Viktor Orban European election speech fact checked

Viktor Orban European election

With the European elections just around the corner, Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán recently gave a speech launching the manifesto of his right-wing populist party Fidesz.

The speech is full of claims that Fidesz has significantly improved Hungary's economy and prevented the country from being dragged into Russia's war in Ukraine.

The Cube took a look at some of the biggest claims to see if they were true.

Claim: Fidesz put Hungary's economy back on its feet after it was bankrupted by the left

This isn't true: Hungary didn't go bankrupt in 2009, the final year of former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány.

The so-called Clean Hand Commission, convened after Orbán's 2010 election victory, couldn't find any substantial evidence of financial misconduct either.

Claim: One million more people are in work in Hungary today and wages have tripled

There are indeed one million more people in work in Hungary than there were before.

However, László Csaba, professor of international political economy at the Central European University in Vienna, told The Cube the value of Hungary's GDP in euros is barely above what it was a decade ago.

"In economic terms, factor productivity has not increased, thus the catchup to the EU average has not materialised," he said. "We are in a middle-income trap."

While it's also true that Fidesz has more than tripled the minimum wage and boosted the average wage by almost three times since coming to power, Csaba noted that this mostly occurred during election years, particularly in 2022.

Claim: Hungary's economy has almost doubled in 14 years

This is true in nominal terms but doesn't reflect the relative changes over time.

According to Eurostat, Hungary is among the lowest EU member states by actual individual consumption per capita, sitting at 28 per cent below the EU average.

Csaba said that the figures "aren't very impressive", adding that government analysts have been working on alternative indicators to try and suggest that the country is better off than it is.

Claim: Thanks to Fidesz, Hungary has stayed out of Russia's war in Ukraine, and 'Brussels bureaucrats' are funding Budapest's pro-war left

There is no such thing as a 'pro-war left' in Hungary, as all parties are against the conflict, Zsolt Enyedi, professor of political science at the Central European University in Vienna, told The Cube.

Though he noted western organisations had helped finance Hungarian opposition parties, to reduce disparities between their spending and that of Fidesz.

"Fidesz itself received much support in the past from the likes of the Adenauer Foundation," Enyedi added.

He also said it was "nonsensical" to suggest that Fidesz has kept Hungary out of the war, as only two parties are involved in the conflict: Russia and Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron has indeed raised the possibility of NATO soldiers assisting Kyiv in some form.

Poland's President Andrzej Duda has also suggested his country could host nuclear weapons.

But even if this happened, most experts agree it wouldn't mean war was one step away, according to Enyedi.

"It is particularly funny that Orbán portrays the anti-Russian positions as being part of a leftist-progressive package," he added. "Macron and Duda are not leftist politicians, most of the European right is anti-Putin."