Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, addressing a conference on conservatism in Rome on Tuesday, said economic success was a prerequisite for conservative policy.
Achieving economic success is the only way for nationally minded conservative and Christian democratic leaders to “survive”, Orbán told a podium discussion at the National Conservatism Conference.
But if a conservative political leader makes a mistake and economic indicators fall as a result, the leader “is murdered the next morning”, he added.
The prime minister said the Hungarian economy has been growing at a rate of 4-5 percent in recent years, adding that the unemployment rate had fallen to 3 percent with the public debt also shrinking.
Highlighting Hungary’s stability, he noted that
it was the only country in Europe not to have held early elections since 1990.
As regards Hungary’s conservative leadership, the prime minister said the main difference between the Hungarian government and other European conservative governments was that Hungary’s ruling parties were not under pressure to enter into a coalition with other parties, given their outright parliamentary majority. Another difference, he said, was the media landscape. Orbán said that
unlike in Hungary, 90 percent of the media in western Europe “belongs to the progressive liberals and only 10 percent belongs to the conservatives”.
Political affiliations are more balanced in the Hungarian media, he said, adding that this made him “the lucky one among European conservative politicians” who gets to speak his mind.
Commenting on accusations of populism levelled against his government, Orbán said that when he was young, a populist politician was someone who could not deliver on their promises, adding that keeping promises was about democracy rather than populism. Citing an example, the prime minister noted that his government had vowed to create one million new jobs over a ten-year period when it came to power in 2010 and has added 860,000 jobs to the economy over nine years.
Orbán also criticised liberalism, saying that liberal governments had failed twice within a single decade. The first failure, he said, came in 2008 when they had failed to properly address the economic crisis. The second was in 2015 “when they failed to protect their citizens and their countries’ borders” during the migration crisis. Orbán said
liberal democracy, which had served as the basic principle of liberal governments, had “come to an end in this sense”.
He called for liberalism to be replaced by “Christian democracy”.
On the topic of the migration crisis, Orbán insisted
there was not a single Muslim migrant in Hungary, whereas in western European countries the share of the Muslim population was growing.
He said liberals had a positive view of this trend, arguing that “they don’t like Christian society”. The prime minister said this was “their business”, but asked liberals not to “force such a trend onto central Europe”.
Orbán added, at the same time, that
the migrant crisis had opened the door to discussions about identity, “about who we are”.
The prime minister also said Europe was in need of new challenges and “new energetic movements” if the continent were to be competitive.
Concerning the European Union, he said there were two opposing views as to how Europe should be organised. One, he said, wants to build the continent from the bottom up, which would entail a form of cooperation among member states. Meanwhile, according to the other view, Europe should be built from the top down, he said, describing this as a “federalist, empire-oriented approach which doesn’t include sovereign states”. The two views are in constant competition with one another, Orbán said, adding that this was the reason for the unresolved disputes among EU leaders.
Concerning the European People’s Party of which Orbán’s ruling Fidesz is a member, the prime minister said the conservative grouping was determined to be a part of the EU’s power structure “no matter what”. He said if this meant giving up certain values and compromising with the left, then the party family would do so, slowly losing its identity in the process.
Unless the EPP “starts a new chapter”, Orbán said, it would keep moving in the leftist, liberal direction because pressure from the media and universities among other places would force it to give up more and more aspects of its original ideology.
Orbán said he would attempt to carry out a “counter-revolution” to this trend.
As regards the state of central Europe, the prime minister said it was Europe’s most successful region today. He said that when talking about Hungary’s achievements he must also mention the successes of other countries in the region such as Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Croatia and Serbia. Orbán said that irrespective of their European political families, the countries he mentioned all had nationally minded conservative governments.