Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has given his annual state of the nation address in Budapest on Saturday afternoon. He mostly focused on Hungary’s stance towards the war in Ukraine and the economic downturn that he attributes to EU sanctions. However, he also addressed the issue of a recent scandal, calling for the toughest child-protection legislation possible.
Help for Earthquake Victims
He started his speech by thanking rescue teams that traveled to Turkey and Syria to help the victims of recent earthquakes. He said that “we Hungarians can be counted on”, and pointed out that our rescue teams have saved 35 people from the rubble. “Thank you for your sacrificial work”, Orbán told members of the rescue teams present in the conference hall.
According to the Prime Minister, the most important question for the future is whether the changes that we are experiencing here in European will bring or take away the Hungarians’ zest for life. Viktor Orbán said that the success of 2023 will depend on whether these changes inspire or depress us. “We Hungarians do not want to live in a world of such disarray”, he remarked. He explained that his government has overcome foreign currency loans, bad-tempered envy and idolizing the West. We had just begun to believe that there was room under the sun for every Hungarian, that children were not a burden but a joy, he pointed out.
In his annual speech, the Prime Minister also said that an extra one million people have gone to work, the Hungarian economy has tripled. With courage that defied Brussels, we have reorganized the Hungarian state and built a new Hungarian economy, he said.
The Prime Minister stressed that it had been an arduous ten years, but it had been worth it and the efforts were worthwhile. “That is why we won two thirds of the votes in the parliamentary elections, even though the entire left united against us”, he said. He also referred to US billionaire oligarch George Soros, saying that he had pored billions of forints to the Hungarian political system in order to help left-wing parties without success. The left must understand: millions of dollars are not enough to win, he remarked. “Of course, there are always those who think we were just lucky. Well, maybe, once. But four times?” – the Prime Minister asked. “If you are always lucky, you might as well know something. For example, you love your country and are prepared to fight for it.
The left must understand that millions of dollars and powerful patrons are not enough to win. It takes heart to win, not luck – he recorded.
Photo: MTI/Koszticsák Szilárd
He stressed that national reunification, family policy, the work-based economy, help for pensioners and the protection of public finances would remain a priority. He expressed his aim to keep the banking sector, the energy sector and the media industry in Hungarian hands, and to reintegrate the telecoms and infocomms sectors. He also pointed at major investment aimed at developing the countryside and agriculture.
Dangers of war and inflation
Viktor Orbán continued by saying that if 2022 was the most difficult year, then 2023 will be the most dangerous year since the fall of communism. The Prime Minister stressed that there are two new dangers lurking ahead: war and inflation. These must be overcome. “We would like to put an end to war, but this is beyond our league. We must stay out of the Russia-Ukraine war! It will not be easy” – said the prime minister.
Can Hungary afford to remain on the side of peace in opposition to all of its current allies? Of course we can, he replied. But is it right? This is the only right thing to do, Mr Orbán said, and then he stressed that we must let the Ukrainian refugees in, which is the imperative of basic humanity. But also emphasized that in his view the clash that we are seeing is not between the armies of good and evil, but two Slavic countries that are fighting a war. “This is not our war. It would not be morally right to put the interests of Ukraine before those of Hungary”, the Prime Minister stressed.
Providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine does not mean cutting off relations with Russia, so we will not agree to sanctions that would destroy Hungary.
That is why we will maintain our economic relations with Russia, the Prime Minister stressed. It is also important not to narrow our vision and see beyond Brussels. Lives can only be saved by a ceasefire and immediate peace talks, added Viktor Orbán.
Let us not isolate ourselves from the sober-minded part of the world – he stressed. The Hungarian government does not consider it viable that Russia would threaten Hungary or Europe. He said that Russian forces are not in a position to attack NATO. He emphasized the importance of a sovereign Ukraine, but he believed that this can only be achieved through an immediate ceasefire and negotiations. Those who make mistakes by turning NATO into a war alliance instead of maintaining it as a defense alliance are usually far removed from the devastating realities of war, he opined.
But we live here and the war is in a country next door. Brusselites have not yet given their lives in this war, but Hungarians have.
– he underlined.
He also pointed out that while Hungarian symbols are being taken down in Ukraine and Hungarian leaders are being replaced as heads of our schools, many other Hungarians are dying heroic deaths on the front line. The Hungarian minority in Transcarpathia does not deserve this. More respect for the Hungarians in Mukachevo, Kiev, Brussels and Washington – the Prime Minister said.
He said that Europe is in the midst of a drift into war. In fact, it is already at indirect war with Russia. The danger of drifting into it is constant. The Prime Minister said that it did not have to happen this way, it could have happened differently. “We could have followed the solution we created in 2008, when a ceasefire was reached under President Sarkozy, and in 2014, with the help of Chancellor Merkel, we had peace instead of war. The West has now made a different choice, because it has taken the conflict to a pan-European level. What has happened is another argument in favor of a sovereign system of member states, he recalled.
The Prime Minister said that NATO membership is vital for Hungary, we are too far on the eastern edge of the Western world to to give it up. He noted that “it would be easier to go inwards”, just like Austria and Switzerland, Hungary could also play the neutrality game. But “history has not given us that luxury”.
Europe is in the throes of drifting into war, he said. It is balancing on a thin line, and is in fact already at indirect war with Russia.
If we are on a thin ice, we are in a delicate and fragile relationship with Russia. If you supply weapons, if you supply the satellites for military action if you train the soldiers of one of the warring parties, if you finance the entire machinery of the state, and you sanction the other side then no matter what you say: you are in war, albeit in an indirect one, for the time being.
The Prime Minister said: “The danger of drifting inwards has become permanent. It began with a sending some helmets, it continued with the transport of non combat equipment. Now we are sending tanks, and we have got fighter jets on the agenda and soon we will be sending “so-called peacekeeping troops”, he added. He said that he could understand “our Polish and Baltic friends'” position, as their history has much in common explains their reaction. “But the others?” he asked.
Orbán Viktor said the West could have given guarantees to Ukraine instead of the promise of NATO membership, but they did the opposite. The Prime Minister stressed: in 2008, when Russia occupied twenty percent of Georgia’s territory, French President Nicolas Sarkozy had negotiated a peace and, the conflict was localized, a ceasefire was reached. When in 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea the West, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, opted for negotiation rather than war and confrontation.
But back then there was a strong Franco-German leadership that was courageous and took timely action. And so the war was avoided and the Minsk agreement signed,
Viktor Orbán said.
EU Arming Ukraine
In his opinion, a year ago the the West decided not to isolate the conflict, but to take it to a pan-European level. It could have classified it as a local, regional war, or as a military conflict between two Slavic states, as Hungary had proposed. He said what had happened was yet another argument against a “superstate” that Brussels wants to achieve, and one for strong nation states instead. When the member states decided on peace, the “the imperial center” went to war instead – he concluded.
The prime minister called it instructive how Hungary had lost its pro-peace allies. A year ago, the camp still had the Germans, but now in a few weeks, Leopard tanks will be marching through Ukraine towards the Russian border, “perhaps they even supply their old maps,” alluding to the German invasion of Russia in World War II. He said it was hard to believe that the Germans would have changed their mind of their own, probably pointing at the pressure from Brussels and the United States. He added that now other countries see that if the Germans could not resist such external pressure, they would not be able to either, so they are also joining the rest. “That left us two, Hungary and the Vatican,” he said.
We must expect the war to become more savage and brutal, and therefore we must be prepared for the tone of the war to become harsher and more brutal. “Provocations, insults, threats and blackmail.” He said “we are long past the point of diplomatic pressure respecting sovereignty”.
The United States
He recalled that in 2014, then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent only “a good friend” to try to bring the Hungarians to their senses with anti-government protests and a few bans (a reference to André Goodfriend, former U.S. chargé d’affairs in Budapest accused of organizing ant-government protests). The Prime Minister went on to say that they had maneuvered well then, and that the relief troops in the form of Donald Trump had arrived, “fortunately not here, but in Washington”. He added that instead of a good friend, US President Joe Biden had sent “a press man” as the ambassador (US Ambassador David Pressman), to squeeze the Hungarians into the war camp at any cost.
Mr Orbán reckons that there will be elections in the US in 2024, that our “Republican friends” are preparing to return with “bulging muscles”, that democracy will show its strength in Europe, that public opinion will become increasingly pro-peace, demanding a ceasefire, peace talks, more sanity and, if necessary, new governments. He said that peace will only be achieved if the Americans and the Russians negotiate with each other.
The Hungarian government believes that further fighting will not bring victory and peace, but hundreds of thousands more deaths, a widening conflict, countries engaged in open warfare, years of war, the threat of world war, he said, suggesting that “we Hungarians should stick to peace, but the Hungarian defense minister should keep his gunpowder dry”, just in case.
He stressed that Brussels had unleashed the trouble with its sanctions on energy carriers. He stressed that sanctions have taken 4,000 billion forints (EUR 10 billion) out of Hungarian pockets in 2022. This is how much more Hungarian companies, the state and families have spent on energy in Hungary because of the sanctions.
This amount could have been spent by companies on wage increases, by the state on tax cuts or family support, and by families on buying a home or on their children, he added. Instead of help, he said, Brussels would only come up with more sanctions. “The Brussels bureaucracy has not given out their share of the European reconstruction program to Hungary or Poland. Hungary did not receive money in 2022, the most difficult year, which the member states borrowed as a joint loan, and “we Hungarians will have to pay back our share”.
He pointed out that the government had taken some two dozen measures to protect businesses and families. The average family saves 181,000 (EUR 500) forints a month through reduced prices. This is unique in Europe. He said that although the left is calling for the food price freeze to be lifted, it will remain in place until the government can bring inflation down. The interest rate freeze, which protects 350,000 families from interest rate hikes, will also remain, he said.
2022 was a year that could have broken the backbone of the Hungarian economy in two, yet in February employment is higher than ever, foreign exchange reserves are at record levels and the pressure on the forint had eased. Despite painfully high inflation, the Hungarian economy broke three records in 2022: never before have so many people worked in Hungary, never before have exports broken records, and never before has so much investment taken place in Hungary. Orbán promised to bring inflation down to single digits by the end of the year.
Viktor Orbán continued by saying that there is no excuse for pedophilia, that children are sacred and inviolable, and that it is the job of adults to protect children at all costs. He was referring to a recent scandal involving an LGBTQ activist teaching assistant, who was openly bragging about having a sexual relationship with a 15 years old child.
The Prime Minister stressed that “we are not interested in the fact that the world has gone mad, we are not interested in the disgusting fads that some people indulge in, we are not interested in the excuses and explanations Brussels gives for the inexplicable”.
This is Hungary, and this is where the strictest child protection system in Europe must be,
The Prime Minister said that the legislation is in place and the missing pieces will be found, but even the most determined government cannot succeed on its own. It will take everyone, parents, grandparents, mothers and fathers, teachers and educators, because
gender propaganda is not a jolly joke, not a rainbow of words, but the greatest threat to our children,
he said. He stated that “we want our children to be left alone, because enough is enough”, and that such things have no place in Hungary, and especially not in our schools. “We are counting on all Hungarian people of good conscience so that we can do this job together once and for all in 2023,” he said.
Featured Photo: MTI/Koszticsák Szilárd