“It is our custom to hold a press conference at the beginning or end of the year and since we will have a parliamentary meeting this afternoon, we will inform the people,” said the Prime Minister, opening the final press conference of 2022.
He discussed how this year has shaped up in terms of governing. As he said,
“This has been Hungary’s toughest year since the fall of communism.”
At the same time, our country performed exceptionally well this past year.
Six major accomplishments from 2022
“Hungary exhibited exceptional performance in the parliamentary elections this year where our sovereignty and independence had to be protected,”
– said Viktor Orbán, starting off the list. “HUF 3 billion went up against 3 million voters, and the latter won,” he stated. The Hungarian voters were in favor of a stable, capable and reliable government because the greatest value is the government’s ability to act. In terms of stability, our country is in first place in Europe because since 1990, they did not have to hold a single exceptionally organized election.
Even more importantly, Brussels’ liberal elites wanted a left-wing government and as the PM said, this was the reason for the withheld Hungarian funds.
The second success that Viktor Orbán listed was that we managed to stay out of the war.
While we have many Hungarians living in our neighborhood, we are dealing with a war that until now, has only had losers who are paying a heavy price for it all
– he stated. He believes 2023 will be all about avoiding economic recession. The Hungarian stance is that we should not allow ourselves to be dragged into this war; however, most of Europe has already gotten involved, especially those transporting arms and training soldiers. The PM hopes that Europe does get dragged too deep into this war.
According to him, by financing one of the warring parties, the EU has inextricably involved itself.
Hungary has managed to stay outside of all of this and despite all the international pressure, they still believe that an immediate ceasefire, peace negotiations, and peace are the only solution.
“Aside from all this, we fulfilled our humanitarian and Christian duty to help those in trouble. We have helped thousands of people travel across the country and for those that wanted to stay, we have given them everything a Hungarian person can get in Hungary,” said the Prime Minister.
The third major achievement this year was that, Hungary continued to hold its own against migration.
This is a big challenge for us every year, but in 2022 especially because along with the waves of migrants from the south, millions of Ukrainian refugees were arriving. These conditions made it difficult to defend the southern border.
“The Hungarian border police, border hunters, and military personnel were able to stop over 250 thousand illegal border crossing attempts this year – those are impressive numbers,” emphasized the PM.
The fourth exceptional accomplishment this year: we were capable of financing increased energy costs and maintaining the reduced prices of utilities.
“We paid seven billion euros in all for energy imports in Hungary for the year 2021; this value increased to 17 billion euros in 2022 which generated ten billion euros (i.e. four thousand billion HUF) which must be paid. At the same time though, the government was able to maintain the essence of the utilities price cuts for families. I do not know of any other country that provides every single family 180 thousand HUF worth of support every month. The good news is we have ensured this ten billion of financing for both 2022 and even 2023,” said the PM.
The fifth point on the list: preserving a work-based economy.
“Never before have this many people been employed in Hungary: 74.6 percent of people in Hungary are working. Thanks to this, we managed to reduce the budget deficit in this past election year,” explained Viktor Orbán.
“And finally, we also succeeded in coming to an agreement with the European Union which is an incredible achievement because we had to overcome the Hungaro-phobia throughout the liberal world. Despite this, we had to reach an agreement which, if all goes well, should be physically signed off on in the upcoming one-two days,” said the Prime Minister, describing the sixth achievement.
Decision on tax exemption today
According to Viktor Orbán, it is important to stay out of the economic recession. He would like to achieve single-digit inflation rates by next December and
at today’s parliamentary meeting they will vote on extending tax exemptions for women with children to until 30 years of age.
The first question from a journalist was related to the EU’s corruption scandal. Viktor Orbán said that at times like these, people may be tempted by the little devil in them, however, since Hungary is also part of the EU we cannot view this affair as outsiders. “Though we may have our disputes with European institutions, if they lose credibility and their hypocritical character comes to the surface, it destroys the strength of the community we belong to,” he said. Some Hungarians want the European Parliament in this form to be abolished; this corruption case draws attention to the fact that national parliaments have much stricter controls. “It would be better if representatives were selected from national parliaments for the European Parliament instead of direct elections,” he explained, reiterating one of his former proposals.
In connection with the left’s campaign-financing scandal, the PM said he sees no difference between the leftist parties and the leftist media as there is no difference in funding for them.
“The fence is not perfect, but if we compare current breeches with the hundreds of thousands who marched through our capital in 2015, the improvement is clear,” he said in answer to a related question. “There are some who get across but currently there are 2500 human traffickers and smugglers sitting in prison and this fence is not obsolete. First of all, we have established an armed unit dealing only with migration: the border hunters. We were also able to transfer forces from the Croatian-Hungarian border to the Serbian-Hungarian border. The third thing we have done is come to an agreement with the Croatians and Serbians to create a border defense alliance; we are currently boosting defense on the North Macedonian border,” listed the PM.
In connection with the scandal surrounding the left’s campaign finances, Viktor Orbán said that as the number of people involved in the EP corruption increases, it would not be fair to say that the practice of illegally accepting money for political compensation exists only on the left end of the spectrum. “Rather, the question is that since everyone in Brussels knows this affair didn’t start yesterday – why did the appropriate control mechanisms not work?
The most important thing now is to drain the swamp
– he said.
The PM continued to point out that there is no proof yet that this is connected to the European Commission; this is a very serious assumption and without clear facts it is not right to speculate. “In answer to how much this corruption case has damaged the EP’s reputation in Hungary: not at all. They already had zero respect so they cannot get any lower,” he declared.
Concerning the renovation of the Budapest Chain bridge and whether the capital will receive the near 15-million-euro support, he said that those legal details will be left to the lawyers to figure out. He did note however that the bridge is a real Hungarikum and “although we have spent an immense amount of money on it, it cannot be crossed by foot nor by car – the only good news is that the fish can continue to freely travel.”
When asked about the Ukrainian war, Viktor Orbán announced, “an independent and sovereign Ukraine is a Hungarian national interest; however, a separated European and Russian economy is not.”
He also emphasized that Hungary does want to get dragged into the war but they do want to provide any help to Ukraine they can. He said that they have accepted helping Ukraine financially; however, he does not consider it a good solution to do this through the EU institutions rather than directly via nations.
“It was first proposed that we create a community of debtors to provide money to Ukraine. We succeeded in preventing this and we found an intermediate solution in the meantime. However, this solution is not perfect: in the worst-case scenario the EU budget’s unused funds could be sent to Ukraine instead of to the Member States,” he explained. He added that they all know that 18 billion will not be enough, the Ukrainians will never pay it back, and this debate will be replayed in 2024. “It will be very hard to turn back from this path we have started down,” he said.
“A Polish-Hungarian community of destiny exists, we were both burdened with communism and this gives us a strong friendship with enormous value,” explained the PM, responding to a question. Though the two countries may have entirely different beliefs regarding the war, they agree on the strategic things. “The question is how we view the war. The Poles believe the Ukrainians are fighting for Polish freedom as well; we do not believe the Ukrainians are fighting for Hungarians. Ukraine is not defending our country from anything.
Our NATO membership and the Hungarian defense forces ensure our security.
Therefore, “the outcome of the war will have no impact in Hungary,” said the Prime Minister.
He was also asked about the Hungarian utilities subsidies: the PM explained that 75 percent of Hungarian households are within the gas consumption limits. The 25 percent that pay utilities overages are more well-off and can help sustain the current system.
In reaction to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences’ announcement recently, he said that he has never seen the Academy call upon people to break the law. There are legal forms of protest; the PM asked teachers that they protest legally because if they do not then government leaders must take certain legal measures in response.
The Prime Minister is on the teachers’ side because he agrees their salaries must be increased no matter what.
“New teachers have an unacceptably low starting salary, but this was recommended by unions at the time. If the EU agreement is actualized, then the government will be able to grant 10 percent raises with the EU funds. If we have funds, we will be able to implement even higher raises within three years, but if not then within six years,” explained the PM.
“We believe we can avoid the European recession; we plan on next year's budget growing by 1.5 percent,”
– declared the PM. He also said that he understands Central bank governor György Matolcsy’s point of view because the Central Bank is responsible for inflation, but the tool he chose to fight it – high interest rates – makes it impossible for entrepreneurs to take out loans. The head of the central bank is in a difficult situation and the Prime Minister is not shocked that he has communicated in unorthodox ways.
Viktor Orbán would extend family support subsidies
The PM was asked about family support subsidies.
There are often debates over the child expectancy loans, but those who want to keep it are in the majority and Viktor Orbán shares their view.
“The only way that family support works is if it is long-term and reliable; this opportunity must be available for young people and later on we will analyze how many people took advantage of it,” explained the PM.
“First, we are in need of a ceasefire, then negotiations; we must see if this can be resolved with negotiations. Though it is not our job to give advice, it would be best for all of Europe if weapons were not firing,” said the PM answering another question on the war.
As it turned out, State Secretary Péter Hoppál was appointed to Government Commissioner and Minister János Csák will decide if Hoppál can remain a state secretary alongside this.
In response to a question on whether energy could become a new important issue for the V4, Viktor Orbán said: it could be and he hopes it becomes an important topic for the V4 in the medium-term. “The problem is that today, energy is directly related to sanctions, thus since there are differences in opinion on the sanctions and the war, it is hard to agree on energy issues,” he pointed out.
It was also revealed that during his talks with the PM of Qatar, they agreed on energy cooperation, financial issues, and further investments coming to Hungary.
When asked why Hungarian inflation is twice as high as EU inflation rates, Viktor Orbán explained that the Central Bank is responsible for price stability; they prepare the studies which are accepted by the government. “However, when we talk about the price caps, I have doubts on why limiting the price of one thing would lead to increases for others,” he said. The PM believes that this is an age-old difference in opinion between bankers and lawyers: bankers do not understand that price freezes are not for the bankers but rather for the people.
“It would be important to move away from dependence on imported energy – where this energy comes from is a secondary issue. The point is to move away from imported energy. Ten years ago, we decided on the Paks II nuclear power plant for this exact reason: to end our energy dependence,” stated the PM. Everyone has opposed Paks II – the Hungarian opposition, Brussels – and we do not know what we can do to actualize this project which would have been finished by 2023 according to the original plan. The real question is, can we be independent?” he repeated. The only real, large-scale, structural solution would be Paks II for Hungary, everything else would just be temporary.
“The warring parties and forces behind them have not dedicated themselves to peace negotiations yet; for true peace we would be in need of Russian-American negotiations,” said the Hungarian PM.
When asked if there is a way back to the European People’s Party for Fidesz, Viktor Orbán replied that no, we are now somewhere else.
“Hungary is not isolated, we take part in the common decision-making because no single EU Member State can be isolated; we are present in those decisions as well which decide the future of our community,” he said, answering the BBC question. He added that Hungarian history has also proven that we have always been against both military and economic blockades. “If there are blockades, we will always lose as history has shown us as well as the map,” he indicated.
I was in the opposition for 16 years, I do not think I have to retire yet
– answered the PM to a question about his retirement. He sees many who would be capable of filling his position and he smiled as he noted that he has to “be careful”.
According to the PM’s report, the government will approve next year’s budget within the next few days and it will be activated by January 2023.
They will of course send this budget to the National Assembly as well, but the country cannot be without it in January.
In connection with how pensions are shaping up taking inflation into account, the PM said that they made a decision based on the Central Bank’s predictions. If during the year they see that inflation will be higher, then pensions will be adjusted.
Concerning Dunaferr, Viktor Orbán emphasized: he has never seen a messier case in his life. Verifying the identification of the owners as either Ukrainian or Russian is a big problem as it is not known whether it is subject to sanctions or not, while the company is burdened with approximately 500 billion HUF debt. Despite this, they are working on negotiations to save what can be salvaged.
The PM noted: we are working on creating as many new jobs in the area as are threatened by the Dunaújváros ironworks.
When asked whether they will continue their campaign against the sanctions, Viktor Orbán announced: they oppose every form of sanctions and most sanctions policy. “In the end though, the EU decides in these matters, so the correct conclusion is that though we do not veto any of the sanctions, we do not support any of them and will not in the future either. And we cannot veto on every occasion because that would destroy the community of the EU,” he said.
Though Fidesz will not be rejoining the EPP, they are working on creating a new right-wing formation in the EP but not before the Polish elections
– the PM told Euronews.
In connection with Chinese cooperation, Viktor Orbán said that, in the past decades, Westerners were the lead investors in our country, but in the last four years, China and South Korea have been alternating in the top two places.
“We are open to Eastern investment policy; this is very important to avoid isolation and we must do everything to have the best possible economic relations between China and Hungary. The Hungarian government especially supports economic cooperation with emerging countries and we would like China to take a leading role in terms of investing Hungarian capital,” he said.
In connection with Fudan University, the PM said that is still on the agenda. He does not want Hungary closing itself off from everything except the Western world; everything coming from the East is very important to our country, including education.
In answer to a question from a Croatian TV station, Viktor Orbán explained that the image of historic, greater Hungary was on his scarf at one of the national football matches because this is a completely normal, accepted symbol. “We are talking about a country that is over 1000 years old – of course it is important to differentiate historical Hungary which is a historical symbol for us,” he explained.
Photo: István Mirkó