Prime minister Viktor Orbán (m) – Photo: PMO

"We're sitting in a car with a puncture on all four tyres," PM says

Orbán: Pillars of Western civilisation starting to crack

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, addressing the 31st "Tusvanyos" Summer University in Baile Tusnad, Romania on Saturday, said the coming decade would be defined by threats, uncertainty and war, but Hungary could be "a local exception" to a global recession. Orbán said the world had undergone a "major shift" since he last addressed the event in 2019. The pillars of Western civilisation that had been thought to be unbreakable "have started to crack", he said.

“We used to think we lived in the protective bubble of science, and then we got Covid,” the prime minister said. “We used to think there couldn’t be another war in Europe, but there’s a war in Hungary’s neighbourhood. And we used to think the Cold War could never return, but many world leaders right now are working to organise our lives into a world of blocs.”

Orbán said that while the impression given by a host of indicators was that the world was supposed to be an increasingly better place, “the people feel otherwise”. The reason for this, he said, was a feeling that the strength, performance, authority and power of Western civilisation were waning.

Life expectancy has risen to 70 years, 80 years in Europe, and the death rate among children has fallen by two-thirds in 30 years, he said. Compared with 1950, the number of undernourished people has fallen to 15 percent from 50 percent and the number of those living in poverty has fallen from 70 percent to 15 percent, he said. Literacy has grown to 90 percent, and weekly work hours have gone down to 40 from 52, he added.

“Nevertheless, the general feeling is that the world is becoming worse,” he said. “A sense that the end of the world is nigh” is spreading, he said.

He said what was hurting the West the most was that it had lost control of its energy sources.

Rival civilisations including the Chinese, Indian and Russian orthodox cultures have adopted Western technology and financial systems but “have no intention” to do the same with Western values, and see it as humiliating when the West tries to spread its values, he said.

Orbán said the rejection of Western “democracy export” was “understandable”, but the most painful part of the West’s losses was the loss of control over energy resources. While the US and Europe controlled 75 percent of oil, coal and natural gas resources in 1950, their share has fallen to 35 percent by now, he said. Russia has 20 percent of resources and the Middle East holds 30 percent, he said.

Further, the US introduced fracking in 2013, a new technology to mine energy resources, and adopted a strategy of “weaponising” it, he said. They have stepped up sanctions policies and “strongly encourage” their allies to buy their products, he said. The “German-Russian energy axis” is being dismantled, he said. Switching to renewable energy resources remains non-viable, he added.

“Energy and raw materials key for economic development are not in Western hands now. What they have now is capital and military power. The question is what they can do with it under these circumstances,” he said.

Regarding the challenges facing Hungary, Orbán said the greatest challenge was that deaths still outstripped births, with no change of the tide in sight. “Our situation has improved but there is still no turnaround, and without a turnaround Hungary and the Carpathian Basin will sooner or later be ‘repopulated’ away from us,” he said.

Migration has divided Europe, he said. “The West is split in two”, with one half comprising countries where European and non-European peoples live together. “Those countries are no longer nations,” he said.

“In a spiritual sense, the West has moved to central Europe,” he said. The two halves of Europe are locked in a battle, he said. The West has rejected central Europe’s desire to allow each nation to live as they like, “and they continue to fight central Europe with the aim of changing us to be like them,” he said.

Orbán said the West was fighting against central Europe together with Brussels and financier George Soros’s “troops” to “force migrants on us”.

Orbán said it was understandable that “post-Western people” could not torment themselves with “the toxic idea that everything is lost”, adding that there was no need for them to be confronted with this, either. “All we ask is that they do not try to force onto us the fate which we see as a nation’s doom,” he said.

The prime minister said the “claim by the internationalist left” that Europe had always been home to mixed-race people was an illusion and a deliberate conflation of ideas. The “mixed-race world” of Europeans and those coming to the continent from the outside cannot be compared to the intermixing of peoples living in Europe, he said.

“We in the Carpathian Basin, for example, aren’t mixed-race people, but simply a mix of the peoples living in their European homeland,” Orbán said. “Hungarians don’t want to become mixed-race,” and future generations must be prepared to thwart the expansion of Islamic civilisation towards Europe not just from the south but from the west as well, Orbán said. At the same time, Hungary must be prepared to take in Christians fleeing the West, he added.

Orbán identified the issue of gender as another challenge facing Hungarians. This, he said, was an issue over which Hungary had been taken to court, but an agreement has been reached on keeping the matter separate from the debates on EU funds.

Orbán said the gender issue was one on which Hungary had once again “made an offer of tolerance”. “We don’t want to tell others how they should live; we only ask that they accept that in our country the father is a man, the mother a woman, and we want them to leave our children alone and make George Soros accept this as well,” Orbán said.

He said the issues of demographics, migration and gender were a “historic battle between the right and left”, arguing that these would be the issues that shape the future. He highlighted the importance of forming alliances to defend against these issues, adding that this was why the “post-Westerners” were doing everything they could to upset the unity of the Visegrad Group.

Orbán said the war had shaken the cooperation between Hungary and Poland in spite of the fact that the two countries shared the same strategic interests. Poland, he said, wanted to ensure that Russia did not advance westward and that Ukraine remains a sovereign democratic state. But whereas Hungary wants to stay out of the war between the two Slavic peoples, “the Poles feel that this is their war”, Orbán said, adding that Hungary and Poland should save what they could from their strategic alliance for the post-war era.

Concerning the challenge posed by the Russia-Ukraine war, Orbán said Hungarians were the only ones besides the Ukrainians who had “shed blood” in the war, citing official data indicating that 86 Hungarians have died in the conflict so far. Because of this, he added, Hungary had a right to say as a neighbouring country that peace was the only solution.

All wars can be examined from various points of view, but the main aspect of every war is that “mothers grieve for their children and children lose their parents,” he said, adding that this approach needed to be considered before all others even when it came to politics.

This, he said, meant that the Hungarian government’s main responsibility was to ensure that Hungarian parents and children are not put into such a situation.

At the same time, Orbán said, there were countries that were critical of Hungary, saying it was not committed enough to the Ukrainian side. “But they’re far away and at best they are providing weapons and financial support,” the prime minister said. “Meanwhile, we Hungarians are the only ones besides the Ukrainians who are dying in that war,” Orbán said, citing official data indicating that 86 Hungarians have died in the war so far.

“We Hungarians are the only ones to have shed blood in that war, while those criticising us have not,” Orbán said. “Therefore Hungary has the right, as a neighbouring country, to say that peace is the only solution. Peace is the only solution to save lives and the only antidote to wartime inflation and the economic crisis triggered by the war.”

Hungary is therefore sticking to its stance that “this isn’t our war”, Orbán said. Hungary is a member of NATO and acts under the assumption “that Russia will never attack the much stronger alliance”, he said. Orbán added, however, that Russia had found itself in a “delicate situation” after the EU had decided to impose severe economic sanctions on it and send weapons to Ukraine. “So, although not in a legal sense, but they are practically part of this conflict, which poses a huge risk,” he said.

Orbán said Russia had made it clear that it wanted it guaranteed that Ukraine would never join NATO, insisting that the war would not have broken out “if Donald Trump were the US president and Angela Merkel the German chancellor”.

He said the West’s strategy had been based on the belief that Ukraine could win the war with “Anglo-Saxon training and weapons, that Western sanctions would destabilise the leadership in Moscow and that the West would be capable of managing the impact of the sanctions and enjoy the backing of the rest of the world. “But it’s the opposite of all this that’s happening right now,” he said.

“We’re sitting in a car with a puncture on all four tyres,” he said, adding that when it came to the war, Europe needed a new strategy that aims not to win the war but to formulate “a good peace offer”.

“War is a game of strength, and those who are stronger get to decide,” Orbán said. “It’s not worth cherishing the illusion that Hungary can influence the war and western strategy with excellent advice; but in every debate we must try to voice our standpoint and convince the West to develop a new strategy,” he said.

“It’s not the European Union’s job right now to stand either on the side of the Ukrainians or the Russians, but to stand between Ukraine and Russia,” he said. “What’s happening right now will only serve to prolong the war,” Orbán said. Russia wants to advance far enough west so that Ukraine cannot strike Russian territory, he said, arguing that the better weapons Ukraine gets, the longer the war could go on.

The prime minister said that peace would depend on negotiations between Russia and the US. Europe “played its hand” in attempting to influence the events in 2014, when the Minsk accords were brokered without the US, and then were not enforced. “So, the Russians don’t want to talk to us anymore but to those who can get Ukraine to comply with the agreement,” he said.

Concerning the issue of energy and the economy, Orbán said the key question was who benefitted from the wartime situation. “Those with their own energy sources are the ones that benefit,” he said.

The situation benefits Russia because their energy revenues are not only dependent on the volume sold, but also energy prices, Orbán argued. It also benefits China, “who in the past was dependent on the Arab world, but can now also buy Russian energy”, he said. And, he added, the conflict also benefitted American corporations which have “multiplied their profits”. But the wartime situation hurts the EU, Orbán said, arguing that its energy deficit had tripled.

Regarding the government’s household energy price caps, Orbán said that system had worked well for a decade, but the war and wartime energy prices “tipped it over”. The government is working to protect the scheme as far as average consumption goes, he noted.

Hungary can preserve its economic achievements only if it “stays out of the war, migration, gender madness, the global [minimum corporate] tax and general European recession”, the prime minister said.

Hungary emerged strengthened from the crises in 2010 and 2020, the prime minister said. To sustain its achievements, it will have to adapt to the new situation and broker new agreements with all its important partners: the European Union, Russia, China and the United States, he said. If all those agreements are shaped to respect national interests, the country could be back on the “old growth and development track” by 2024, he said.

Orbán said the western world’s woes were expected to “multiply” by 2030. The US will face an economic crisis, the euro zone will be ailing, and the EU will see a reshuffling of power lines as central Europe countries will become net contributors in the bloc. “And he who pays orders the music,” he said.

Orbán said Hungary could be “a local exception” to a global recession.

The prime minister listed several factors that could shield Hungary from an economic downturn, including the country’s border protection policy, its “family-based society”, a major military development scheme and the diversification of its energy sources.

Orbán also said Hungary could use ongoing technological shifts as well as foreign capital inflows from both the West and the East to its advantage. “We’re a transit country and we want to remain a transit economy, and for that we have to oppose any re-emergence of blocs,” the prime minister said.

He also underscored the political stability provided by ruling Fidesz’ two-thirds parliamentary majority, and noted a recent generational shift on the “nationally minded side”.

“Hungary still has its national thought, its national feelings and culture,” Orbán said.

He also emphasised the importance of the country’s ambitions at the community and national levels. “To preserve those national ambitions in the coming difficult period, we must stick together,” Orbán said. “The motherland, Transylvania and the other parts of the Carpathian Basin with Hungarian populations must all stick together.”

“The concept that we have always given more to the world than what we were given … that we have outstanding invoices, and that we are better, more diligent and more talented than where we stand and how we live; and the fact that the world owes us and we will collect that debt. That is our strongest ambition,” Orbán concluded.

Opposition parties slam Orbán over Baile Tusnad speech

Hungarian opposition parties on Saturday slammed Prime Minister Viktor Orbán over his speech at the 31st summer university in Baile Tusnad (Tusnadfurdo), in central Romania. In a statement, the leftist Democratic Coalition said: “It is not advice that an ill person needs, but medicine.”

Liberal Momentum accused Orbán of “pitting people against each other” when he “should be concerned with the livelihoods of the Hungarian people and the social crisis plagueing our country”. Last week it “became clear to everyone that the prime minister has long built his policies on lies while staying silent on the true economic situation in Hungary”, Momentum said in a statement. “His ‘Tusvanyos’ speech today was no different as he . incited against our allies but made no mention of those affected by the changes to the small business tax rules or rising utility costs,” the party added.

The Socialists said that after 12 years in power, “Orbán’s only vision for the country” was that “we are waiting for 2030 not because Hungary will catch up with the West by then, but . because the West will fall apart in exactly eight years”.

In a statement, they said that in his speech, Orbán had made sure “not to admit that his government’s flawed policies are the reason why Hungary is severely affected by the economic and cost-of-living crisis”.

The Orbán government has made Hungary “the second most corrupt country in the European Union”, the party said, adding that inflation was “brutal” and that the government was to blame for the delay in the payouts of EU funds to Hungary.

Peter Ungar, group leader of green LMP, said he was “surprised to hear” the prime minister criticise multinational companies over their excessive profits resulting from the war. “This begs the question: If he has a problem with this, then why is he defending with all his might the international corporations that pay no taxes in Hungary?” Ungar said on Facebook.

He said LMP welcomed Orbán’s stance that Hungary must end its dependence on gas. “Better late than never, but if the prime minister hadn’t been doing the exact opposite of this over the last ten years, we’d be in less trouble right now,” he added.

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