5 November 2015, Budapest

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,

There are some rules which have some relevance here in Hungary; when the Prime Minister is here in Hungary, he must use his own native language. So, if you will allow me, I shall continue by speaking in Hungarian this afternoon.

Your Eminences, Honourable Ministers, Dear Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before I share with you the thoughts which I have gathered together for today, allow me to make a comment regarding the phrase displayed behind me. This is in particular for our foreign guests, because Hungarians know only too well that the term “family-friendly country” denotes a goal. We would like Hungary to claim to be a family-friendly country, but this is not yet the case. This is the goal we have set for ourselves; we still have much to do, however, before people who decide to have children and who envisage their lives within a family can feel that not only are they doing everything they can for their country, but that for its part their country is also doing everything it can for them. So, with due humility, accepting the message of this phrase, we should see it as a goal rather than a result which has been achieved.

Allow me to welcome all the attendees of the Budapest Demographic Forum.

Before continuing, I would like to clarify why I think it is important that we have succeeded in holding this conference. I feel that we have to seize every opportunity to finally talk about demographics openly, free from political taboos, and, if possible, among the widest possible circles.

Dear Guests,

The situation is that in Europe today it is not PC to talk about demographic issues. I am personally faced almost daily with the fact that there are certain topics which nowadays are not considered suitable subjects for discussion in the European public sphere. There are words which simply cannot be uttered – not for aesthetic reasons, but for political reasons. We have here before us a recent example: the leader of one of Europe’s most successful countries since World War Two, the leader of a democratic country, made a statement to the effect that his country is not building a fence, but a gate with very long fixed side sections. At first sight, this might appear to be some sort of witticism, but I am asking you to see the pathetic side of the situation. What have we come to? The Europe of which we were once proud – because this was the world of freedom of thought, freedom of speech and freedom of opinion – is today in such an intellectual state, has manoeuvred itself into such a spiritual state, that certain words, questions and political concepts cannot even be uttered. The word “fence” is not a swear word. Obviously, the person who avoided using it thought that saying this word in Europe today might have such serious implications, such serious political consequences, that he simply could not afford to do it. Vladimir Bukovsky – who is highly respected here, in Hungary, as a former Soviet dissident – once said that “The rules of the game which the defenders of political correctness introduced have in fact deprived them of dialogue”.

Dear Guests,

I sometimes feel as if the same thing has happened to demographics and family policy. Neither the topic, nor the use of the words is PC, and in order to prevent potential attacks a truly European politician would weed them out of their message, making sure that they are not even uttered, as it could be embarrassing, would call for explanation, and would result in negative media reports the next day. However, Europe’s demographic situation could be a serious topic. You are no doubt aware that I belong to the sphere of people’s parties: the community of parties with Christian democratic inclinations which are located on the centre-right of the political map. When we create and adopt documents relating to the future, we continually fail to agree that the term “family” should even feature in those documents. When we suggest incorporation of the word, there are some who oppose it, saying that even if we use the word, we can only use it in the plural, leaving open what the concept of family actually means, and what a European family comprises. This is where we stand today, Ladies and Gentlemen.

The figures show that Europe is ageing. The figures show that Europe’s population will decline. In 2013 the number of deaths exceeded the number of births in one half of the 28 Member States of the European Union, and in some European countries a depressingly high percentage of young people cannot even find jobs. In addition, Europe’s demographic weight in the world will continue to decrease. In 1960 Europe’s population accounted for 13.4 per cent of the world’s population; in 2013 that figure is only 7.1 per cent, if we look at the 28 Member States of the European Union. This means that Europe is the continent and civilisation which is struggling with the gravest demographic problem and is the most rapidly ageing continent. But if the situation is this serious, why is this topic so under-represented in politics and in European discourse in general? Who will live here in Europe? This is the key question here. We should talk about this seriously, and yet much more time, attention, energy and money are being devoted to other things and to debates which have much less to do with reality: gender debates, same-sex marriage, and we could certainly mention quite a few others. These are all important things which may be dear to our hearts, but they are nonetheless only secondary. They will not shift Europe out of the economic and social quagmire which it is stuck in. It seems that today there is antipathy towards those who are willing to point out that the emperor has no clothes, those who warn, based on factual evidence, that there will be big problems if politics abandons the basic unit of European culture: the family.

Meanwhile let me extend a warm welcome to young demographers. Four years ago I had the opportunity to tell an informal meeting of ministers responsible for demography and family policy that there is a political accusation being levelled ever more frequently in Europe. Effectively this accusation is that if a government supports families, it sends the message that it sees other ways of life as inferior, and it is thus not inclusive. This is obviously silly, but even so it is difficult to defend ourselves against accusations of this type. Therefore, the current Hungarian government – as you may have seen – is directing a great deal of energy towards making it clear that supporting families and recognising freedom are not mutually exclusive. Setting one against the other is just a devious trick, which must be exposed so that we can stand up for the family and for our own values sincerely and with a clear conscience

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Luckily, in this respect Hungary is not in a poor state, and never has been. In Hungary the majority believe that in the modern age a child is both a blessing and a reward in the life of a family and in the life of society alike. Everyone in Hungary – all right, maybe not everyone, but most people – are capable of doing more for their children than for themselves. We Hungarians believe that children magnify the strength of their parents, they magnify the strength of the family, and a generation of children magnify the strength of a nation, of a whole country, and finally our entire civilisation. Children magnify our capacity, and enable us to achieve more; this is the view we take. So children are a motivating force: a positive motivating force in the life of society, like no other we know of. After all, when we are old, they will look after us, they will attend to our needs, they will be the guarantee for renewal of our communities, and they will take forward the heritage which is everything which has made our lives meaningful. Without children, there is no continuation, and there is no security for the elderly.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Eminences,

It is not the topic of this meeting in the strictest sense, but we all know that if there are insufficient numbers of children, the issue of immigration will emerge – at least until mass cloning becomes widespread in European civilisation, which is something that we hope the Almighty will spare us from. In terms of the peaceful functioning of societies, it is important that our communities should be capable of regeneration. It is important that communities should remain viable, and should be able to sustain themselves without resorting to external resources. I am convinced that Europe cannot build its future on immigration, rather than families. I would like to warn you, however, that there are already European documents in existence which seek the solution in that area.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Those who expect help from elsewhere will sooner or later have to pay the price for it. This is an iron law, there is no alternative to it – even though there are some in Brussels who think that the immigrants flooding into Europe should be seen as a blessing, because with them we shall be able to resolve our economic and demographic problems overnight. Many of us – perhaps all of us – know that this is not true at all. And we also know that this way of thinking is extremely dangerous. It is dangerous because it upsets the balance of the continent. It implants among us a culture and an outlook on life with a mentality and customs which are completely different from ours. This culture has a different approach to work, has different ideas about human relations and, last but not least, holds different views on the foundations of our social system: the family.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I sincerely hope that we who have gathered here today want a Europe which is based on families rather than on immigration. We want the European Union to abandon the mentality which keeps our hands tied, and to return to the values and the politics which once made it so spectacularly successful. We want families to take centre stage in European politics once again.

Dear Guests,

There are times when demographers must have their voices heard. We are now living in such times. The survival of our civilisation and culture is at stake. In the history of the world, not a single culture which was unable to populate the land in which it lived was able to survive; writers from antiquity extensively documented this phenomenon. I wish you success in your efforts to prove to everyone that the family and children are indeed a blessing – not only for the family itself, but for the nation and the entire European civilisation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I sincerely hope that, with your dedication and support, more and more European leaders will have the courage to endorse the need for family-friendly European policy. Thank you for your attention. I wish you all a successful conference.

The EU cannot build its future on immigration instead of families

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister)