Prime Minister Viktor Orbán delivered his weekly radio address today to share his thoughts on Hungarian public education, foreign trade, terrorism, and the European Union.
While not specifically addressing the countrywide protests carried out by teachers and their supporters, Orbán did mention weaknesses in the public education system. These weaknesses, he said, are precisely what his government has been working to resolve since its election in 2010.
According to Orbán, the situation with Hungary’s public education was much worse before 2010. He said the education system was bankrupt and Hungarian students were not measuring up in international rankings.
“We’re headed in the right direction now,” he said.
Unfortunately for the prime minister, tens of thousands of educators, students, and parents disagree, as evidenced by Wednesday’s protests.
Centrally-planned foreign trade
Reflecting on his recent visit to Indonesia, the prime minister called the Southeast Asian island country a “beautiful but strange world” very different from Europe.
“What I experienced there is that the global economy is more and more uniform. The question here is whether Hungarian businesses can utilize the opportunities presented by connecting with a given region into the global economy,” said Orbán.
“This means doors must be opened,” he continued. “During these kinds of trips, I was just in Mongolia, earlier in Iran and now Indonesia, we usually travel with business delegations. These are pre-planned trips. There are places where we have to raise the point of reflecting our trade agreements. There are places where we need to speed up meetings that are more beneficial to Hungarian businesses. And there are places where we need to start trade talks. What I see now, after having attended these meetings in Indonesia, is that the Hungarian economy has about four- or five-thousand small- and medium-sized businesses which are capable of doing competitive business in any corner of the world. So, if the business can get there, then it will be able to hold its ground. We need this because a country with ten million people does not have such a strong internal market. If businesses are limited to working inside the country, the country will not be able to develop fast enough. The first condition to improving the quality of life here is that we have many small- and medium-sized businesses which are successful around the world.
“In 2010,” Orbán said, “there were about two- or three-thousand such [Hungarian] businesses. We think there are now four- or five-thousand such businesses. We need about twelve thousand such businesses to be able to reach the level of Bavaria. So we still have a lot of work ahead of us.”
The prime minister then praised the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade under Péter Szijjártó.
“I think they are doing a good job there. The numbers are showing in the right direction. But we still have a lot of work. We need to double Hungary’s foreign trade capabilities for small- and medium-sized businesses,” Orbán said.
Competition was tough around the world because Hungarians had to compete with Czech and Polish businesses.
“Hungarian and Polish products are competing with each other in the Indonesian market,” he said. “In Mongolia, Hungarian and German businesses are competing with each other.”
In a strange twist to the ethno-protectionist policies of his government, Orbán acknowledged that the global economy connects the entire world and competition is taking place everywhere.
“What’s important is speed, bravery, the ability to adapt, and respect for the locals.
“We [Hungarians] have some advantages. We are not imperialists. We never had colonies. We don’t want to take anything away from anyone. The Hungarian business culture is founded on cooperation. So we are happy if we can work together with locals. We don’t like things like what happened to us in the 1990s when a big country’s big business came in and bought something, shut down operations, took over the market, and then didn’t let us [Hungarians] be part of the company’s management because they wanted to keep that for themselves. They made a bunch of money on us and then moved the money out of the country. ‘Good day to you, dear locals. We wish you success.’ We don’t want our businesses to behave this way, so I always ask the governments of countries we meet to tell us where they would like to see our businesses.”
Hungary is under attack
“What we see now is that there is a substantial amount of information in our possession which shows that the risk of terrorism has increased in Hungary. We have reliable information that terrorist plots are being crafted against the Hungarian people. Just like what happened in Paris recently, or what we’ve seen in the press coming out of Brussels,” Orbán said.
The government’s plans for a sixth modification to the constitution would allow for the government to act pre-emptively against the terrorists.
“We need tools,” said Orbán.
The Fidesz-KDNP coalition was focused on the security of the Hungarian people, while the left-wing parties were the “migrant party… This means they do not think the risk of terrorism is real. In fact, they even said the migration issue is not even a real problem. When it turned out that migrants were really coming and that there were lots of terrorists among them, [the left] said it’s good if we let them in. If Hungary had a left-wing government, then we would have Cologne, Paris, and Brussels-type of situation here in the country. But this whole thing is just a technical issue. The point is that we need to give the government the tools with which to pre-empt terrorism.
“There’s no question that we must be careful in how we do this because the rights to freedom of people are important and must not be curtailed more than what is necessary. But I want to make it clear that our first priority is the security of the people. We must protect them.”
Different treatment is okay as long as the Brits don’t discriminate
According to Viktor Orbán, UK statistics from 2014 show there are only 55,000 Hungarians living in Great Britain. While he considers the freedom to work throughout the EU an important right that Hungarians wanted when Hungary joined the EU, he believes the British government has the right to treat foreign workers in the UK differently than its own citizens.
“This is what we’re trying to discuss right now. What constitutes discrimination and what is a legitimate policy on behalf of the English government.”
He went on to praise the British government’s desire for far-reaching reforms to the European Union.
“I welcome this and I think that what the Brits have to say is something that is in line with Hungary’s interests. The Brits are saying that the way the EU works now in the 21st century is not resulting in increased competitiveness. The European economy is stumbling. With the exception of Central Europe and Great Britain, the EU economy is stagnating. Forecasts are saying others will advance much faster than us. These are all warning signs and that’s why Europe needs to be renewed, say the Brits. We agree with this. We even agree with their direction. The Brits are saying that the EU can be strong if the member states are strong. That’s why all the powers that were taken away from the member states and which have weakened them should be restored,” Orbán said.