Keynote Speech on the Occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome
Budapest, 23 March 2017
There are three common misunderstandings about Hungary in the EU that must be clarified; namely, misunderstandings about
1) what we do not want,
2) what we want and
3) what we judge and envision differently.
Consider, first, the misunderstandings about the “what we do not want” category. The first and widespread accusation is that we do not want “more community competences”. In reality, there is no community competence defined by the Treaty that we would like to switch from community to national competence level. At the same time there are plenty of examples of the opposite, such as a common defence or the digital market. The Hungarian understanding of the “Europe of Nations” concept does not reject the idea of increasing communal competences. The essence of the “Europe of Nations” idea has nothing to do with the occasional intention to transfer competences to the centre or to the member states or to keep them at the level where they are today. But we believe that the entire system must serve the good of our nations – that is the essence of our version of a “Europe of Nations”. For only successful nations can make up a successful Union. That is why we chose “strong nations, strong Europe” as our slogan. Now, there is a good and a bad debate about the future of Europe. The bad debate is about whether we should strive for more or less Europe. The good debate is about a better, a more successful, a stronger Europe. It is on this basis that we should determine what competence is needed on what level. Another common misunderstanding is that we in Hungary reject the multi-speed Europe concept. Not at all. The idea of a multi-speed Europe is far from bad in our opinion. We reject, however, the “seed Europe”, the concentric Europe, or the two-speed Europe concepts. We do not oppose the idea of a multi-speed Europe, but we accept it with reservations. The truth is that “enhanced cooperation” is incorporated in the Treaty.
What we want is clear: open conditions, transparent contracts that regulate rules applying to all. And, of course, those rules must be kept by everyone in order to prevent disintegration. A multi-speed arrangement is only good if it helps to integrate and reinforce Europe – if it really “enhances cooperation” and preserves the unity and the equality of member states. After Brexit, it is especially vital to maintain unity!
A third misunderstanding is that we oppose common political measures because we are anti-European. (I would like to call your attention to the fact that popular support for the EU is among the highest in Poland and Hungary.) Once again, in reality the reason why we oppose certain measures is that they risk weakening the EU. We would like to protect Europe because we are pro- European. Let us now turn to the equally widespread misunderstandings about “what we want”. These are due to those who believe that the way we conceive our national interests is against Europe. That is not true. In reality we see our national interests as closely intertwined with European interests – small wonder since we are part of Europe after all.
A strong Europe – that is, a competitive, safe and sustainable Europe – is in our national interest. The difference is in how we see it realised for the benefit of Europe. Our view differs from the opinion of mainstream European politicians. At the moment we (plus our friends in the Visegrád [V4] group) are in a minority position in the European Parliament. The heart of the difference is that we oppose neither the concept of nation nor that of Europe. Nor do we subordinate national identity and sovereignty to European identity or competences. The equivalence and complementarity of these notions are the key. Thus the main elements of our “V4 vision” are:
Competitiveness: since Europe is lagging behind in the global competition, we must regain our economic weight and our global position. For that, the national competitiveness of member states must be assured. So everything is good and valid in this process that enhances the national competitiveness of a member state, and everything that weakens it is not good for Europe. For example, the common market and competitiveness are endangered by the social pillar in its present form.
Also, security decisions must not endanger the safety of the member states, and thus wider European security. Indeed, we must proactively do something for our security.
The basics of this are the following: screening migration outside our borders, giving humanitarian and development assistance locally instead of importing problems to Europe, continuing our enlargement policy in the Balkan Peninsula, strengthening the Eastern Partnership for its stabilising effects (also strengthening cooperation with our southern neighbours), and finally setting up the European Army or Defence Union if you like. These are our main security recommendations.
And then there is also something I would call a vision of “Christian Europe”. This is not emphasised among the key tenets of the Hungarian approach to the EU but we are driven by this principle in our policies: we defend it and we expect the EU to support it or at least to accept it. Christianity is implied in the declared values of the European Union: after all, there are many references to “human dignity” in the text of the Lisbon Treaty! One important meaning of “Christian Europe” in the long run is sustainable society: demographic and labour force problems should be resolved by adequate family policy and not by immigration, as both the Hungarian and French family-assistance systems seek to do. Social inclusion programmes too must ensure a “workfare” society. For example in Hungary we have drawn masses into work and significantly increased the number of taxpayers, as witnessed by our Roma strategy and public work policy.
From this it follows that the European Union should practice a proactive Christian solidarity, for example, by protecting persecuted Christians. We established a separate Under-Secretariat with this task in the Hungarian Ministry of Human Resources. Let me emphasise that defending our traditional (autochthon) cultural diversity also belongs to our Christian vision of the future of Europe; cultural diversity does not equal multiculturalism – in our conviction cultural identities should enrich one another rather than disappear in a “melting pot”.
And, finally, what would we envision differently? Let me mention a feature of EU decision-making: bending the rules what characterised the Soviet Union was a total indifference to the solemnities of the Stalinist Constitution of the Empire. The Soviet Constitution was a dead letter. People had to execute the decisions of the Central Committee without the possibility of appeal. To be sure, the European Union is not the Soviet Union (nor the US either). We did not enter a USSR-like EU. The EU is based on contractual commitments, contractual obligations. The core principle of the EU is based on the Lisbon Treaty, meaning that what counts is what is included or not included in the Treaty – that is, that should be the principle of our conduct.
Thus, when the EU makes a decision which is beyond the range of the Union, beyond its scope of authority defined by the Treaty; or when it passes a decision disregarding its operational method – e.g. breaching the set procedures of transfer of competences – then the decision should not apply; it does not have to be, or rather must not be executed. In such cases, member states have the right to reject a decision. Without this freedom there is no sense of the most inspiring principle of Europe, that of “unity in diversity”.