Editor’s Note: The following is an abridged version of Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán’s State of the Nation Address, delivered on February 29, 2016. It is published in translation here by gracious permission of the Hungarian Embassy in Madrid, Spain.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The second and third decades of the twenty-first century will be the decades of mass migration. An era is upon us which we were not prepared for. We thought that something like this could only happen in the distant past or was confined to the pages of history books. In fact, however, over the next few years more people than ever – multitudes outnumbering the entire population of some European countries – could set out for Europe. It is time to face reality. It is time to separate that which exists from that which we would like to exist. It is time to discard illusions, sophisticated theories, ideologies and utopian dreams….
The reality is that those coming here have no intention whatsoever of adopting our way of life, because they see their own as more valuable, stronger and more viable than ours…. The reality is that the European nations have been unable to integrate even the masses who arrived from Asia and Africa gradually, over a number of decades. How could they succeed in doing so now, so rapidly and for such large numbers?
It is still not too late for the European elite to understand General De Gaulle’s lesson: “Politics must be based on realities. Politics, when it is an art and a service, not an exploitation, is about acting for an ideal through realities.” Realities are historical, cultural, demographic and geographical…. When one stands in opposition to reality there is neither individual advancement, nor communal advancement; there is only failure, disappointment, bitterness, and finally cynicism and self-destruction. Perhaps this is why one sees so many high-minded, unhappy liberal politicians needlessly reduced to roaming the streets of Brussels. Whether we like it or not, mass migration waves are never peaceful in nature. Whenever large masses of people seek new homelands this inevitably leads to conflicts, because they want to occupy places where people are already living: people who have made those places their own, and who wish to protect their homes, their cultures and their ways of life.
History has kicked down the door on us: it has laid siege to the borders of Europe and the security of European cultures and European citizens. Although emergencies do not favour nuanced thinking – and refined feelings even less – it is hardly the migrants whom we should be so angry with. The majority of them are also victims: victims of their countries’ collapsing governments, victims of bad international decisions, victims of people smugglers. They are doing what they see as being in their own interests. The problem is that we Europeans are not doing that which would be in our own interests. There is no better word for what Brussels is doing than “absurd.” It is like a ship’s captain heading for collision who, instead of wanting to take avoiding action, is more interested in deciding which lifeboats should be non-smoking. It is as if, instead of repairing the leaking hull, we are arguing about how much water should flood into which cabins.
Mass migration can indeed be stopped. Europe is a community of half a billion – five hundred million. There are more of us than the Russians and the Americans combined. The situation of Europe – its technological, strategic and economic development – gives it the means to defend itself. It is a big enough problem that Brussels is not capable of organising the defence of Europe, but it is an even bigger problem that it lacks the intent to do so. In Budapest, Warsaw, Prague and Bratislava it is difficult for us to understand how we have reached a point at which it is even possible that those wanting to come here from other continents and other cultures can be let in without controls. It is difficult to understand the weakening of our civilisation’s natural and fundamental instinct for the defence of ourselves, our families, our homes and our land.
But, Ladies and Gentlemen, we really do have something to defend: the co-existence of Europe’s free, Christian and independent nations; shared roots, shared values, shared history, geographical and geopolitical interdependence; equality between the sexes; freedom and responsibility; fair competition and solidarity; pride and humility; justice and mercy. We are these things: this is Europe. Europe is Hellas, not Persia; it is Rome, not Carthage; it is Christianity, not a caliphate. When we say this we are not claiming that we are better, but that we are different. To point to the existence of an independent European civilisation does not mean that it is better or worse; it only means that “we are like this, and you are like that.”
A few years ago it seemed as though these ideas were obvious to us all. A few years ago it seemed as though there was agreement among us. A few years ago it seemed as though things were in order: as though the hearts and minds of Europe’s leaders were in accord with our sense of what is right. One after another they declared that multiculturalism was dead. A few years ago we still believed that they had realised that immigrants arriving in massive numbers could not be integrated into the life of their countries. But in 2015 everything changed. The earlier harmony disintegrated. We went into free fall, back down into the intellectual chaos from which we had struggled to escape. One morning, out of the blue, we woke up to the sound of “Willkommenskultur.” Europe’s leaders tell us that we must help. From the highest places we are urged to show solidarity and to offer our assistance.
This is natural. We do not have hearts of stone either. It is also true that we do not have heads of stone. We keep in mind the most important rule when offering help: if we help them here, they will come here; if we help them there, they will stay there. Instead of heeding this rule, Brussels has started to encourage those living in the poorer and less fortunate parts of the world to come to Europe and to change their lives for something different. Every evening, across half the world – or at least half of Europe – people sit at home struggling to understand what can have happened and what lies behind all this. Soon enough every family in Europe will have come to its own explanation – and I don’t want to miss out on the chance of pitching in with mine. The way I see it, in Brussels and some European capitals the political and intellectual elite see themselves as citizens of the world – in contrast to the majority of people, who have a strong sense of nationhood. The way I see it, the political leaders are also aware of this. And while there is no chance of them agreeing with their own peoples, they would rather turn their backs on them. As used to be said in this part of the world, “they know what to do, they dare to do it, and they do it.” But this means that the real problem is not outside Europe, but inside Europe. Those who do most to endanger the future of Europe are not those who want to come here, but the political, economic and intellectual leaders who are trying to reshape Europe against the will of the people of Europe. This is how, for the planned transport to Europe of many millions of migrants, there came into existence the most bizarre coalition in world history: the people smugglers, the human rights activists and Europe’s top leaders.
To this day, we are admitting without vetting and selection hundreds of thousands of people from countries with which we are at war, on the territories of which European Union Member States are engaged in military operations. There was no chance of us screening out those who posed a danger to us. Today, also, we have no idea who are terrorists, who are criminals, who are economic migrants, and who are really running for their lives. It is hard to call this anything but madness.
Spring winds bring spring floods, but it seems that they also swell the flood of immigrants. The weeks and months ahead will be difficult, tiring and nerve-racking. The pressure on our southern borders is increasing. The impotence of Brussels is causing increasing chaos. The Balkan countries are caught in a trap: from the south the Greeks are pushing up many thousands of people, who are being lured on by siren voices in German heard from the north. We must prepare for every eventuality. We are giving personnel, border guards, technical hardware and equipment to the Balkan countries, because it is they who are in reality defending Europe’s borders. And while they are resisting, we will also be able to defend our own borders more easily. We have known this since the time of Hunyadi. We trust in our success, but this is not enough on its own. We must also reinforce our own lines of defence…. I have sent new military units to the border, I have deployed regular forces in Csongrád and Bács-Kiskun counties, and I have ordered the defence and interior ministers to prepare for the erection of a line of defence on the Hungarian-Romanian border. The police and military have performed outstandingly – we thank them. They have now committed to doing everything they can and everything humanly possible. This, however, may not be enough. The country expects them to provide results and a reliably defended border. The leaders of our military, police and anti-terror forces must accomplish this task. If needed, we shall defend the borders along their full extent from Slovenia to Ukraine. We shall teach Brussels, the people smugglers and the migrants that Hungary is a sovereign country, and its territory can only be entered by those who will obey our laws and accept the authority of our law enforcement and military personnel. The defence of our southern borders will not be enough. We must stand our ground on another battlefield – fortunately this is not the realm of soldiers, but of diplomats.
We must halt the advance of Brussels. They have got it into their heads that they will distribute among us – compulsorily and with the force of law – the immigrants who have been transported to Europe. This is known as “the compulsory resettlement quotas.” They have made one such wretched, unjust, irrational and unlawful one-off decision in relation to one hundred and twenty thousand migrants. Contemptuously bypassing and evading the principle of national sovereignty represented by the prime ministers of Member States, they arranged for the adoption of this law in the European Parliament. We dispute this decision, and we are fighting for its nullification in the European Court. It seems that, in Brussels as well as Hungary, eating increases the appetite. Therefore they want to build a system applied to every immigrant and every Member State, which will ensure the compulsory, permanent and continuous distribution of immigrants.
The EU clearly divides into two camps: on the one side are the federalists, and on the other are the supporters of sovereignty. The federalists want a United States of Europe and compulsory resettlement quotas, while the supporters of sovereignty want a Europe of free nations, and will not hear of any form of quota. This is how compulsory resettlement quotas have become the essence and symbol of the times we now live in. This is important in itself, but it also encapsulates everything which we fear, which we do not want, and which has the potential to prise apart the alliance of European peoples. We cannot afford to allow Brussels to place itself above the law. We cannot afford to allow the consequences of madcap policies to be expanded into those countries which have complied with every treaty and every law – as we have done. We cannot afford to allow them to force us or anyone else to import the bitter fruits of their misguided policies. We do not want to – and we shall not – import crime, terrorism, homophobia and anti-Semitism to Hungary. In Hungary there shall be no lawless urban neighbourhoods, there shall be no street violence or immigrant riots, there shall be no arson attacks on refugee camps, and gangs shall not hunt our wives and daughters. In Hungary we shall nip any such attempts in the bud, and we shall be consistent in punishing them.
We shall not surrender our right to decide who we want to live with, and who we do not want to live with. This is why we must resist those who seek to popularise the idea of the quotas in Europe, and we shall resist them. “A risk is always risky,” as the corny Budapest joke has it, and we must indeed summon up all our courage. We must summon it up because for the greater glory of European democracy we must face up to censorship, blackmail and threats. Books by the Hungarian Justice Minister are being withdrawn from bookshops in Belgium, and the press in some Member States are spreading blatant lies. The tone being used against Hungary is crude, coarse and aggressive. Furthermore, we are also being threatened with financial retaliation, being accused of ingratitude for the support we receive…. The reality, however, is that we do not owe each other anything – not a single penny. Weakened, bled dry, uncompetitive and starved of capital after forty-five years of communism, Hungary opened its doors to Western companies. Everyone profited from this: Western companies repatriated as much money from Hungary as the European Union sent here. We are quits, and we have nothing to call each other to account for.
Finally, how shall we stop Brussels’ resettlement quota offensive? I suggest that we rely on the ancient source of European democracy: the will of the people. If it is true that the people do not want the current insane immigration policy from Brussels – and indeed they oppose it – we should make room for their voice, and listen to what they have to say. After all, the European Union is based on the foundations of democracy. This means that we must not make decisions which will dramatically change people’s lives without consulting people and against their will. This is why we are holding a referendum in Hungary. This is not about the quota which has already been decided on, and which is being challenged in court by Hungary; that is the past. The referendum is about the future: we call the citizens of Hungary to battle, in opposition to the new European immigration system’s compulsory resettlement quotas, which will be on the agenda for March. We believe that, even in its present state, Brussels must not overstep the boundaries of its own conceptions. It must not turn against the European people. The European Union must not be a kind of Soviet Union reloaded. We Hungarians shall not reject Europe, despite all its weaknesses, emaciation and unsteadiness; and we shall not abandon it, despite its current bout of vertigo. We are the citizens of the same historical and spiritual Europe as Charlemagne, Leonardo, Beethoven, Saint Ladislaus, Imre Madách or Béla Bartók.
Our Europe is built on Christian foundations, and we are proud that it has accomplished fulfilment of human and spiritual freedom. There are many of us in Europe, with many different ways of thinking. There are those who believe in the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, and there are those who believe in the trinity of God, homeland and family, and the kingdom to come of faith, hope and love. But whatever our personal beliefs, none of us can want our Europe to submit when faced with a torrent of people deliberately channelled towards us, and when faced with aggressive demands for the assertion of different morals and different customs. We do not believe that Europe is doomed to this fate, we do not believe that Europe will choose to surrender the values of a millennium. We do not believe this; but, President Balog, what we know and declare is that Hungary will not take a single step down such a path.
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