s human rights fundamentalism as an invitation, regardless of the reasons they have for wanting to leave their countries. Because naturally there are genuine refugees, but there are many more who are merely seeking to enjoy the benefits of the European lifestyle. As this many people would never be able to enter the territory of the European Union legally, more and more of them are accepting the risks associated with illegal immigration – and more will do so in the future. And as the European Union only has principles, but no genuine sovereignty (for example, it has no border guards), it does not know how to handle this new situation. Brussels is unable to protect the people of Europe from the flood of illegal immigrants; in the words of a former German finance minister, “The problem with Europe is that it keeps kicking a can up a hill, and is surprised to find that it keeps rolling back”. The European Union started out as an economic alliance, and later also became a political alliance; today it needs to act as a sovereign power, but in order to do so it needs to further reduce national sovereignty. As the old Budapest joke has it: at first they set off in the right direction, but they couldn’t keep to it; then they set off in the wrong direction, but this time they kept to it perfectly.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The mission of the European Union led to genuine long-term solutions to genuine problems: peace instead of war, a common market instead of separate markets, inclusion for the poor instead of exclusion. The European Union was pragmatic, and also relatively flexible; hence its unique organisational solutions. But it is obvious that something has gone wrong, and Europe has become an ideology instead of genuine solutions. Europe no longer concentrates on the problem, but merely considers whether a given solution weakens or reinforces its own closed system of ideologies. Europe has become an ideological obsession; if something is reasonable and successful but strengthens the sovereignty of a nation state, it is to be discarded – indeed, it is seen as an enemy, and the more successful it is, the more dangerous. This is the essence of the Hungarian story.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
What we Hungarians do is successful, beyond doubt, but it is not in accord with Brussels’ ideological concepts; in other words, it does not weaken Hungarian national and state sovereignty, but reinforces them – and from this point of view it is to be condemned. This is why the European Union is unable to resolve the crisis in Greece, which is a practical problem calling for a practical solution.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We Hungarians have a vested interest in a strong European Union, and take the view that successful solutions make Europe strong. European mainstream political and intellectual forces believe that Europe will be strong if it is somehow forged into a United States of Europe. Looking at our continent from this perspective, we Hungarians are Europe’s Gaullists. The fact that there are no individual bodies of separate nationhood within the United States is a function of its nature, rather than its structure. Therefore we must not imitate this aspect. By contrast, the nature of Europe resides in the fact that it is composed of nations; in other words, attempting to create a United States of Europe is a crazy idea. America is not made great by the fact that there are no nations within it; America is made great by the fact that it is able to come up with successful solutions. Therefore, if the European Union wants to be successful, it must find its own viable solutions. Whether it will be able to do this in the future, we do not know; but we do know that it has fallen short of this since 2008, ever since the beginning of the economic crisis. Since 2008 people have formed the impression that the European Union is doing the same thing over and over again, yet every time expecting a different outcome.
Many of you may perhaps remember that the first country needing a rescue package after the 2008 crisis was not Greece, but Hungary. Yet since 2010 we have succeeded in reducing the debt to GDP ratio, making Hungary one of the few Member States where this has happened. If we want to evaluate and appreciate the efforts of the Hungarian people on their merits, we should cast a glance at Greece. We are proud to have repaid our debt to the IMF ahead of schedule, and only a small tranche of European Union aid remains to be repaid, which we will do when it falls due at the beginning of 2016. Remember that Hungary never requested any debt relief or rescheduling. Some may see this as a weakness, while to others it is a virtue; I belong to the latter group. And all this has happened against a background of growth in Hungary’s GDP which has been outstanding in comparison with other Member States. It is something rare in the history of the Hungarian economy, my dear friends – and nothing short of unique in recent decades – that the economy’s external and internal balance indicators are improving in tandem, and the economy is also growing at the same time. Meanwhile we have succeeded in correcting two earlier errors: we have done away with retail foreign currency loans, and thus prevented a financial collapse; at the same time, we have succeeded in renationalising a number of previously privatised strategic assets which constitute a core element of Hungary’s national sovereignty.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
When I said that illegal immigration is like “the ocean in a drop” – in that it encapsulates the whole world – I was also referring to the fact that from it we can deduce the most important tasks facing us in the years ahead. We must now talk about four issues which will become priorities throughout Europe in the period to come, and which will constitute the bulk of our tasks here in Hungary.
The first such question is the problem of national identity. Thirty years ago, many Europeans saw the answer to European social problems in so-called multiculturalism. In our circles I do not need to spell out the difference between “multi-ethnic” and “multi-cultural”. Today, however, increasing numbers of people see multiculturalism not as a solution to problems, but as the cause of them. Over the past thirty years several European countries have decided to welcome masses of people coming from places with different civilisational roots. I do not believe we should pass judgement on this experiment; in fact I think we should not even allow ourselves to state our view on the outcome of this experiment. All we can say – but we have to say it firmly, having seen the results elsewhere – is that we do not want to repeat this experiment on our country; this is something that we have the right to say.
Another question that we must tackle openly and plainly is that there is a clear correlation between the illegal immigrants who are flooding into Europe and the spread of terrorism. Interestingly, this is obvious in English-speaking countries, but many others deny it. Only recently, a senior public security official from the United States pointed out in Hungary that the correlation between these two factors is clear. It is undeniable that we are simply incapable of screening out terrorists from such an enormous mass of people. Ladies and Gentlemen, we must agree with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who says that we shall not be able to resolve this crisis unless we stop these people right at the outset, when they are about to leave their own countries
The third problem which we shall have to cope with – after multiculturalism and terrorism – is a problem which is economic in nature. Western experience shows that illegal immigrants contribute to rising unemployment. This fact has become particularly obvious in the period since 2008, when the European Union has been struggling with an ongoing economic crisis, and when for most European countries (because not every country is Germany), this high rate of unemployment represents one of the main sources of tension. The arrival of new waves of people in countries with already high unemployment rates results in even higher unemployment. This is as simple as one plus one equalling two.
And finally let us also mention a subject upon which political correctness in Europe has enforced a guilt-ridden silence. According to police statistics in western countries, those states with large numbers of illegal immigrants experience dramatic increases in crime, with a proportionate decrease in public safety. Let me cite a few examples as food for thought. According to UN statistics – not statistics from the Hungarian government, but from the United Nations – Sweden is second only to the southern African state of Lesotho in terms of figures for rape. According to a 2013 British parliamentary report, the number of Muslims in British prisons has tripled over the last fifteen years. In Italy, one quarter of crimes in 2012 were committed by immigrants. And the list goes on.
In summary therefore, Ladies and Gentlemen, we can say that illegal immigration is equally a threat to Hungary and to Europe. It is a threat to our common values and to our culture, and even to our diversity. It is a threat to the security of European people – a threat which undermines our ability to cement our economic achievements. For as long as it was able, Hungary attempted to enact measures which took full account of its neighbours’ interests. Hungary has found itself in a trap, however, as not only must we reckon with ever more waves of mass migration from the south, but countries west of us have expressed the intention to return to Hungary those people who have already passed through our country, after previously entering it illegally. We are therefore under pressure from both the south and the west. The truth is that we are unable to endure this.
The question of mass migration is a question of common sense and morals, a question both of the heart and the mind; as such, it is a question which is extremely complex and profound, and one which provokes strong emotions. Societal questions like this can only be tackled if we identify points on which we can all agree as a community. This was the purpose of the Hungarian national consultation on immigration, the official outcome of which I would now like to share with you. As part of the national consultation, by 21 July one million two hundred and fifty-four completed questionnaires were received. We sent out eight million questionnaires, and more than one million have been completed and sent back to us.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
From these completed questionnaires we may conclude the following. More than two-thirds of Hungarians see the issue of the spread of terrorism as relevant to their own lives. Three-quarters of them believe that illegal immigrants are a threat to the jobs and livelihoods of Hungarians. Four-fifths of Hungarians think that the Brussels’ policy on immigration and terrorism has failed, and that we therefore need a new approach and more stringent regulations. In contrast to Brussels’ lenient policy, four-fifths of Hungarians encourage the Government to adopt stricter regulations to curb illegal immigration: regulations allowing us to detain people who have illegally crossed Hungarian borders, and to deport them within the shortest possible time. And according to eighty per cent of those who completed the questionnaire, illegal immigrants should cover the costs of providing for them during their time in Hungary. Tough words, a firm stance – but this is the Hungarian stance. And finally, the most important response, which takes precedence over all others so far, is that the overwhelming majority of Hungarians – ninety-five per cent of those who completed the questionnaire – think that we must focus support on Hungarian families and the children they can have, rather than on immigration. We can clearly see that the Hungarian people have not lost their common sense. The results of the consultation therefore show that Hungarians do not want illegal immigrants, and do not share the intellectual derangement of the European left. Hungary has decided, and this is how the Hungarian people have decided. This means that we want to remain a safe and stable country, a united and balanced nation in the uncertain world which surrounds us. Because though I may be right in saying that in the world today anything can happen, I am perhaps not wrong in believing that, in contrast to this, none of us want Hungary to be a country in which anything can happen.
Thank you for your attention.
photo: MTI/Szilárd Koszticsák (L – PM Viktor Orbán; R – former Reformed bishop László Tőkés, hero of the 1989 Romanian Revolution)