Hungary is not inferior to any other country and wants to fight for its interests; the ruling parties will not change their politics, but do want to change the EPP – this could be the summary of the first day of the Hungary At First “Site” conference organized by the Friends Of Hungary Foundation, publisher of Hungary Today and Ungarn Heute. About a dozen foreign journalists had the opportunity to meet Hungarian political and economic decision-makers face to face and ask anything that interests them.
To have a true picture of Hungary, you should be familiar with Hungary’s history, how Hungarians live and how they think; E. Sylvester Vizi, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Friends of Hungary Foundation, explained the very meaning of the conference called Hungary At First “Site”. The chairman thinks one of the major problems in the world today is that we don’t have time to talk to one another. Therefore, the Foundation’s goal is to build a bridge between Hungary, Hungarians living abroad and people who like Hungary.
This conference is meant to provide foreign journalists an opportunity to widen their knowledge of Hungarian affairs and politics by giving them the chance to meet members of the Hungarian government and hear their thoughts and opinions on political and economic issues first-hand.
E. Sylvester Vizi, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Friends of Hungary Foundation.
Hungary is often branded the back sheep of the European Union, but this statement is simply not true, Minister of State for EU Relations, Judit Varga, said at the conference. She emphasized that both the Hungarian government and the country’s population are fully committed to the EU and want to remain in the Union. She pointed out that Hungary is in the 9th best place among EU members in regard to rule of law violations, and is in the third when it comes to reacting with speed in problematic situations.
She also thinks that the Hungarian government didn’t get fair treatment during the process and emphasized that the last minute change on the counting of the votes was not legitimate. Western criticism towards the state of democracy is only motivated by the difference in interests, since, unlike the previous “flexible” Socialist governments, Fidesz fights hard for the country’s interests, Varga added.
Hungarian, Central-European, European and Atlantist – these four words describe Hungary’s identity, according to Szabolcs Takács, Minister of State for EU Policy and Coordination. He sees two major groups within the Union: the federalists and sovereigntists. However, Europe is also divided by anti and pro-migration views.
About the current tension in the European People’s Party, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Hungarian National Assembly, Zsolt Németh said Fidesz “in no way wants to leave,” but if they are “kicked out,” they will look for other opportunities elsewhere. He emphasized that, in any case, Fidesz would never choose to sit in a faction with extremists.
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Schmidt: Western Countries Want to ‘Civilize’ Central Europe in a Colonial Fashion
Historian, university lecturer and House of Terror Museum’s general director, Mária Schmidt blamed Western countries for harboring colonialist sentiment towards Central European countries and highlighted that they arrogantly decided the faith of Central Europeans after the World Wars despite not knowing the ethnic makeup of the region or having economic common sense.
She believes that the existing conflict between EU members emerged due to this colonialist heritage. According to Schmidt, the Western European nations are ashamed and want to compensate for the suffering of the colonialist era. She insisted that because Central Europeans never went to other countries with the aim of dictating how their people should live and think, they don’t owe Western Europe anything.
Historian, university lecturer and House of Terror Museum’s general director, Mária Schmidt.
György Bakondi, Chief Advisor to the Prime Minister on internal security, is charged with border security, building fences and protecting the country from illegal migration. He thinks the most important message emerging from the current migration debates is that politics cannot ignore the will of the people anymore, and people in Central Europe have voted against mass illegal migration.
Tristan Azbej, the Deputy State Secretary for Aiding Persecuted Christians introduced Hungary Helps program highlighting that the Hungarian government is helping persecuted Christians restore their homes and churches. Additionally, the program builds community buildings in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The Hungarian state also launched a special scholarship program for young members of Christian families who have been subjected to persecution.
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Gov’t Officials: Hungary’s Economy is a Success Story
All the speakers agreed that as a consequence of the global crisis of 2008 and the poor management and irresponsibility of the left-liberal governments, Hungary found itself in a very difficult situation by 2010. In 2008, it was the first country to apply for an IMF loan while the budget deficit was high and mortgages were common among residents. In 2009, the growth of the economy stood at -6%.
When Fidesz took office in 2010, it had to “save” the country economically. However, thanks to the effective measures and disciplined economic policies, Hungary surpassed the EU28 average in GDP growth, became more prosperous and less vulnerable. Now the Visegrád region is one of the most promising in the EU economically.
In his presentation, one of the executive directors of the Central Bank of Hungary (MNB), Barnabás Virág, claimed that in answer to the triple internal crisis (structural-financial-political), the government introduced fiscal and structural reforms and an accommodative monetary policy. All of the reforms were implemented, he claimed, in a new way with several unusual measures. Virág acknowledged the division among critics but insisted the data proved that the government’s “new-fashioned” economic policy worked. As a result of the “Hungarian success” and the effective crisis management in the V4 area, “the Visegrád region avoided the Mediterranean trap and is among the fastest expanding regions in the EU again,” he concluded.
László Balogh, Deputy State Secretary of Financial Policy Affairs from the Ministry of Finance.
The Deputy State Secretary of Financial Policy Affairs from the Ministry of Finance, László Balogh, highlighted the importance of the shift from an allowance-based society to a work-based one. Accordingly, the government lowered capital-based taxes and income taxes (PIT) while raising the consumption tax (VAT). When discussing the potential challenges and the current measures supporting growth, he added that the increase of the National Wage will give momentum to the economy.
Tamás Schanda, State Secretary for European Union Development Policy from the Ministry for Innovation and Technology, told that following the 2018 elections, the Ministry for Innovation and Technology (ITM) was established and is now charged with the increase of Hungary’s adaptability, competitiveness and crisis-tolerance. The new Ministry’s four major strategic focuses are:
- the support of creative Hungarians and innovative enterprises
- fast and secure transport (Modern Villages, motorways, fats railway)
- smart, clean and affordable energy
- clean and sustainable country.
In addition, the Ministry pays special attention to the following fields: food, creative industry, health and the building sector. Digitalization is also a major focus: no SMEs will be without it in 10 years. By 2020 the Ministry wants to double the number of students studying IT, as well.
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A few days prior to the national holiday commemorating Hungary’s 1956 revolution and fight for independence, the journalists paid a visit to the House of Terror Museum on Wednesday morning to learn more about 20th-century Hungary.
On Thursday, E. Sylvester Vizi, the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Friends of Hungary Foundation, publisher of Hungary Today and Ungarn Heute, gave an interview to Kossuth Radio’s ‘Good Morning Hungary’ program. The former President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences talked about the Foundation’s second international conference entitled “Hungary At First ‘Site’” and in addition, gave insight into the work of the Foundation.
photos by Tamás Lénárd