The fourth Budapest Demographic Summit: family is the key to sustainability
September 23-24, 2021
Every two years since 2015, the Budapest Demographic Summit is the international forum where politicians, church leaders, experts, representatives of the media, civil society, the corporate sector as well as the academia discuss current key issues affecting families. In 2021, the fourth Demographic Summit was held on September 23-24 at the Castle Garden Bazaar in Budapest. The international conference was attended by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Minister for Families Katalin Novák, former US Vice President Mike Pence and leaders of several European countries. Tünde Fűrész President of the Mária Kopp Institute for Demography and Families (KINCS) also took part in the conference and Prof. Dr. Petra Aczél moderated a panel discussion on the topic of demography and sustainability. On the second day of the event, Balázs Molnár Vice-President of KINCS moderated a panel discussion entitled “Beyond the State”.
The event was opened by Katalin Novák Minister for Families, who said that the Hungarian government had been working for families for the twelfth year now to reverse the demographic downturn that had lasted for forty years. Since 2010, the country’s leadership considers it an opportunity, a task and a duty to help families, and is in a position to be given a significant mandate from the people to do so. Demographic projections do not have to be accepted as a fact, they can be changed, she said, stressing that the future is in the hands of young people.
Aleksandar Vučić President of the Republic of Serbia; Mike Pence former Vice President of the United States; Janez Janša Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia; Andrej Babiš Prime Minister of the Czech Republic; Milorad Dodik, Serbian Member of the State Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Viktor Orbán Prime Minister of Hungary spoke at the Demographic Summit.
The Prime Minister explained that the Hungarian Government had built its family policy on five pillars. Part of this is that having a child shall be a financial benefit for a family as well as helping families in possessing an own home. Family policy should be based on mothers and the whole country should be made family-friendly. In addition, the institution of the family and children need to be protected by legal means, he added.
Viktor Orbán expressed his conviction that there is only one correct and viable solution to the population decline equation: the state needs to help in starting a family and make families prosper. Support should be given to families in a way that at the same time the economy grows steadily. "We spend 5 percent of Hungary's GDP on family support, we are not yet where we want to be, we are halfway there, but at least we already know the direction," he added.
He stated that if there had been no new special Hungarian family policy and everything had remained the same, 120,000 fewer children would have been born in ten years’ time. Viktor Orbán added that the number of marriages has almost doubled since 2010 and the number of abortions has fallen by 41 percent in Hungary.
The Prime Minister called the constitution the most important defence line in the Hungarian family protection system, quoting parts of the Fundamental Law concerning family, marriage and children. He stressed that while national consultations and referendums were held in Hungary to strengthen this defence line, no one in Western Europe or in Brussels ever asked people about LGBTQ propaganda or migration.
He stressed that there is also a spiritual or anthropological consideration behind the government’s family policy, the measures and constitutional defence lines, which is the basis of everything, and that is that having a child is a pleasure.
Following the presentations, the participating heads of state and government signed a joint statement on the support of families. Katalin Novák Minister for Families emphasized that the document commits them to an effective family policy that supports couples in having children, in their family planning goals as well as encourages fair wages and the development of a work-based economy that provides jobs. Among other things, they call for demographic considerations to be mainstreamed into all EU policies, she added.
The main line of the afternoon program of the Budapest Demographic Summit was led by Hunor Kelemen Deputy Prime Minister of Romania, President of the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (RMDSZ), covering among others the demographic challenges of his country, and then Dr. László Palkovics Minister for Innovation and Technology spoke about the future of children and education.
Prof. Dr. Petra Aczél Director of the Institute of Communication and Sociology of the Corvinus University of Budapest moderated the ensuing panel discussion, which was also attended by Tünde Fűrész President of the Mária Kopp Institute for Demography and Families.
Tünde Fűrész referred to a joint research with the European Large Families Confederation (ELFAC), which showed that sustainability and large family lifestyle go hand in hand. The survey of the Institute revealed that the more children one raises, the more one thinks that it is not others' but their own task to protect the environment. Hungarian large families do not agree at all with the statement that it is not worth bringing a child into this world because of the climate catastrophe, nevertheless other European large families also strongly reject such a link between childbearing and an environmental disaster.
She also spoke about the Hungarian government's family policy measures, several of which are related to environmental protection: the Green Home Program, support for the purchase of energy-efficient family homes, large family cars and the renovation of flats as well as the planting of ten trees for every child born. These measures support families and a sustainable future at the same time.
The President of KINCS emphasized that in Hungary the issue of sustainability is linked to the issue of demography, for which Hungary has now found many allies. She recalled one of the most important thoughts of the Institute's nameholder, Mária Kopp, that the desired and planned children should be born - and this slogan has since become the slogan of the Hungarian government.
Besides Tünde Fűrész the roundtable discussion was participated by Prof. Dr. Michał A. Michalski Assistant Professor at Adam Mickiewicz University (Poland); Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Mazal Director of the Austrian Institute for Family Studies, University of Vienna (Austria); Gladden Pappin Assistant Professor at the University of Dallas (USA); Imants Paradniesk, Family Policy Adviser to the Prime Minister of Latvia; and Ignacio Socias, Director of Communications at the International Federation for Family Development (IFFD).
On September 24, on the second day of the fourth Budapest Demographic Summit, the participants discussed the potential answers to demographic challenges, good practices in family policy, family values as well as the importance of family support.
Katalin Novák Minister for Families said she was working to ensure that people should not have to choose between family and career, but that the two could work together. In order to do this, we need family benefits that do not force young people on any of these two paths, but leave the freedom of choice to them, she added, emphasizing that Hungary spends five percent of its GDP on family benefits.
In connection with the ideological debates, the Minister highlighted the fact that all nations are equal partners, all people have free choice, so neither nation can educate the other. The goal of the demographic summit is that participants can share their thoughts and experience that there are family-friendly forces on every continent of the world, said Katalin Novák.
The panel discussion was participated by Janez Cigler Kralj Slovenian Minister of Labor, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Milan Krajniak Slovak Minister of Labor, Social Affairs and Family, Gatis Eglitis Latvian Minister of Welfare, Lorenzo Fontana former Italian Minister of Family Affairs and Tünde Bartha Head of Cabinet to the Prime Minister.
In the afternoon, the section “Beyond the State” was opened by Dr. Csaba Kandrács Vice-President of the Hungarian National Bank, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Balázs Molnár Vice-President of the Mária Kopp Institute for Demography and Families (KINCS).
The participants of the roundtable were Zsolt Marton county bishop of the Hungarian Catholic Church in Vác; Nicola Speranza Secretary-General of the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe (FAFCE); Prof. Dr. Balázs Győrffy Head of Department of Bioinformatics, Semmelweis University; Katalin Kardosné Gyurkó President of the National Association of Large Families; Madeleine Wallin Secretary General of the European Federation of Parents and Carers at Home (FEFAF) Sweden; Varro Vooglaid Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for the Protection of Family and Tradition (SAPTK) (Estonia) and Karl-Heinz B. van Lier Director General of the Foundation for Family Values (Germany).
Participants in the “Beyond the State” panel discussed the importance of a coalition working for families, improving the social perception of families, demographic challenges, as well as the relationship between the family, children and sustainability. The participants agreed that without families, without children, there can be no talk of sustainability.
Balázs Molnár welcomed the fact that such a broad coalition is working across Europe to protect and represent the interests of families, which is fully in line with the horizontal approach of the Hungarian Act on the protection of families. In the case of civic advocacy organizations working for families, he stressed that they have a real membership of tens of thousands of people, which legitimizes their operation. He emphasized that supporting families is an investment that pays off for society as a whole, and that we also need to respect our history and cultural roots.
Closing the event, Katalin Novák Minister for Families, said that the family has no alternative - the political decision-makers, representatives of science, churches and the civil sphere speaking at the fourth Budapest Demographic Summit strengthened her in this conviction. The biggest problem in the Western world is that not enough children are born, even though there is no sustainable development without having children. Our task is to stand up for traditional values and make decisions that really support starting a family, having children.
Photos: The fourth Budapest Demographic Summit