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Hungary Adopts New Constitution

April 18, 2011 1 comment

It is with great excitement and honor that I announce the adoption by parliament of Hungary’s new constitution. 

Out of the 385 members of parliament, it has received 262 votes in favor, 44 against and one abstention. The opposition Socialists and left-wing green LMP party boycotted the vote while the far-right Jobbik party voted against the text.

The Hungarian President, Mr Pál Schmitt, is expected to sign the document next week (probably on April 25).

It will enter into force on January 1, 2012.

I am extremely proud of our involvement in this historic endeavor and our ongoing cooperation with the government on the advancement of fundamental rights.

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From Dictatorship to Democracy: Hungarians Unite in Drafting Constitution

Here is a link to my latest piece in the Huffington Post.

In it I discuss the new Hungarian constitution, briefly touch on Hungary’s constitutional history, and the reasons behind the push for a new constitution now.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s State of the Nation Address

February 11, 2011 Leave a comment

It has been with great interest that I have followed the political career and policy advances of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. In the first round of the elections in April 2010, Orban’s Fidesz party won the absolute majority of seats, enough to form a government on its own. In the second round Fidesz-KDNP candidates won enough seats to achieve the two-thirds majority required to modify major laws and the country’s constitution. As a matter of fact, Orban’s government intends to do just that and has begun the process to write a new constitution for Hungary. This constitution will be the first Hungarian constitution to have a preamble and will replace the constitution put in place by the Soviets in 1947 and amended several times thereafter.

I have had the pleasure to meet and spend time with Prime Minister Orban and have found him to be a formidable, capable, intelligent and visionary leader.

Below is Prime Minister Orban’s State of the Nation Address, which he delivered on Monday, February 7. Poll results indicate that reaction to the speech was overwhelmingly positive.

Viktor Orbán’s State of the Nation address

Deeply esteemed President Ferenc Mádl, Distinguished Lady Dalma, Distinguished Chairman Zoltán Balog,

Thank you very much for inviting me. I am very happy to greet you all, to be together with you again. If I am correct, this is in fact the thirteenth occasion. Thankfully we are not superstitious, in fact when it comes to superstition we are like Jimmy Grin, who said and I quote: “I am not superstitious and I do not believe in follies, because whoever spits eastward three times on a brown stone on a Monday, will never be victim to sortilege.”

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

The fact that we can be here together for the thirteenth time is inspires to ask: is it possible that we are resistant to bullets or to metal? Immediately our other ego speaks up, because in every Hungarian there is ego enough for at least two, and says off the cuff, that weeds don’t spoil or even that he whose place is on the gallows, will not drown. So let us just wait for the story to play itself out. However Ladies and Gentlemen, we do not have the time to wait. Instead we should be grateful to the Lord for letting us come this far and we should beg him not to withdraw from us the help that we shall strive to be worthy of. The thirteenth occasion. Soon I will be standing here like a political veteran. Although if we give it more thought, that also has its advantages. Gyula Grosics, the legendary goalkeeper of the Golden Team – may we wish him from here, good health on the occasion of his birthday today – was regularly quizzed about the locker-room secrets of great matches. On one occasion he responded with a mischievous smile, and said, I quote: “Look, I am old enough to say the truth.” And from here the statement of an English political veteran is but a leap away, who told us: “Deadlines are important, plans are important, but what is the most important is not to have deadlines and plans in one sentence.”

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

We Hungarians cannot permit ourselves this political leisure, this political luxury. We have to talk about the future that awaits us with clarity, frankly and without beating around the bush, about the work we have to do if we want to have a future. I have received an abundance of opinions, advice and of course questions over the recent days. I am grateful for these. The hundreds of messages are a convincing response to those who say that the Hungarians have lost their interest in public life. Nevertheless I also have to say that there is an important similarity between those interested in politics and those who are novice crime novel fans: they would like to start with the end. Who did it? – and not being able to control themselves, some readers turn to the last page of the book. When will it be better, when will we get out of this impossible situation? – asks the electorate, jumping or wanting to jump ahead of the story when hearing the lengthy reasoning and professional rationale of politicians like me. Today Hungary, the Hungarian and the European economy, the two-third majority hardened in parliamentary battles, the radically reorganized public administration is in the position and I myself am in the position to feel that we are indeed capable of responding to this urging question.

The straightforward and blunt response is this: 2010 was the year of a show of unity to bring about the change that serves as the basis for all other hope. 2011 is the year of renewal, when we reorganize Hungary and place it on new, constitutional foundations. 2012 will be the year of take-off, when Hungary regains her lost balance. 2013 will be the year of ascent, when we will all see that Hungary has started to move upwards. 2014 will be the year of growth, when we will feel and will have tangible proof that all our efforts did make sense.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is the plan. However this time the plan is not the 5-year plan of socialism. This is not the case because no one can imply, nor do I dare to imply that “the universal laws of historic materialism” and “the impeding victory of the world workers’ movement” and the “unsurpassable wisdom of our Party and government” will guarantee our success. Instead the situation is that this is only a plan, a human plan. True, it is the common plan of several millions of Hungarians. Therefore, instead of global forces and historic determination, it is only our common will, our common perseverance and our faith in work that can provide coverage. Coverage, the real guarantee and security is provided by the several millions of private decisions, to now go and stay the course all the way.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This plan is only an opportunity. However it is not an opportunity from among many, but it is the last, the last after last opportunity, clawed back from the side of the grave with ten fingers, the last opportunity of a man dangerously sliding towards the edge of the abyss.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This plan is different from the ugly reform plan failures of the past eight years. A serious mistake of the past years was that those in power turned their backs on the people and on the truth. What they achieved with this about-turn was that the truth they left behind and the people they disregarded slowly came converged, understood one another without words and keeping check on their emotions and their tingling hands, they showed exemplary self-discipline when they sent those in power on their way firmly and with a two-third majority force. Due to time constraints I think we should discuss later why the tingling is still there in our hands, in fact the scams surfacing week after week seem to be making this tingling even more intense. This is something we will have to revisit when the government’s accountability commissioner concludes his work, until then let it be enough that we call on the commissioner to do his work, because there is a great demand for it.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

All this does not mean that the danger is gone. In fact the danger that Hungary has to avert, that is looming above the heads of the people continues to be the source of grave concern. Therefore please understand that there is no plan which would lead to success without a renewal of Hungary, however much we would like to start with the ascent planned for 2013 or the growth envisaged for 2014 and then leave for later the muscle aches caused by the efforts of renewal, reorganization and taking off. You cannot feast on the animal before you have killed it. It would be good, but it is impossible. There is a time and a place for everything. Therefore we have to reconcile with the situation, to accept it, what’s more we have to accept it as natural that the road to success leads through renewal and the reorganization of Hungary.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Mr. President, Dear Guests,

I came here today with the intent of speaking to you about the renewal of Hungary. Many issues are going to be mentioned here today, but in the end I would only like to say three things. First that renewal is being born again, that renewal is struggle and finally that renewal is a mission. Perhaps many of you have been confronted as parents by the question from your children, that if we dug deep enough; and if after digging far enough we end up on the other side of the Earth, how will we be able to live upside down there? It might seem a childish question but during the recent years it has become serious enough, because not only did we sink to live deep, but we also lived an upside-down, a reversed life. It is difficult to answer how we managed to do it for so long? We lived a reversed life, because all those who because of their healthy attitude to life, their upbringing and the fact that they lived a law abiding life thought that they belonged to the people with normal thinking, were many times forced to be confronted with the fact that they were subject of incredulity, mockery and sometimes even contempt. Yes, people who thought that one needed to work honestly to make a decent living found that not only were speculators doing better, but they were even put on a pedestal. Those who thought that the essence of competition was that better quality and cheaper products sell better, had to see low quality products being shipped from several thousands of kilometres to the shelves of our stores, while hundreds of Hungarian producers were going bankrupt. People who thought, because this was what their parents, grandparents and teachers taught them that a crime was a crime, just like that, without an attributive had to see that there were crimes from which birth, the hardships of life, good political connections or an internationally embedded professional network can provide exoneration. Those who thought that it was worth working more, because more work means a better life, saw that the disproportionate tax system was punishing them. Those who thought that working gave you a better life than living on benefits saw that instead of organizing public work, the state was paying out benefits and keeping those unemployed at home, some of them for fifteen-twenty years. Anyone who has tried to remain upside down for long knows that when standing on their feet again they will be dizzy for a while. They will eventually regain their balance and get used to the fact that the world is and has always been right this way. Where work deserves recognition, more work more recognition and higher wages, crimes are punished and where recognition of human dignity will earn the respect of others.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We could answer this to the several dozens of questions that I received about what Hungary’s renewal meant? Renewal means that we will put Hungarian life back on its feet. We could also say that renewal is about being born again. A nation being born again. Or at least it could be about this, it could turn out to be this. We know that a corpse will be swept by the current, whereas the living can be recognized because it is capable of swimming, even against the current if need be. We can say that a nation is reborn, when after a longer period of drifting; it takes its fate into its own hands with irresistible force and starts to shape it to its own image. Born again is when a nation gathers its resources, national traditions, the valiant and successful moments of its history, the lessons learned from its failures and sufferings into one great gesture to shake itself, to stop drifting and to change the world around it. When this happens, even those that are doubtful about any nation having a spirit or about the existence of nations per se, even they recoil for a moment, to shed their cynicism and nihilism. This is the moment when everyone feels that the spirit of the nation is liberated from the prison of a bad era, when it somehow rises above the horizon and starts to guide the actions of a community. This is when Western nations really performed truly great deeds: the French enlightenment, the English industrial revolution, the American independence, the German unity and the changes of the political system in Central Europe.

We Hungarians also know this wonderful feeling, the uplifting feeling of spiritual greatness, the inebriation of common and great deeds and the happy soaring feeling of pride over creation. Yes, we know the wonderful manifestations of the Hungarian spirit, the thousand-year Christian state organization, the valiant protection of Europe, Rákóczi’s liberation movement, the nation building by Széchenyi, the ’48 and ’56 revolutions, our world famous scientists, artists and athletes. The Hungarian spirit is what gave numerous new things to the world. After every historic tribulation, it was the strength of the Hungarian spirit that was able to put the country back on its feet. The Hungarian spirit is the one that is not only important in the moments when it appears, when it manifests itself, but is also important and necessary in times of need. In such times it is our ancestors, their example and their deeds which give us strength, which keep our spirits high, which lend us self-respect and self-esteem. In times of trouble, decline and decay remind us that we are people destined for more and capable of more, therefore our decline and prostration is only temporary.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Hungarian spirit is there in the actions of every Hungarian, when they work, build their houses, tend to their vinery, program their computers, raise their children or care for their parents. I have seen it at work during the flood-relief in Borsod-county, I saw it at the site of the red-sludge disaster and heard it in the voice of the man, who offered his home to a disaster stricken family. It is there in each and every one of us like a pilot-flame. Even when it is encapsulated in a bottle by a depressing era. In 2010, the many small pilot-flames lit the real big fire. I could say we let the Hungarian spirit out of the bottle. Thus renewal in this context means that with the liberated strength of the Hungarian spirit can revive the nation and then Hungary will be able to occupy its worthy place in the 21st century. Therefore we need to feed and keep alive the spirit just as much as we need jobs and work to feed our children.

This is what brings us to the key question in the reorganization of Hungary, the constitution. Well this spirit is nowhere to be found in this legal document, the legal document that at this moment we call the constitution of Hungary. It is possible that legal experts could put up with this interim document for a while; perhaps they could find it acceptable, but not Hungary, because this is not the Hungarians’ constitution. It is not the work of the Hungarian spirit, it was edited on the basis of a soviet sample, it was written through political pacts, and although excellent lawyers worked on it, it still is the result of necessary compromises. When it was written, the country was in a completely different situation as it is now, as it is today. This was what the times permitted and it constituted a great advance back then. However the Hungarian spirit has not found its way into it. Hungarian life today is built on the foundations of the ’56 revolution. Our constitution does not mention a single word about it. Hungary needs a new constitution that manifests the Hungarian spirit, one that draws a clear demarcation line from the period that crippled Hungarians, that provides closure for the past and creates a final foundation, thereby secures the future of Hungary. This is how renewal will lead to being born again.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Renewal is also a struggle. Probably the biggest struggle in our lives, the live of our generation. It is struggle because renewal is also a fight between old and new. We are therefore facing a fateful struggle. It is like the moment when the rescue party leaves to evacuate people and assets from the avalanche, before it buries them all. Facing such an inevitable and fateful struggle, even the bravest of people will be captivated by two feelings. Moments like this are dreadful and awe inspiring at the same time.

It is dreadful because the sight of the snow field reminds him that he has to battle the immense forces of nature. Dreadful because he fears for those he needs to evacuate and naturally fears for himself also. This is the situation that we are in today. We have fear in us, because a huge avalanche, that we call crisis is threatening the whole western world. The first dislodged bulk of snow almost swept away our country and we know that the whole world is preparing for other waves of snow to come. Who would not fear for their families, their city and their country in such times? We have nothing to be ashamed of because of the fear we have, when we hear the news of the crisis day to day. Greece fell, Ireland is on its knees and speculators are eyeing whole countries with an undisguised and unmistakeable gaze. Countries belonging to the euro-zone have just decided to take the most significant step in their new-age history: to introduce common economic governance, almost common budgetary policy in the interest of protecting their common currency.

But we are stuck outside of this zone of safety; we missed out on the chance of finding a safe harbour. What will become of us? What will become of our economy, our forint, our jobs and the standard of living we have achieved? What will become of us fifteen to twenty years from now? I could not enumerate how many questions I received, which all played out the same tune, articulated the same fear. One of them speaks volumes, I quote: “I am most depressed about my Swiss-franc based house-loan. This black cloud is growing larger and larger above the housing estate flat of a four-person family.”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Everyone has something to fear. We are vulnerable, because we were also weakened by the politics of the previous era. We have every reason to fear that this past wants to return. The past that brought immense indebtedness on us, record unemployment, abuse of power, widespread corruption, escalation of crime, the rise of extremism, the emergence of ideologies that reject human dignity and equality, the deployment of the police against peaceful citizens, a capital on the verge of bankruptcy and a countryside in decline. The mountain rescue leader knows that the avalanche will not change its course. There is no other solution but to face the danger. We also have to be aware that we cannot avoid the crisis or the debt. If we do not conquer them, they will. There is no middle way. Therefore we have to be ready for the struggle. Let us not believe – like Hungarians tend to – that we can coil up, lie still and somehow try to survive the passing of the storm. This leads to certain doom, to bankruptcy and to collapse.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

In reality every crisis and every danger is also an opportunity. This is why beside fear, we also have that awe-inspiring feeling in us. Edison’s laboratory was almost completely devastated by a fire in December 1914. Much of his life achievements were lost that night. On the next morning, wondering around the charred remains of his hopes and dreams, the sixty-seven year old Edison said, and I quote: – “The greatest advantage of this disaster is that all our blunders have also burned. Thank God, we can now start with a clean slate.” Three weeks after the fire Edison managed to construct his first phonograph. This was how he defeated the fire. We Europeans can defeat the crisis by understanding and accepting that it has also swept away our blunders; therefore we can now open a new sheet. Europe has declared war on the crisis. Last year we also declared war on the forces of the past. In 2011, we declare war on state indebtedness. We have to and we will overcome state debt, which is the source of most of our problems and concerns. If we do not defeat it, it will defeat us forever. We have taken the first major steps: we have made our tax system more proportional, we have introduced bank and crisis taxes and we have saved our pension system. However this is not enough. We have no reasons to kid ourselves. Everyone knows perfectly well that things cannot go on like this. Everyone who is capable should work in Hungary, if we are to overcome the state debt. Without this, we cannot overcome the crisis or the debt. Not working is not only pushing us towards poverty; idleness also murders the soul. Especially that of Hungarians: it kills their faith, their self-esteem and courage. The fewer the people that work in this country, the worse it is going to be to live here. Idleness brings out the worst in us.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Hungarian people want to stand on their feet, want to be the masters of their own fate and know that this can only be achieved with decent work. Anyone can say anything, Hungarians are decent people and work for them is a matter of honour. Hungarians do not want to live on benefits, to look for the easy way, they want to work. I have received numerous questions and messages which describe what a problem this is for those in their forties, but even more for the fifties generation. Many feel that they have been written off; no one wants to hear them out when they apply for a job. A woman sent this message: “When employers find out how old I am, they reject me immediately, I am almost ashamed to be healthy.” Another lady wrote this: “I would like to know what will happen with people who are past the age of fifty and no employer wants them. Unfortunately we have been written off. But here in Somogy-county the young people cannot find a job either. Their parents help them in whatever they can. How long will this situation last?”

Respected Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the reality. These are the sentences that I hear by the thousands in the country. This is the reality that we have to face day in and day out. Unemployment is not a figure; we cannot spread our hands in regret when hearing it, like we have seen leaders do during the past eight years. Therefore we will take firm and bold steps this year in order to bring back all those that we can into the world of legal work and keep them there. Everyone regardless of age and gender. This will not work from one day to the other, it will not be devoid of conflict and loud debate, but we have to stay the course, because what happened until now, what we have now, it cannot go on. We know very well that not every unemployed person in Hungary today is out of work, because they cannot find a job. It would be a grave mistake to treat equally those who want to work but cannot find work with those who could work, but think that it is far more comfortable to live on benefits and other state assistance and earn money on the side doing this and that. If not doing anything, at least stealing chicken.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have to solve both sides of this problem at the same time. If we do not do this, then we may be running into the most serious economic and social tensions. The vast majority of those unemployed today want to work, for them employment would be the real solution and not living on benefits permanently. We have to make sure and we will make sure that all those who are able, should make a living from work. We also have to make sure that we provide adequate care for those who are unable to work. But not only for them. The past nine months have shown that change and managing threats does not go without debate and struggle, but the successes have shown that the struggle is worth it. It is not enough my dear Friends to get up from our sick beds, we also have to come out of the sick ward, in fact we have to leave the hospital. We have to remain on our feet, we have to gather strength and remain standing on our feet. If we don’t, then the country will have to remain on the life-support system of foreign loans. The rental fee for such a machine is high, the oxygen for it is extremely expensive and we are not in a situation when we can argue about the price. If we remain on life support, they will eventually take away the roof from above our heads; take the country as payment for the treatment.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is no money, especially no loose money around, but we do have significant resources. Our greatest resource is the show of force, the unprecedented unity that was formed last year. We owe it exclusively to this unity that nine months after joining hands, the country is ready for renewal. We owe it exclusively to this unity that during these nine months we have implemented changes, achieved common successes that we were incapable of during the past twenty years. This is the appropriate moment for me to express my gratitude to everyone, to every Hungarian for the unity, for the wonderful common results of the past nine months. I express my gratitude to everyone for letting us Hungarians look to our future with hope again. The stakes are clear: if renewal does not happen, the past will return. The skies will collapse on us, we will be swept away by the avalanche of state debt and loose any chance of recovery for a long time to come. However if we are successful in our struggle, then we can again be the first in a few things in Europe, like we were with our tax system and then Hungary will be able to secure prosperity for all decently working and entrepreneur-minded Hungarians.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Renewal is a mission also. Just like for a true athlete for whom it is not only a matter of honour, but also a mission to wage the greatest and most decisive battle of his life. In moments like this, the film of your life plays itself out in front of your eyes: the early wake-ups in the morning, the dreadfully cold winter and the extremely hot summer training sessions, the loud dressing rooms, the extra push-ups, the lonely runs around the field, the victories, the defeats, injuries and returns. At times like this, everyone recalls what the meaning of all this was; what, who did we do it for and everyone realizes that in the end it was not for ourselves alone, but for all those that we love, that loved, supported us, cheered for us and taught us. It was for the club, in whose colours we are competing, for the trainer, the fellow athletes, the successful and unsuccessful predecessors, the successors and the young kids that look on us as their role models.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

We also have to be thinking of this now. We Hungarians did not get this opportunity as a gift; we worked hard for it. Our grandparents, parents, we ourselves and the adult generation today worked hard for it with blood and sweat. We have fought for this historic opportunity: after the efforts, failures, storms, and occupations, regimes of long decades and after an interim period of twenty confused years, we have finally earned the chance for ourselves to reorganize Hungary according to our ideas and will. We owe this final, fateful struggle to ourselves, our forefathers and our descendants. In order to perform the mission, we have to be in the best shape possible, we have to achieve the best condition possible. This means that a renewal of spirit and intellect will also be indispensable. A renewal of spirit and intellect so that we can commit ourselves for good. Not to Fidesz, to KDNP or to the government. This is not the issue now. What I am talking about is commitment to good. We have to strengthen our commitment for everything that is good: the country, the nation, our fellow humans, to the rational mind, to honour and to ourselves. We owe it to ourselves to not only see what seems more comfortable, easier, the simpler solution of the moment, but to think, to search, to be informed and knowledgeable about the connections and the contradictions of the world around us, to search out and to admit our faults, virtues and to diligently rectify our shortcomings.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

The community needs everyone’s knowledge, work and wisdom. The government or the Academy of Sciences may not know where the streets of Ferencváros turn or where the slopes of Felcsút point to. It is only the locals who know this; they know where the water ditches have to be dug on the outskirts of the village. Only the locals can rely on their centuries of experience. If they don’t do this, if they don’t respond to the calls of time, if they are not ready for renewal, if they opt out of this last chance, then the whole country will be standing knee-deep in water next year. It is absolutely necessary that we all take care of everything and everyone that we have been entrusted with: our children, our families, our street, our town, the land that we live in. To do this we need everyone. Therefore we cannot do without our young people. It is also part of our mission to fight for them, to keep them, to make sure that being successful, prosperous and living in Hungary are compatible notions. This is not the situation today. If success and prosperity are the issue, the first thought is how to leave this country? Our mission is to ensure that they seek their future with us and even if they have done their training as modern-age apprentices somewhere in the world, if they have proven themselves elsewhere, they should be able to come back, to come home to us. The situation of our country and in it our lives will only improve is we share some of our knowledge and our skills with Hungary, our parents, our siblings, our neighbours and our co-workers, if we let our talent unfold in Hungary, if we build our career at home and embed it into the Hungarian future. Our mission is not only to think of tomorrow but also of what comes after that.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

2011 is the year of renewal. Renewal is being born again. Renewal is struggle. Renewal is a mission.

Go Hungary, go Hungarians!

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