February 14, 2014

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's Speech at the Minister of Interior's Annual Assessment Meeting


28 January 2014, Budapest

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to today's meeting. We have gathered here today to assess the work of the Ministry of Interior, and we have heard a comprehensive report from Minister of Interior Pintér. It is clear, that following on from his speech, my role will be simply to assess your work in a wider sense, from the perspective of the almost four years that are now behind the whole country. What I would like is for you to not simply perform your work. I think it is important that, since you represent an important part of state administration, and are among the state's executives, I accordingly find it important that you see and are able to see the wider importance of your work. You will probably find work more rewarding as a result, and you will probably acquire a clearer picture of just how much responsibility you bear each and every day, and this will most probably serve as inspiration to you.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have come to know excellent leaders and wonderful people in the persons of those police officers with whom I have had the pleasure of working during the past four years, whether at executive meetings or on duty, or when meeting police officers during disaster management activities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,

A country can have a good economic policy and a justice system that operates well – if it operates well; we can have a fast-thinking and intelligent foreign service, with a bit of luck, and the list goes on, but if the work of the Ministry of Interior is sluggish, then the country will also be sluggish. If the Ministry of Interior is not successful – this is what I have learned from almost eight years in government – then the country cannot be successful either. And the opposite is also true: if the country can boast good results, irrespective of whether or not the Ministry of Interior played a direct role in overseeing the state, but if the economy is doing well, if the justice system is in place and if in general the state is doing a good job, then in all probability that means that the Ministry of Interior is also performing its duties properly. And accordingly I would like to take this opportunity, through Minister of Interior Pintér, to thank you, and especially the Minister, for your work. It is a well known fact that I am a believer in stability when it comes to staff, and so you all know what you can count on in the upcoming years if the decision is up to me.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The facts show that Hungary has achieved excellent results since 2010. We can safely say, with suitable modesty, yet with self-assurance, that Hungary has changed to its advantage over the past four years and is performing better year-by-year.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am sure that you all remember full well where we began from in 2010. Hungary was still one of the most indebted countries in Europe and there had, practically speaking, been a financial collapse in Hungary in 2008; the country was, to all intents and purposes, being purged and we only had the fact that we were connected to the International Monetary Fund's life support machine to thank for our very existence.  And although in recent years we have had to listen to the pessimistic forecasts of foreign analysts practically day and night, and the credit rating agencies also rarely stopped predicting our downfall, today we can state that Hungary does not maintain itself from foreign aid or through the help of foreign institutions. If Hungary needs money, it acquires it from the markets, and we are one of very few European countries that have been capable of reducing their level of debt. It is undoubtedly true that the country's foreign currency debts are still too high, which makes Hungary vulnerable, and accordingly perhaps the most important financial objective of the upcoming four years will be precisely to significantly reduce the country's foreign currency debts. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is also common knowledge that our economy is growing at a faster rate than the European Union average, although still not at the rate we would like, and that today, Hungary also receives acknowledgment from abroad; perhaps not every day, but regularly. I would like to remind you, and especially in view of the fact that your work is also involved in this, that the level of employment in Hungary has reached a historical high with over 4 million people employed. The last time employment was this high was sometime in the early nineties. This is a quarter of a million more people than in 2010. I would like to ask all of you, and especially Minister of Interior Pintér, to take up the gauntlet if you see that people are trying to belittle public work and the work of people involved in public work programmes, either in the world of local government or in the press; publicly or in Parliament. We owe a debt of gratitude and must express our appreciation to those people who, despite being trained for ten-fifteen years to sit at home and wait for their benefit payments instead of working, have now been capable of changing, although they required suitable incentives, but were nevertheless capable of once again getting used to a routine and lifestyle of going to work and performing public work instead of waiting to receive benefit. Their performance is also worthy of acknowledgement in my view, considering their past. I also think it is important, Ladies and Gentlemen, that inflation has practically disappeared; even I can hardly remember, and I wasn't born yesterday, when the rate of inflation was last around half a percent. I also feel that it is important, and this is linked to public safety risks, that the path that leads us away from poverty in Hungary is now discernable, is visible, and is in fact open. We have made it clear, that this path is not paved with empty promises or free money, but with work and reduced public utility charges. This is the first time in several decades that these costs have decreased in Hungary. If you add things up, you will see that through decreasing public utility charges we have succeeded in giving people back the pensions and wages that were taken away from them in previous years.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The ranks of the police force are made up of strong and steadfast men and women, and so I hardly have to prove to you, since you already know this very well, that self esteem begins with standing up for yourself; standing up for yourself when you must take a stand in an argument. This is not only the case with the police and it is not only true in one's personal life, but it is also true in the life of a nation, and so I also include among our achievements the fact that today, Hungary is prepared to stand up for its own interests against anyone. In contrast to previous practices, we do not wince with respect to anybody; not from the raised voices of multinational companies, nor from the threats of the bankers, nor from the negative forecasts of financial circles, nor from the raised fingers of Brussels bureaucrats. We are happy to argue our case against everyone; we have valid arguments and clear standpoints, and it is my experience that when there is enough courage, Hungary always comes out of such debates in a favourable position in recent years. Now again, we see that Brussels has launched a new attack against the thirds phase of public utility charge reductions, and wants to strip us of our right to regulate the price and cost of public utilities within our national sphere of authority, but this is again a debate that we have high hopes of winning, as we have done many times in recent years.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Police Executives,

Prior to 2010, Hungary had about as much room for manoeuvre as a psychiatric patient in a straightjacket. This situation has changed. Just think of the seven-year budget achieved in negotiations with the European Union, which we have ahead of us, or the termination of the excessive deficit procedure, or about the fact that we have also returned, returned with significant forces, to markets outside Europe. I would like you to feel the rewards of your own, personal efforts in these achievements.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

One of the important effects of the past four years, of which you have also been involved and which is also an acknowledgement of your efforts, is that if there is trouble in Hungary, then the Hungarian people are capable of working together and acting in unity. The most obvious and beautiful example of this was when we succeeded in overcoming the biggest flood of the century through working together. But it is also my firm belief that such solidarity is also required if we are to maintain economic growth, if we wish to continue our politics of job creation and if we do not wish to sway from the path of public utility charge reductions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I also see another change. It is a well known fact that compared to the people of other nations, we Hungarians are prone to pessimism. Well, we may not have shed this entirely, but if I look at what is happening in Hungary today and if I interpret the reports and polls correctly, then in comparison to our usual selves we are doing much better when it comes to our confidence in the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Overall then, I can tell you that today, Hungary is looking towards an encouraging and promising future, and this is in no small part thanks to the efforts and performance of the people who work in law enforcement. Let's be honest, you are not in an easy position. If you do a good job, we are talking about people in uniform after all, then people say you were just doing your duty, this is what you swore an oath to do after all, but if you make even the slightest visible mistake you can be sure that it will make all the headlines the next morning. This is not an easy position. And so I would now first of all, not as a prime minister, but as one of the country's citizens, to thank you for everything that you have done for Hungary and for the people of Hungary in these past few years. And secondly I would also like to praise your work, because you generally do not undertake to do so, despite the well-known saying according to which acknowledging one's own merits is so important, that one shouldn't leave it to others. Nevertheless, since this kind of boasting is not the fashion for people in uniform, I think it is perhaps right that here, before the whole Hungarian public, I too say a few words in appreciation of your performance.

When assessing your work, it is important to remember the starting point, what the state of affairs was here in Hungary four years ago. I would not like to begin quoting figures for you, but only to mention a single case, which helps us recall the essence of the pre 2010 era. And I am thinking of those records, which have since been made public, that testify to the fact that the former head of the National Security Agency, which is the country's innermost line of defence, met and spoke with the head of a criminal organisation, and topics that arose during this meeting included extending the political power of the ruling government at the time using illegal methods. I believe that this story speaks more than any other of the state of affairs in those days and serves to explain, because as the saying goes, the fish begins stinking from its head, why crime went out of control in Hungary between 2002 and 2010, why there was no public safety and why so many Hungarians lost their trust in their own police force. This case, Ladies and Gentlemen, also sheds slight on how it was possible for all sorts of arbitrarily founded uniformed units to be allowed to roam free throughout Hungary. The police, instead of dispersing them, escorted them and sometimes even encouraged their existence, thus further increasing the chaos and fear. Let us be frank: those political leaders, who had sworn an oath to protect law and order and the people, colluded with gangland speculators against the law and the people.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is a betrayal of the uniform, which puts to ruin everything within the police force and other organisations entrusted with maintaining law and order. Please allow me to use this as a starting point to pinpoint the most important achievement of your efforts as being the fact that, with your help, the rule of law has been re-established in Hungary since 2010. The conceptual background for the reorganisation of an entire country is of course provided by the legislative work of the National Assembly, and this was a huge achievement over these past years. We have just heard about the record number of laws and amendments with which we created the conditions, these conditions, onto which a state governed by the rule of law can be built. But you know just as well as I do that the legislators can introduce wonderful regulations and the justice system can make the wisest of rulings, but all this is pointless if there is no one to enforce the enacted legislation. For a state governed by the rule of law to be more than a political slogan or not remain some kind of political theory requires that the law enforcement powers, and its most important body, the Ministry of Interior, function properly. Without a well-organised and efficient Ministry of Interior there can be no rule of law in a democracy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

By the end of 2013 we achieved a state of affairs in which the Ministry of Interior and the police force do no simply function properly, but are also extremely efficient. The most descriptive example of this efficiency is, in my view, the work that was performed to combat the flood; I see it as the solidarity that came about in relation to combating the great flood. The staff of the Disaster Management authority, which falls under the scope of authority of the Ministry of Interior, played a decisive role in enabling us to escort the flood wave out of the country with no human casualties and without it causing serious damage to property. I must take this opportunity to thank Lieutenant-General György Bakondi and his colleagues for their devoted efforts. And of course, Ladies and Gentlemen, now that water management also falls under your scope of authority, I must also highlight the activities of the National Water Directorate, who established the foundations for successful flood protection through their precise work. The Ministry of Interior also did an excellent job with regard to coordinating the efforts of the various institutions involved. It successfully coordinated the work of the Disaster Management authority, the police, the army and the some 40 thousand volunteers who took part in flood defence operations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Perhaps you also remember that four years ago, when Parliament adopted the Government's programme, the text of which, in a manner previously unknown in the history of Hungarian democracy, was exactly the same as that of the previously published election programme, it was transplanted word for word, and that programme stated that the country needs at least 3500 new police officers. I am glad that the Minister of Interior has conformed to this requirement. What I expect from Minister of Interior Pintér, and what I expect from you, is to help the Minister of Interior's work in assuring that there is a continuous police presence in every single settlement in Hungary. According to certain data, this is already the case. I however, do not agree, and I would ask the Minister of Interior, and I would ask you, to create the conditions necessary, and if you require support, then please indicate so, to ensure that there is a continuous police presence in every single settlement in Hungary.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Minister of Interior Pintér has mentioned it and it is an important issue, so please forgive me for repeating it. The best feedback with regard to your work is the fact that, according to society, you have regained the trust of the people of Hungary, and for this I think that not only the executives, but the whole police force deserves our thanks and acknowledgement. Today, public opinion sees you, the police, as an organisation whose professional expertise and dedication to duty cannot be questioned.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Although my reflex is also to immediately think of the police force when I hear the Ministry of Interior, it also includes other important areas, as we have heard from Minister of Interior Pintér's report. And I feel that it is also my duty to also say a few words about the reorganisation of the system of local government. This reorganisation was preceded by heated debate. First, I must share with you a thought about the settling of local governments' debts. I would supplement the words of Minister of Interior Pintér by adding that not only have we assumed the debts of local governments, thus creating a manageable state of affairs which can be handled more easily by the state under more favourable financial conditions, but we have also introduced regulations that make it impossible for local governments to fall into debt once again. Local governments will no longer be able to take on loans as they did in previous years. This is prohibited by very clear regulations: state authorisation is required; permission from the central administration is required to take on most kinds of loans, and you can be sure that we will be holding the reigns firmly. Once you have burnt your lips with hot milk, you tend to blow on even cold water before drinking it. This is the behaviour I expect both from the Ministry of State for Finance and the Ministry of State responsible for local governments.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As Minister of Interior Pintér has already mentioned, the foundations of the local government system were laid down a quarter of a century ago. We could also feel from his words, that, like all legislation, the legislation of a quarter of a century ago was created from the thoughts that existed in contemporary heads, because from what else could have it been created, after all. And a quarter of a century ago, in view of the fact that we had left the communist system behind only one or two years earlier, most people's reflexes were to voice concerns, such as "as long as they aren't repressed!", "I hope none of their scopes of authority are removed!", "as long as nobody sticks their noses in their business!", "just as long as nobody violates our newly acquired freedom!", and so on. These were important points, but then we eventually got to the stage when the state was imposing more and more responsibilities onto local government, but without providing adequate funding, so in the end their newfound freedom was spent drowning in debt. It is clear that this is not a viable route. A rational distribution of labour must be created between the central administration and local governments. And it is also in this spirit that we have reorganised the healthcare and education systems, and further measures can also be expected.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The supervision of the public work scheme also falls under your sphere of authority. I have come to know an excellent leader in the person of the Inspector-General. It is no small feat when someone form the police force must take into hand and manage a field that is not just a new task for him, but is also a new task for the entire country. I think it was a good decision to eventually place the organisation of public work programmes under the authority of the Ministry of Interior. Since you are fully aware of the state of affairs in Hungary, there is no need for me to publicly list the valid reasons for such a decision, but if one wants there to be order in a certain area, and if one wants public work to not just be a formality and for public work to actually be performed and not remain just a statistical responsibility, which someone from the civil sphere would comfortably conform to, but for it instead to have behind it true performance, then there is no doubt that it needs people in uniform. And I am glad that the Ministry of Interior has performed this task not only efficiently, but also with suitable humanity. Performed its duties strictly, but with humanity. It can't be done any other way. I would also like to thank those involved through the Inspector-General, because in Hungary it has been decades, perhaps never in my lifetime, and that's over fifty years now, since the Hungarian state has had the courage and the moral mandate to include unemployed people, who have left the school system without gaining any kind of qualification, in some form of training. People can joke about it, and they can make fun of it, as often happens in Hungary, but this decision is based on deep-rooted moral foundations, it has a Christian motive, if you like. If we take democracy seriously, it cannot simply consist of the repeating of empty slogans, and people who do not know how to write need to be helped so they can learn to read and write. People who cannot fit into a workplace community must be assisted so that they learn this skill. And people who are capable of learning a profession, but who have not been allowed to do so by life, or who have themselves failed to make use of the opportunity, must be given a chance to learn a profession. Semi-skilled labour to begin with, and then to acquire a profession. Initially, the training courses naturally experienced the usual teething troubles, but how could this have been any different in view of the fact that Hungary had not attempted anything of this nature for decades? And despite all our shortcomings and despite every error that may have occurred, it is nevertheless worth keeping in mind the moral and social grandeur and generousness of the enterprise, and speaking about it in this tone. In a tone that portrays the fact that the social state of affairs in Hungary has developed to a point where the Government dares to decide that instead of keeping people at home on benefits it will try to involve them in public work programmes during the winter period, when less work opportunities are available. And so everyone – Inspector-General, please – who was involved in the planning and realisation of this programme deserves to be acknowledged, and I would suggest to Minister of Interior Pintér that when the programme is complete, we should indeed express this acknowledgement.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Minister of Interior Pintér also spoke about the penal system. I have been watching the activities that you have also performed for us within this field with appreciation, although I will not repeat the quantitative results again now. You are performing your duties under very difficult circumstances, because despite the encouraging economic developments Hungary continues to be a poor country, and if we feel that new prisons are needed, we cannot just withdraw ten or twenty billion forints from the budget to build new prisons. This would require a very large investment, heavy expenditure, serious planning and severe financial sacrifice on the part of the central budget. And I would like to thank you for your patience and for the devoted efforts with which you have succeeded in maintaining law and order in our penal institutions despite clearly overstretched and overcrowded conditions. And in addition, for having performed the task that I gave the Minister of Interior and which I am sure he passed on to you, to enable the country's leaders to tell the people that criminals are not maintained by them, by Hungarian taxpayers. But that we are instead searching for methods, ways and opportunities to make these institutions self-sufficient, to ensure that prisons are not welfare institutions or boarding houses, but places where in fact everyone must make an effort to contribute daily to the funds required for subsistence and maintenance. I appreciate the Minister of Interior's efforts in this respect. I regard 75 percent as an acceptable result; I would simply like to draw your attention to the fact that 75 percent is less than 100 percent.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is another area about which we speak rarely, and quite rightly, although it is an important area of state life. And this is the work of the services that fall within the scope of authority of the Ministry of Interior and which perform various secret, counter terrorist and anti-espionage activities, and so on. If one must speak about them, and if they are under the public gaze, that is a bad sign. This has not been the case in previous years, and quite rightly. I ask that you ensure that this remains the case. There is one exception, which Minister of Interior Pintér also mentioned, and that is the Counter Terrorism Centre itself, whose role is somewhat different to that of the others, because they also perform their duties in the visible world. This is an elite unit. I know that this always represents a problem in an environment in which it did not previously exist, and it needed to be set up. Professional vanity, professional self-esteem and professional jealousy exist; this is totally understandable and I view this as natural. All I would ask of you, and I ask this also from Minister of Interior Pintér, that you always make is absolutely clear that Hungary needs a uniformed elite unit that expresses the state's ability to act in the most complicated and sensitive situations, and who can be put forward at any international challenge or competition and are capable of regularly putting behind them countries that are much richer than we are in elite unit competitions. Hungary has always needed, continues to need and will always need a uniformed elite unit of this kind in the interests of its own self-esteem.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before I express my good wishes with regard to the future, I must also say a few words regarding financial issues. Because, although the tax system has provided self-esteem to those who are earning more, and although state compensation has not allowed anyone to earn less as a result of the changes to the tax system, there are still many in the police force who do not earn anywhere near enough. And not simply do not earn enough, but do not earn enough to be able to remain among your uniformed ranks in the long term. And in fact, do not earn enough that we cannot be sure they will not leave the profession behind in the near future. Because, the Minister of Interior sometimes shows me the basic salaries of deputy officers, primarily police sergeants, and regularly reports on what the monthly budget of a police sergeant's family looks like, and it is clear from these numbers that this amount of money, especially for someone with a family, is hardly enough to get by. And so we must act. It is undoubtedly true that we would have liked to introduce the career model for public administration, the army and the police force during the current term, but the economy did not generate enough money to enable us to expand our plans to include your sphere of operations in addition to that of Hungary's teachers, and so we had no choice but to separate the two processes. And we have still not succeeded in generating the funding for the housing programme, which the Government has already debated on several occasions, and which, according to favourable financial terms that today remain hard to imagine, I mean for those who are not included, would enable those who enter public service, especially if they are in uniform, to create a home and housing conditions that are more than dignified according to very favourable terms. We will of course be doing this following the elections, especially if our economic management and Minster Mihály Varga perform as least as well as Sándor Pintér and the Ministry of Interior have done here. But I know very well that words relating to after the elections are about as indeterminate as a dog' dinner. This is true, and this is why, not simply to keep your spirits alive, but to keep your ambitions alive and preserve your sense of commitment, we must take measures prior to the elections to express the fact that the Hungarian State has need of your work. And so after several rounds of debate, the Government has voted to accept the wage settlement proposal for police sergeants. If my calculations are correct, this means some 29 thousand people. From the first of January. Meaning that in March they will also be receiving the backdated salary increase for January. They will be receiving a salary supplement of 10 thousand forints a month beginning on 1 January, which they will receive in the form of some kind of allowance. Minister of Interior Pintér will be informing you of the legal background of the increase. The prospects for the Hungarian budget in 2014 can take this extra expenditure. It is in my view extremely important to reinforce the ranks of police sergeants. This is just the first step and will remain in force until the career model, which will mean a more significant pay rise, is introduced; this supplement will remain until that tine so that we do not lose our best employees, but can instead retain them.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is where Hungary stands for the moment. This is where the Hungarian Government stands. This is where the Ministry of Interior stands, and this is where the world of people in uniform, of the uniformed ranks that are in the service of the Ministry of Interior, stands. I would like to once again thank you for the devoted and committed work that you perform under difficult conditions. I wish you, and ourselves, good luck, and I stand ready, after April, God willing, to visit you again so that we can decide together what work must be done in the upcoming years. I would like to express my special appreciation for the work of Minster of Interior Pintér.

http://www.miniszterelnok.hu/in_english_article/prime_minister_viktor_orban_s_speech_at_the_minister_of_interior_s_annual_assessment_meeting

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