Prime Minister Viktor Orbán - Photo: PMO

Orbán: Cooperation among Hungarians solution to challenges of ‘world slipping apart’

The answer to the challenges of "a world slipping apart" lies in strengthening cooperation among Hungarians, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told a meeting of the Hungarian Permanent Conference in Budapest on Friday.

“Our answer to that slipping apart is unity,” Orbán said. In the coming years, the essence of Hungary’s strategy for Hungarian communities beyond the borders should be strengthening cooperation among Hungarians “as the world around us disintegrates and slips apart”, he said, adding that the European Union, too, was in the process of “falling apart” as “it is failing to implement its own decisions”.

Orbán said Hungary this year had been able to maintain programmes and institutions created to support Hungarians outside the country but had no capacity to expand them.

He said the country was expected to return to growth in 2024, and the resources for that expansion would again be at hand. The latest increase in the minimum wage shows that “life is returning into the Hungarian economy, and we’ve managed to drag it out of recession”. This, the prime minister added, would give the opportunity to revive development schemes for Hungarians beyond the borders, too, he said.

Regarding migration, Orbán said it was solely up to Hungarians to decide who can and cannot reside in Hungary and on what terms.

Orbán said whereas western European leaders thought that Muslim immigrants could be secularised in the same way that traditional European Christian communities had been, Muslims did not want to be secularised and felt at home with a different life philosophy, “which they see as superior to secularised European life”. So chances of real integration were “extremely small”, he said.

Hungary, the prime minister said, must tighten its immigration rules as the relevant 2007 law had been introduced before the advent of “migration inflation”. A transparent and enforceable system must be created, Orbán said, “otherwise Westerners will sweep us away”.

He said that while the EU’s new migration package “contains sensible tendencies”, it was nevertheless “unacceptable” as it still relied on the redistribution of migrants. Member states would have to pay if they refused to accept migrants, and Hungary would have to set up camps housing thousands of them, he said.

Orbán said he expected to see “big conflicts” over migration in the next six months.

Speaking of Hungary’s policy for Hungarians across the borders, Orbán said the elections in Slovakia in which the ethnic Hungarian party “failed to make it to parliament multiple times in a row” revived the question whether ethnically based politics had a future, especially considering declining demographics.

The Hungarian government, he said, held to “our joint responsibility of preserving ethnic foundations”. Politics based on ethnic groups, he said, had a future as long as that responsibility existed.

He expressed his best wishes to Hunor Kelemen of Romania’s ethnic Hungarian RMDSZ, noting that 2024 would see 4 elections there. Hungary will help Hungarians there in any way it can within the framework of international law and interstate regulations, he said.

Meanwhile, Orbán said support for Transcarpathia must be considered especially carefully, he said.

The situation of Transcarpathia Hungarians “is the hardest, most painful aspect of Hungarian life in the Carpathian Basin”, Orbán said.

Orbán said Hungary could not offer anything to Ukraine “because they are en route to an abyss and we do not want to give a helping hand in that.” He said Hungary’s Ukraine policy would therefore not change: it would provide humanitarian aid but refrain from steps that would take Hungary closer to a war.

Orbán said it seemed clear to him that the EU’s Ukraine “three-legged strategy” based on the assumptions that Ukraine would win the war and Russia would lose — prompting a political reshuffle in Moscow — had failed.

Orbán noted he had proposed a “period of reflection” at the latest EU summit, and that the EU should admit that its “plan A” had failed. The aim was not that Ukraine “should be left to its own devices” but that the EU devise a “plan B”, more to the advantage of the Ukrainians and the Hungarian community there. “It would have also been better for European security than continuing this hopeless fight.”

The prime minister said Hungary stood by Hungarians living in Ukraine and he lamented that “Ukraine still has time to harass Hungarians amid a bloody patriotic war.” Regarding Hungarian-language education and use, the situation had been better even in the Soviet Union, he said.

Orbán said he expected major disputes in the EU in the coming months, “the outcome of which will determine Hungary’s room for manoeuvre in the coming decades”.

One is whether the EU will pivot from unanimous decision-making to majority decisions, as promoted by larger countries, he said. That move would require an amendment of the EU treaties, which would be possible only with unanimous vote, he added. “That won’t happen as long as there is a single country against [majority voting].”

Hungary, Orbán said, saw unanimous voting as the “last guarantee for protecting national interests”, and so such a decision was “out of the question”.

“Hungary won’t have a parliament in the next 120 years that would vote for that, regardless of party affiliation,” he said.

The EU’s basic power structure, he said, had been balanced between federalists and supporters of sovereignty until Brexit. Concepts such as the rule of law procedure, conditionality and economic governance would not have emerged with the UK still on board, he said, adding that without the British, central European countries had no blocking ability.

Meanwhile, Orbán said Europe had been squeezed out of a new global power and economic structure, and has been devalued as a result. Europe’s opinion was now considered a “sidebar” rather than an important factor influencing outcomes, he added.

“There are two suns in the sky, neither of them European,” he said.

The prime minister said that agreements were now being shaped by the US and China, with the latter “producing economic growth that is slowly but surely leaving that of the western world behind”.

He said one “school of thought” promoted competition, trade and “trying to strengthen ourselves” as a solution, while the other suggested protectionism and isolationism, he said. The latter “is of the opinion that preserving what we’ve got is already an achievement.”

Given Hungary’s historical legacy and industrial structure, it must cooperate and trade with “the whole world”, he said. Instead of shutting itself off, he said, “it’s better to take our place among those countries that support connectivity”.

In 1990, six of the world’s ten largest economies were Western, while forecasts for 2030 indicate that England and France “will drop out of the world’s ten largest economies, and only one European country will remain: Germany — in tenth place.”

Referring to Hungarians living in Croatia, Orbán said that along with the country’s accession to the Schengen zone, they had become part of “a success story”, opening up “new opportunities and vistas”. It was hopeful that joining the single currency would also fulfil the hopes of Croatia and its Hungarian community, he added.

Regarding Vojvodina, Orbán hailed the achievements the late Istvan Pasztor, the former leader of the Association of Vojvodina Hungarians, and he wished his son Balint “good luck”, noting elections to be held in December. He said the Alliance could rely on the Hungarian government for help in the campaign.

Orbán said the Serbian government, too, could rely on Hungary’s help, adding that the two governments were engaged in strategic cooperation which provided “hope for the future”.

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