Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to welcome you on this spring-like morning. If I am not mistaken, we have here almost the entire Hungarian state: the Government, the police, the leaders of the prosecution service and the judiciary. It is no mere coincidence that has brought this gathering together. Today’s event is an expression of the view and the increasing feeling that the size and importance of the settlements surrounding Budapest is continuously growing. Indeed, this has become the most prominent development of the past decade. Szigetszentmiklós – whose mayor I welcome – has also become a dynamically developing settlement, full of vitality. Since the 1990s its population has doubled, bringing with it advantages, joys and difficulties: small settlement, small problems; big settlement, big problems. Szigetszentmiklós has now outgrown its old institutions, like a strapping adolescent outgrowing his clothes all of a sudden: the district office, the court buildings, the prosecution service and the police station. The town was unable to respond to this challenge using its own resources. It needed central help from the Government. From a budget of HUF 4.4 billion we purchased a disused building, refurbished it inside and out and provided it with disabled access. The work is now complete. This brand-new administration centre is ready to receive the 270 workers of the district office, the prosecution service, the court and the local police headquarters.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Planning, creating and building something new is a great thing. There is only one thing greater: transforming something old into something new, as if by magic. At times like this we simultaneously rid ourselves of something bad and superfluous, and in its place create something good and useful. The other reason we are gathered here today is that here, in the settlement of Szigetszentmiklós, we are inaugurating the last government window in the government window programme. In 2010 we started this with Minister Navracsics, and now we are finishing it with Minister Lázár. The goal throughout has remained the same: to transform public administration so as to render it worthy of a thousand-year-old Christian state, while also ensuring that it meets the demands of a modern society in the 21st century.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In 2010 we decided to create a strong and sovereign state. Though we usually speak about sovereignty in the context of foreign policy, it is easy to see that an organisation eaten away from within by woodworm and in a decaying condition will sooner or later break down and will no longer even appear to be strong. In the period before 2010 the Hungarian state hardly had a single agency that was functioning well. Before 2010 the state was operating as some kind of private agency. This was clearly demonstrated by the key term of that period: outsourcing. The entire structure was falling apart, citizens could not rely on the state, and they found it hard to ensure that their affairs were dealt with. The state and state administration seemed more like an opponent, an obstacle to be overcome, rather than a strong support serving and supporting citizens. Unpredictability became an everyday experience: public order was falling apart; our laws were protecting perpetrators rather than victims; deadlines for response receded into the future, with continual requests from the state for additional information; and court cases dragged on for years. In 2010 we started to bring this state of affairs to an end. We restyled the clothing of the Hungarian state, trimmed its unruly hair, gave it more muscle where needed, and put it on a diet where it showed signs of excess fat. We gave it a healthy set of teeth to show a friendly smile – but strong jaws and the ability to bite. This was the plan. Since 2010 we have increased police numbers by 7,100. At last we are able to say that there is a permanent police presence in every settlement of the country. With due modesty, but with pride, we can say that we have restored public order in Hungary. Government windows providing standard services started operations on 1 January 2011. As you may have heard, in 2011 people could come to the government windows for the administration of 29 types of case. Ongoing developments mean that this number has now risen to 1,546. I believe that this is unprecedented in political history after the fall of communism. On 1 January 2013 districts were reconfigured, and 175 district and 23 metropolitan district offices started their operations. These numbers show that the Government wants to create a state that enjoys the people’s trust and seeks to help the advancement of the people and of businesses.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Beautifully refurbished or newly-built offices are worth hardly anything without committed employees trained to the highest standards. Being a good public servant is difficult. A good public servant knows the functioning of the state apparatus like the back of their hand, has intelligence and a broad horizon, wants to serve the entire nation when dealing with each and every case, and is able to address people of every sort in their own language. It is a difficult job. And on top of that, sometimes members of the public behave unreasonably. Therefore if public administration workers do not feel appreciated, they will always look elsewhere, to where they are better rewarded. Eventually this damages the entire system of public administration, and as a result we all suffer. Today it is no longer enough to offer someone just a job: together with the job, you have to offer a predictable future and the possibility of professional advancement. This is what is called a “career”, I believe. This is why we introduced a career model which gives a clear picture of where those entering state service may find themselves at any particular time in the future, if they show competence and loyalty. There are career models in place now in public administration, law enforcement and the administration of justice; and in time we may claim – and, I repeat, in time – that serving the public is not only a noble calling, but also financially rewarding.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
So we have a fine new institution, staffed by highly-trained people. All that remains to be done is fill this building with soul. According to many, this is an impossible mission. Hungarians find visiting administrative buildings a chore. The example of the Hungarian fictional character Jimmy Fülig suggests that wandering the corridors of official buildings rarely ends well. In our minds state bureaucracy still conjures up the image of an absurd board game, in which one walks from office to office, always risking being sent back to square one, or being left out of the next round, or being told to come back some other time. The reform of public administration is a task similar to clearing a road after an enormous tree has fallen across it. It is not complicated: it is simple, but difficult. Offices must be brought close to the public. Administration should be less time-consuming and should cost the public less. The state should not seek to take our money from us – on the contrary, it should help us earn more. These are simple things, but also difficult. This is why, in 2015 and 2016, we amended a total of 265 legal rules, in three legislative packages. We have started reducing public administration charges. Over the course of two years businesses have saved more than four billion forints, while private individuals have saved some ten billion three hundred million forints. This is where we stand now. We have come a long way.
Of course people in general are not at all interested in the long way we have come: that is a specialist matter for our professionals and state leadership. The public are interested in tomorrow, and I think they are right to be. We, too, are aware that we cannot stop. The world is in a continuous state of flux. We are living through the dawn of a new, digital era. The next few years in Hungarian public administration will be about changing over to digital administration – with all its beauty and all its problems. I therefore ask those present here today, the leaders and staff of the prosecution service, the court and the police, to be our partners in this work. Please let all your staff members know that we who work in the administration of the state are all equally important, each in our own position. All that differs is the responsibilities given to us.
Thank you for your attention. I hereby declare this building open.