Orban: Hungary before all else

Prime Minister Viktor Orban in his state-of-the-nation address on Sunday laid out in detail his government’s climate protection action plan and its goals to continue developing the country, concluding his speech with the motto “Hungary before all else”.

Marking the coming centenary of the signing of the WWI Trianon Peace Treaty under which two-thirds of Hungary’s territory was ceded to neighbouring countries, Orban said that one hundred years after the “death sentence” that was the Trianon treaty, “we’re alive and Hungary is still here.” “Not only are we alive but we have also freed ourselves from the clutches of a hostile ring of alliances,” the prime minister told a crowd at Budapest’s Varkert Bazar.

Orban said Hungary was now finding common ground with neighbouring Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, and was in a position to engage in broad cooperation and form alliances with them. “History has again given central European peoples a chance to build a new alliance based on their own national interests, allowing us to defend ourselves against threats from both the east and the west,” Orban said.

The prime minister also said that the key to the nation’s prosperity was the restoration of its self-esteem. He said that the citizens of every troubled country could only regain their personal self-esteem with the return of their own nation’s self-esteem. Orban said that in 2010 the objective of his incoming government had been “to prove to ourselves and to the world that we are still somebody”.

“We figured that we would either find a path or create one for ourselves,” he said, adding that the only option left for his government had been the latter since “the path set by Brussels and Washington was unacceptable for us.” Orban said that looking back after ten years he could say “with due modesty” that “we figured out what to do and we did it”. Orban said his government had “sent the IMF home”, managed to pay back the loans early, created 850,000 jobs, put the country’s finances in order and launched schemes to help “a reunification of the nation”, and reconnected Hungarian communities beyond the borders with Hungary.

He said that in economic reports released in Brussels this week “the whole of Europe may read that in 2019 the Hungarian economy registered the highest growth rate on the whole continent”. Turning to the period between 2002 and 2010, Orban said “Hungary was bankrupted by a government made up of former communists and its liberal policies.” “This example supports the assumption that there is no such thing as a liberal. A liberal is nothing else than a communist with a degree,” he said, adding that “if we had heeded their advice, Hungary right now would be lying in a hospital room with the tubes of IMF and Brussels loans sticking out of all of its limbs and [US financier] George Soros would be holding the loan faucet.” “None of this is an exaggeration,” the prime minister said. “I, who have spent more than 30 years in politics, have seen Soros attempt to rob Hungary on three occasions with my own eyes.”

On the topic of the government’s next “national consultation survey”, he said Hungarians must again forge common ground when they fill out the questionnaire, providing a basis for the government’s policies. Orban said a situation has emerged in Europe where “the rights of violent criminals have become more important to decision makers than those of law-abiding citizens.” “They mock justice, the life instincts of honest people and are ready to defend perpetrators instead of victims,” he said. “This dangerous phenomenon has now reached Hungary and we are in for serious debates and international battles,” Orban added. The prime minister said foreign-funded organisations that were part of the “Soros network” and their hired lawyers were “filing a myriad of lawsuits, abusing the protection of rights so they can pay out significant sums of money to violent criminals and, of course, themselves”. He said the 12,000 lawsuits filed so far was costing Hungary billions. “We can’t continue to watch this idly.”

On the subject of school segregation of Roma children in Gyongyospata, Orban said the issue had arisen just as Roma families “started down a path of changing their way of life”. But, he said “this promising process was struck by lightning” when a court ruling turned the people of Gyongyospata against one another. Orban said the organisation that had initiated the lawsuit in question was also funded by Soros. “We continue to believe in a Hungary that is a safe home to all Hungarians and gives everyone a chance to live a good life,” he said. “We will not tolerate stigmatisation or discrimination against anyone over their ethnicity, but neither can it come with any advantage or privilege and everyone should earn their money irrespective of their background.”

Assessing the past ten years, Orban said the facts showed that “the last ten years were the most successful ten years in Hungary’s last 100 years”. He said Hungarians were not used to thinking of themselves as a successful people. Detailing Hungary’s achievements over the past ten years, Orban said that in no other decade over the past century had the country been both externally and internally balanced while maintaining sustainable growth. Hungary achieved all this while keeping wealth inequality at a moderate level according to European standards, he said, adding that this meant that Hungary’s broader society had benefited from the country’s growth. The prime minister said that vulnerable social groups like young people, people aged older than 50, mothers and low-skilled workers have all been able to find jobs over the past 10 years. Wages are on the rise and the minimum wage for both skilled and unskilled workers has been doubled, said Orban.
Investments in Hungary and exports both hit record highs last year, he said, noting that Hungary ranks 94th in the world in population size and 34th in terms of the size of its export volume. These have been the achievements of a country of ten million people, Orban said, adding all this was proof of “skills and diligence”.

Orban said those who were critical of Hungarian teachers, the education system and vocational training should hold back on their criticism, arguing that workers, experts and engineers “who run the world’s most modern factories here in Hungary all graduated from our schools and universities”. “Over the past ten years we also learned that Europe is not in Brussels,” the prime minister said. “Europe is us and we don’t have to please the tired Brussels elites . In the past we used to think that Europe was our future but today we know that we are the future of Europe.” Orban said the Carpathian Basin today was a source of strength that stemmed from the recognition that “being Hungarian is promising and uplifting”. “Our nation knows that Hungary comes first,” he said.

Orban also said that the government this past week adopted a climate protection action plan which aims to make 90 percent of the electricity generated in Hungary carbon-free by 2030. He said serious steps needed to be taken to maintain achievements because “a climate crisis is looming, the population is declining and dark shadows are hanging over Europe’s economy”. Orban said climate protection had become “politically fashionable”, but “all the empty talk cheapens the seriousness of the issue”. The prime minister said it was “time to act instead of just talking”.

He said it was clear from his government’s plan that it was prepared to be accountable for it in 2030. Detailing the plan, the prime minister said that as of July 1, the government will start eliminating illegal waste sites and penalising polluters. Single-use plastics will be banned and a deposit return scheme will be introduced for glass and plastic bottles and cans, he said. The action plan will also protect rivers from waste flowing in from abroad, Orban added.

The government will also introduce stricter regulations for multinational companies, mandating the use of environment-friendly technologies. Further, the government will allocate 32 billion forints (EUR 95.3m) towards supporting renewable energy production by small and medium-sized companies over the next two years.

Under the plan, ten new trees will be planted for every newborn in Hungary and by 2030 the proportion of the country’s forest area will be increased to 27 percent. Over the next ten years the capacity of solar power plants will be increased six-fold. The government will support the production and purchase of cheap electric vehicles and by 2022 new buses in public transport will all be electric, Orban said.

A so-called green government bond will be introduced with the government vowing to spend all returns on them on climate-friendly schemes, the prime minister said.

Speaking about the family protection action plan launched by the government last year, Orban said that more than 100,000 families have so far availed of the state-subsidised prenatal baby support loan. The scheme exempting mothers with at least four children from the personal income tax “makes the lives of 40,000 families easier,” he said.

Orban said that although it had not been included in its family protection plan, the government had also addressed the issue of infertility and had managed “to take not just one, but two steps forward in fertility treatment”. “The most important aim was to make fertility examinations and treatments, as well as medication accessible for all those in need free of charge,” Orban said.

Further, he called it “good news” that 90,000 more children had been born between 2010 and 2018 than would have been born, “had tendencies remained the same as they had been around 2010”. “I know that sooner or later mothers with three children will also have to be exempted from paying personal income tax, similarly to how a scheme currently allows it for mothers raising four children,” Orban said. “I am also aware that during the first six months after giving birth, a mother receives 70 percent of her annual average wage of the preceding year,” Orban said, adding that “this should be raised to 100 percent”.

The prime minister noted the reimbursement of written driver’s licence test and language proficiency exam fees, saying that the measure should also be made available to mothers receiving maternity allowance. He stressed that preserving and modernising jobs would remain an important goal for Hungary in 2020 and beyond. “If we have jobs, we have everything,” he said.

Orban said that in terms of growth “Europe’s economy, and in particular the euro zone region, has simply stalled”, noting that Hungary had 85 percent of its exports going to those countries. “This means that their problem is our problem,” he said. In 2019, Germany’s industrial output shrank considerably, whereas Hungary’s increased by 5 percent, said Orban. Hungary must focus its efforts in 2020 and in the years to come on retaining jobs, he said. In order to achieve that goal, taxes must be reduced, Orban said, pledging to cut payroll taxes and taxes on small businesses. “Further, we will preserve the value of pensions, in line with the agreement we concluded with pensioners,” he said.

“Competition in the world never stops, but it appears as if Europe is looking to quit the race, restrict competition within the European Union and even in terms of taxation, jobs and services,” Orban said. “At times it feels like the West learned nothing from our history and doesn’t know that socialism ruins nations.”

Orban said that if Hungary’s tax and welfare systems were to be “incorporated into the economic order of the ‘united states of Europe’, then our progress will stop”. This was why, he said, Hungary had to be cautious when it came to adopting the euro. The prime minister said that in 2020 and 2021 the government’s focus would be on continuing to develop the country.

Commenting on the opposition, he said it was doing everything it could “just to somehow get back into power”. “Our job is to prepare the nation for the trials that await us in the coming years,” Orban said. “The most we can want and what we do want is for Hungarians to be able to live and thrive in their homeland in the prosperity and security they deserve in return for our ancestors’ and their own work and sacrifices,” he added. “To be standing here after the 100 years we’ve had is proof that God still has plans with this country,” the prime minister said. “With due respect all we can say is that we’re ready for the challenge and the next 100-year journey,” Viktor Orban said.

Source and photo: MTI

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