The following is the text of the speech that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán delivered at the 31st Bálványos Summer Free University and Student Camp in Tusványos (Băile Tuşnad in Romanian), Transylvania, Romania last Saturday, July 23. The text is reprinted, with some added annotations, from the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister’s official website. The title is editorial.A video including the English text in subtitles is also linked below.
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
I am very happy to see you. Zsolt Németh asked me to come here this morning with the warning that I should speak for exactly half as long as I want to. In Hungarian, the word “half” is a good one. The Pope was once asked how many people work in the Vatican; his reply was “Half of them!” Well, I will try to be clear and concise in what I have to say. It will not be easy to listen to this all the way through, because I have a lot to say, and I can see that it will be hot; but a healthy lamb can live with its coat of wool. And after all, the last time we met was in 2019, so three years ago. It is good to be free again, to be able to sit out on a terrace with friends and drink a fröccs [spritzer]. We have every reason to drink a Fidesz fröccs: two-thirds to one-third [Fidesz, which is Orbán’s party, along with its longtime coalition partner, the Christian Democrats (KDNP), won a two-thirds parliamentary majority for the fourth time in a row in the April national election, which gives them the ability to pass legislation without needing to cooperate with any opposition parties]. This also shows that some things are eternal.
The world has changed a great deal since the last time we met. In 2019 we were part of a very optimistic and hopeful camp, but the decade that has now opened up before us is clearly going to be a decade of dangers, of uncertainty and wars — as is well illustrated by the scenes here. [Responding to a brief disturbance in the audience] Be just as polite as the Budapest police were with the junkies on the bridges [during a recent protest]. So we have entered an age of dangers, and the pillars of Western civilization, once thought unshakable, are cracking. I will mention three such tremors causing those cracks. We used to think we were living under the protective canopy of science, but then we were hit by a certain COVID. We thought that there could never be war in Europe again, but now there is a war in a country neighboring Hungary. And we thought that the Cold War could never return, but now many world leaders are working on reorganizing our lives into a world of power blocs.
Since these are developments that I did not mention at all in 2019, this teaches us to be modest, as there are strict limits on our predictive abilities. In 2019 I did not talk about a pandemic, nor about a European war, another two-thirds victory [for Fidesz-KDNP] nor the return of the Left in Germany. Nor did I say that we would beat England here, and then over there 4-0 [in football last month]. So if you are looking into the future, the most important advice is modesty and humility: You cannot supplant the Lord of History. It is in this spirit that I ask you to consider what I am about to say. I will start from far away before arriving here in Szeklerland [the region of Transylvania that is ethnically primarily Hungarian].
Dear friends, when one observes the world, what is most striking is that the data suggests that it is an increasingly better place; and yet we feel the opposite to be true. Life expectancy has reached 70 years of age, and in Europe it is 80. In the past 30 years, child mortality has fallen by a third. In 1950 the world malnutrition level stood at 50%, while now it is at 15%. In 1950 the proportion of the world’s population living in poverty was 70%, and in 2020 it was only 15%. Across the world, the literacy rate has risen to 90%. In 1950 the average working week was 52 hours long, but this has fallen to 40 hours per week today, with leisure time increasing from 30 to 40 hours. I could continue this list at length.
And yet the general feeling is that the world is steadily deteriorating. The news, the tone of the news, is getting ever darker, and there is a kind of doomsday view of the future that is growing in strength. The question is this: Is it possible that millions of people simply misunderstand what is happening to them? My answer to this phenomenon is that this winter of our discontent is a fundamentally Western attitude to life, which stems from the fact that Western civilization is losing its power, its performance, its authority, and its capacity to act. This is an argument that the západniks — that is to say, the natural born Westernizers — tend to sneer at: They say that it is boring, that Spengler wrote that the West was in decline yet it is still here, and that whenever we can, we send our children to universities in the West, not the East. “So there is no great problem here.” But the reality is that a hundred years ago, when there was talk of the decline of the West, they were referring to spiritual and demographic decline. What we are seeing today, however, is the decline of the Western world’s power and material resources. I need to say a few words about this to enable us to accurately understand the situation we are in.
It is important that we understand that other civilizations — the Chinese, the Indian, let’s say the Orthodox world, and even Islam — have also undergone a process of modernization. And we see that rival civilizations have adopted Western technology and have mastered the Western financial system, but they have not adopted Western values — and they have absolutely no intention of adopting them. Nevertheless, the West wants to spread its own values, which is something that the rest of the world feels to be humiliating. This is something which we understand, as sometimes we also feel the same way.
I recall an episode in the life of our Foreign Minister, Péter Szijjártó, sometime around 2014, under a previous US administration. A visiting US government official casually pushed a sheet of paper in front of him and simply said that the Hungarian Constitution should be amended on the points it contained, after which friendship would be restored. So we understand this resistance from the rest of the world to the West’s propagation of values, to its export of democracy. In fact, I suspect that the rest of the world has realized that it needs to modernize precisely because it is the only way to resist the export of Western values that are alien to it.
The most painful thing about this loss of territory, this loss of power and material territory, is that we in the West have lost control over energy carriers. In 1900 [corrected from “1990”] the United States and Europe controlled 90% of all oil, natural gas, and coal supplies. By 1950 this figure had dropped to 75%, and today the situation is as follows: The US and Europe together control 35%, with the US controlling 25%, while we control 10%; the Russians control 20%, and the Middle East controls 30%. The situation is the same with raw materials. In the early 1900s the US, the British, and the Germans held a considerable proportion of the raw materials needed for modern industry. After the Second World War the Soviets stepped in, and today we see that these raw materials are held by Australia, Brazil, and China — with 50% of Africa’s total raw material exports going to China.
But looking to the future, what we see does not look very good, either. In 1980 the US and the Soviet Union dominated the supply of most of the rare metals that are the basic materials for industries built on modern technology. Today the Chinese are producing five times more than the US and 60 times more than the Russians. This means that the West is losing the battle for materials. If we want to understand the state of the world, if we want to understand the state of the Westerner in the world, our starting point must be that much of the world’s energy carriers and energy resources lie outside Western civilization. These are the hard facts.
Within this, our situation — Europe’s situation — is doubly difficult. This is the reason that the United States has the strategy that it has. The year 2013 is one that has not been noted or written down anywhere by anyone, but this was the year in which the Americans launched new technologies for extracting raw materials and energy — for simplicity’s sake, let us call it the fracking method of energy extraction. They immediately announced a new US security policy doctrine. I quote from it; it runs as follows. This new technology, they said, would put them in a stronger position to pursue and achieve their international security objectives. In other words, America made no secret of the fact that it would use energy as a foreign policy weapon. The fact that others are being accused of this should not deceive us. It follows from this that the Americans are pursuing a bolder sanctions policy, as we are seeing in the shadow of the current Russo-Ukrainian War, and they have set about strongly encouraging their allies — in other words, us — to buy supplies from them. And it is working: The Americans are able to impose their will because they are not dependent on energy from others; they are able to exert hostile pressure because they control the financial networks — let’s call them SWIFT [Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication] for simplicity — for sanctions policy; and they are also able to exert friendly pressure, meaning that they can persuade their allies to buy from them.
A weaker version of this policy was seen when President Trump first visited Poland, when he just talked about the need for them to buy “freedom gas.” This US strategy has only now, in 2022, been complemented with the sanctions policy. This is where we are now, and it would not surprise me if uranium, nuclear energy, was soon to be included in this sphere. The Europeans responded to this, we Europeans responded to this, as we did not want to make ourselves dependent on the Americans. It is not nice, but among themselves European politicians say, “We’ve caught a Yank, but he won’t let go of us.” They did not really want to maintain this state of affairs, and so they tried to protect the Russo-German energy axis for as long as possible, so that we could bring Russian energy into Europe. This is now being torn apart by international politics. Then, led by the Germans, we gave another answer: the switch to renewable energy sources. So far this has not worked, however, because the technology is expensive, and therefore so is the energy derived from it. In addition, the switch to this modern technology is not happening automatically, but only under pressure from above, which is exerted on the Member States by the Commission in Brussels — even though this seriously harms the Member States’ interests.
In passing, I will say a few words about European values. Here, for example, is the latest proposal from the European Commission, which says that everyone must reduce their natural gas consumption by 15%. I do not see how it will be enforced — although, as I understand it, the past shows us German know-how on that. Furthermore, if this does not produce the desired effect and someone does not have enough gas, it will be taken away from those who do have it. So what the European Commission is doing is not asking the Germans to reverse the shutdown of their last two or three nuclear power plants still in operation, which enable them to produce cheap energy; it is letting them close those power plants down. And if they run out of energy, in some way they will take gas from those of us who have it, because we have stored it up. We Hungarians call this an Einstand [forcible confiscation by a stronger party], which is something we learned from The Paul Street Boys [a famous Hungarian novel from 1906 by Ferenc Molnár]. This is what we can prepare ourselves for.
To sum up, ladies and gentlemen, what I want to say is that the West’s negative feelings about the world are due to the fact that the crucial energy and raw materials needed for economic development are no longer in the West’s hands. What it does possess is military power and capital. The question is what it can achieve with these in the present circumstances.
Following this, allow me to say something about us Hungarians. What questions must Hungary and the Hungarian nation answer today, how and in what order must we answer them? These questions are like the layers of a dobostorta [Hungarian layered sponge cake], stacked on top of each other: the most important at the bottom, the lighter and tastier morsels on top. This is the order that I will follow now.
The first and most important challenge, dear friends, continues to be population, or demography. The fact is that there are still far more funerals than baptisms. Whether we like it or not, the peoples of the world can be divided into two groups: those that are capable of biologically maintaining their numbers, and those that are not, which is the group that we belong to. Our situation has improved, but there has not been a turnaround. This is the alpha and omega of everything: If there is no turnaround, sooner or later we will be displaced from Hungary, and we will be displaced from the Carpathian Basin.
The second challenge is migration, which you could call population replacement or inundation. There is an outstanding 1973 book on this issue which was written in French, and recently published in Hungary. It is called The Camp of the Saints [Le Camp des Saints], and I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the spiritual developments underlying the West’s inability to defend itself. Migration has split Europe in two — or I could say that it has split the West in two. One half is a world where European and non-European peoples live together. These countries are no longer nations; they are nothing more than a conglomeration of peoples. I could also say that it is no longer the Western world, but the post-Western world. And around 2050, the laws of mathematics will lead to the final demographic shift: cities in this part of the continent — or that part — will see the proportion of residents of non-European origin rising to over 50% of the total. And here we are in Central Europe — in the other half of Europe, or of the West. If it were not somewhat confusing, I could say that the West — let’s say the West in its spiritual sense — has moved to Central Europe: The West is here, and what is left over there is merely the post-West.
A battle is in progress between the two halves of Europe. We made an offer to the post-Westerners which was based on tolerance or leaving one another in peace, allowing each to decide for themselves whom they want to live alongside; but they reject this and are continuing to fight against Central Europe, with the goal of making us like them.
I shall leave to one side the moral commentary they attach to this — after all, this is such a lovely morning. There is now less talk about migration, but, believe me, nothing has changed: Brussels, reinforced with Soros-affiliated troops, simply wants to force migrants on us. They have also taken us to court over the Hungarian border defense system, and they have delivered a verdict against us. For a number of reasons not much can be said about this now, but we have been pronounced guilty. If it were not for the Ukrainian refugee crisis, they would have already started to enforce this judgment on us, and how that situation plays out will be accompanied by a great deal of suspense. But now war has broken out and we are receiving arrivals from Ukraine, and so this issue has been put aside — they have not taken it off the agenda, but just put it to one side. It is important that we understand them.
It is important that we understand that these good people over there in the West, in the post-West, cannot bear to wake up every morning and find that their days — and indeed their whole lives — are poisoned by the thought that all is lost. So we do not want to confront them with this day and night. All we ask is that they do not try to impose on us a fate which we do not see as simply a fate for a nation, but as its nemesis. This is all we ask, and no more.
In such a multi-ethnic context, there is an ideological feint here that is worth talking about and focusing on. The internationalist Left employs a feint, an ideological ruse: the claim — their claim — that Europe by its very nature is populated by peoples of mixed race. This is a historical and semantic sleight of hand, because it conflates two different things. There is a world in which European peoples are mixed together with those arriving from outside Europe. Now that is a mixed-race world. And there is our world, where people from within Europe mix with one another, move around, work, and relocate. So, for example, in the Carpathian Basin we are not mixed-race: We are simply a mixture of peoples living in our own European homeland. And, given a favorable alignment of stars and a following wind, these peoples merge together in a kind of Hungaro-Pannonian sauce, creating their own new European culture. This is why we have always fought: We are willing to mix with one another, but we do not want to become peoples of mixed race. This is why we fought at Nándorfehérvár [Belgrade], this is why we stopped the Turks at Vienna, and — if I am not mistaken — this is why, in still older times, the French stopped the Arabs at Poitiers.
Today the situation is that Islamic civilization, which is constantly moving towards Europe, has realized — precisely because of the traditions of Belgrade/Nándorfehérvár — that the route through Hungary is an unsuitable one along which to send its people up into Europe. This is why Poitiers has been replayed; now the incursion’s origins are not in the East, but in the South, from where they are occupying and flooding the West. This might not yet be a very important task for us, but it will be for our children, who will need to defend themselves not only from the South, but also from the West. The time will come when we have to somehow accept Christians coming to us from there and integrate them into our lives. This has happened before, and those whom we do not want to let in will have to be stopped at our western borders — Schengen or no Schengen. But this is not the task of the moment, and not a task for our lifetime. Our task is solely to prepare our children to be able to do this. As [House Speaker] László Kövér has said in an interview, we must make sure that good times do not create weak men, and that those weak men do not bring hard times upon our people.
Ladies and gentlemen, demography, migration, and the next layer is gender — and what we call the Child Protection Act. There is less talk of this now because other things are occupying the front pages of the newspapers, but let us not forget that on this issue, too, we have been taken to court — and we await the verdict. The only result we have achieved here is partly — or perhaps entirely — thanks to [Justice] Minister Judit Varga. We have managed to separate our big debate on the whole gender issue from the debate on EU money, and the two are now moving forward on separate tracks. Here too, our position is simple: We are asking for another offer of tolerance. We do not want to tell them how they should live; we are just asking them to accept that in our country a father is a man and a mother is a woman, and that they leave our children alone. And we ask them to see to it that George Soros’ army also accepts this.
It is important for people in the West to understand that in Hungary and in this part of the world this is not an ideological question, but quite simply the most important question in life. In this corner of the world there will never be a majority in favor of the Western lunacy — my apologies to everyone — that is being played out over there. Quite simply, Hungarians — or the sons of some other peoples — cannot get their heads around this. There are all these gender things: transnational and transgender, but the furthest we can go with that is to say “Transylvania” — although in Hungarian it is called Erdély. We cannot go any further than that. So I ask you not to be misled, not to be deceived: There is a war, an energy crisis, an economic crisis, and wartime inflation, and all of this is drawing a screen in front of our eyes, a screen between us and the issue of gender and migration. But in fact it is on these issues that the future will be decided. This is the great historic battle that we are fighting: demography, migration, and gender. And this is precisely what is at stake in the battle between the Left and the Right.
I will not mention the name of a friendly country, but just refer to it. There is a country where the Left has won [Slovenia], and where one of its first measures has been to dismantle its border fence; and the second measure has been to recognize every “gender rule” — not only same-sex marriage, but also such couples’ right to adopt children. Let us not be fooled by current conflicts: These are the issues which will decide our future.
How can we protect ourselves? First, by being determined, then by looking for allies. This is what has given the Visegrád Four [V4] its importance. So what has recently given the Visegrád Four its great importance is that on these issues we have been able to speak with one voice. Indeed, it is no accident that the post-Westerners did their best to dismantle the Visegrád Four. In addition, war has intervened, and this has shaken the Polish-Hungarian cooperation that has been the axis of V4 cooperation.
As regards the war, the Poles and the Hungarians have the same strategic interest: They do not want the Russians to come any closer, they want Ukraine’s sovereignty to be preserved, and they want Ukraine to be a democracy. We both want exactly the same things, and yet this war is making relations with our friends difficult. This is because when it comes to matters of the head, the interests that I have talked about are clearly aligned; but the problem is matters of the heart. The problem in Hungarian-Polish relations is one of the heart. We Hungarians see this war as a war between two Slavic peoples, and as one which we want to stay out of. But the Poles see it as a war in which they are also involved; it is their war, and they are almost fighting it. And since this is a matter of the heart, we cannot come to an agreement with each other on it, but must use our intellect to salvage everything we can from the Polish-Hungarian friendship and strategic alliance for the post-war period. Of course we still have our Slovak and Czech friends, but there have been changes of government in those countries, where they currently prefer the post-Western world, and they do not want to engage in conflicts with Brussels — from which they are receiving good grades. In my opinion, this is like tying up their horses in a burning stable. Good luck with that!
After these the fourth question is the question of war. Every war can be looked at from many perspectives, but the primary aspect of every war is the fact that mothers will mourn their children and children will lose their parents. This consideration should override all others — even in the sphere of politics. For the Hungarian government, this means that our primary duty is to ensure that Hungarian parents and Hungarian children do not find themselves in such a situation. Here I can mention that there are countries that criticize us because they think that we are not sufficiently committed to the Ukrainians. But those countries are far away, and at most are providing support in terms of money or weapons; meanwhile, today we Hungarians are the only ones, apart from the Ukrainians, who are dying in that war. According to our records, to date 86 Hungarians have lost their lives in that war. This is a completely different perspective. We Hungarians have been the only ones who have shed blood in that war, while those who criticize us have not shed any. This is why, as a neighboring country, Hungary has the right to say that peace is the only solution that will save human lives, and the only antidote to wartime inflation and a wartime economic crisis.
How will we think about this war in the future? We will maintain our view that this is not our war. Hungary is a NATO member, and our starting point is that NATO is much stronger than Russia, and so Russia will never attack NATO. The statement that Russia will not stop at Ukraine is a weak — but understandable — propaganda talking point used by Ukraine. I understand it, because their aim is to involve us, to involve as many countries as possible on their side in this war; but it lacks any basis in reality. At the same time, since we are members of NATO and we want to stay out of this war, our situation has become a delicate one. This is because NATO and the European Union have decided that, although they will not become belligerents, they will nevertheless supply arms and impose severe economic sanctions; and whether one likes it or not, this means that they are de facto — not de jure, but de facto — parties to this conflict. Now we are in the dangerous position of having to somehow help the Ukrainians while also being a de facto party to the conflict, yet at the same time ensuring that the authorities in Moscow do not see this as a situation in which we — NATO and the European Union — have become formal belligerents. This is the position on which the European Union and NATO are balancing every day, while taking on huge risks.
Since one can read a lot about the war, if I still have your attention, I would like to say a few words about how this war came about and what the reasons for it were. Of course, everyone knows that Russia attacked Ukraine. That is what happened. Now let us look at the reason for that. Let us also note the problem that once you understand something, you are only a step away from accepting it. But it is very important to make a moral distinction between understanding something and accepting something. What this means in concrete terms is that it is important to understand why the Russians did what they did; but it does not follow from this that if you understand what they did, you accept what they did. The Russians have made a very clear security demand, and have even written it down in a way that is rare in diplomacy, sending it to the Americans and NATO. They have written their demand that Ukraine should never be a member of NATO, that Ukraine declares this, that NATO itself assures Russia of this, and that we undertake to never place weapons on the territory of Ukraine that could hit Russian territory. The West has rejected this offer and has refused to negotiate on it. They have said that NATO has an “open door policy”: the door is open, anyone can apply and we will decide whether or not we want to take them in. And the consequence of this refusal is that today the Russians are seeking to achieve by force of arms the security demands that they had previously sought to achieve through negotiation. I have to say that this war would never have broken out if we had been a little luckier and at this crucial hour the President of the United States of America was called Donald Trump, and if before that we had managed to persuade Angela Merkel not to leave office — if Donald Trump had been the President of the USA and Angela Merkel the Chancellor of Germany. But we were not lucky, and so now we are in this war.
Western strategy in this war is based on four pillars. It is a sensible strategy on paper, and perhaps even has numbers to back it up. The first was that Ukraine cannot win a war against Russia on its own, but it can do so with training from the Anglo-Saxons and with NATO weapons. That was the first claim. The second strategic claim was that sanctions would weaken Russia and destabilize the leadership in Moscow. The third strategic element was that — although they would also affect us — we would be able to deal with the economic consequences of the sanctions, so that they would be hurt more and we would be hurt less. And the fourth strategic consideration was that the world would line up behind us, because we were in the right.
As a result of this excellent strategy, however, today the situation is that we are sitting in a car with four flat tires. It is absolutely clear that the war cannot be won like this. The Ukrainians will never win a war against Russia with American training and weapons. This is simply because the Russian army has asymmetric superiority. The second fact that we must face up to is that the sanctions are not destabilizing Moscow. The third is that Europe is in trouble: economic trouble, but also political trouble, with governments falling like dominoes. Just since the outbreak of the war, the British, the Italian, the Bulgarian, and the Estonian governments have fallen. And autumn is still ahead of us. The big price rise came in June, when energy prices doubled. The effects of this on people’s lives, which are creating discontent, are only just beginning to arrive, and we have already lost four governments.
And finally, the world is not only not with us, it is demonstrably not with us. Historically the Americans have had the ability to pick out what they identify as an evil empire and to call on the world to stand on the right side of history — a phrase which bothers us a little, as this is what the Communists always said. This ability that the Americans used to have of getting everyone on the right side of the world and of history, and then the world obeying them, is something which has now disappeared. Most of the world is demonstrably not on that side: not the Chinese, the Indians, the Brazilians, South Africa, the Arab world, nor Africa. A large part of the world simply refuses to take part in this war, not because they believe that the West is on the wrong side, but because for them there is more to the world than this war, and they have their own problems that they are wrestling with and want to solve. It may well be that this war will be the one that demonstrably puts an end to that form of Western ascendancy which has been able to employ various means to create world unity against certain actors on a particular chosen issue. That era is coming to an end and, as they say in the bombastic language of politics, a multipolar world order is now knocking on our door.
And if we are talking about war, I can use an appropriate style to pose one important question: Chto delat? [Russian: “What is to be done?”] There is the problem that, compared to the others, Hungary’s army does not seem to be very big. There is the problem that, compared with the GDP of, say, the big European countries and the US, Hungary’s GDP also looks modest. So we may have a clear view of the situation, we may have excellent insights concerning the war, we may have a clear vision, we may have a strategic proposal; but you know that when it comes to the war, all this matters very little, because the war is a prelude. It is the word of the strong that will be decisive. Hungary should not cherish the illusion that with our excellent advice, we will be able to influence the events of the war and the strategy of the West. Nevertheless, in any debate I consider it a matter of honor and a moral principle that we must try to state our position and try to persuade the West to develop a new strategy to replace empty reports of victory. If your car has four flat tires, you have to change the wheels — all four of them. A new strategy is needed; and its focus — the target in its crosshairs — should not be on winning the war, but on negotiating peace and making a good peace offer. Speaking figuratively, I have to say that now the task of the European Union is not to stand alongside either the Russians or the Ukrainians, but to stand between Russia and Ukraine. This should be the essence of a new strategy.
What will happen? The Russians are speaking an old language. So when we listen to them, it is as if we are hearing the sounds of the past: the system of gestures, the categories, the words. When I listen to Mr. Lavrov, it is like what we heard 30 or 40 years ago. But this does not mean that what they are saying does not make sense; it does make sense, and it is worth taking seriously. Two days ago, for example, a Russian official said that they will push forward in Ukraine until the front line is so far advanced that from there the weapons possessed by the Ukrainians will not be able to hit Russian territory. In other words, the more that NATO countries supply modern weapons to the Ukrainians, the further forward the Russians will push the front line. This is because they are a military nation that thinks only in terms of security and is only interested in ensuring that it is not attacked from Ukrainian territory. So at the moment what we are doing is prolonging the war, whether we want to or not. This means that there will be no Russo-Ukrainian peace talks. This is an idea that we should get used to. Anyone expecting such talks will be waiting in vain. Since Russia wants security guarantees, the war can only be brought to an end with Russo-American negotiations. There will be no peace until there are Russo-American talks.
I could counter this by saying, “But look at us Europeans here.” But unfortunately, my friends, I have to say that we Europeans have squandered our chance to influence events. We squandered it after 2014, when we left the Americans out of the first Minsk agreement created during the Crimean conflict, and instead formulated a Minsk agreement with a Franco-German guarantee. This should have been implemented, but unfortunately we Europeans — or the Germans and the French who represented us — were unable to enforce it. This is why now the Russians do not want to negotiate with us, but with those who can force Ukraine to do what it agreed to. So the situation is like the one after the Second World War: Europe once again finds itself in a situation in which it will not have a say in its most important security issue, which will once again be decided by the Americans and the Russians.
At this point I would like to make another comment, because from this perspective we can see the danger posed by the European Union’s proposal to change the system of foreign policy decision-making for the Member States. Under the current system all foreign policy decisions can only be made unanimously, but the proposal is to change this so that it will be possible to create common European foreign policy with a simple majority vote. Hungary’s historical experience tells us that if a country is forced to adopt a foreign policy that it does not want, even if that policy needs to gain two-thirds of the votes in the EU, then quite simply the name for this is imperialism. And the argument that only in this way can Europe become a world political player is, once again, a sleight of hand. The reason that Europe cannot become a world political player is that it cannot keep its own house in order, it cannot keep order in its own backyard. The best example of this is the Russo-Ukrainian War. This should be resolved, but I can give you other examples. Minsk should have been enforced. The Croats are being cheated in Bosnia. This is a complicated issue, but I would just like you to know that the Croats who live in Bosnia and who have the legal right to elect their leader are being cheated by the Bosniaks, and the latter are in fact using loopholes in the electoral law to elect Croats. The Croats speak out on this matter at every European Council meeting, and we Hungarians support them with all the means at our disposal, but the EU is incapable of solving this problem.
Or there is the problem of defending our borders. The aim should not be to become a world political player. It should be enough for our ambition to be that the EU is able to defend its own borders; but it cannot, and poor Salvini — who tried to do so — is being taken to court, and there are those who want to imprison him. Or there is EU enlargement in the Balkans: Greece is a member of the EU, Hungary is a member of the EU, but between us there is a big black hole, the Balkans. For geopolitical and economic reasons the EU should be bringing others into its own world, but it is unable to do so. So Europe should not be aspiring to a role in world politics, but should be setting and achieving the modest goal of being able to settle foreign policy issues arising in its own backyard.
Demography, migration, gender, war. The fifth set of challenges we face relates to energy and the economy. This is a complex issue. The best thing to do is to go back to square one, as one does after a dance step has gone wrong, and start again in an attempt to understand the situation. One must ask the simplest questions. Here the simplest question is this: Who benefits from this war? The answer is that the party that benefits is the one which has its own sources of energy. The Russians are doing well. We have miscalculated, thinking that if we do not buy energy from the Russians they will have less revenue. This is a mistake, because revenue is determined not only by the quantity sold, but also by the unit price. And the situation today is that the Russians are selling less energy, but they have much higher revenue. So the Russians are doing well. European Union imports from Russia have fallen by 23%, but in the same period Gazprom’s revenues have doubled. The Chinese have done well. In terms of energy the Chinese used to be at the mercy of the Arabs, getting all their energy from that area of the world. But now that we are not buying from the Russians, we have effectively shifted Russian energy towards China, and China has thus eliminated its energy dependence. And, of course, large American companies are benefiting. I have compiled this list: In 2022 Exxon’s profits doubled, Chevron’s quadrupled, and those of ConocoPhillips increased sixfold. We know who is doing well economically. Who is doing badly? The European Union is doing badly, because its energy deficit — the difference between its exports and imports, or their value — has tripled, and it is now showing a shortfall of 189 billion euros.
How does this affect us? The most important issue, or set of issues, is what we call the reductions in household utility bills. What is the future of these reductions in Hungary? Yesterday I listened to the head of the RMDSZ [Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania], and I learned how this is being done here in Romania — how they are trying to help people to survive in the face of such energy prices. In Hungary we are doing it differently. In Hungary we introduced a system at the beginning of the 2010s, which I think is a huge political achievement and a very important social policy achievement. In 2010 it was already clear that the price of energy as calculated on a market basis was very high compared to families’ incomes, and therefore a large proportion of their earned income was being consumed by essential costs, by utility charges. So we introduced a system in which we guaranteed everyone natural gas, electricity, and district heating at a set price, regardless of the cost of energy on the market. The market price was higher than the fixed price, and the difference was paid by the government from the central budget. This was the Hungarian system, and it worked well for ten years.
The problem now is that the war has disrupted this system, because now we are seeing wartime energy prices. The task is to somehow defend the reduction in energy charges. I now see that we will succeed in this, in the sense that everyone will continue to be charged the earlier price up to the average level of consumption. This is not the case in Romania. In Hungary, everyone will continue to pay the earlier reduced price up to the average consumption level, but if they consume more than that, they will have to pay a market price — the level of which we have just made public. If we succeed in retaining this and thus protecting it, we will also be able to claim it as a huge political achievement and a social policy success. To give you an idea of the scale of this, I can outline what has changed. If I look at the year 2021, I can say that the amount that the Hungarian state paid out — because household utility charges were pegged at a level lower than the market price — was 296 billion forints, all told. In 2022, if the current fixed prices were retained until the end of the year, we would not be paying out 296 billion forints, but 2,051 billion forints. This would be seven times the previous amount, which is something that the Hungarian economy would quite simply be unable to bear. This has to be resolved. That is why we have decided to protect the price up to the average consumption level, but above that a market price will apply. This is also why we have rescheduled every type of non-energy investment. Those which have not yet been started will not start, while those which have been started as public investments will be completed, because nothing can be left in an unfinished state. Here, beyond the border, we will complete everything. Here and at home we will guarantee money for what needs to be continued, but we cannot launch new investments, because neither here nor at home can I guarantee in any way the completion of anything that we launch now. That would be irresponsible. So we have to wait.
And finally, there is one more task: We must withdraw from natural gas. Electricity represents a much smaller burden for Hungary, because we have a nuclear power station and solar energy. If we can shift consumption from gas to other sources, such as electricity or biomass — the modern term for wood — then the burden that is weighing us down will be reduced. This is a feasible and achievable task under the current budget plans.
In the economic field, the next problem we face is recession. This is an elegant way of signaling that the economy’s performance next year will be less than in the preceding year. The whole of Europe is in the grip of recession. In Hungary this is compounded by the fact that, since we use the forint, when the dollar-euro exchange rate changes, that is to say when the dollar strengthens, this automatically leads to an immediate weakening of the forint. And when we are in a period when the dollar is constantly strengthening against the euro, or at least maintaining the high level it has reached, this automatically leads to a weakening of the forint. There is also the question of whether next year the economy will perform worse than it did this year. And in the budget which has been adopted, the forecast is that this will not be the case, but that we will grow. The problem is that, in the meantime, everywhere in Europe — or at least in most European countries — there is certain to be a downturn, and this will cause political instability. The ancient Greeks said that the world exists in two states: Sometimes the world is in an orderly state known as cosmos, and at other times it is in a state of disorder, or chaos. And the latter is the direction in which the European economy is now heading. The dilemma that we Hungarians have to face — and we have to find the key to solving it — is this: In a global recession, is it possible for there to be a local exception? And our goal for the next two years is to make Hungary a local exception in a global crisis. An ambitious goal!
This also means that, even though having just won an election we would like to see the four years ahead of us as a single unit, this is not possible; this is because the four years ahead of us will comprise two periods of two years each. There will be the first two years, between 2022 and 2024. In 2024 there will be a presidential election in America, and that is when I think the first really serious prospect of peace will come. And then there will be the two years from 2024 to 2026. We need a plan for the first two years and a different plan for the second two years. Can Hungary be made a local exception? This can be done, and here the key term is “staying out.” So in economic terms, Hungary will only succeed in maintaining its success if we stay out of the war, if we stay out of migration, if we stay out of gender lunacy, if we stay out of the global tax — I will not go into that at length for lack of time, but they want to impose it on us — and if we stay out of the general recession in Europe.
The good news is that we did this in 2010. It is good news that we also did it in 2020, during the COVID pandemic. We have come out of every crisis stronger than we went in. What happened in 2020 is that we overtook on the bend: During the crisis we overtook Greece and Portugal in terms of economic output per capita. The problem is that while we were overtaking on the bend, we ran into a nice shower of freezing rain, and now we need to somehow keep our car on the track.
I think that in order to succeed it is important for us to be able to reach new agreements with all the key players adapted to the new situation — not only in political terms, but also economically. A new agreement must be concluded with the European Union. These financial negotiations are underway, and we will reach an agreement. Now we are going towards the precipice together, holding hands, but we will stop, turn to each other, hug, and reach an agreement. A new agreement must be reached with the Russians. Hungary needs to make a new agreement with the Russians, Hungary needs to make a new agreement with the Chinese, and then we also need to make a new agreement with the United States — it may be easier with the Republicans than with the current Democrats. And if we can manage to do that, if we can reach an agreement with everyone as demanded by our national interests, then in 2024 we can get back on the old track of growth and development.
Finally, I need to say that while we are juggling with dates, let us not forget that we are actually working towards 2030. I have talked about many things, and right now Hungarian governance reminds me of Chinese circus performers who spin 20 plates at once while making sure that none of them fall off. In essence this is the task we have to tackle, but we must not lose sight of the fact that — in addition to spinning the plates — the most important horizon and time limit for our thinking is around 2030. Our analyses suggest that this is when the problems of the Western world will accumulate and multiply in terms of tension. There will be a very serious crisis in the United States. I have just recommended a French author, and I would also recommend to everyone a book by the American analyst George Friedman, also published in Hungarian, entitled The Storm Before the Calm. In it he outlines the various challenges that the US will have to face, which will peak around 2030.
But somehow within this time frame we will also see the emergence of all the problems of the eurozone: the South and the North having diverging development paths, with the South in debt and the North having to finance it. This will create a tension that after a while will be unsustainable unless the South reforms itself along Northern lines. But they are not showing much inclination for a sudden change in culture, which is why public debt in the South is in the range of 120, 150, or 180%. And then, around 2030, there will be a new power dynamic within the EU, because by that time the Central Europeans, we Central Europeans — who are treated in a way that I don’t need to elaborate on here — will be net contributors. So the moment will come when — because of our faster development, development that is faster than theirs — Hungary will not on balance be receiving money from the EU, but will be paying money into it. It will be paying in more than it gets. The Czechs are already very close to being in that position. If the Poles develop in the way we are already seeing, they will soon arrive at that point around 2030, and we will also be there somewhere around that time. This means that there will be new power dynamics: He who pays the piper calls the tune. This will also change our relations, and create a new situation for us within the European Union. In other words, dear friends, around the year 2030 we will have to be in top form. That is when we will need all our strength: diplomatic, economic, military, and intellectual strength.
And finally, taking Zsolt’s advice, I will now just list the factors that will help Hungary in making us a local exception in a global recession.
The first is that we still have our border defense.
The second is that we have a family-based society, which is a factor that guarantees a great deal of energy and motivation.
Right now we are implementing major developments in our army and military-industrial sector.
We are diversifying our energy sources. Incidentally, what the EU wants is not diversification. Diversification means that you are not vulnerable because you can source your energy from a variety of places. What they are doing is imposing sanctions, the purpose of which is preventing them getting it from a certain place. That is a completely different story. We do not want to stop getting energy from Russia; we simply want to stop getting it exclusively from Russia.
Our fifth opportunity is to take advantage of the technological shift. If we are fast enough, we can always win when technological changes occur. Here we have the example of electric cars. In Hungary we are making huge investments in batteries, and in no time we will be the world’s third-largest battery producer — the third-largest battery producer in absolute terms, not in percentage terms — and the world’s fifth-largest exporter. So there are these niches that we can enter.
Foreign capital inflows: This is our sixth big opportunity. Capital is coming in from both the East and the West. In 2019 — or maybe 2020 — South Korea was already bringing in the most investment, followed by China the year after, and Korea again this year. Meanwhile, German investment is ongoing: Yesterday the construction of a new Mercedes factory was announced, which will be an investment of one billion euros. We are a transit country, and we want to remain a transit economy. At this point I must note that if the world separates into blocs and is once again split into East and West, we will not be a meeting point or a transit country. If power blocs emerge we will not be a meeting point, a gateway, a contact point combining the advantages of both the East and the West, but we will be on the edge of something, on the periphery. And then Hungary will not be a prosperous Hungary, but a dusty outpost garrison of the sort we read about in the work of [the comic novelist] Jenő Rejtő. We must therefore oppose the formation of any such blocs. This is the only way in which a transit country and a transit economy can be profitable.
Our next, eighth opportunity is based on political stability: We have a two-thirds majority. A government with a two-thirds majority cannot be toppled, and there are no coalition disputes, because we are not in a coalition. Perhaps you have paid less attention to this, but in fact in recent years on the national side we have also overseen a generational change. Let us leave aside the fact that now in the West people of my age are starting their political careers. It is different in Hungary, and I am moving towards the exit. We need to ensure that the generation following us will have leadership of the same national and emotional commitment that we have given to Hungary. This is why we have quietly implemented a generational change, the symbol of which is that a 44-year-old mother of three [Katalin Novák] is our President of the Republic, in contrast to or alongside a Prime Minister like me, who will soon be in his sixties. And if you look at the government, you see ministers in their forties — sometimes their early forties — who will be able to provide leadership for Hungary for 20 or 30 years. Of course, generational change is never easy, because there is a difference between newcomers who kick over the traces and those who pull the cart. Those who kick over the traces should be given the chance to perform in a circus tent, while those who pull the cart should be involved in political decision-making.
The ninth key to a successful strategy of local exceptionalism is our intellectual and spiritual foundations. Hungary still has its national conception, its sphere of national sentiment, its culture, and a language capable of describing a complete Hungarian world.
And finally, the tenth factor that offers us a chance for success is what I call ambition. Hungary has ambition. Hungary has communal ambitions, and indeed, national ambitions. It has national ambitions, and even European ambitions. This is why, in order to preserve our national ambitions, we must show solidarity in the difficult period ahead of us. The motherland must stand together, and Transylvania and the other areas in the Carpathian Basin inhabited by Hungarians must stand together. This ambition, dear friends, is what propels us, what drives us — it is our fuel. It is the notion that we have always given more to the world than we have received from it, that more has been taken from us than given to us, that we have submitted invoices that are still unpaid, that we are better, more industrious, and more talented than the position we now find ourselves in and the way in which we live, and the fact that the world owes us something — and that we want to, and will, call in that debt. This is our strongest ambition.
Thank you for listening. Go Hungary, go Hungarians!