A return to Viktor Orbán’s hour-long speech : What is the message?

A couple of day ago I very briefly wrote about Viktor Orbán’s latest speech. I concentrated on his duplicity vis-à-vis the European Union, but he talked about many other topics that are worth investigating.

Those who think that the Hungarian prime minister doesn’t carefully measure his words are mistaken. For example, critics of the present government laugh heartily over his claim that “we are a thousand-year-old victorious nation.” Ha! Since when? The last time Hungary was victorious on the battlefield was in the fifteenth century. But wait, Orbán carefully measured every word. The Hungarian nation is victorious because it has been around for a thousand years. So, its sheer survival is a victory. Because of Hungary’s history and geographic position, one might have assumed that Hungarians would have disappeared in the sea of Germans and Slavs. But no, they survived. That is a victory of the first order.

Ready for victory

What sticks in the mind of his audience is the adjective “victorious” without the qualifying assertions. And indeed he elaborated on the theme. If Hungarians look upon themselves as victorious they must break with the old habit of self-pity, resignation, reliance on others, and living on other people’s money. In brief, Hungarians must think big. Greatness is not a question of land mass but of achievement.

Many commentators were baffled by what they called “a new Biblical-theological category”–what Orbán called “duty derived from the given situation” (állapotbeli kötelesség). After repeated readings of this passage I came to the conclusion that “duty derived from the given situation” has a simple meaning: those who were born in Hungary are Hungarians, this fact is not a matter of chance, and those born in Hungary must perform certain duties. Profound, isn’t it?

Another startling announcement was that in the last two years Hungary’s situation stabilized. Most economists would disagree. The country today is in worse shape than it was two years ago. But what does he mean by stabilization? Not at all what you and I would. This stabilization seems to have two components. One is that the budget deficit is below 3%; the second, that Hungary has a new constitution. The former constitution was built on sand as opposed to the new constitution that was erected on a granite foundation. And how was this stabilization achieved? Through national unity. Of course, we know that this national unity has never existed, not even in 2010 when only about half of the voters opted for Fidesz. Today Fidesz’s core voters number only 1.2 million, a loss of more than 2 million.

Orbán seemed to have fallen in love with this “duty derived from the given situation” phrase and returned to it as the guiding principle of the future. Europe will necessarily be weak in the future, and he and his colleagues in Fidesz must prepare the Hungarian people for a new world order in which Europe will lose its importance in the world. That loss of importance can be measured in military terms as well.

As far as national security goes, Orbán didn’t close the door to NATO but made it clear that regional armies will play a growing role in defense. Against whom? Clearly, against Russia. Countries in the east-central European region from the Baltic to the Adriatic should work out some kind of military and economic zone against Russian penetration. This is not at all new. Viktor Orbán talked about this idea of his many times. I don’t, however, see any signs of a willingness on the part of Hungary’s neighbors in the region to follow Orbán’s lead.

In the rest of Europe people are angry but in Hungary there is unity and social calm. Orbán obviously finds the “Peace March” organized by some of the extremist supporters of Fidesz a very important sign of support that showed the world that the Hungarian people are behind his government.

We might laugh about Viktor Orbán’s visit to Kazakhstan, but it seems that the Hungarian prime minister considers that trip extremely important. “One must again take a look at the German-Hungarian and the French-Hungarian agreements and there must be a similar agreement between Hungary and Kazakhstan because the most important task is to prepare the way for the time following the conclusion of the economic crisis.” If Hungary’s fate depends on Kazakhstan, we are in real trouble.

As for an analysis of the situation of the European Union, Viktor Orbán offered the following observations. The southern states when they joined the Union received a fantastic opportunity to catch up with their northern neighbors. But they concentrated on tourism instead of the “industrialization of their countries.”  By now it is evident that “without production no economy can function. … The Germans produce while the southerners consume.” Therefore Hungary in the future will have to start a re-industrialization program. Hungary must establish “production centers” because production capacities will shift from western to central Europe.

As for sovereign debt, Hungary must remain in the financial markets “despite the lure of the IMF” although Orbán admitted that Hungary needs the IMF’s safety net. In addition, Hungary will look around for money in the East as well.

Orbán also outlined his government’s goal: industrialization, development of agriculture and atomic energy, and full employment. Full employment for him means 5.5 million people employed and an unemployment rate of 3.5%. Currently the number of employed in Hungary is 3.8 million and the unemployment rate is 11.6%. In order to make Hungary a flourishing country the Hungarian government must take steps to entice young Hungarian talent to return to Hungary from abroad. Considering that currently half of the people between the ages 18 and 30 want to leave the country, a flow of returnees is pretty unlikely.

While these utopian ideas were being outlined the forint was falling again because it is becoming obvious that, despite the Hungarian government’s assurances of early IMF negotiations, it very much looks as if Viktor Orbán doesn’t want to sit down and negotiate with the International Monetary Fund. György Matolcsy, Orbán’s right hand, made no bones about it: the Hungarian government does not want to have a guardian (gyám). In response to which Zsófia Mihancsik wrote a funny piece entitled “I do want a guardian!

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LwiiH
Guest

3.8 million with an unemployment rate implies 100% employment is @ 4.3 million in a country of just under 10 million. So, every employed person is support 2 that are not working and a best that goes down to 1.5.

LwiiH
Guest

I poked about on Google at bit more in an attempt to use the US as a guide. As with all thing economic, it’s not so straight forward but that said… it appears (or my best guess is) that the working population in the US is currently 58% with an unemployment rate some where north of 8%. Implies 100% employment would be 63% of total population. OV is looking @ 5,000,000 jobs which would put the working population @ about 50%. To do that is looks as if he’s got to create 1.2 million jobs!!! Considering that the US is happy to create say… 100k a month I say OV should be happy to create 3,000 a month. 1.2 million / 3,000 ~= 33 years. Ok, things don’t happen linearly but….. And I did say 100% employment which is not “Full employment” as that takes into account a natural rate of unemployment.

Kirsten
Guest

Any Hungarian government should try to raise the employment rate. A working population of 3.5 milion is too small for a society of 10 million (in particular if it also wishes to support the minorities in the neighbouring country). I do not consider this target of OV wrong. Whether his policies will be able to deliver a higher employment rate, I doubt. But the general assessment that this low employment rate is a major problem of Hungary is correct.

Guest

Kirsten, just a few days ago I saw a statistic on how many people at 60 years of age are still working – Hungary was way down on the list with less than 20 %, while countries like Germany or the USA were definitely over 50 %. I’m trying to find that statistic again.

That might be another reason – and of course the problem that many Hungarians (especially the Gypsies) lost their “simple” jobs in the big TSs in agriculture etc since 1989.

I remember the grass on the side of the road to Keszthely bewing mowed by 50 men in the late 90s – now of course it’s done by a nice, efficient machine imported from Germany …

Ovidiu
Guest

“we are a thousand-year-old victorious nation.” …
this is a known idea ( and is Orban is a secret admirer of Lendvai ?)

http://press.princeton.edu/titles/7498.html

Kirsten
Guest

That this is close to how Lendvai called his book on Hungary to me shows that this idea of a victory in defeat must be rather widely shared, and not only something that Fidesz comes up with. Many of those myths and claims that appear ridiculous when applied by Fidesz or OV to the EU or Hungary’s current situation have a very solid background when applied to other situations. For a democratic Hungary it is crucial to establish a less dramatic interpretation of its past. Less of inescapable national tragic fate, which masks that the hardship of a large part of the society was the “achievement” of another, rather small part of the same nation; and more of individual citizens’ rights without being threatened to become “alien” to the nation.

Ovidiu
Guest

“Many commentators were baffled by what they called “a new Biblical-theological category”–what Orbán called “duty derived from the given situation” (állapotbeli kötelesség)…”

I have tried myself to find what may be meant by that …here some clarification, I guess, from Semjén Zsolt :

–hogy magyarok vagyunk és hogy egy nemzethez tartozunk, nem valamiféle hobbi, hanem „a természet és a teremtés rendje által adott állapotbeli kötelesség”, amelynek értelmében „küldetésünk van”

http://www.erdely.com/magyarorszag.php?id=106065&cim=semjen_zsolt_2014_ben_valodi_ossznemzeti_orszaggyules_allhat_fel

Thomas
Guest

If Semjén,the “ájtatos”, holly roller Gyorgy said that it must be true.

LwiiH
Guest

Kirsten :
Any Hungarian government should try to raise the employment rate. A working population of 3.5 milion is too small for a society of 10 million.

Sure, no doubt but lets get real…

Kirsten
Guest

Why I wrote that is that these numbers are not new, these low employment rates have been around for quite some time. That is why I would not debate about the fact that employment must rise if Hungary wishes to raise living standards. OV has not referred to secret information. It is neither alien to the other countries in the vicinity (Poland has similarly low rates, Slovakia has a higher basis of unemployed). Because part of this low employment figure is related to the early retirement or “disability” of a generation that could not be “made use of” after the privatisation, that should decline by itself – with suitable policies. It is also quite unrealistic to believe that those 6.5 million people really are only idle and living only from state support. So more people are most probably working, at least occasionally. We do not disagree on that in current circumstances, it is highly unlikely that OV will achieve anything close to his plans. But because it is also an outcome of policies, I would not “just accept it”, which is not meant as a criticism of what you wrote but a general approach.

Ron
Guest

Talking about Lendvai earlier.Have you seen this piece in the FT (via Caboodle.hu).

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/9b2b4a70-aa64-11e1-899d-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1wkXnVEOz

enufff
Guest

instead of giving speeches and dreaming of world domination, why not these people first learn to work and let the result speak for itself?
so far it has been all talk and no action

Guest

xxx

Ovidiu
Guest
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