He said today the countries of Europe are paying a sanction surcharge for oil, natural gas and electricity; meanwhile, in the United States the prices of gas and electricity are a fraction of the European prices.
The Prime Minister pointed out that the EU frequently accuses Hungary of violating European values, notwithstanding the fact that democracy is the paramount European value. However, the sanctions were not adopted democratically; instead, Brussels bureaucrats and the European elites decided on them.
They did not consult the people despite the fact that the price of the sanctions is being paid by the citizens of Europe, he said, adding that the cabinet will seek to find out as part of a national consultation whether the people agree with the sanctions and whether they support further ones.
The Prime Minister asked the Hungarian people to state their opinion because the sanctions are affecting the life of every Hungarian family.
The Prime Minister expects to see a prolonged Russo-Ukrainian war; in his view, the countries of Europe have experienced severe, shock-like changes due to the drastic rise in energy prices.
He said there is a war under way East of Hungary, between Ukraine and Russia, and step by step, increasingly large parts of the world are becoming victims of the war.
He added that while the war between Ukraine and Russia is a local war, the western economic sanctions have turned it into a global economic war, “meaning that we are facing a local armed war and a global economic war all at once”.
In Mr Orbán’s view, we should expect a prolonged war. America and the EU are helping Ukraine with weapons and money, while Russia’s reserves are limitless regarding both personnel and weaponry, he said.
We must prepare for the war in Hungary’s immediate vicinity to continue this year and next year as well, he said, also indicating that the world economy is facing a threat of recession, while the European economy a threat of utter devastation.
He said in recent months the countries of Europe have experienced severe, shock-like changes due to the drastic rise in energy prices, the world economy is facing a threat of recession, while the European economy a threat of utter devastation, and “what is happening around us is determining our lives more dominantly than we’re used to”.
He stressed that Hungary’s position is different from the majority western position, “today the West is on the side of war, while we are on the side of peace; instead of the continuation and escalation of the war, we demand an immediate ceasefire and peace talks”.
He said in the economic war that has escalated to a global scale every country has its own interests, and for Hungary the number one priority is to protect our security as well as our economic and national sovereignty. This is why they set up a defence fund in the budget as over and above the normal budgetary resources, we must now spend extra funds on the development of the army, the protection of the borders and the strengthening of our national security services.
Mr Orbán said the war worries people, but families are being most directly affected by the economic consequences of the war. A rate of inflation not seen for forty years is galloping through the advanced countries, and inflation is the highest in Central Europe, he stated.
He took the view that also two years ago we survived an economic decline that was caused by the pandemic, but now in 2022 the cause of the economic ailments is the response given to the Russo-Ukrainian war, meaning the wartime sanctions and energy prices increasing manifold in consequence. These brutal energy prices are not being induced by economic processes; “it is not the economy that is responsible for the drastic rise in energy prices, but politics, or to be more precise, the political decisions made in Brussels,” he pointed out.
He observed that it only makes sense to impose sanctions on sectors “in which we are stronger than those whom we seek to sanction,” but in the field of energy “we’re dwarves, while Russia is a giant”. He said this is the first time he has seen “a dwarf imposing sanctions on a giant”.
The Prime Minister also mentioned that energy prices have an impact on food prices as well. If the sanctions were lifted, prices would immediately drop to a half, and inflation, too, would halve. Without the sanctions, the European economy would swiftly recover and would be able to avoid the threat of recession, he said.
He further highlighted that “when at the beginning of the summer these sanctions were forced upon Europe in Brussels,” this is not what the Brussels bureaucrats promised; they promised that these sanctions would hurt Russia, not the European people. Since then it has been revealed that the sanctions introduced are also causing Europe enormous losses; in fact, since the start of the war, Russia has gained revenues to the value of EUR 158 billion from increased energy exports, he pointed out.
He took the view that in consequence of the sanctions, the European people have become poorer, while Russia has not been brought to its knees. “This weapon has backfired, with the sanctions Europe has shot itself in the foot”. In June in Brussels, the bureaucrats also promised that the sanctions would bring the war to an end. However, the end of the war is still not in sight, while energy bills have skyrocketed, he explained.
He highlighted that if we carry on like this, “the whole of Europe will be destroyed”. In Europe, ever more people are angry, and the Brussels bureaucrats must understand that they cannot gamble with the fates of entire national economies and people in the millions because this is irresponsible.
He observed it is no wonder if – feeling deceived – angry people are replacing the governments of countries supporting the sanctions one after the other. “Glory to Italy,” he added.
He also said the government is able to guarantee Hungary’s energy supply.
The Prime Minister pointed out that there was enough natural gas, electricity and oil, too. The quantity now in storage in Hungary’s gas reserves covers 41 per cent of the country’s annual consumption, and they agreed on further supplies with Russia.
However, as Hungary relies on imports for 85 per cent of its gas needs and is as such unable to meaningfully control prices, consumption will have to be reduced, he said, asking the state, state-owned companies, institutions, families and businesses alike to reduce their consumption.
Mr Orbán said natural gas accounts for 35 per cent of Hungary’s energy consumption; by the end of 2023, this will be reduced to 31 per cent and by 2025 to below 30 per cent. They have ordered an increase in the country’s domestic gas exploitation, have ordered the re-commissioning of the Mátra Power Plant, will extend the lifespan of the Paks atomic power station and will also start the construction of Paks2, he listed.
He said the Hungarian government is providing the most significant assistance for families with energy prices in the whole of the European Union.
He said the government is helping families with six items of assistance: with reduced household energy prices, a firewood programme, a lignite programme, a petrol price cap, a food price cap and an interest rate cap. With the maintenance of reduced household energy prices, every Hungarian family is saving HUF 181,000 monthly on average, he laid down.
He said in a European comparison this means that while in Germany energy subsidies account for 20 per cent of a family’s monthly income and in Austria for 6 per cent, in Hungary subsidies amount to 30 per cent.
The Prime Minister reported that the government had announced a programme worth HUF 200 billion for production and energy-intensive small and medium-sized businesses, adding that there will be a factory rescue programme and if necessary, there will also be a new job protection action plan.
He said at present state projects worth HUF 9,400 billion are under way in the country. These will be completed, but due to the uncertain economic situation, they will not start new state projects because they are unable to guarantee their completion.
In his view, today Hungary is stronger than at any time since the fall of communism, and while the sanctions are causing severe losses, there is a chance that the government will bring the country out of this crisis stronger than it was going in.
The Prime Minister said the government will “dictate a fast pace” in the coming months.
He indicated that even in the crisis management period of the next two years, the government will not surrender its strategic goals regarding the nation, will continue the development of transport networks, the family support programmes, the building of a development-based economy, the university development programme, the development of the defence forces and the programme for the unification of the nation. He promised the government would widen the available family support schemes; they will finalise the 2023 budget at the beginning of December, and that will also feature new family support measures.
Mr Orbán confirmed that despite the disputes with Brussels, Hungary continues to envisage its future as a member of the European Union. The Hungarian nation is a European nation, just as important a shade in the EU as any other Member State, and the EU will only be strong if it preserves and respects every one of its shades, he said, adding that “we’re a proud nation,” well aware that we have always given the world more than we have received from it.