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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the ceremony for the appointment of the heads of metropolitan and county government offices

Before I say anything – Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable Minister – I’m just wondering whether I agree with what Gergő Gulyás said in his introduction: whether unchanged personnel is a sign of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. I still can’t decide which. But I can give arguments in support of both statements, as, in terms of general intellectual and professional standards, quite a few of those here today are over-qualified for their jobs. After four years of service it would be justified for a government official or office director to continue his or her duties at a higher level – whether in state administration, business or academia. But, Ladies and Gentlemen, you have nonetheless decided to stick with this job, and we must ask why this is so. The only answer to this question that we can really give – and this is why I congratulated everyone on their appointment – is that unfinished work awaits us. I can’t tell you now whether all the work could have been finished in the past four years, but it is a fact that we haven’t finished it. We still have plenty of work left for this term, and therefore I am very hopeful that all of you have agreed to maintain your posts for the next four years. This will mean that we will finish together what we began together, as the Hungarian state’s intermediate-level administration is not yet in a condition with which we can be satisfied.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Just now you took an oath to represent the thousand-year-old Hungarian state and to serve the Hungarian people. This oath contains everything that defines the purpose of public administration: that the Hungarian state and those administering its functioning should at all times operate so that the state preserves us as we are, and – as we said in the election campaign – we preserve Hungary as a Hungarian country. This will also be the guiding principle for your work in the years ahead. And so I’d ask you to perform your work with the attitude and self-confidence befitting the thousand-year-old Hungarian state, the existence and historical continuity of which your work must guarantee and serve.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let us take a brief look at where we started from in 2010, and what objectives we set for ourselves. When we won the election in 2010 our goal was to rethink the role of the Hungarian state, and we are defining how the state administration of a sovereign and strong country should look. We wanted a state which enables us to protect the country’s sovereignty, to preserve the order of freedom within it, and to allow the Hungarian people to live in a free country. What did we need for this? We needed to renew our entire legal system, we needed to strengthen the country’s public security, and we needed to transform our public administration. Then on 1 January 2011 we created the metropolitan and county government offices. Next we decided, after long debates, that the state should also be accessible at district level. We completed this debate and created the district system. We restored this in 2013. I’m not saying that it’s perfect, and I feel that perhaps the time will come when we could deal with this issue once again, but we created the district system. I’m not convinced that its size is optimal, or that the number of district offices and centres is optimal: this is a difficult question, but perhaps the next four years may be a good time to address these questions and find the right answers. Since 2011 we have opened 294 “government windows”, because we believed that the state should also be accessible. All in all, it is perhaps no exaggeration to say that today intermediate-level public administration is the Hungarian state’s most efficiently operating sector. And we expect the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office to raise central public administration to that level also, so that in the next few years we can say that the gap between the two has disappeared. Of course in response to this the minister of the day could say that it’s easy for public administration to perform well – for instance at intermediate-level – if a career system is also introduced and people can see in their salaries the evidence of the value placed on their work. This has not yet happened in central public administration, but it has at the intermediate level. Next the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, because if we raise the pay of workers in central public administration – as we are planning to do – and if we harmonise the relevant regulations with those at intermediate level, we will see whether this will result in higher performance at the upper level. If that is so we’ll be happy. If not, we’ll be wiser from the experience.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Six of you have held the post of government office head since 2011. We wish to congratulate you especially. Since 2014, sixteen of you have held this post continuously. This means that now there will only be a single completely new appointment – and even that is only because Mária Kállai has now become a Member of Parliament. The people of Szolnok – the Cumans and the Jász people – have fought hard for this position, and in the end a just decision was made based on talent and aptitude. So I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate the new office director. I wish you every success in replacing Mária Kállai, who now represents Szolnok and its environs in the country’s legislature as a Member of Parliament.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Finally I would simply like to say that public administration has no other raison d’être or standard than service of people and the country. I would like to ask that, over the next four years, your most important duty be that you serve Hungarians. Do not seek to solve their problems and troubles for them, but don’t add to them: instead help them with the swift, fair and unbiased administration of their affairs. I submitted your letters of appointment hoping that under your leadership the system of Hungarian public administration will be able to serve Hungary’s national interests in a way that befits its traditions. I again wish you all the best in your work, and the best of health. You are seasoned comrades-in-arms, and so I can confidently wish you all success – both professionally and in policy.

Thank you for your attention.