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Speech by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on the fifteenth anniversary of the founding of the Nézőpont Institute

Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am Viktor Orbán. I am only saying this because the young lady has just invited me to the stage as Dr. Viktor Orbán. If I recall correctly, there has only been one place in my life where I insisted on the title that my legal qualification allows me to use. It was shortly after the formation of Fidesz, when, after receiving my law degree, I was immediately recalled to national service, and spent six months in a soldier’s uniform as Dr. Viktor Orbán.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The first question is why, as the serving prime minister, I have accepted the invitation to be here this evening – apart from the fact that I have dear friends and acquaintances here. I have two reasons – at least two reasons. One is personal in nature. You have just heard here that the Nézőpont Institute also carries out media monitoring. Of course, people do not know exactly what media monitoring is, but the point is that it is impossible for one mind to be able to scan the output of every media platform and forum that is worthy of attention; so someone has to read it, organise it and, using some sort of criteria, present decision-makers with the most important news. And every morning – just as soon as I have finished reading [the daily sports newspaper] Nemzeti Sport – I need to start my day by looking through the Nézőpont Institute’s media monitoring output for the day, both national and international, to see if there is anything that needs an immediate response. The other reason I am here is that my advisers warned me against speaking today if at all possible, because they raised doubts over what a prime minister could talk about at an event like this. If the Prime Minister starts to talk about the importance of political analysis institutes, then you have what is called “politics about politics”, and nobody is interested in that except politicians: the Prime Minister should not be concerned with politicians, but with people, and so I should think twice about that. But it occurred to me that perhaps this is an anniversary and an institute for which the formation, the founding, is linked to a remarkable moment in history. We are talking about 2006, after the parliamentary election won with lies, won by the Left. And perhaps in my address today I can talk not to politicians, but rather to every interested Hungarian citizen, about why it is important for us all that such institutions exist.

Before I do so, however, let me remind you of the brief clip featuring Ágoston Mraz on predicting the results of past elections – or, rather, that the Nézőpont Institute is usually good at predicting the outcome, that in the light of the past three elections it can be said to be good at predicting the outcome. That section of the short film showed that in order to achieve a result like that, which perhaps surprised many people in 2010 and again in 2014 and 2018, in order to achieve a major electoral success, you first need analysis. After the analysis you need planning, after the planning, you need work – then comes the work – and at the end you announce the result. So I am very pleased that in this short film we have seen here that a huge amount of work has to be done to achieve a major electoral victory – and even more so for successive electoral victories. Victories are not blown in by the wind, and two-thirds victories – especially two or three in a row – are not won by chance.

The final reason I came – or came here with great pleasure, or insisted on doing so, if you like – was that, if I received an invitation, I should be here because Tibor Navracsics has an important role here. I thought that his involvement would be a good cue to say something about the intellectual content of politics. It may have been originally said by Margaret Thatcher, but it was from Tibor Navracsics that I first learnt the maxim that in politics you must also win the battle of arguments. So there can be no political victory if the issues are on the table – whether thrown in front of you by life or by your opponent – and you do not engage in those debates, if you do not enter into them, and you do not win them. Of course you will not win them all, because no such thing happens – otherwise you would not have a two-thirds victory, but three-thirds and 100 per cent. You cannot win everything, but to win you cannot avoid engaging in the battle of arguments and winning it. This is the intellectual side of politics. And the lesson that Tibor has given us – because he is also a teacher – is that politics cannot exist without intellectual passion. Because you cannot win debates if you do not enjoy debate itself: the situation in which someone puts an intellectual challenge to you and you have to respond to it. If that does not motivate you, if that does not uplift you, if that does not inspire you, then you will probably not have much success in politics. Politics requires intellectual passion.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is true even if, in the end – after all the wide-ranging, holistic, global, intellectual debate – politics is still mostly focused on the question, “What about the cost of living?” Because, if I look at the analyses of [the political research institute] Századvég, for example, I see that the most important issue for people is, of course, the cost of living. And here again we have Margaret Thatcher, who is quoted by András Gyürk as saying – as I will repeat – that “communists always run out of other people’s money”. And that is indeed the case. And after they have run out of other people’s money, they have to impose new taxes, thus raising the cost of living. And indeed in the end, despite all the intellectual passion and comprehensive analysis, the question which becomes important is who is offering what, who has done what and who wants to do what in terms of the cost of living, in terms of everyday material issues. In other words I am saying that the battle over utility bills is never ending. This is the case today, and it will be no different in the election ahead of us. We are the ones who have reduced household utility charges and who want to keep them low. And there are those who say that this is unreasonable, that we should let the market determine the price, and that people should consume less. And they recite from the liberal textbooks. If this became political practice or government action, it would result in the cost of living increasing. Now, before one comes to this simple conclusion, one needs to read a great many books and win a great many debates, as Tibor Navracsics has advised.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

After this, I would like to turn to what I would like to say. How can we shed light on the importance of such research and analysis institutes for non-politicians? Why is it important to have them in a country? George Orwell once said that “In a time of deceit, to speak the truth is a revolutionary act.” He also said that “freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four”. Now, if we think of the creation of the Nézőpont Institute, we can safely classify the Nézőpont Institute as a revolutionary organisation: it came into being as an institution that dared to say that two plus two makes four, even when everyone was saying the opposite. That was in 2006, and just a few months after the Őszöd speech [by Ferenc Gyurcsány]. We can confidently and unequivocally call that a time of deceit. In those years an entire country was subjected to deliberate and orchestrated deception, and it was possible to win an election by concealing and falsifying budget figures so that the people – the voters – would not know the true situation. When you are on the other side it is an infuriating feeling. An infuriating feeling: you see it, you know it is all a fraud, and yet you are unable – you do not have the means and are therefore not able – to show the Hungarian electorate what is really going on. And then, after you lose the election and your opponent wins it by lying, a crisis management process begins, which is essentially based on austerity and goodness knows what other measures which bleed people dry. And your position is made even more infuriating, because you want to say that even the crisis thus created could be managed differently – or at least that questions could be asked or debated about whether this is the way to manage a crisis that is crippling the public. That crisis, of course, then results in us winning a two-thirds majority four years later. That does not make us happy, however, because by then people have had four years of their lives taken away from them: one has no vitality, one feels that a steamroller is approaching with terrible force, with loud hailers proclaiming that there is no alternative to austerity, to raising household utility bills, to raising gas prices and electricity prices, to cutting wages, to increasing taxes. You are confronted by a terrifying steamroller, and you do not have the power, the means, the voice and the people to help you say that this is not true: that there is an alternative.

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, that was the moment when the Nézőpont Institute was founded. It was probably based on the reasoning that we usually attribute to Plato, who said that if you do not engage in politics yourself, you are doomed to be governed by those less able than you. It was in these perilous times that the Nézőpont Institute was born, and we cannot help being grateful for the fact that they have put an end to that untenable situation, that they helped us to finally close the door on the age of deceit, and to finally be free to declare the reality of the situation in Hungary.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

If we approach the world of politics, I can say that in politics there are two kinds of animal: one is either an elected politician, or one tries to use one’s talents professionally in the field of political analysis. In 2006 there were hardly any of the latter – or if there were, they were very poorly organised. In Hungary in 2006 political analysis as a profession was in a rather rudimentary state, if we compare it with the other conditions in which we live, and the performance of which this profession is now capable. In 2006 this widespread witticism was still relevant: “What is a political scientist? A political scientist is a failed politician.” We have now come to the point at which, in our profession too, modern analytical and research work is being carried out that can be described as modern by Western European standards.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

If there is any profession in which one is vulnerable to the danger – also expressed in the Hungarian vernacular – of “not seeing the forest for the trees”, then that is certainly politics. Today is slowly coming to an end, and in the evening one might evaluate one’s work during the day – which I always do, as I recommend everyone should if possible: what one has done, how far one has reached, how much of the long list of tasks one has managed to shift from “unfinished” to the other side of the desk, and in doing so how many people one has had to talk to and reach agreements with – and perhaps even argue with. So when a politician comes to the end of the day, they see that they have spent it dealing with very specific, real-life issues, standing up for what they believe, making decisions according to their convictions. But all of these are dozens of decisions: the trees. But from within the evening one cannot see where one stands with these decisions: whether one has cut down trees or planted them, or what shape the forest now takes – rectangular, round, growing or shrinking. So if there is a profession that requires detachment, an objective point of view that is, shall we say, free of personal bias, and that informs us about the overall direction in which our decisions are steering the country, then that profession is definitely politics. One needs a background institution like the Nézőpont Institute, the mission of which is to look at your work without distortion, in the light of reality and with the instruments of science. This is what distinguishes political analysis from both politics and political commentary.

Ágoston has just spoken about the world of think tanks. Academic institutions dealing with politics are called “think tanks”. It is a very ugly term and it makes no sense in Hungarian, but for the time being we will use this word, as the previous speakers have done. If you try to seek the English root of the term, however, you find it probably comes from military jargon – as opposed to the first impression you have when you think of some kind of tank or container used to collect a lot of thoughts. It is more probably a military term denoting a protected place where those who are making operational decisions can calmly prepare proposals and analyses, from which military decisions can then be made. In other words, there must be a safe place that is close enough to the front line, but without the danger of getting your head blown off by a stray cannonball. Now that is what describes political analysts and political scientists. And Nézőpont was the first – perhaps the first – Hungarian institute to be deliberately and consciously set up in Hungary based on the model of Western think tanks.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It has been fifteen years since the founding of Nézőpont, and we have been in government for twelve of those fifteen years. We are grateful – and I am personally grateful – to the Nézőpont Institute, because they have helped us to learn about people’s opinions. It is not an exclusive source for that, and it does not hurt to dip into the world of direct popular reactions as often as possible, by meeting people. But without collecting and analysing these views, we would hardly be able to map our decisions onto the will of the public. There is a need to develop policy proposals, for which we offer our respect and thanks. Of course there are many staff working in the ministries, but they are essentially engaged in administration. There can never be enough people tasked with developing policy strategies to ensure that a government has the intellectual capacity to not only manage day-to-day business, but also to continuously produce longer-term plans for improvement. And we are also grateful for the third thing: the expert analysis of the media.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

If we place all this in a larger context, I have to say that it is not simply useful for such institutions to exist in a country and be available to a nation: it is quite simply vital for a free country, if a country wants freedom for itself. There are strategic sectors, a term we quite often use when describing our world, using it for the banking sector, transport, energy and the military. But now I would like to add to this list by saying that I am convinced that there can be no national sovereignty if there are no nationally owned research and analysis companies that prepare the way for political decisions. They are at least as important as banks, as the army, as transport facilities, and as the energy sector. For national sovereignty there must be the capacity to free one from reliance on the interpretations and readings of reality originating from English, German or American minds; instead there should be Hungarian intellects which, with Hungarian eyes and taking Hungarian interests as a starting point, describe for all of us – and, of course, primarily for decision-makers – how the world looks when seen in the light of Hungarian interests. If you do not have this ability, it is like asking the manager of the opposing team to put together your team before a decisive football match. To try to solve or respond to the challenge you are facing, you need to be able to interpret the situation, see your team, understand what the decisive moment in the match will be, and have a strategy for that; and it needs to be your strategy, not a strategy recommended to you by others.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Therefore, even if it sounds a little overwrought, it can be said that if we want a free and sovereign Hungary, then we need Nézőpont. In fact I will go further, because this is not a party-political issue, and say that we have an inexhaustible need for Nézőponts: for Hungarian research and analysis institutes.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Finally, we cannot avoid the question that there will be an election after all – despite the fact that there are analytical centres which regularly warn the Hungarian public that there may not be elections. As I did not begin working in this profession yesterday, I remember the first scare story along these lines was during the premiership of Péter Boross, sometime in 1993–94. Our unfairly treated teachers, who taught us when they were new to their profession – I will not mention any names out of respect for them – were telling the Hungarian public that, since the former interior minister had become Prime Minister, this was in preparation for there not being any more elections in Hungary. That was a long time ago, but one hears a version of it again and again, with every approaching election. We all know that there will be elections, however, because Hungary is a free and democratic country, in which the question of where we go, whose programme we implement and with whom, will be decided by the electorate. So there will be elections.

What Ágoston Mraz has just presented to us is very dangerous: leading by this percentage before an election is the most dangerous situation possible. In football they say that if you take a 1–0 lead too early in a game it is not good, for a number of reasons: it fires up the opponent, it makes you overconfident, the tide can turn, and so on. But, Dear Friends, we have to face up to the intellectual challenge that, five or six months before the election, the government that we have put together – the civic, Christian democratic government – seems, in terms of voter trust, to be leading with a perceptible advantage in the road towards the battle that we call the election. In this world we call politics this means, however, that in all likelihood things can change within a day or two. You only have to think of the current Budapest City Hall affair. So a lot can change in a very short period of time. Yet we must still make the reasonable calculation that our political community will go into the upcoming election with a chance. It is always easier to win as a strong contender than as a complete outsider; although in Hungarian sports journalism there is a tradition of constantly talking about the burden of being the favourite, I have never seen this in our profession. Being a complete outsider – well, that’s a burden. Being in strong contention is never a burden: it is an opportunity, a task that can be measured, planned and carried out. Being a rank outsider is a real burden, because in that situation you have to perform some feat to change the established distribution of power. At present my impression from the analyses that have just been presented to us by the gentlemen here is that over the next five or six months it will be sufficient to do our job without shows of bravura: to do it honestly, with integrity, putting in very many hours every day, and keeping people’s livelihoods in mind.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Second place in the Olympics is a praiseworthy achievement, to be rewarded with a silver medal. But in politics there is no second place, there is no silver medal. There are only two things: victory or defeat. But I do not think that I need to explain that to you. I think that is something that Nézőpont will explain to us.

God bless Nézőpont Institute! Thank you for your attention. Happy birthday to you.