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Hungary's Orban lashes out at slow EU growth, 'sinister menaces' and George Soros

Euronews logo Euronews 16/02/2020

Hungary’s prime minister Prime Minister Viktor Orban lashed out at the European Union, billionaire philanthropist George Soros and “sinister menaces gathering over the European economy” on Sunday in his annual state of the nation speech.

The authoritarian declared the past decade as the most successful of Hungary’s past century, but also said the country was threatened by the climate crisis and continuing population decline.

Orban, who returned to power in 2010 when Hungary was still under the effect of an international financial bailout, said his government rejected demands for more austerity and rid itself of the IMF-led loans to have a freer hand in its economic policies.

Hungarian Prime Minister and Chairman of the governing FIDESZ party Viktor Orban delivers his annual state of the nation speech in front of his party members and sympathizers at Varkert Bazar cultural center in Budapest on February 16, 2020. © ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images Hungarian Prime Minister and Chairman of the governing FIDESZ party Viktor Orban delivers his annual state of the nation speech in front of his party members and sympathizers at Varkert Bazar cultural center in Budapest on February 16, 2020. "If we’d followed their advice, then Hungary now would be lying in a hospital ward with IMF and Brussels debt tubes hanging from its every limb and the faucet of the debt would be in the hands of George Soros," Orban said.

Orban said that while Hungary's economic growth of 4.9% broadly outpaced the European average, Hungary was still closely tied to Europe's economic performance as 85% of Hungarian exports are destined to other European countries.

"So their problem is our problem, too,” Orban said. “The only question is to what extent it will be our problem.” 

“The European economy, especially that of the eurozone, has simply stopped,” Orban said, adding that economic growth in Europe in 2020 would be “microscopic, at most.”

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Regarding demographic decline, Orban said that while the government’s economic incentives for married couples and large families had helped stem population decline, more measures were needed.

While the number of marriages was rising as divorces and abortions fell, “the bad news is that population decline did not stop,” Orban said. “The Hungarian continues to be an endangered species.”

Orban also announced policies to help the environment, including a 27% increase in forested areas, steps to ban single-use plastic packaging, and plans to offer incentives for the use of electric cars. He also said that all new buses used for urban public transportation licensed from 2022 would have to be electric.

"Most of the opposition parties are saying that Orban was too optimistic," Euronews correspondent Adam Magyar told Good Morning Europe from Budapest. "He didn't really speak about the problems that Hungary is facing today, like poverty in the eastern regions, or the declining health care system."

Hungarian media are focusing on comments from the prime minister, attacked as divisive by opposition parties.

"He said: 'There is no such thing as a liberal. A liberal is nothing more than a communist with a diploma'. So he said basically that liberals are all communists," Magyar said.

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