He listed these five dangers as: Brussels’ prohibition of reductions in household utility charges; illegal immigration; foreign attempts to influence the domestic political scene; and Brussels’ attacks on tax reductions and job creation programmes in Hungary. The Prime Minister said that the Government is calling the defensive measures being considered in response to these five attacks a “new national policy for protecting the country, Hungary’s national interests and the results achieved”. In order for Hungarians to successfully defend themselves, he said, they first need agreement, “the wider and fuller the agreement, the better”. Therefore a national consultation on these issues will be launched.
In relation to the reductions in household utility charges, he stated that Hungary insists on its right to determine energy prices, and this right “cannot be delegated” to Brussels.
Hungarians’ view on migration is shared by ever more people in Europe
Moving on to the issue of illegal immigration, the Prime Minister said that it is still backed by many in Brussels, but “step by step we are making progress in holding back the countries that support migration, and the Brusselites”, and Germany and Italy are also changing course – albeit slowly. In his view, Hungary must now deal with a new issue for self-defence: immigration detention. According to the Government’s plan, the essence of this is that migrants who submit asylum applications must be kept in custody until the final and absolute assessment of their applications.
Mr. Orbán specifically addressed the issue of migration, saying that more and more people throughout Europe now share the Hungarians’ opinion on this matter. At the latest EU summit of heads of state and government, he said, more attendees than at previous meetings supported the idea of setting up refugee camps outside the EU; this was originally a Hungarian proposal, he added, but in the past politicians in Brussels had not wanted to listen to it. “We Hungarians are not right, but we will be right,” he stated, saying that on the issue of migration one can see that “the former black sheep are turning into people of calm foresight”.
He also observed that the heavy pressure on Hungary’s borders will not end in the next few years, and therefore the protection of the borders will remain a high-priority national security issue.
Government wants transparency on NGOs
He continued by saying that the third danger facing the country comes from networks which attempt to influence the country’s domestic policies in a covert and organised manner, with funding from abroad. These have nothing to do with civil society, but are “the Hungarian branches of international organisations”, he said, adding that the Government wants transparency, and will therefore not allow “global capital” to make decisions instead of the Hungarian people.
In his view this year Brussels will also make attempts to appropriate further powers over the organisation and control of the economy, including those relating to the latest Hungarian tax regulations.
We must therefore defend “the successful Hungarian system of taxation”, he said.
Finally he said that the various job protection measures – such as the public works schemes, the job protection action plan and the promotion of job-creating investments – will also be under attack from the EU, despite the fact that nation states should not be deprived of these tools.
We may succeed in achieving an economic breakthrough
Mr. Orbán also evaluated the economic figures, which in his opinion demonstrate that the Hungarian model is viable, as the country achieved its economic policy objectives for 2016.
He said that the Hungarian people have worked hard for these results, and, “regardless of party affiliation”, it is comforting to see that the efforts are gradually coming to fruition.
Listing the figures, he stressed that at the end of last year government debt to GDP fell to 74 per cent, and that in January the budget balance produced the best first-monthly result in 17 years. The deficit target of 2.4 per cent is clearly attainable, he said.
Regarding growth, Mr. Orbán said that last year the gross domestic product increased by 2 per cent, and the Government is expecting 4.1 per cent growth this year and 4.3 per cent next year. The Prime Minister remarked that last year Hungarian foreign trade closed a record year, with a foreign trade surplus of some EUR 10 billion generated in just twelve months.
He added that unemployment was at a record low in the last quarter of 2016, standing at 4.4 per cent, a level “from which full employment is now well within reach”. Since the current governing parties entered office in 2010 the number of people in employment has increased by more than 700,000, and so the plan of one million new jobs within ten years is going well, he said. He also mentioned the favourable performance of the tourism sector.
Among the measures introduced this year, he mentioned increased family tax allowances, tax reductions, an increase in the minimum wage, and pay rises for those working in higher education, at county government offices, and in the military and the police. He added that carers in infants’ crèches who have tertiary qualifications have also joined the teachers’ career model, and the pay of social sector workers with degrees will also be addressed. He stressed that salaries in health care have also increased and, following doctors, the situation of nurses has also improved.
Putting the economic indicators into a historical perspective, the Prime Minister indicated that an economic breakthrough is about to take place. In the past 120 years or so, he said, similar periods of development have recurred. Between 1900 and 2010 the gross national product per capita only increased by 1.5 per cent annually. This fell short of the growth rate for advanced countries, he pointed out, and successive attempts at catching up proved to be unsuccessful.
Mr. Orbán said that since 2010 Hungary’s growth rates for both GDP and consumption have exceeded those of the eurozone, and the employment rate is higher than the EU average. “Hungary earned itself an unprecedented chance between 2010 and 2016. Rather than squandering it, we should make it happen”, he told Members of Parliament, asking them to take a historical perspective when shaping their policies.