The European Union cannot afford to build a future based on immigrants instead of families, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in his opening address to the Budapest Demography Forum. Communities should be sustainable without using external sources, Orbán said, adding that “those that expect help from others will sooner or later pay a price”. Migrants “flooding Europe” will not resolve the continent’s economic or demographic problems overnight, he insisted.
Even though Europe was “the most ageing continent”, families are not sufficiently in the focus of European policies because that subject is “not PC”, Orbán said. “We want to restore families to the focus of European politics,” Orbán said, warning that “Europe’s civilisation and culture are at stake”. One crucial question revolves around who will be Europe’s inhabitants in the future, Orbán said. “It would be worthwhile talking about that seriously; still, some other subjects get a lot more time, focus, energy and money,” Orbán said, mentioning disputes around gender and gay marriages, for example.
Those subjects are “nice” and “important” but of secondary importance, he said, insisting that they would not contribute to resolving Europe’s economic or social problems. The Hungarian government is going to great lengths to make it clear that supporting families does not equal curbing freedoms; “that conflation is a cunning trick which must be revealed so that we can honestly support the family and our values,” Orbán said. The majority of Hungarians think that children are a blessing for the family and society, Orbán said, arguing that “there is no future without children and no security for the elderly”.
The government is family-friendly only in its rhetoric while its actual policies are out of date and archaic, opposition Együtt (Together) party lawmaker Zsuzsanna Szelényi said in response to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech. Left-wing Együtt believes that families can only be strengthened through a change in perceptions. Countries where male and female roles are more balanced are more successful and more children are born there, she said. Szelényi mentioned that it was important to take steps against violence in families, too.
The green opposition LMP party said Fidesz’s economic and family policies were unfit to turn demographic trends around and to keep Hungarian families in the country. The party’s co-leader Bernadett Szél said that policies in the past few years have failed to provide opportunities to balance work and family in Hungary. The government continues to ignore the problem of emigration, while 6-8% of women at childbearing age are already living abroad, she said.
Hungary’s family-friendly policies can serve as a model for the rest of the European Union, Ildikó Pelcz Gáll, an MEP for ruling Fidesz party, said at the forum. She said while some saw migration as the solution to the demographic crisis, Hungary believed in strengthening families as a way of preventing Europe’s ageing.
A message from Pope Francis to the Budapest Demography Forum was conveyed by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family. He said the Pope expressed solidarity towards participants of the forum and urged them to think about how families can be supported, especially as regards the challenges faced by young people when they want to start a family or are already raising children. Although family is very important in life and is in the centre of human development, it is in decline in Europe and currently this is the biggest problem, Paglia said, conveying the Pope’s message.
via hungarymatters.hu and MTI photos: Szilárd Koszticsák – MTI