Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, is worldwide known for his harsh rhetoric and provocative speeches, which can be aimed at anyone, from the Islamic world to European partners. In June 2018, he made one of his most famous speeches at a summer camp in Tusnádfürdő in Romania. This speech can be seen as both historical and expressive and political at the same time. Orbán highlighted several controversial issues in his usual populist rhetoric and, at the same time, summed up three terms of his ruling party, FIDESZ (Toomey). Moreover, he attempted to explain the course for the following years of the FIDESZ rule after they won another parliamentary election that year.
The place of the speech also deserves attention since it is a Romanian town inhabited by one of the branches of the Hungarian nation – szekelys (Székelyek). It is somewhat of a tradition in Hungarian politics to pay special attention to the memorial days of 15 March and 23 October and the summer camp in Tusnádfürdő since speeches and statements delivered on those days have particular importance (Stone). This peculiarity of Hungarian politics is connected with the so-called ‘Trianon trauma’ when Hungary became divided after WWI.
As a skillful politician and a gifted speaker, Orbán rarely misses a chance to address the nation from the summer camp of Tusnádfürdő. However, in 2018, the speech was initially designed for a European resonance and was devoted to the European Union’s approaching legislative elections. The political environment in Hungary, which was experiencing difficulties in its relations with the European Union due to anti-immigration policies, provided a good framework for Orbán’s address to the nation.
Context of the speech and analysis
Viktor Orbán summarized and outlined the board of the FIDESZ cabinet’s duties for the coming term in the first half of the speech. In particular, he claimed that the government had to finish the twentieth anniversary of the reforms and lay the foundations for the new Hungarian statehood in 2010 (the start of the current continuous period of being in power) (Toomey). As it entered its third term, the administration became faced with the challenge of establishing a new period, which encompasses notions such as the spiritual and cultural community and the political system. Starting with this initial part of his speech, he was persuading the listeners that his ruling was the only one that could bring prosperity to the country. Using different techniques, such as admitting existing problems (challenges that lay following FIDESZ third term), he is also bonding himself with the auditory, urging to solve these problems together.
Viktor Orbán emphasized the country’s political system’s stability based on national and Christian foundations. Simultaneously, he underlined the end of relations with the International Monetary Fund, saying, “We paid off the loan and sent them home” (This pertains to the IMF’s Budapest office closing) (Prime Minister…). Meanwhile, Hungary’s Prime Minister has linked this deadline to the objective of integrating Hungary “among such nations where it lives, thinks, and works better”, or among the EU’s most competitive countries (Prime Minister…). Orbán skilfully appeals to the Christian majority of his electorate as well as to the general population of mostly Christian Hungarians. Using religious narratives adds much to the overall impact of his speech, especially in terms of prospects of the state, which he addresses frequently. Orbán underlines his contribution to the development of the nation, implying that the country will prosper under his leadership. Combining religious and political narratives, as well as emphasizing the economic struggles of middle- and low-class Hungarians, elevates the success of Orbán’s appeal.
Orbán stressed that Transylvania and the Szekely homeland existed before the Romanian state was established. “The szekelys will survive even if Europe becomes Muslim”, he underlined, based on their nature (Prime Minister…). Based on the postwar world’s outcomes persisting in the territories of Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Ukraine, Slovakia, and Austria, Hungary proclaims the idea of preserving compatriots’ rights (Hanebrink). As a result, for Hungarian politicians, the future of the Carpathian basin has always been linked to the issue of national partition. Orbán continuously exports this issue in most of his speeches and political statements, targeting the Hungarian nation as a whole and appealing to the postwar traumas, adding much to the overall effect of his message.
V. Orbán identified many theses in his view of Europe’s future. A right to be safeguarded against multiculturalism, protection against spontaneous migration, and from the European Union pressure. “Finally, let us state that there is life outside of globalism”, (Prime Minister…). The local partnership instead of global trade, thus, is a more interesting possibility for the Hungarian PM. The particular issues, Orbán touched upon (migration, EU pressure), were and still are the most intimidating in the current EU, which gives Orbán room for maneuver to persuade listeners that his policy, aimed at the right to set the country’s own rule, is the future of the nation. He exports the migration fears and the weaknesses of domestic markets (with the increasing unemployment) to bond with his audience through shared protectionist feelings.
Europe must change – that was Orbán’s resonating message, a reference to his usual criticism of the European Union in its current disguise. “Today, we see a betrayal of Christianity; in scientific research, we were ahead of America and China; the demands of the Brussels bureaucracy supplanted the ethos of free entrepreneurship”, referring to the times when Europe was a major geopolitical power (Prime Minister…). Orbán laments the passing of a time when Europe was a great civilization, clarifying that today’s Europe is only a shadow of itself. These last messages of his speech can be identified as the most resonating among the populations of some European States. Populistic but still powerful, Orbán’s message addresses acute issues, and while he does not offer a solution, his framing of the problems is persuasive. His frequent appeal to religious feelings finds a response in the view of economic and migration crises, alongside emerging Islamophobia (especially in Eastern Central Europe). The appeal to a great European civilization is one of the most persuasive techniques he exports to emphasize his position.
The desire to raise the chancellor’s personal standing, acquire confidence, and garner empathy from the people determines the formal-meaningful framework of the address. As a result, the primary technique employed was a self-presentation strategy, including a variety of tactics. For instance, the strategy of identifying with the entire population of Hungary and the neighboring nations where Hungarian ethnic communities dwell. Another strategy is to use the method of solidarity, in which agree with the speaker’s information demonstrates the unity of view and helps to bring the prime minister and the people closer together.
The employment of an informational and integrative approach is also crucial from the standpoint of political power. As a result, the methods of acknowledging the problem’s presence, but at a worldwide level (EU level), are completely revealed. Orbán admits problems, does not remain silent on them, and does not dodge the subject, all of which have definitely aided in building political authority and garnering public sympathy. A combination of these strategies and tactics, including a strategy to create an emotional tone and tactics to consider value guidelines, can be seen throughout the speech. The maintenance of national spirit is also accomplished by establishing the addressee’s emotional state and the tactics of unification.
As a result, the Hungarian Prime Minister’s address, given in a summer camp in Tusnádfürdő, became a call for fundamental European and global changes. It featured an evaluation of the new European structure’s centenary, which was extensively commemorated in 2018 in several Central European nations, as well as an assessment of former Eastern Europe’s course thirty years after the velvet revolutions. According to Orbán, the following years will be decisive for Europe and the European Union and will define its future growth in a challenging international world for a long time.
In his speech, Orbán frequently utilized techniques aimed at increasing population cohesiveness and collectivization (identification, solidarity) and the formation of a unified national spirit (appeal, consideration of value guidelines). He adds an element of emotionality and expressiveness to his speaking techniques, which are portrayed in populist tones. Orbán’s speeches are always marked by enhanced emotionality induced by the employment of particular terminology, and they are filled with a patriotic and Christian spirit.
Hanebrink, Paul. In Defense of Christian Hungary. Cornell University Press, 2018.
“Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the 29th Bálványos Summer Open University and Student Camp”. Miniszterelnok.hu, 2018, Web.
Stone, Norman. Hungary: A Short History. Profile Books, 2019.
Toomey, Michael. “History, Nationalism and Democracy: Myth and Narrative in Viktor Orbán’s ‘Illiberal Hungary’.” New Perspectives vol. 26, no. 1, 2018, pp. 87-108.