Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Speech at the 25th Bálványos Summer Free University and Student Camp
26 July 2014, Tusnádfürdő (Băile Tuşnad), Romania
Good afternoon, everyone! Greetings to all of you!
When we last saw each other a year ago, I began my speech by saying that we are attending the last gathering here in Tusnádfürdő before the upcoming general elections in Hungary. Now, I can tell you that we are attending the first gathering here in Tusnádfürdő following the elections in Hungary, and I can tell you all the good news that we were victorious at those elections. And in fact we won twice, because in addition to the general elections there were also European Parliament elections. Perhaps everyone here is aware of the fact that we will be holding the third set of elections in Hungary this year on 12 October, the Hungarian local government elections, which are important and significant with regard to Hungarian state life.
Please allow me to begin my speech today by invoking a moment from the recent parliamentary elections that received unduly little attention. As a result of those elections, the governing civil, Christian and national powers in Hungary, meaning Fidesz and the Christian Democratic People’s Party, gained two-thirds of the seats in Parliament – by just one mandate. I remember talking to someone years ago about the fact that it would be such a noble form of revenge if the political forces who voted against the re-admittance of Hungarians living beyond our current state borders in December 2004 received their just “rewards” by suffering a defeat at the parliamentary elections such that our two-thirds majority were to come about thanks to the votes of precisely those cross-border Hungarians. I must say that it would seem that there exists some kind of moral balance in politics after all. On the one hand we often have our doubts, with good reason, but our faith is sometimes also reinforced. What happened on this occasion was that it was the votes of cross-border Hungarians and the resulting mandate that was required for Hungary’s national political forces to gain a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Thank you to everyone whom it concerns; to Providence, to the voters, to Hungary’s legislators and at such times we must also thank those who turned against us and provided an opportunity for good to win the day regardless, because after all, without evil, how could the good be victorious?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
However, what I have to say today is not related to the elections. The Chairman of today’s gathering introduced us as regime changers, and he did so while recalling the regime change. This is clear indication of the fact that the regime change is the generational experience by which we measure everything that is happening around us. This is natural to us. However, today this is more to our detriment than to our advantage. As an experience, the regime change is of course extremely valuable, because – in contrast to what people sometimes think – politics is not a speculative genre, but must be built up from facts and experiences. And the situation today is that of course this experience is a valuable one, but in the meantime there is a change going on in the world that is of similar significance to the regime change. And so the intellectual challenge that faces us is to use the regime change only as an experience and no longer as a point of reference in our debates on understanding the future and designating our path towards the future. What we should instead view as our starting point is the great redistribution of global financial, economic, commercial, political and military power that became obvious in 2008. This is the task that we should successfully perform. What helps us in this is the fact that there are people who were born later than we were. And they have found it difficult to view the regime change as a point of reference for many years now, because to someone who was born in 1985 and was five years old at the time of the regime change in 1990, for instance, it isn’t the same experience as it is for us, and so it is often not included in political discourse because they simply don’t understand the references that the older generation make to it when interpreting the present or the future. I think it would be more useful to regard the regime change as a completed historical process and a mine of experience from now on, rather than as the starting point of discussions on the future.
The starting point of discussions on the future because, if I understand correctly, our task each year it to try to somehow understand together what is happening around us, to seize its important moments and to perhaps recognise from this what will happen to us in the future. And so if this is our task, then I suggest that we remind ourselves in short about the fact that there were three great changes in the global regime during the 20th century. At the end of the First World War, at the end of the Second World War and in 1990. The joint characteristic of these, and I have perhaps already spoken to you about this here before, is that when these changes occurred it was clear to everybody from practically one day to the next that from now on they would be living in a different world from the one they had been living in until then. After the Treaty of Trianon, for instance, this was absolutely obvious here, but so too in Budapest. And similarly after World War II. When people looked around and saw occupying Soviet troops everywhere, they knew that it was the beginning of a different world. And in 1990, when we succeeded in breaking and driving out the communists, it was clear following the first Parliamentary elections that we would be living in a new world: the Berlin Wall had been toppled, we were holding free elections, and this is a whole new future.
The statement that I would like to put forward as the starting point of my speech today is that there is a change of similar value and weight going on in the world today. The manifestation of this, meaning when it became absolutely obvious, is what we describe as the 2008 financial crisis, or rather the Western financial crisis. And the significance of this change is not quite so obvious because, in contrast to the previous three, people perceive it in a different way. At the time of the great Western financial collapse in 2008, it was not clear that we would be living in a different world from now on. The change is not as acute as in the case of the first three great global regime changes, but it somehow effuses our minds at a slower pace, and just as the fog slowly settles on the landscape, we slowly grasp the knowledge that if we take a good look around and properly analyse everything that is going on around us, then this is a different world to the one in which we were living six years ago, and if we extrapolate these processes with regard to the future, which of course always entails a certain amount of risk, but is a fundamentally justified intellectual task, then it is clear that these changes will become even more forthright.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Just to illustrate the depth of these changes, I have collected a few statements and thoughts from the western world, and one or two from the East too, in no particular order, which are shocking. If one listens to these words with a pre-2008, let’s call it a liberal world view, then they come as a shock. But if one does not view them from that perspective but instead looks at how far we have come over the course of six years in public discourse, in topics of discussion and in the wording of ideas, then the statements I will be quoting help us understand the extent of the changes that are going on around the world. Just in short. In the United States, the President regularly and repeatedly talks about the fact that America has been pervaded by cynicism and that the task of the whole of American society, with the US government at the helm, is to declare war on the cynicism that stems from the financial system. Prior to 2008, saying something like that would have meant being excluded from a discussion between gentlemen. And in addition the idiosyncrasies of the financial system would have meant that such a statement could have easily backfired and made making such statements positively dangerous. In contrast, such statements regularly appear in the American press today. Or, the President of the United States says that if hard-working Americans regularly have to choose between family and career, then America will lose its place within the global economy. Or the President of the United Sates openly talks about economic patriotism. He makes statements that still result in beating and stoning on the part of the provincial Hungarian public sphere. For instance, he openly talks about the fact that large corporations who employ foreign workers should pay a fair share of taxes. Or he openly speaks about the fact that the government should primarily fund corporations who employ Americans. These are all voices, thoughts and statements that would have been unimaginable six to eight years ago. Or to go even further, according to an internationally recognised analyst, the strength of American soft power is in decline and liberal values today embody corruption, sex and violence, and as such discredit America and American modernisation. And then the Open Society Foundation published a report – this happened quite recently – in which it analyses Western Europe and makes statements such as the fact that Western Europe is so busy finding a solution to the situation of immigrants that it has forgotten about the white working class. Or the British Prime Minister says that thanks to the changes that have occurred in Europe, many people have become freeloaders on the backs of welfare systems. Or one of the richest people in America, who was one of the first investors in Amazon, claims that we are living in a society that is less and less capitalist and increasingly feudal, and if the global economic system does not change, then the middle class will disappear and, in his words, the poor will go after the rich with pitchforks. And so instead of an economic model that is built from the top going down, we need an economic model that grows from the middle. I don’t wish to explain these ideas, I simply want to quote for you the novelty of these ideas about which it would have been practically impossible to even talk a few years ago. Or also from America: the rate of unemployment among the young has increased drastically, and this means that in the case of careers that offer good salaries, the children of families who are in a good financial position have achieved an unassailable advantage. And people are saying this in the home of upwards mobility. Or to mention something else: another renowned analyst says that the internet, which the liberal world has viewed as a symbol of freedom for many years now, has been colonised by large corporations and he claims nothing less than that the biggest question currently is whether the forces of capitalism, meaning large international corporations, will succeed in doing away with the neutrality of the internet. And to go somewhat further, let me tell you about a good and unexpected development that is close to our hearts. The British Prime Minister, who usually goes out of his way to make sure that his own political movement is never classified as being Christian Democrat, stands up in public and says that a key element of the British system of values is Christianity and that despite multiculturalism, Great Britain is a Christian country at heart, and this is something that the British people should be proud of.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The question is, can the myriad of changes that are occurring all around us be properly described in the interests of understanding them; can we determine the two or three most important moments from everything that is happening around us? Of course we can, and this is something about which many people are thinking and writing today. Several books have been published on the subject. I would like to draw to your attention just one of these ideas to explain the global situation. In my opinion, the most provocative and exciting question to arise in Western social thinking during the past year can be summarised as follows, suitably simplified of course. The existing competition between the countries of the world, the competition between the world’s existing power groups and alliances, is being supplemented with a new element. Because people have always talked a lot about global competition; globalisation and the international nature of the economy has made it necessary to discuss, write about and analyse this issue a lot, and so we know practically every detail about global competition. We can determine what makes a nation, an economic interest group or a community that includes several nations such as the European Union successful within the international economy, or why it is losing its competitiveness. But according to many, and I belong to that group, this is no longer the chief issue today. It remains an important question. It will always remain an important issue while people make a living from money and the economy, and this is something that is not likely to change within the foreseeable future. But there is a more important race underway. The way I would put it is that there is a race going on to develop a state that is capable of making a nation successful.
Since the state is nothing more than a form of organising the community, which in our case sometimes coincides with the country’s borders and sometimes doesn’t, and this is something I will touch on again a little later, the determinative moment in today’s world can perhaps be described by saying that there is a race underway to find the method of community organisation, the state, which is most capable of making a nation and a community internationally competitive. This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the explanation for the fact that the most popular topic in thinking today is trying to understand how systems that are not Western, not liberal, not liberal democracies and perhaps not even democracies, can nevertheless make their nations successful. The stars of the international analysts today are Singapore, China, India, Russia and Turkey. And I think that our political community recognised and touched on this challenge correctly several years ago and perhaps also succeeded in processing it intellectually, and if I think back on what we have done over the past four years and what we will be doing during the upcoming four years, then things can indeed be interpreted from this perspective. Meaning that, while breaking with the dogmas and ideologies that have been adopted by the West and keeping ourselves independent from them, we are trying to find the form of community organisation, the new Hungarian state, which is capable of making our community competitive in the great global race for decades to come.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In order to be capable of achieving this, in 2010, and especially these days, we had to make a statement that, similarly to the statements I quoted for you earlier, was also categorised as blasphemy by the liberal world. We had to state that a democracy does not necessarily have to be liberal. Just because a state is not liberal, it can still be a democracy. And in fact we also had to and did state that societies that are built on the state organisation principle of liberal democracy will probably be incapable of maintaining their global competitiveness in the upcoming decades and will instead probably be scaled down unless they are capable of changing themselves significantly.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The fact is that if we view the events that are happening around us from this perspective, then what we usually pick as our starting point is the fact that until now we have known three forms of state organisation: the nation state, the liberal state and the welfare state. And the question is, what’s next? The Hungarian answer to this question is that the era of the work-based state is approaching. We want to organise a work-based society that, as I have just mentioned, undertakes the odium of stating that it is not liberal in character. What does all this mean?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
What this means is that we must break with liberal principles and methods of social organisation, and in general with the liberal understanding of society. I only mean this with regard to two dimensions for now, I don’t want to go into a lengthy lecture; I just want to touch on the subject so that the importance of the issue can be felt. With regard to the relationship between two people, the starting point of the liberal organisation of society is based on the idea that we have the right to do anything that does not infringe on the freedom of the other party. This is the ideological principle and starting point onto which the Hungarian world was constructed in the twenty years prior to 2010, in acceptance of the general principle in Western Europe, by the way. However, we needed twenty years here in Hungary before managing to determine the problem that although this is an extremely attractive idea, it is unclear who is going to decide the limits beyond which someone is infringing on our freedom. And since this is not automatically given, somebody must decide it. And since we have not appointed anybody to decide it, what we experienced continuously in everyday life was that the strongest decided. What we continuously experienced was that the weak were trampled over. Conflicts on the acceptance of mutual freedom are not decided according to some abstract principle of justice, but what happens instead is that the stronger party is always right. It is always the stronger neighbour who decides where the driveway will be; it is always the stronger party, the bank, who decides the interest rate on mortgages, and who changes it mid-term if needed, and I could continue on with a long list of instances that individuals and families with weaker economic defences experienced regularly during the previous twenty years. It is in reply to this that we suggest, and are attempting to construct Hungarian state life around this idea, that this should not be the principle on which society is built. This cannot be entered into law, we are talking about an intellectual starting point now. The principle around which Hungarian society is organised should not be that everything is allowed that does not infringe on the other party’s freedom, but instead should be that one should not do unto others what one does not want others to do unto you. And we are attempting to build the world that we call Hungarian society around this principle in Hungarian public thinking, within the education system and through personal example with our own behaviour. If we look at this same idea with relation to the relationship between individual and community, because we have been talking about the relationship between individual and individual until now, then we see that in the previous twenty years the Hungarian liberal democracy that had developed was incapable of implementing a good many things. I have prepared a short list of the things it was incapable of doing.
The liberal democracy was incapable of openly stating and committing the prevailing government, including through the use of its constitutional powers, to serving the interests of the nation with their work. And it in fact challenged the very idea of the existence of national interests. It did not commit the prevailing government to accepting that Hungarians living throughout the world are part of the Hungarian nation and to try and reinforce this community through its work. The liberal democracy and liberal Hungarian state did not protect community assets. We may hear the opposite these days, as if in the case of certain acquisitions, and I will return to this subject later, because the Hungarian state recently acquired a bank, the picture that seems to be portrayed by various interpretations is that the Hungarian state is increasingly incorporating assets and categorising them as public property, with which it is overstepping the usually acceptable behaviour in Europe. When in fact if we take a closer look – and the Financial Times published a detailed list of this kind not long ago – at the ratio of public assets within the member states of the European Union, then Hungary is at the very bottom of the list. The ratio of public assets is higher than here in Hungary in every single country, with the possible exception of only two. And so we can safely make the statement that the liberal democracy also proved to be incapable of protecting the community assets that are required for the self-sufficiency of the nation compared and in comparison to the other states of Europe. The liberal Hungarian state was also incapable of protecting the country from falling into debt. And finally, it did not protect the country’s families, and I mean the system of foreign currency loans in this instance. It also failed to prevent families from falling into debt slavery. Accordingly, the 2010 elections, and especially in the light of the 2014 election victory, can safely be interpreted as meaning that in the great global race that is underway to create the most competitive state, Hungary’s citizens are expecting Hungary’s leaders to find, formulate and forge a new method of Hungarian state organisation that, following the liberal state and the era of liberal democracy and while of course respecting the values of Christianity, freedom and human rights, can again make the Hungarian community competitive and which adheres to and completes the unfinished tasks and unperformed duties that I have just listed.
Well, Ladies and Gentlemen,
What is happening in Hungary today can accordingly be interpreted by stating that the prevailing political leadership has today attempted to ensure that people’s personal work and interests, which must be acknowledged, are closely linked to the life of the community and the nation, and that this relationship is preserved and reinforced. In other words, the Hungarian nation is not simply a group of individuals but a community that must be organised, reinforced and in fact constructed. And so in this sense the new state that we are constructing in Hungary is an illiberal state, a non-liberal state. It does not reject the fundamental principles of liberalism such as freedom, and I could list a few more, but it does not make this ideology the central element of state organisation, but instead includes a different, special, national approach.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
And now, I must speak about the obstacles we must overcome to make this a reality. It may easily be the case that what I say will seem evident in this company, but when all this has to be made into a political programme and work, that is far from the case. I will not list all of the obstacles, but instead only mention a few of them, or two to be precise; not necessarily the most important, but certainly the most interesting. The relationship between professional politician and non-governmental organisations. Meaning that the state must obviously be supervised and lead by someone; by the leaders who have been duly elected and given a mandate to do so. But then at the periphery of state life there always appear non-governmental organisations. Now the non-governmental world in Hungary paints a very peculiar picture. Because, in contrast to professional politicians, a civil activist or community is organised from the ground up, stands on its own feet financially and is of course voluntary. In contrast, if I look at the non-governmental world in Hungary, or at least at those organisations which are regularly in the public gaze – and the recent debate concerning the Norway grants has brought this to the surface – then what I see is that we are dealing with paid political activists. And in addition these paid political activists are political activists who are being paid by foreigners. They are activists who are being paid by specific foreign interest groups, about whom it is difficult to imagine that they view such payments as social investments, and it is much more realistic to believe that they wish to use this system of instruments to apply influence on Hungarian political life with regard to a given issue at a given moment. And so, if we want to organise our national state to replace the liberal state, it is very important that we make it clear that we are not opposing non-governmental organisations here and it is not non-governmental organisations who are moving against us, but paid political activists who are attempting to enforce foreign interests here in Hungary. This is why it is extremely justified that the Hungarian Parliament has formed a Committee to regularly monitor, record and make public foreign influence so that all of us, including you, can know precisely who the real characters are behind these masks.
Let me mention another example, which is another obstacle to the reorganisation of the state. When I mention the European Union, I do so not because I believe that it is impossible to construct a new state built on illiberal and national foundations within the European Union. I think this is possible. Our membership of the European Union does not rule this out. It may be true that many issues arise and many conflicts develop as you have seen in recent years, and that we must fight many battles there, but this is not what I am referring to now, but to another phenomenon, with which you are probably unfamiliar in this form. When the agreement between the European Union and Hungary, which set down the financial relationship between the EU and Hungary for the past seven years, expired – it expired this year – and the conclusion of the agreement concerning the next seven years appeared on the agenda – and this is in process now – a dispute erupted. And then I had to arm myself with several facts and pieces of data to understand the nature of this dispute. And what did I see? What I saw was that those people – and there are hundreds of them – whose job it is to supervise the economic development and social development funding that Hungary has a right to – not that it is awarded but which it has a right to, to which it has a contractual right – receive their salaries directly from the European Union. This means that an extraterritoriality has developed in Hungary. And then it transpired from the numbers that these salaries are four to five times and on occasion eight times the salaries paid within the Hungarian government sector. This means that Hungary went through seven years while those people who supervised and made decisions concerning the most available and largest available funding for economic and social development, and who were paid by others, received several times the salaries of people working in Hungarian public administration. Similarly, thirty five percent of all of these monies that entered the Hungarian economy and Hungarian social life were deductible as expenses. For things that were not intrinsically associated with the task at hand, such as preparation, analysis, planning, consulting, and all sorts of other things.
The reason a dispute has now developed between the EU and Hungary is that we have changed this system and the Government has come to a decision according to which within this new state concept, this illiberal state concept, those who are in charge of distributing European Union finding must be under the employment of the Hungarian state, meaning that in exchange for their work they can receive no more than what someone working in a similar position in the Hungarian public administration system would receive. And 35 percent can no longer be deducted as expenses, thirty-five forints out of every hundred, because this sum cannot exceed fifteen percent during the next seven years. A maximum of fifteen percent! These are all decisions that of course in themselves seem like political decisions, but in fact we are not talking about political decisions here but about the fact that the reorganisation of the Hungarian state is underway, in contrast to the illiberal state organisation logic of the previous twenty years. The reorganisation of the state is underway based on national interests. The conflicts that cross our path are not accidental and are not the result of folly, although they sometimes may be, but are disputes that necessarily go hand in hand with the reconstruction of the state and the process of self-definition.
Well, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In closing, what I must tell you with regard to the future is a phrase that may seem like too little coming from someone in such a high position, and it is that the essence of the future is that anything can happen. And it is difficult to define anything. It could happen, Ladies and Gentlemen, that a passenger airliner is shot down in the airspace of a neighbouring country. It could happen that hundreds of people die for reasons that we cannot understand, to put it bluntly, as a result of what is to all intents and purposes an act of terrorism. It could happen, Ladies and Gentlemen, that in the United States – and I am refereeing to a piece of news I read yesterday – that in the United States the Senate, or perhaps it was the Senate and the House of Representatives together, decide to impeach the President of the United States for regularly overstepping his sphere of authority. And when I look behind these pieces of news I see that not only do they plan to impeach him, but the President of the United States has already been convicted of overstepping his sphere of authority on several occasions. Imagine what would happen in Hungary if Parliament took the Prime Minister to court for overstepping his sphere of authority and then the court found him guilty. How long could I remain in office, Ladies and Gentlemen? I am only citing these examples because we are living in a world in which anything can happen. It could even be the case that, when the various court proceedings are over, the Hungarians could receive back from the banks hundreds of billions of forints that they should never have been charged in the first place. Even that could happen, Ladies and Gentlemen! What I mean by all this is that it is practically impossible to forecast events precisely or within an insignificant margin of error. It could even happen, to give you another refreshing example in closing, that the election-winning Hungarian Government declares that at least fifty percent of the Hungarian financial system must be in Hungarian hands. Not in state hands, but in Hungarian hands. And that this will be the case only three months after the elections. Because this is what has just happened. In view of the fact that the Hungarian state has re-acquired a bank that should never have been sold to foreigners in the first place, and as a result the ratio of Hungarian national ownership within the banking system now exceeds fifty percent.
The only question that remains, Ladies and Gentlemen, but it is not my business to reply in this case, is whether we should be afraid of such a situation in which anything can happen? Should we be afraid or should we instead be filled with hope? In view of the fact that the current world order is not particularly to our taste, I think we would do better to feel that the era of anything can happen that stands before us, although it bears with it uncertainty according to many and could even mean trouble, contains at least as many chances and opportunities for the Hungarian nation. And so instead of fear, isolation and withdrawal, I recommend fortitude, thinking ahead and rational but courageous action for the Hungarian community of the Carpathian Basin and in fact for the whole Hungarian community scattered throughout the world. It could easily be the case that, since anything can happen, our time will come.
Thank you for your kind attention.