Hungary’s Orban warns about climate crisis, slow EU growth

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s prime minister on Sunday declared the past decade as the most successful of Hungary’s past century, but also said the country was threatened by the climate crisis, continuing population decline and “sinister menaces gathering over the European economy.”

During his annual state of the nation speech made to an adoring crowd of supporters and political allies, Prime Minister Viktor Orban again lashed out at purported rivals like the leadership of the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and Hungarian-American billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

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.

“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, too.”

“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.”

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.