(Photo: MTI)

Orbán lays out climate protection action plan

Green house in order

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in his state-of-the-nation address 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 Trianon Peace Treaty under which two-thirds of Hungary's territory was lost, Orbán said that 100 years after this "death sentence … 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,” he told his audience at Budapest’s Várkert Bazar on February 16. Orbán said Hungary is now finding common ground with neighbouring Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, and is 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,” he said.

The prime minister said the key to the nation’s prosperity is the restoration of its self-esteem. Citizens of every troubled country could only regain their personal self-esteem with the return of their own nation’s self-esteem.

Orbán 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”. The only option left for his government had been the latter since “the path set by Brussels and Washington was unacceptable for us”.

Looking back after ten years he could say “with due modesty” that “we figured out what to do and we did it”.

Successful and unsuccessful years

Turning to the period between 2002 and 2010, Orbán 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”.

“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,” he said.

“None of this is an exaggeration. 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 subject of school segregation of Roma children in Gyöngyöspata, Orbán said the issue had arisen just as Roma families “started down a path of changing their way of life”. But “this promising process was struck by lightning” when a court ruling turned the people of Gyöngyöspata against one another.

Orbán 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. 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, Orbán said the facts showed they “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. 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”.

Government to protect climate

The prime minister said the government had just adopted a climate protection action plan that aims to make 90 percent of the electricity generated in Hungary carbon-free by 2030. 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”.

Climate protection had become “politically fashionable” but “all the empty talk cheapens the seriousness of the issue”. 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, as of July 1 the government would start eliminating illegal waste sites and penalising polluters. Single-use plastics would be banned and a deposit return scheme would be introduced for glass and plastic bottles, and cans.

The action plan would protect rivers from waste flowing in from abroad. The government would introduce stricter regulations for multinational companies, mandating the use of environment-friendly technologies. Further, the government would allocate HUF 32 billion towards supporting renewable energy production by small- and medium-sized companies over the next two years.

Under the plan, 10 new trees would be planted for every newborn in Hungary and by 2030 the proportion of the country’s forest area would be increased to 27 percent. Over the next ten years the capacity of solar power plants would be increased six-fold.

The government would support the production and purchase of cheap electric vehicles and by 2022 new buses in public transport would all be electric. A so-called green government bond would be introduced with the government vowing to spend all returns on them on climate-friendly schemes.

Tax-cut plans for families

Speaking about the family protection action plan launched by the government last year, Orbán 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”.

Orbán 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”.

“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. 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 … “this should be raised to 100 percent”.

He said that in terms of growth “Europe’s economy, and in particular the eurozone 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.”

In 2019, Germany’s industrial output had shrunk considerably whereas Hungary’s rose 5 percent, so Hungary must focus its efforts in 2020 and in the years to come on retaining jobs. Orbán pledged 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.”

Photo: MTI

“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. At times it feels like the West learned nothing from our history and doesn’t know that socialism ruins nations.”

Orbán 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 Hungary had to be cautious when it came to adopting the euro.

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. “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.

“To be standing here after the 100 years we’ve had is proof that God still has plans with this country. With due respect all we can say is that we’re ready for the challenge and the next 100-year journey.”

Opposition reactions: Parallel world, Hungary a loser

Opposition parties gave their reactions to the state-of-the-nation address, with nationalist Jobbik saying Orbán “has left Hungarian workers and pensioners on their own”.

“In the green policy unveiled, the country’s first man seems to be interested in the so-called green government bond,” the leader of the party, Péter Jakab, said. Hungarians are however more interested to know how the government plans to protect their families from the effects of an economic crisis, but heard nothing from the prime minister about that, Jakab said.

Jobbik proposed that the government should have spent the hundreds of billions of forints it spent on “the hate campaign wrapped up in its national consultation survey” on increasing wages and pensions, he said.

Bertalan Tóth, the leader of the Socialists, called Orbán “a one-man fake news factory”. Viktor Orbán gave an outline of “a parallel world he has envisioned and created, a world that is about his own achievements,” Tóth said. But the prime minister had failed “to say a word about the life of the average Hungarian”.

Ferenc Gyurcsány, a former Socialist prime minister and the leader of the Democratic Coalition, said “democratic Hungary has never been as divided as it is now”. He said the country is “now dictated by party state and party logic rather than nation or national governance … In the past ten years Hungary became a loser and lost its friends in the community of European nations.”

Gyurcsány said Orbán had evaluated the past year but the final evaluation about him would be given by the Hungarian people.

The Párbeszéd party said the prime minister had no answer to Hungary’s health-care, education or housing problems. Instead of solutions, Orbán had diverted attention from what was important with a national consultation survey “again costing billions”.

Green LMP said the forthcoming climate protection measures should have been taken a long time ago and were not in line with current challenges. LMP can only believe the government if it makes immediate substantive changes in the areas of environment and nature protection, party co-leader Erzsébet Schmuck said. She called for a ministry of climate and sustainability to be set up and for funds in the central budget to be allocated towards those two areas.

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