It is possible that 2022 will be remembered as the year Hungary entered “the age of dangers”, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in an interview to public radio on Friday, adding that the country had responded proactively.
After the pandemic came the war in Ukraine, followed by an energy crisis, the prime minister said. EU sanctions, he added, caused significant inflation, “and migration pressure is growing once more at our borders”. But Hungary has responded to all these dangers proactively, Orbán said. “We didn’t freeze up; we didn’t want to evade, but we’ve built up defensive positions,” he said. Meanwhile, the prime minister called for the abolition of “failed EU sanctions”.
Orbán noted that the cost of energy imports skyrocketed to 17 billion euros from 7 billion, and the government established a fund for protecting caps on household energy bills up to the threshold of average consumption. The government did not pass higher energy prices to households, but rather Hungarian families receive an energy subsidy averaging 181,000 forints each month, he noted. Had the advice of liberal economists and the Hungarian left wing been taken, a minimum of 1 million families would have gone bankrupt, the prime minister insisted. He said the government would handle any new threats that arise this year in the same proactive spirit.
Regarding sanctions, Orbán said that “someone in Brussels” should finally admit to having “messed up”. Without sanctions, energy prices would drop instantly and inflation would be halved, he said, adding that there was no sign of this happening. Only Germany or France could sway the EU on this matter, he said.
To pay for energy subsidies, companies that make excessive profits out of high inflation and higher energy prices must make a commensurate contribution, he said, adding that the companies had been made to understand that this was a temporary measure. “In Hungary, they understand this,” Orbán said, adding that western European governments did not enjoy the same position of strength to enact such a measure.
European citizens are the victims of the failed sanctions policy and the war in Ukraine, he said, adding that Europe was the biggest loser of the conflict economically speaking. Commenting on the EU decision to withdraw Hungary’s Erasmus funding in 2024, Orbán said the government would not allow students “to be the victims of any decision in Brussels”, and the Hungarian budget would make up the difference in any lost Erasmus funds.
“Those with children say: ‘What kind of people are these?’ Hungary and Brussels may very well have a dispute, but what kind of person takes revenge on another person’s child?” He added that there were people in Brussels prepared to settle a political dispute by taking revenge on Hungarian young people.
The prime minister said EU objections to the Hungarian education system were “nonsense”, and politicians, he added, often sat on the board of trustees of universities in western Europe, too.
“They want a change of government,”
Orbán said. “Brussels has a vision of the future that is at odds with what Hungarians think. They [people in Brussels] think Europe must change, should be more diverse and migrants should be accepted,” he said, adding that so far the EU had not succeeded in forcing the Hungarian government to follow suit.
“We have our own ideas about the future and how to raise children,” Orbán said, adding that the EU believed that civil and social movements should play a big role in bringing up children. “We think that this is our job, the job of parents.” “They want to take as many as powers as possible to Brussels” in an effort to “build a large European empire with provinces rather than member states”, Orbán said. “Since the Hungarian government consistently promotes its philosophy and Hungary’s interests,” they want the government replaced, he said. “Voters decided otherwise,” he added.
“Irrespective of the outcome of the election, Brussels is working to force us to do as they think appropriate,” Orbán said, adding that “all conflicts should be assessed in that context”.
Meanwhile, he said Hungary’s financial reserves had “never been as high as the government has amassed over the past three months”, Orbán said. He said the reserves were at a “record high”, and “not only is it impossible to corner Hungary, but we will manage without them (the EU)”. “Of course, with them it would be simpler and we could progress faster, but they are misguided in Brussels if they think the sun will not rise without them.” “They are facing that fact now,” he added.
On another subject, Orbán said the primary political task was to build an economic system in which “everybody can find employment”. “So far we have managed: one million more people have jobs now than in 2010,” he said. Despite being “a year of dangers”, 2022 saw the highest ever employment figures, he said. Those figures “will even get higher in 2023”, he said, adding that job protection was one of the highest priorities for the coming year.
The prime minister said the real value of wages would grow in the 2022-2023 period. He called for “ambitious goals” for 2023, while he said the crisis should be managed while maintaining the country’s “great national objectives”. The government will further develop rather than whittle down family assistance as well as job protection mechanisms, he said.
Orbán also mentioned as important priorities reducing inflation “to a single digit” by the end of the year and maintaining economic growth.