Orbán at the Hungarian Permanent Conference: the number of friends and allies of Hungary has increased
Hungary now has more friends and allies than ever before, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said Friday at a meeting of the Hungarian Standing Conference (MAERT) in Budapest. The type of government in potential partner countries determines opportunities for cooperation with Hungary’s Christian nationalist government, Orbán said.
Hungary, its government and Hungarians living across borders “always have an easier time when similar governments based on nationalist Christian foundations are in the majority, or at least present in Europe”, he said. The latest political developments have made this easier, he said.
The Prime Minister noted that the MAERT last met in person in 2019, adding that they have all grown stronger since then.
The key question in 2019 was whether ethnically unified Hungarian representation should evolve into ethnically mixed Hungarian representation, he said. Now it is clear that all Hungarian communities want political structures to be ethnically uniform, he added.
Also in 2019, he argued that Central Europe would become the economic engine of Europe, and indeed it had, Orbán said.
There was also a broad consensus at the time that the Balkans would be the key to European security. While the current war has eclipsed the issue, the Balkans are now experiencing serious power rivalries, he said, adding that Western Balkan countries, particularly Serbia, need to join the EU as soon as possible. as soon as possible to ensure security in the region.
Commenting on the Visegrád group, the PM said its importance was underlined in 2019, but while it was still important today, the situation had changed, and he referred to the “uncertainties” surrounding Czechia and Slovakia and their foreign policies.
“Cooperation with the Poles is also not easy,” Orbán said, noting war-related tensions in Ukraine, although Hungary and Poland shared the view that “Russia should not threaten region”, and a sovereign state as a buffer between Russia and Central Europe was needed.
Orbán said that while Hungary agreed with Poland on the end goals, it disagreed on the means, with Hungary supporting a ceasefire and peace negotiations allowing Russia a designated place in Europe’s security structure which is “not disadvantageous or dangerous to us”.
Orbán said that “the project…to organize Central Europe to enable it to represent a significant force in Europe, rather than being defined by their relations with larger states, is now less likely to become reality”.
But new types of cooperation are emerging, he said, citing as an example the Serbian-Austrian-Hungarian cooperation which hopefully will last for a long time.
The prime minister said the war was part of a process by which power relations around the world were upended, and it was also part of a wider trend that encompassed the financial crisis and the migration crisis. The goods, resources and benefits produced in the world are now distributed proportionately at odds with the status quo ante, and these changes are accelerating rapidly, he said. It is debatable, he added, whether this process could take place without war or whether conflict was a feature of it.
“If war is going on in your neighborhood, you are not out of danger either,” Orbán said, adding that restoring peace to Hungary’s neighborhood as quickly as possible is a strategic issue for the country.
The war has casualties and also has economic consequences, Orbán said, calling it important that what happened in Poland three days ago, namely the missile incident that killed three people, does not not part of everyday experience.
It’s not a rewarding role to be the only one talking about the importance of the ceasefire and peace talks in Europe, but it’s what is in Hungary’s strategic interest, a he declared.
Orbán said the 2014 conflict in Crimea, when Russia occupied the peninsula, did not spread because “the German-French axis successfully contained it”. In 2022, countries with an interest in keeping the conflict local were not strong enough, he said.
The “botched” sanctions policies have led to soaring energy prices, creating an annual deficit of 10 billion euros in the Hungarian economy, he said. The economy will “gobble up” some 6 billion of this deficit, and the budget will end up with a hole of 4 billion euros, he said. This sum will be missed in social spending, salary increases and tax cuts, he added.
“From this point of view, Hungary’s policy demanding a review of sanctions does not seem exaggerated at all,” he said. Energy prices could even halve if the pro-sanctions policy changes, he added.
The original aim of introducing sanctions was to undermine Russian military power, he said. But the situation has worsened more than ever since then, prolonging the war, and therefore “Hungary does not trust sanctions”, he said.
Orbán insisted that the beneficiaries of the war were “not necessarily those who started it”, but rather the United States and China.
“We are among the losers because Europe has no leadership,” he said. “Europe cannot assert its interests because we don’t know who the forces and the determining actors are,” he said.
Orbán said that in this situation, Hungary should “refrain from adopting the European post-nationalist approach” and remain firmly on a national basis. Hungarians “united in peril” during the financial, migration and coronavirus crises, and even managed to fix some “broken systems”, he said, pointing to energy policy, which he said was on about to be overhauled.
Putting national interests first is a plus, Orbán said. Hungary condemns Russian aggression and helps Ukraine, but will not put Ukraine’s interests ahead of its own, he said.
The Prime Minister stressed that Hungary would not approve of the policy of European Union member states raising joint loans to help Ukraine. Instead, EU member states should figure out how much money Ukraine needs to run its state and distribute the costs proportionally and fairly, Orbán said. As a result, Hungary would provide 60-70 billion forints (146-170 million euros) per year from the national budget under a bilateral agreement with Ukraine, he added. The sums at stake would not harm Hungary’s fundamental national interests, even if this amount was missing from the Hungarian budget, he added.
If Hungary allows the EU to take out a joint loan, the bloc will irreversibly turn into a “borrowing union”, he insisted.
The current crisis is also an opportunity, Orbán said. “If Hungary ranks well, it will move up the competitiveness rankings,” and that’s why the government is unwilling to give up Russian connections, he said. Ties with neighboring countries should also be strengthened, he said.
Regarding EU funding, Orbán noted that the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) set up to counter the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic was a joint loan rather than an accumulation of payments from Member States. Its distribution had been decided in advance, so the money “will have to be disbursed; it can only be delayed,” he said.
Hungary is the only country with which the EU has not yet signed the FRR agreement, he noted. This could be accomplished in the coming days, he added.
Orbán said Hungary was close to reaching an agreement on EU funding for the 2021-2027 financial cycle, “although even if we sign it, it is not certain that it will be paid and which parts of it would be suspended”. The funding would amount to 800 billion forints, with the country’s GDP of about 62 trillion forints, he added.
Orbán said “political games” could well be played, but the EU should not use funding as a tool for blackmail. “We won’t be stuck,” he said, adding that such a trading strategy would never achieve its goal.
He called the process “insolent and ruinous”, adding that without EU funding, Hungary would look to the global market and to China for loans to finance the greening of the economy. Hungarian.
The prime minister said the government would not abandon its national strategic goals even amid the current crisis. Family support will be expanded and jobs retained as the government pursues its goal of national unification, he added.
Orbán promised leaders of Hungarian communities across the border that talks about Hungary’s investments would focus on what can be achieved rather than what is not possible in the current environment, although that, he warned, for the next two years, no new large-scale investments were on the horizon.