Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, dear and distinguished friends,
I have been here in this camp with you every year for the past thirty, and I can sum up my feelings and thoughts about this in a single word: it has been an honour! Over the past thirty years it has been an honour to annually share a stage with Bishop László Tőkés. I’ll take this opportunity to thank Bishop Tőkés for his service in the European Parliament over so many years, and for his commitment to us while representing Hungarians everywhere as a Fidesz representative.
Now that the European Parliament elections are behind me and behind us, may I also take this opportunity to congratulate the RMDSZ [Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania] on the two seats they have won. I myself participated in the campaign, and I know the kind of gruelling circumstances in which this result was achieved.
Zsolt [Németh] has requested – or instructed – that I should sum up the past thirty years in twenty minutes ... well, all right, thirty minutes, if I really need it. For this I don’t need twenty or thirty minutes: I can do it in one sentence. In one sentence I can say that it’s a good thing that this thirty years is behind us and not ahead of us.
If we try to recall what the task was thirty years ago, we can say that it was something like the following question: Can we discover – or if it doesn’t already exist, can we devise – a new way of life needed for the 1,000-year-old community that is the Hungarian nation to be able to survive in the modern age? This was a very difficult, agonising question. Of course this has not prevented us from living thirty happy, youthful years. And after the passage of thirty years, today we can say that we are sitting here with optimism, knapsacks full of plans and the feeling of gaining in strength every day.
And this psychological situation seems almost natural. But if we look back at this past thirty years from a suitably high vantage point, then I have to say that this is not a natural situation, but more of a miracle. What was the task? First of all, to achieve the country’s independence and freedom. That was how our student years were spent, and then the two years between 1989 and ’91. Then the task was to build a capitalist market economy in place of a socialist planned economy. Meanwhile we had to build a system of democratic, legal and political institutions.
This occupied us for four years between 1990 and ’94. Let’s call this the first change of system or transformation. Let’s call this a liberal transformation. Then our task was to defeat the returning successor groups of the socialist system in a political battle which was peaceful and avoided civil war. And since the returning successor groups were also internationalist successor groups, they also had to be defeated in the international arena. This is how we spent our lives from 1994 to 2010. That was our generational task.
Today it seems almost natural that this succeeded; but in a generation, in the history of Hungarian politics, there is drama. There is the drama of the SZDSZ [the Alliance of Free Democrats – Hungarian Liberal Party], and we can thank God we did not meet that fate. I’ll remind everyone that in Hungary this was the generation of ’68. When the transformation – the first, liberal transformation – took place in 1990, that generation did not gain governmental office, and thus the opportunity for political action: that opportunity was given to an older generation, under the leadership of József Antall.
When they sensed that, after the failed national government, their generation would really follow it into office, again they lost the opportunity with the return of Gyula Horn and his associates. Then, when they had failed and lost the trust of the public, they again thought that their hour had come. But then, in 1998, we formed a government, and by 2002 we had built a civic, Christian democratic national cooperation, while their political generation had run out of road. Real drama. Let us thank God that He didn’t choose that fate for us!
Returning to the subject of the past thirty years, when we’d completed the tasks of coming through the first liberal transformation and defeating the socialist successor groups, we had to throw ourselves into preparation for a second transformation. Let’s just say that we spent the four years between 2006 and 2010 preparing the blueprint for a national transformation. Then in 2010 we needed to introduce this new national system, which is a community-based system. And the political victory needed for its introduction needed to be prepared and then fought for.
This brought victory, with a two-thirds majority. Then after 2010 we needed to build this new national system step-by-step, achieving success while at the same time maintaining and regenerating mass support. I could also say that we’ve lived through the last nine or ten years with a bricklayer’s trowel in one hand and a sword in the other.
We needed to build while at the same time continuously fighting, because – and this is the story of our past ten years – we’ve continuously needed to fight against the questioning of the international acceptance of the national system; and we’ve had to repel attacks which have sought to question the international acceptance of the national system we’ve developed. Well, Zsolt, that was our thirty years.
Looking back now on this route, which has not been at all easy, the question is this: If we were young again, would we be able to do it all again? Would we once more have thirty years of strength in us? This is a real and difficult question, to which I myself don’t know the answer. Of course, such questions about a past are always risky. Just to illustrate how risky this kind of thinking is, on our thirtieth wedding anniversary – as is customary – I asked my wife how she would feel about me asking for her hand in marriage again. It was a romantic moment.
Her reply was: “Don’t risk it!” Yes, it’s not at all easy to answer the question of whether we would be able to do this again. But perhaps the most important question is not that, but rather this: Do we have the strength for the fifteen years ahead of us? But what will the next fifteen years be like? What will the tasks of these fifteen years be?
Looking at one generation or another, they usually say that a human life has three phases: there’s a childhood phase, when you daydream about what you want to do when you’re big; then there’s old age, when you ponder about what went wrong; and between the two is the phase of adulthood and action. This is the most valuable time. Those operating the media are also very aware of this: they call it “prime time”. And this applies not only to a human life, but also to the life of a generation.
This is the time when you do the most important things. Half of this prime time – somewhere between the ages of 35 and 70 – has already passed, and has been used up. Now the second half has arrived – and I could say that it’s the evening’s big movie. The question is, what are we going to see?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
If we approach this question philosophically, from the perspective of political philosophy, we know the mindset which asserts that history has a goal, and it’s our task to recognise this and assist history towards this preordained goal. This was communist logic, more or less; but today similar things are said by progressive liberals. Over the past thirty years, we, however, have come to the conclusion that we shouldn’t ascribe a goal to time, but give meaning to our lives within the framework of time.
And this is not only true for individuals, but also for generations: we must give meaning to our own generation. Or we must understand the meaning that has been assigned to us. If I look at what we have been through and what is now ahead of us, I can say that our generation has been given a historic opportunity to strengthen the Hungarian nation. So far this has been an unconscionably difficult fight, and it will continue to be an unconscionably difficult fight. The only consolation we can give ourselves is that it is written that no one is to be overwhelmed by the task.
So we will only shoulder those burdens that we are certain of being able to carry.
I can inform you that today the Hungarian nation possesses the political and economic capabilities – and soon the physical capabilities also – to defend itself and to remain independent. We’ve regained our sovereignty, the IMF has gone home, we’ve successfully fought against Brussels and we’ve defended our borders against migration.
Well, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, in addition to this review of the past thirty years, I can talk about two things. What is happening and what is going to happen in Hungary. And a question which is at times even more highly charged, on which Zsolt will have to warn me about our time limit: How do we ourselves – and also others – interpret what is happening in Hungary? What is the meaning of everything that is happening in Hungary?
Well, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today Hungary is on a promising course: sound finances, falling debt, strong growth, rising wages, strengthening small and medium-sized enterprises, growing families and vigorous nation-building. Of course everyone can and should perform better. Individual Hungarian citizens, Hungarian businesses and the Hungarian government can and should do their jobs better; but the reality is that today the threat to Hungary’s continued progress on its promising course does not come from inside the country, but from outside.
What is happening in Hungary today – and what will be happening in the year ahead of us leading up to our next meeting – is our countering of these attacks and our attempts to defend Hungary against them. What are they? We’ve already successfully countered the first attack. This would have shown itself in the selection of unsuitable and hostile people to lead the European institutions that are important to us. I will not elaborate on every detail, but this was prevented through a number of complicated manoeuvres. Everywhere we have blocked George Soros’s candidates. Everywhere.
We’ve prevented ideological guerrillas from being installed at the head of important European institutions, and to lead the Commission we’ve succeeded in choosing a mother of seven who has a practical approach. Of course this doesn’t end the struggle within the institutions; that will end in October, when the entire landscape is revealed. Two things can be said with certainty. The first is that the Commission, which has launched so many attacks on Hungary, has even now in recent days – as it is on its way out – launched another attack.
It is taking a number of Hungarian laws to the European Court. So this Commission must return to its role as laid down in the Founding Treaty of the European Union: to act as the guardian of the treaties. And it must abandon its political activism. It is not a political body: it is not its remit to have a programme, and it is not its remit to launch political attacks on Member States. That is what happened in the earlier appointed “Juncker Cabinet”, and it must be stopped. This has always been at odds with the European Union’s founding treaties and principles. Now there is a chance for this.
The second thing we can say here is that the lead candidate – or Spitzenkandidat – system has not gone away, but has simply returned to its proper place. For it’s obvious that the strategic-political direction of the European Union is not determined by the Commission, but by the leaders of the Member States’ democratically elected governments: heads of state or prime ministers.
The Commission does not need to pursue an independent programme because, even after the most recent election, the Council of Ministers again adopted a document setting out the direction for it to follow. In any case strategic decisions are not to be taken in the Commission but in the Council, on which the elected prime ministers sit. So the point of the Spitzenkandidat, of the lead candidate, was never to somehow deprive the Council of the right to appoint the President of the Commission, which it is empowered to do by the Founding Treaty.
It was to allow voters the possibility to influence the assignment of an important European position. Therefore the logical approach – and we need to get back to it – is for the European parties to put forward lead candidates, and the candidate of the victorious party to be appointed President of the European Parliament: not of the Commission, but of the European Parliament. And the Commission must remain an organisation subject to the influence of the prime ministers.
Well, the second such threat we need to deal with is the threat from the international arena. The fact is that there have been serious mistakes in the European Union over the last five years – two of which are particularly painful and worrying. These mistakes must be corrected in the next five years. The first has been in the area of migration, and the second in the area of the economy.
Correcting the migration mistake is simple: the Commission must withdraw from the question of migration. It must create a council of interior ministers from the Schengen Area Member States, just as there is already a council of finance ministers from the eurozone countries. And all powers and responsibilities related to migration must be redirected to this council of interior ministers. The error related to the economy is a little more difficult, because when we look at the European Union’s economic decisions, we can say that for the last five years we’ve been on the path of economic self-destruction.
Europe could be much more successful, much bigger, more developed and more powerful than suggested by its performance today. Instead of building a European socialism – because the leftist parties regularly make proposals seeking to put a competitive European economy in the form of a kind of Western European socialist economy in every Member State – we instead need to give this up and return to a competitive European economy. Successful economies – not only Hungary, but those like Poland or the Czech Republic – must not be attacked, but supported.
There must be abandonment of the idea of a basic income independent of employment status – an idea that has been raised to the European level. We do not need this new socialism. Instead of this, new jobs are needed, and tax cuts must be implemented everywhere. Bureaucratic rules must be reduced, and instead of austerity policies investment and job creation must be encouraged. In Italy there will be a need for economic development, not austerity. And finally, instead of migrants, European families must be given the money to enable them to commit to having as many children as possible.
The question is whether this is possible. Can we correct these errors in the coming year? I must say that this is doubtful at best. According to every analysis and the underlying figures, the European economy is facing hard times. Hard times are coming. The question is not whether they’re coming, but how hard they will be. My personal opinion is that they will be very hard. In Western Europe economic growth will continue to slow down, or in some places even come to a halt.
Germany is clearly working on preparations for a CDU-Green coalition which is not based on the market. This is, after all, Europe’s largest economy. And so we need to be prepared for a situation in which our key partners, the Western European countries, are not developing and growing as well as we would like. So now the most important thing for Hungary is to plan a new route towards 2020 and 2021.
As the country travels along it, this route of governance must be able to minimise negative external effects on the country, and we must be capable of mobilising the country’s own existing internal resources. We’ve already seen this, and in recent months you’ve seen an example of it when we announced the first Economy Protection Action Plan, a reduction in social security contributions, wage increases, research development, more support for universities, and the introduction of “Hungarian Government Securities Plus”.
In my opinion, if our stocktaking of the European economy is confirmed to be accurate, sometime in the spring of next year – in the spring of 2020 – we’ll need a second action plan. And if things go how we think they will, we’ll probably also need a third economic action plan in the autumn of 2020. The content of all these will need to improve competitiveness. First and foremost what will be happening in Hungary in the coming year will be the planning and development of this.
Of course, as Justice Minister Judit Varga is here, let’s not forget that we will be facing our battles here on the rule of law. Here we need strong nerves: not in representing our position, as the Minister has already shown is possible, but in preventing ourselves from bursting out laughing and thus offending our partners. That is the hardest part; that requires strong nerves and self-control. Now, for example, we’re entering a period in which our Finnish friends will be evaluating the situation of the rule of law in Hungary. We’ll be doing this with our Finnish friends.
And Finland is a country, Ladies and Gentlemen, where there is no constitutional court. The defence of the Constitution is delegated to a special parliamentary committee set up for that purpose. Imagine the condition of the rule of law in Hungary if we simply announced the dissolution of the Constitutional Court and said that Parliament’s Committee for Constitutional Affairs would be responsible for constitutional review! This is more or less the situation in Finland.
Or to give you another nice example: in Finland, the Academy of Sciences is under the supervision and control of the Ministry of Education. Imagine if we’d brought the debate on the Hungarian Academy of Sciences to an end by simply giving the right to oversee and direct the Academy to the Minister of Education. This isn’t the case, Minister Kásler, but just imagine if it was! Or just consider the state of the rule of law in Finland, where judges are appointed by the President of the Republic, on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice.
The President of the Republic, on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice! Therefore we need a nervous system, a strong nervous system, to enable us to show due respect, and answer questions politely – not with a smile or a laugh – when our Finnish friends ask us about and delve into the rule of law in Hungary.
Well, of course, in addition to European absurdity, there’s another important and serious issue facing us: the future of the membership status within the European People’s Party of the Hungarian governing party Fidesz and the Christian Democratic People’s Party. Here we have to wait for the situation to become clearer. We know what we want. We must wait for the European People’s Party to decide what future it intends for itself. This will not happen before it holds its congress in the late autumn.
After this, Ladies and Gentlemen,
let me say a few words about how we interpret what is happening in Hungary. In recent years there has been a substantial body of literature on this issue – on what is happening in Hungary. There was the summer’s first swallow, Gyula Tellér. And then only this year two major works were published: one by Professor Sárközy and the other by Ervin Csizmadia. And I haven’t even mentioned the continuing international attention and analysis.
International interpretation can best be summed up in the claim that what must operate in the world are liberal democracies– especially in Europe. These must construct and implement a kind of liberal internationalism, from which a liberal empire must emerge. The European Union is none other than an embodiment of this; but under the Democrats, under President Obama, the United States conceived of something like this on a global scale. Seen from here it is obvious that what is happening in Hungary is very different: it is something else.
Hungary is doing something different, creating something different. Yes, but what? The answer to this question can be approached from the direction of philosophy – and we could try this later; but it can also be approached from the perspective of practical politics. Right now I’ll choose the latter. From this perspective you can understand what has happened and is happening in Hungary, and the legacy which needed to be dealt with by the civic, national, Christian forces which won a two-thirds majority in the 2010 elections.
The following points will summarise the situation we inherited at that time. The first point is that the overwhelming bulk of the burden in Hungary was being carried by less than half of the economically active population. Expressing this in numbers, Hungary – a country of ten million – had a working population of 3.6 million people, of whom 1.8 million were taxpayers. These people were carrying the burdens of the country on their backs. Obviously this was a long and uncomfortable form of suicide. In parenthesis I’ll mention that nowadays 4.5 million people are working in Hungary, and all of them are paying taxes.
The second problem we had to solve was that individuals, families, businesses and the state were slowly being buried by debt. So we inherited a desperate debt situation. In 2010 we were experiencing the continuous decline of the cultural identity of our community, of Hungary. We could see that the sense of belonging to the nation was disappearing. We found that our communities living beyond our borders were under continuously increasing pressure to assimilate, and were unable to resist it.
And we found deterioration in the physical capabilities to protect sovereignty: in the police and the army. As Gyula Tellér wrote at the time, in 2010 Hungary was in a state of material, intellectual and biological decline. At that time the Prime Minister and the Government needed to give an answer to the question of whether a solution to these Hungarian problems could be envisaged within the framework of liberal democracy. And the firm answer that we gave to this was “No, it is not possible, there is no good answer to these questions within that framework; so something else needs to be created.”
We said that the framework of the capitalist market economy inherited from the liberal transformation had to be maintained, democratic legal and political institutions had to be preserved, but radical change was needed in the organising mode of society and the community. We expressed this by saying “yes” to democracy and “no” to liberalism. And then there was the debate about what were these things called “illiberal democracy”, or “old-style Christian democracy”, or a “national system”.
We call the first change of system “liberal transformation”; and we can call the second either an “illiberal” or a “national” transformation. It may be worth devoting a few sentences to this distinction. We have rethought the relationship between the community and the individual, and put it on a new conceptual basis. In a liberal system, society and nation are nothing but an aggregation of competing individuals. What holds them together is the Constitution and the market economy. There is no nation – or if there is, it is only a political nation.
Here in parenthesis we should thank László Sólyom, who during his presidency made a lasting contribution when, in opposition to the concept of the political nation, he elaborated and clarified – in a legal and philosophical sense – the concept of a cultural nation. When there is no nation, there is no community and no community interest. In essence this is the relationship between the individual and society from a liberal point of view.
In contrast to this, the illiberal or national viewpoint states that the nation is a historically and culturally determined community. It is a historically developed configuration, which must protect its members and prepare them to stand their ground in the world for a common cause. According to the liberal view, individual action and who does what – whether they live a productive or unproductive life – is a purely private matter, and must not be subject to moral judgment.
By contrast, in a national system, action – individual action – is worthy of praise if it also benefits the community. This must be interpreted broadly. For example, there are our gold medal-winning skaters. An outstanding sporting performance is also an individual performance that benefits the community. If we talk about them, we don’t say that they have won Olympic gold, but that we have won Olympic gold.
Their individual performances also clearly benefit the community. In an illiberal or national system, distinguished performance is not a private matter, but has clearly identifiable forms. Such are self-sufficiency and work, creating and securing a livelihood. Such are learning and a healthy lifestyle. Such is paying taxes. Such is starting a family and raising children. And such is orientation in the matters of the nation and its history, and participation in national self-reflection. It is such performance that we recognise, rank, look up to morally and support.
So in terms of the relationship between the individual and society, what has happened in Hungary is something quite different from what happened in 1990, when the liberal transformation took place. But similarly to that transformation, we have put our thinking and culture on a new footing – also in terms of relations between individuals. To put it simply, but to the point, in a liberal system the rule is that one has the freedom to do anything, provided it doesn’t violate the freedom of others. This is the compass of individual action.
In parenthesis, the small problem is the question of exactly what it is that doesn’t violate the freedom of others. This is something that’s usually defined by the strongest – but let’s leave that in parenthesis. In contrast to this, what we have now, or what we’re trying to build, follows another moral compass.
Going back to a known truth, this states that the definition of the right relationship between two people is not that everyone has the freedom to do anything which does not violate the freedom of another; the correct definition is that you should not do to others what you would not want them to do to you. Furthermore, you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is a different foundational principle.
And here we come to the most politically awkward and sensitive question, which is the word “illiberal”. Whenever I see the miserable, tiptoeing debates surrounding this, I’m always reminded of that iconic film for our generation: Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The knights are wandering in the woods when they come across some giants. It turns out that there is a word which they must not say to the giants; and for a few minutes in the movie, they puzzle about how not to say a word that everyone knows they must say.
And in international politics the same is true of the word “illiberal”. The reason for this is that liberals – who have never been untalented – have developed an interpretation for this expression that defines it as nothing more than an expression with a prefix, a sham democracy: a system that disguises itself as democracy, but which in reality is not democracy. And they’ve come up with two propositions: democracy is necessarily liberal; and Christian democracy is necessarily liberal.
I’m convinced that these are two misconceptions, because obviously the opposite is true. Liberal democracy could never have come into being without its Christian cultural underpinnings. Because we have the absurd situation, or the seemingly absurd situation, in which when making the most important decision for a country – determining its direction, and who we will trust to take it in that direction – the votes of any two people are worth the same: they’re worth the same even if one of those people didn’t even finish their primary level education, and the other person is the President of the Academy of Sciences.
One is more in need of welfare aid, the other is paying huge taxes, yet each has one vote. One understands the world and the other doesn’t care about the world, yet each has the same vote. Such a political construct, which is the foundation of democracy – especially liberal democracy – can only be created if we find a particular point of view in which these apparently completely different people are still equal, and therefore in which their opinions can be taken into account with equal weight. And this point of view can be nothing but the Christian proposition that all of us are created by God in His own image.
So liberal democracy can only exist in a world in which Christian culture existed before it. This can be demonstrated both geographically and historically. So the propositions that all democracy is necessarily liberal and that Christian democracy must be liberal are simply not true. Liberal democracy was viable up until the point when it departed from its Christian foundations. For as long as it protected personal liberty and property it had a beneficial effect on humanity.
But the content of liberal democracy changed radically when it began to break the bonds that bind people to real life: when it questioned the identity of a person’s sex, devalued people’s religious identity, and deemed people’s national affiliation superfluous. And the truth is that in Europe over the past twenty or thirty years this has become the spirit of the age.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In addition to all the internal debates over this, there is also an international dimension. As my time is starting to run out, I cannot explain it, but I’ll quote a sentence from László Nagy, who said that “Hungary should not be the bottom of the West, but neither should it be the forehead of the East.” This is a mysterious sentence, and we don’t know exactly what it means, but we all feel that it is true.
At all events, to summarise the interpretation of what is happening in Hungary today, we can venture to say, with all modesty, that there has been the emergence of an illiberal state and a true model of state and political theory: a distinctive Christian democratic state. After this, I only need to answer one question: Why do our opponents – the believers in liberal democracy – hate us? There is nothing wrong with them opposing what we represent, because they hold different beliefs.
Therefore engaging in debate – perhaps in bitter, sharp debate – is a natural feature of international or perhaps domestic political discourse. But hate is not! And we all feel that when they attack and criticise us, they’re not arguing with us, but hating us. Of course there’s the old piece of communist tactical advice: accuse your opponent of doing to you what you’re actually doing to them. That’s why they claim that we nationally-oriented people hate them; but the truth is exactly the reverse. Because – from a Christian point of view – we can make a distinction between a person and their actions.
We can dislike – and even hate – someone’s actions; but we do not hate that person, we do not detest them. By contrast, they not only refuse to support what we do, but they also hate us personally. It is important for us to understand why this is so. This is not only of intellectual interest – although that is no small matter, because understanding something difficult is always an achievement. It is also because it enables us to decide how to interact with them: what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense when we’re defending ourselves.
So I’ll try to give an undoubtedly sketchy answer – but a seemingly logical one – to the question of why liberals hate us. Let us state that for hundreds of years in European political culture there have been two basic concepts related to views on what is the right world order. The correct one of these concepts for world order is that in the world there are separate, free states – preferably states formed by nations – and that these follow their own paths, and create a system of cooperation accompanied by the least conflict and most common good for all.
The other view says that there must be a power, a principle, under which the peoples of Europe or the multitude of peoples of the world can be united. There is a need for such a system, and this system for uniting peoples is always created and maintained by a supranational force. The first of these can be called a national conception, and the second can be called an imperial conception. I don’t want to offend the followers of the imperial way of thinking, so I’m not using the word “imperialist” – although I could do.
For a long time, the idea that the right order for the world is for it to be subordinated to a single idea – and that therefore the peoples of the world should be subordinated to a single system of governance – was the prerogative of the communists: it was socialist or communist internationalism. This has failed. Even if from nothing else, one can see that it has failed from the fact that it was not a rational concept. The vacant space it has left behind it, however, has been occupied by a new political tendency. This is the European tendency of liberal politics.
It is worth noting that in Europe thirty years ago there was socialist or social democracy, there was still Christian democracy, and there was liberal democracy. But as a result of political struggle, liberals reached a position in which it was said that everyone should now be a liberal democrat: there can be no distinct socialist interpretation of democracy, like the socialist parties created long ago; and there can be no distinct Christian democratic interpretation. And even if something like that exists, in essence it cannot be different from a liberal interpretation of democracy.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
So today, European liberals are the ones who believe that in their hands they have a theoretical system that will bring salvation, peace and prosperity to all humanity. They hold a universal model in their hands. This has been formed into a thesis, and in European politics today this liberal thesis tells us what and how one should think, what is appropriate and to be supported, what should be rejected, and what is incompatible with liberal ideas. It will tell you how to think about the most basic facts of life.
And today I can give you a brief sketchy summary of this programme by saying that liberals believe that everywhere in the world – especially in Europe – all human and social relationships need to be transformed on the model of loosely organised business relationships: “If I want it I’ll commit to it, and if I don’t want, I won’t; if I want to enter, I’ll enter, and if I want to, I’ll leave.” From this you can see why liberals support migration, and from this you can see why it is George Soros’s network that organises migration.
According to the liberal notion of freedom, you can only be free if you discard everything that involves you in belonging somewhere: borders, the past, language, religion, culture and tradition. If you can free yourself from all this, if you can leave it all behind, then you’re a free person. As tends to happen, the antithesis of this has also come into being, and this is what I call “illiberalism”. This way of reasoning states that the individual’s appeal to freedom must not override the interests of the community.
There is a majority, and it must be respected, because that is the essence of democracy. The state must not be indifferent to culture, the state must not be indifferent to the family, and the state must not be indifferent to the question of what kinds of people – or who – are within the borders of your country. In other words, today it is the illiberal person who defends their borders, defends their national culture and rejects external interference and attempts at empire building.
Returning to the woods, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail: should we be afraid to say the word? Well, we have good reason to be, but perhaps cowardice is not recommended. And if we don’t feel strong enough in the present, at times like this it’s always worth recalling the great figures from the past. For example, if you read the Atlantic Charter, which Roosevelt and Churchill jointly created and which laid the foundations for the future of Europe, I can say that it’s a truly illiberal document.
In it the Anglo-Saxons affirm that all peoples have the right to choose their own destiny, to choose their own government, no one should interfere in their internal affairs, and their borders should be respected. Or, to quote Schumann, who as one of the founding fathers of Europe is accorded due respect even by liberals: “Democracy owes its existence to Christianity. It was born the day man was called to realise in his temporal life the dignity of the human person, in his individual freedom, in respect for the rights of each and by the practice of brotherly love towards all.”
No one could get away with saying that in the European Parliament – with the possible exception of Bishop Tőkés. So the great figures who are regularly cited as the creators of the idea of European unity would in fact not belong among the ranks of what today are called the liberal democrats, but to the illiberal democrats. This is why I think we should not be afraid to go against the spirit of the age and build an illiberal political and state system.
Let us return to the question of why they hate us. They think that humanity is now moving beyond the nationalist or nation-centred and Christian-centred era, and that humanity must be led into a post-nationalist and post-Christian era. Therefore they think that a new universal model of humanity is needed: the model that is found in liberal democracy. The problem is that in politics any such theory promoting universal salvation is only strong and valid if it is absolute.
The universal will cannot tolerate a single people that is unyielding – no matter how small that people might be. Therefore, when the ideology of universal salvation and peace encounters resistance, it responds to this conflict not with argument, but with hatred. Because in its way of thinking the model offered to humanity is valid and true only if it is true without exception. This is why – let’s put it this way – its liberal, internationalist programme can only be true if it is true for every nation, for every man, for every woman, and for every age.
This goes back to Kant, but that’s another subject. Even a little stubbornness cannot be tolerated, because if there’s a little stubbornness it shows that other forms of organisation or community organisation can exist; and then the doctrine of universal salvation will be proved to be false. And if Hungary, Poland, Austria, Italy and the Czech Republic still insist on their own conception, it is unbearable, it is intolerable: they are not simply to be fought against, but to be hated, because they stand opposed to the universal human good.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This explains why – and Bishop Tőkés has been able to experience this – when they speak against us in the institutions of the European Union, they don’t argue, but pour hateful bile over us. Well, after this there is only one question to be answered: what exactly is the future of illiberal democracy in Europe? Of course no one can answer this question with certainty, but we can say that everywhere in the most recent European Parliament elections the best performing parties were those that came under fired from the cannons of liberal democracy.
The greatest successes and breakthroughs were scored by those who were, so to speak, in the crosshairs of criticism from the mainstream in European politics. We don’t need to mention Hungary with 53 per cent of the vote, although that’s not insignificant; but there are our Polish friends, there are the Austrians, there are the Czechs, and there are the Italians. These were the most successful in the European Parliament elections.
Therefore I think that putting forward an antithesis against the thesis of liberal democracy – the thesis of illiberal democracy – is an acceptable, viable and rational decision not only intellectually, but also from the point of view of a political programme. All we need to do is find the expression or phrase that gives a positive meaning to the essentially negative-sounding word “illiberal”, because it’s clear from what I’ve said that everything that we want to distil into this concept is good.
And whatever way I look at it, I can’t give a better definition of the meaning of illiberal politics than Christian liberty. Christian freedom and protecting Christian freedom. Illiberal politics working for Christian freedom seeks to preserve everything that liberals neglect, forget and despise.
The final question before us is whether Christian culture and Christian freedom need protection. My answer is that today there are two attacks on Christian freedom. The first comes from within, and comes from liberals: the abandonment of Europe’s Christian culture. And there is an attack from outside, which is embodied in migration, with the result of this – if not its goal – being the destruction of the Europe that we knew as Europe.
Well, Ladies and Gentlemen,
So if we return to the starting point of the passing of thirty years, and the fact that out of this prime time there are perhaps fifteen years left to us, the question is one of how we are going to fill this time. I have to say that we will spend the fifteen years ahead of us on the mission of our generation: to turn against the liberal zeitgeist and liberal internationalism. Because this is the only way we can strengthen Hungary.
His will be an unconscionably difficult struggle and we are facing an uphill battle, but I am convinced that on our side we have much – not everything, but much – that can be said to be beautiful, free and just: it can be summed up as Christian freedom. The only question left is whether we are dreaming or awake.
We still have to answer the question of whether it is really possible – or whether we’ve been dreaming for almost ten years – for a European Union country of ten million to climb out from under a mountain of debt, to restore its economic sovereignty, and to grow faster than liberal democracies.
Is it possible to successfully reject migration, to protect families, to defend Christian culture, to announce a programme of national unification and nation building, and to create an order of Christian freedom? Is it possible in all this to survive against the full force of an international headwind, and indeed to make it succeed?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I don’t think we are dreaming. Yes, all this is possible, as it has been over the last ten years – but only if we stand up for what we think and what we want. If we are brave, if we have valour – and now we need valour – and if we unite. As this camp’s slogan says, “The camp is united!” Well, this is what our next fifteen years will be about. I can simply urge you on thus: Go for it Hungary, go for it Hungarians!