Orbán on 2022: In the end, we were on our own

December 21. 2022. – 02:02 PM


Orbán on 2022: In the end, we were on our own
Photo: Noémi Napsugár Melegh / Telex


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The Hungarian Prime Minister hasn't given an interview to critical media in over a decade. In recent years, one of the rare opportunities independent journalists have for addressing questions directly to Hungary's leader is the end-of-the-year press briefing where he gives a summary of the year behind, and then opens it up for questions. This year's special occasion came on Wednesday morning, and this is our summary of the 2-hour long session.

Viktor Orbán began his summary of 2022 by saying that the past year has been the most difficult one for Hungary since 1990, but the country has performed outstandingly. He grouped the successes into six areas:

1. The parliamentary election

According to Orbán, this was a real fight for freedom. According to the PM, international actors were heavily involved in the April elections. It was 3 billion dollars against 3 million voters. In the end, the voters won.

2. Staying out of the war in Ukraine

Although it is happening right next to us, and there are already Hungarian casualties, Hungary has managed to stay out of it. The peculiarity of this war is that there are only losers: the two warring countries and Europe as well, because of the sanctions and the expected economic downturn.He added that in a way, Europe has already drifted into the war.

Those who are supplying weapons are involved up to their ankles, those who train soldiers are up to their waist, those who train an entire warring country are up to their neck in the war.

Viktor Orbán hopes that Europe will not get involved neck-deep in the war, and said that Hungary would continue to stay out of it.

On the other hand, Hungary continues to be involved in providing humanitarian assistance on a never-before seen level to Ukrainian refugees.

3. Hungary's handling of migration

The country's third outstanding achievement this year has to do with handling migration. According to the Prime Minister, Hungary is in a unique position because migration is affecting the country from two directions. Over the past year, 250 thousand illegal border crossing attempts have be thwarted by the authorities.

4. The energy supply

The fourth outstanding achievement was that Hungary was able to finance the country's energy supply. In 2021, the country paid €7 billion for the total amount of energy imports, but this year this amounted to €17 billion in total, which is HUF 4,000 billion.

5. Maintaining a work-based economy

Never before have so many people been employed in Hungary as in the past year. Employment is at the highest it’s been in 30 years, it is currently 74.6%.

6. An agreement with the EU

“The sixth outstanding achievement is that we managed to come to an agreement with the European Union,

we have conquered the “hungarophobia” which I have experienced from the EU leaders”

- Orbán said.

After the Prime Minister's speech, representatives of the press were given the floor. The main topics addressed were:


The representative of the Hungarian public broadcaster, MTVA was the first to be given the opportunity to ask questions, and they asked about the recently uncovered corruption case in the EP.

Orbán said this was bad news for everyone, because it could make European politicians lose their credibility. But the situation proves the point of the Hungarian government that the European Parliament should be dissolved. It would be better if instead of direct elections, delegates from national parliaments were elected to the EP. Quoting Donald Trump, Viktor Orbán said that

the Brussels swamp should be drained.

The war in Ukraine

What room does Hungary have for diplomatic manoeuvering in relation to the war in Ukraine? – the Prime Minister was asked.

I would be a happy man if I knew the answer to that, Orbán said, and then listed some basic principles on the subject:

  • The existence of an independent and sovereign Ukraine is in Hungary's national interest.
  • But separating Europe from the Russian economy is not in our interest.
  • We do not want to be dragged into the war, but we want to give Ukraine the help that humanity requires.

The next question was why Hungary ended up accepting what it had previously opposed: the EUR 18 billion EU package for Ukraine?

Orbán's answer: 'We accept that Ukraine needs financial assistance, but we think it is wrong to finance it through EU institutions rather than through an intergovernmental agreement. Each member state should have brought the funds from 'home' and then once we have it, then let us give the money to the Ukrainians, that would have been the right solution."

The EU found an intermediary solution, a compromise: using money from the EU budget as a loan fund. This is not a perfect solution, but we agreed to this because it was a better solution than the original plan and because

in the end, we were on our own.

To the question from Bloomberg on whether Hungary maintains that there could be a Russian-Ukrainian peace negotiation in Budapest, the Prime Minister replied that this is a standing offer, but that what is really needed is a US-Russian negotiation for peace instead.

Regarding the recently adopted Ukrainian law on minorities, he said that up until 2015, the neighboring country’s law on minorites was acceptable to Hungary. But in 2015, the Hungarian minority in Ukraine was stripped of its rights, and “this new law doesn’t give any of this back”.

Photo: Noémi Napsugár Melegh / Telex
Photo: Noémi Napsugár Melegh / Telex

Public education and the protests

The Prime Minister was asked about the teachers' strike, civil disobedience and the dismissed teachers.

Orbán said that he has never seen an Academy of Sciences incite teachers to "openly break the law". He said this in reference to the Academy's position that teachers dismissed for striking should be taken back to their schools. Orbán said that everyone must obey the law.

(Update: Although we originally wrote that the PM said that he had never heard of the Academy of Sciences incite teachers to openly break the law, what he said was that “he had never heard of the Academy of Sciences incite the government to openly break the law”)

Of course, wages must be raised for sure. If we don't have EU money, we will only be able to raise their salaries more slowly, if it does arrive, we can do it sooner – the PM said. Orbán requested that teachers respect the rules even if they disagree with professional or political goals. If someone goes on strike, it's legal; if someone "just calls in to say they're not working that day", it's illegal.

The opinions of teachers, parents, students and companies on the labour market are important in assessing the state of Hungarian public education, Orbán said. He said that it is not about him imposing his will on others, but about listening to how those affected see things.

Inflation and the economy

Why is Hungarian inflation double the EU average? – 444 asked.

Since the Central Bank is responsible for price stability, they make the analyses, and we see those and accept them, Orbán began. He then went on to say that they have doubts, they do not understand why price controls would increase inflation. He said there is an age-old professional difference between bankers and lawyers, bankers do not understand that price caps are not for bankers, but for the people.

Telex asked if the government is in talks with the IMF about taking a loan in 2023.

The IMF loan is out of the question, Orbán said. We are pretty rigid on this, I think. Taking a loan from the IMF is a matter of sovereignty….Although the IMF loan has the best interest rates, it also has the worst policy conditions, according to the prime minister.

On recent criticism by the Governor of the Central Bank

How does Viktor Orbán comment on the harsh criticism in György Matolcsy's speech to the parliamentary economic committee a few weeks ago? Is the Hungarian economy really in crisis? – was the question put to the Prime Minister.

To the same extent as the European economy is. The war, energy prices and sanctions are all pushing economies in that direction. Our plan is to stay out of it, so we are planning for economic growth of 1.5 percent, he began.

I can understand the Governor of the Central Bank, the PM said. It's been a long time since he's been in such a difficult situation,

because after all, the Central Bank is responsible for the high inflation.

From this aspect, the Governor is an even more difficult situation than I am, so I understand if he chose an unorthodox approach.

“White nations” and ethnic homogeneity

Orbán was asked about Fidesz MP Szilárd Németh’s social media post, according to which it is good that a white team (Argentina) won the World Cup. Orbán’s speech about preserving Hungary’s ethnic homogeneity was also brought up. Why is skin colour so important for Fidesz?

Orbán said that he has no problem with anybody’s skin color, adding that the Hungarian national football team also has a non-Caucasian member. He only has a problem if someone considers a community inferior if it is homogeneous and superior if it is heterogeneous.

Hungary and other countries

The reporter of BBC asked Orbán how isolated he feels in Europe. In his answer, the Prime Minister said that Hungary is not isolated, because it takes part in making important decisions. The fact that there are many questions about which we are not in agreement with the others is a different issue.

It has always been important for us – and still is – to be connected to other countries. This is why we are not willing to give up cooperating with Russia, but I am willing to also go to Oman or Qatar.

To a question on Hungary’s economic relationship with China, Orbán said:

Isolation would be a big mistake. Everything must be done to ensure the best possible economic relations between China and Hungary. China is now not only a consumer but also a producer of the highest technologies.

The Hungarian government explicitly supports economic cooperation with the emerging countries of the East. And we also want to go to China, we want to invest there, we want to take Hungarian capital there.

The Hungarian government believes that if Europe does not cooperate with China, it will lose its competitiveness. Orbán says that the liberals are hypocrites because they criticise China, but at the same time they cooperate with it.

Goals for 2023

Can we expect the Hungarian government to argue with the EU about similar issues as this year, matters that are core values of the European Union? – a question was posited.

If the question is whether we will remain Hungarians, and whether we will fight, then yes: we are Hungarians, and we will fight, was Orbán's response.

We must defend ourselves in 2023, we must defend the country and Hungarian families, Orbán said.

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