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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the welcome ceremony for Stipendium Hungaricum scholarship holders

First of all, may I just welcome all of you. You know, this is Hungary and that has some consequences, which mean that the Prime Minister in Hungary, when it is possible, has to speak Hungarian. Hopefully we have a translator somewhere. So I will continue in Hungarian, which I hope in some years – let’s say in one or two years’ time – will not be found so alien as it sounds just now for you, and you’ll get closer to our language, and by our language get closer to our culture.

I would like to thank the Minister for having arranged this meeting today. There are several reasons for this meeting. You have already heard some speeches before mine, and I sincerely hope that these were useful. At the same time, I would also like to create a tradition, and this is why I would like to express my thanks to the Minister. Due to the complex situation in Europe – about which I will say a few words – we agreed with the Minister that we should create some kind of a tradition, whereby we have an opportunity to meet with the foreign students studying in Hungary. You obviously maintain regular contact with those who deal with your programmes, but you hardly have a chance to meet the country’s political leaders – even though this could be interesting, including for people of intellect. Therefore we shall create this tradition, and the present event is the start of this tradition: this is why we are all here now. Also, in your presence I would like to thank Minister Balog, who embraced the Government’s decision seeking to welcome foreign students to Hungary in the largest possible numbers. We were not entirely satisfied with the level of organisation, a number of decisions were adopted which we were unable to implement consistently, and political decisions went beyond the realm of reality. For instance, I have been to many countries and have offered scholarships financed by the Hungarian state, but converting those offers into actual students takes time and organisation. If Minister Balog succeeds in delivering upon his undertaking – and this is not entirely without hope in politics – here we shall soon have more than three thousand students from eighty countries. We currently stand at forty-five countries, but we wish to increase this number to eighty. The Government has placed the necessary funding at the Minister’s disposal, and will increase this funding over the next few years.

I would like to encourage you to take the good news back to your own countries that there are extended opportunities to study in Hungary, and that it is worth enquiring about Hungary. It is an old tradition that Hungary offers students from all over the world the opportunity to study here. This was the case even during the communist times, and although one tends to believe that communism has nothing positive to offer in terms of its legacy – and some even believe that what is worst about communism is what comes after it – we may conclude that this is not entirely the case. We have inherited a few good things: for instance, Chinese-Hungarian relations have always been good, because we inherited these from the communist times, and now we foster them; we maintained excellent higher education relations with a number of Arab countries during communism, and this too is part of our positive inheritance. Even in the old world, when I was a university student from 1982 to 1986/87 – some of you may even have been alive at that time – we had fellow students from abroad, students from Arab countries, and I still have fond memories of them. But this investment on the part of Hungary is obviously paying off. Zoltán and I share a number of experiences from official visits to foreign countries, and once we had talks with a government which had two members who spoke Hungarian – almost as well as we do, if not better – and we could carry on our conversation in Hungarian, even on the most complex issues. So we believe that this policy, the policy of openness and the policy of supporting foreign students, pays off for Hungary.

There is something here, however, which we cannot avoid mentioning; something which makes this meeting here today topical. You may see that Europe is suffering from a serious crisis; in fact, it is suffering from more than one crisis at the same time. You have obviously heard much about the financial crisis, economic stagnation, and the problems concerning decision-making in the EU; but the most spectacular, most obvious and most acute crisis today is the migrant crisis. This is why I asked Zoltán to give me the opportunity to speak here, at this meeting. I would like to make it perfectly clear to you that the current uncontrolled, unregulated and illegal flow of immigration – the flood of migrants pouring into Europe – shall not change the Hungarian government’s education policy. Our openness will not be replaced with a period of isolation; the welcome and greetings we extend to you will not be replaced with rejection; and the friendship we share with you will not turn into animosity. You all arrived in Hungary in a legally regulated, lawful manner, you have always observed the laws of Hungary – both when you first arrived and during your stay here – and you have always shown respect towards the Hungarian people; this is why you are studying at Hungarian universities. And we, too, have always shown you respect: we have extended to you that which in Hungary we call the right of guests, and we do not want to change this. So I am asking you to consider the following. You may read about political debate related to migrant affairs, in which Hungary will continue to take a firm stance: we insist on the observance of our laws and on the observance of the rules regarding entry into the country, and reject the uncontrolled and unregulated influx of migrants. We shall continue to pursue this line of policy, but we shall nonetheless continue to encourage students from abroad to come to Hungary, to feel at home here and to spread Hungary’s reputation.

You are safe here; the Hungarian government guarantees your security, and you are under our protection, according to the rules applying to guests. I sincerely hope that this has been your experience so far, and that this will not change. There will be no political atmosphere in Hungary which would reject you; our relationship with you will continue to be characterised by openness and friendship. So I am asking you to enjoy your time in Hungary, to spend your time here usefully, and to make use of the latest scholarship opportunities. If you are able to help in the work of the Minister and the work of the universities with your observations, please do not keep them to yourselves, but share them: let them be heard, and should you come up against any difficulty, feel free to talk about it. Hungary will remain an island of peace, security and respect for the law within Europe, and it will continue to remain a free country. While we are compelled to adopt certain measures in the interest of our security, these must not curtail our freedom, and we shall therefore make every effort to ensure that you can study in Hungary just as successfully in the future as you have done up to now.

We must exercise particular tact towards Muslim countries. In Hungary we have a very clear philosophical and theoretical position: politics in Hungary is founded on Christian roots, and Christian teachings forbid anti-Muslim sentiments. Consequently, we reject any anti-Muslim policy. Any subject is open to debate, any subject is open to discussion, because we are a free country; but we shall not allow anyone to be discriminated against on account of their ideology, origin or religion. We demand this respect, security and freedom for ourselves, and we shall extend the same to the Muslims who live here, in Hungary, alongside us. We shall continue the policy of Eastward Opening; I have just come back from Tehran, and I shall visit other countries even further away where the Muslim faith is the guiding principle of life. We shall extend our economic and political cooperation, and shall increase the number of scholarships granted to students coming to Hungary from Muslim countries.

To those for whom it is relevant I wish you a Merry Christmas, and to everyone else a Happy New Year!