Prime Minister Viktor Orbán - Photo: MTI

Orbán: ‘Hungary’s enemies ready to make concerted demands in the autumn

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told parliament on Monday that "Hungary's enemies", which he described as "the Soros empire, Brussels bureaucrats and American democrats", were ready to make concerted demands in the autumn aimed at resurrecting the period in which Ferenc Gyurcsany, the one-time Socialist prime minister, governed. "We can't accept this; we don't want to go back where they want to lead us, to the Gyurcsany era," he said in an address to parliament.

Orbán said Hungary was politically stable and its economy strong enough to beat inflation, protect pensions, salaries and jobs, while the economy would show robust growth again next year.

The prime minister mentioned Hungary’s recent organisation of the World Athletics Championships, saying the sporting event had been “the largest in the country’s history”. “We are among the best when it comes to taking over, organising and running international events,” he said, adding that revenue from championships the was twice that of expenses.

Meanwhile, Orbán said a government priority was to maintain energy security in the face of the upheaval in the world energy market. “We continue to build our energy system in these turbulent times to ensure our independence,” he said, noting Hungary’s recent agreements on energy cooperation with Turkiye, Azerbaijan and Qatar.

Efforts on the part of Brussels “to detach Europe from Russian energy” undermined the continent’s interests, he said, adding that “we don’t have enough power to prevent this now”.

He said the government wanted to minimise the negative effects of EU decision-making.

The prime minister said Turkiye and other Turkic states were crucial for Europe’s energy supplies. Hungary has already agreed to purchase gas from Turkiye and to have gas delivered through it from Azerbaijan, he said, adding that Azerbaijan and Hungary have also signed an agreement on large-scale energy deliveries.

Regarding the war in Ukraine, Orbán said the Minsk agreement had been “fragile from the start”. “It was clear that if Ukraine did not give up its attempt to join NATO, a new conflict would only be a matter of time,” he said. The conflict then imperiled energy deliveries from Russia, he added.

In response, Hungary elevated its ties with Central Asian countries and so “the terrorist attack agianst the NordStream pipeline, probably state-sponsored, did not put us in an impossible situation regarding Hungary’s energy supplies,” he said.

Orbán said Hungary’s gas reserves were now full and could satisfy 60 percent of the country’s annual demand.

Hungary’s entire electricity network was reviewed over the summer, he said, adding that most of the network could handle inputs from household solar energy once billing issues were resolved.

Meanwhile, Orbán said Hungary was a “champion of climate” protection, having slashed its carbon dioxide emissions compared with 1991 while maintaining economic growth. In that respect, the country was “four or five years ahead of schedule”.

Addressing defence matters, the prime minister said one of the government’s most important strategic decisions had been to develop “an effective armed forces and world-class defence industry”. It was also expected that Europe would become “more militarised” in the coming decades, he said, and it was in Hungary’s interest to adapt accordingly.

Under recent agreements on German-Israeli-Hungarian cooperation, Hungary is set to start manufacturing military drones, he noted. The government has also strengthened its strategic partnership with Serbia and expanded it to cover the defence industry, he added.

At the same time, Hungary was among European states which found themselves in “serious conflict with Brussels bureaucrats” on the issue of a glut of Ukrainian grain, Orbán said. Hungary complied with EU requests and opened a transport corridor, originally designed to allow Ukrainian grain to travel to Africa, he said. “But we were duped,” he said.

Ukrainian grain was not transported to Africa but was being sold cheaply in Hungary, squeezing Hungarian farmers from the market, he said, adding that the government did not want Hungarian families to bake bread using Ukrainian grain of dubious quality instead of Hungarian grain of guaranteed quality.

Orbán said that earlier this year the government managed to effect a European ban on Ukrainian grain, “but Brussels lifted it to the benefit of Ukraine”. This worked against the interests of central European farmers and threatened “the ruin of Hungarians”, he said. So Hungary, Poland and Slovakia ordered a ban on their own authority against 23 kinds to Ukrainian agricultural produce, he noted.

The debate has since become more widespread and heated, and has been referred to the World Trade Organisation, “but we continue to call on Brussels to stand by central European member states and not to betray Hungary, either,” the prime minister said.

Meanwhile, noting that the Hungarian secondary school in Mukacevo (Munkacs) banned the Hungarian anthem and national colours from the ceremony starting the school year, Orbán said Ukraine had “harassed” Hungarian schools for years in an effort to “turn them into Ukrainian schools or, failing that, they closed them”.

Orbán vowed that his government would fight for the rights of Transcarpathian Hungarians, children especially, in every international forum.

Commenting on the economy, the prime minister said the government had also made several key economic decisions over the summer. The government aims to push inflation into the single digits by the end of the year, he noted, adding that it had taken over “the task of fighting inflation” from the central bank, since it “can no longer tackle it” due to “soaring energy prices and Brussels sanctions”.

Orbán said inflation was set to drop to 12 percent in September and to fall below 10 percent by year-end. He also said that if traders could not rein in fuel prices, the government may again intervene.

Meanwhile, Orbán said the central bank would be rescued from its “dire situation” through legislation. Its debts must be settled, he said, but not at the expense of cuts to public funding.

The government has also taken steps to encourage Hungarians to invest their savings in government securities. Two-thirds of the national debt is held by domestic investors and the rest by foreigners, with fully 24 percent held by Hungarian households, making the domestic financing of debt the highest in the EU, the prime minister said.

Turning to the debates expected in parliament’s autumn session, he said that though Hungary would continue to do everything it could in the interest of peace in Ukraine, the war was set to continue, with the frontlines likely frozen and both sides suffering tens of thousands of casualties.

Orbán said Hungary showed “inexhaustible patience” in urging an end to the blood-letting and urged an “immediate ceasefire and peace talks”. There was still no military solution to the conflict, he said, and diplomats “should take back control from soldiers”.

The prime minister said that tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees had found a home in Hungary, adding that his government would not grant the Ukrainian government’s request and would not “force anyone back to Ukraine”.

Meanwhile, Orbán said the dispute over migration between his government and the EU was likely to “deepen” in the autumn, adding that illegal migrants were becoming increasingly violent, and “an invasive army” had appeared on the island of Lampedusa.

The EU in the past “forced through” a new migration compact despite protests by Hungary and Poland, but “it is obvious that this compact has failed”, he said.

The Hungarian authorities have stopped 128,000 migrants from crossing the border illegally so far this year, and attacks against border patrols had become everyday occurrences, the prime minister said, noting that there had been 168 “severe attacks” and several police officers had been injured. Migrants, he said, were becoming increasingly aggressive, and Hungary “will not meet the demands of the Brussels bureaucrats under these circumstances”.

He said the EU had demanded that Hungary allow those migrants entry and that it should build “migrant ghettos for tens of thousands of people”. “In fact, it is not just those who besiege our borders” that the EU demanded that Hungary allowed entry, but Hungary was asked to “bring in more migrants from other European countries”.

Hungary’s EU accession treaty “doesn’t contain a single word about the mandatory admission of migrants, migrant quotas or migrant ghettos, and we can’t approve anything like this afterwards, either”, the prime minister said.

He said the autumn would be difficult “because those in Brussels will want to force the migrant compact down our throat” before next year’s European Parliament elections.

“It’s not migrant quotas that are needed but fences and border controls,” Orbán said. “Rather than importing the problem, help should be exported,” he said, adding that Europe would lack a solution until “Brussels accepts that nobody should enter EU territory without an application approved and entry permit granted”.

Meanwhile, Orbán said there was “another fight raging between Hungary and Brussels”. “They’ve levelled economic demands at us.”

He said the government could only engage in that fight — “and win it if possible” — openly and with the full support of the Hungarian people.

“It must become clear that the EU is not fighting Hungary’s government but the Hungarian people,” he said, adding that the livelihood of Hungarian families would be endangered without the government scheme to keep household energy bills low.

Orbán said that owing to the “government’s hard work”, Hungarians paid the lowest utility bills in Europe. Hungary would not allow “Brussels bureaucrats who don’t live here, don’t know the situation of Hungarian families, and barely know Hungary” to decide on energy prices in the country, he added.

The prime minister said the government would also reject any EU attempt to scrap taxes on “multinational companies speculating on prices”, adding that the windfall tax on banks and energy companies paid for the protection fund which safeguarded families from the effects of high energy prices.

“We did not give carte blanche to multinational companies to raise their prices as they please, and to send their profits through the roof,” he said.

The loan moratorium, maximising the interest rates to be levied at private loans, protected some 500,000 families, he said. “This obviously cannot last forever,” but the loan moratorium will be phased out only once interest rates have fallen on the back of falling inflation, so the measure doesn’t ruin families paying loans, he said.

The time is not right to phase out the loan moratorium, “and Brussels cannot demand that Hungary do so,” he said.

Orbán insisted Hungary must “do the opposite of what Brussels demands”. “Austerity measures are out of the question, families must be protected, the utility price caps maintained, pensions must be raised in step with inflation in November, the state debt must be curbed and domestic corporate assets increased,” he said. Further, wages and prices must be balanced by the end of the year, so that wages do not lose their value year on year, he said. This way, the economy and wages can start growing again in 2024, he said.

“We do not need out-of-touch economic missives from Brussels, or the enforcement of failed austerity measures. Rather, Brussels should give us the money Hungarians are entitled to, then our budget instantly will be in a better shape.”

He said Brussels owed Hungary 3 billion euros this year, adding that Hungary had fulfilled its obligation to pay some one billion euros into the budget. “Meanwhile, Brussels expects Hungary to approve an amendment to the budget requiring unanimity. They are asking for more money while withholding something we are entitled to for political reasons,” he said.

Orbán said “Hungary’s enemies”, which he described as “the Soros empire, Brussels bureaucrats and American democrats”, were ready to make concerted demands in the autumn for Hungary to give them “something we can’t — and I think don’t even want — to give them”.

Orbán insisted that the US administration wanted Hungary to join the war, supply weapons, and “hand over more and more money to Ukraine, or at least give Brussels the approval to give our money to them”.

“Brussels expects us to let in migrants and build migrant ghettos … [and] allow sex propaganda in schools and make us hand over economic decision-making powers to them, give up our independent foreign policy and our ability to make our own decisions on foreign policy issues.”

They are threatening to put constant pressure on Hungary, withhold funds and finance the Hungarian left “through the Soros empire’s wallet” if the country does not give in to these demands, he warned.

He said that Hungary did not “belong to the club of jawohl countries” who, when they got a phone call from Brussels, promptly replied “jawohl!”.

Also, Hungary would not let anyone restrict its independence and sovereignty, he added. Hungary had extended “an offer of tolerance” to Brussels, he said, meaning that it did not demand that Brussels adopt Hungary’s views on migration, the education of children or foreign policy, “only that they also tolerate our views”.

Hungary cannot accept their “economic demands” because it does not want to return to the period in which Ferenc Gyurcsany, the one-time Socialist prime minister, governed, he said. Orbán said that had been the era in which “the country’s fate was decided in Brussels and Washington, rather than Budapest, when the IMF was getting in our hair, when the banks, energy companies, the media and telecommunications services were in foreign ownership, when lending was denominated in Swiss francs, when they took away a month’s pension from pensioners and one month’s pay from nurses, doctors, teachers and public officials, scrapped family supports and Hungarian households were paying the highest utility bills in Europe.”

Hungary, Orbán said, was politically stable and its economy strong enough to beat inflation, protect pensions, salaries and jobs, while, he added, the economy would show robust grow again next year.

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