PM Viktor Orbán's Speech at the Launch of World Science Forum

17 November, 2011, Budapest

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen!

Please, allow me to respectfully and cordially greet you. Here, across the countries of the West, if a leader steps on the rostrum his or her audience can be sure he/she is going to speak about the crisis. We can hardly proceed otherwise since the times we are living in are extremely exciting. There is an Oriental curse posing as a good wish saying, I wish you interesting times. We are really living interesting times these days.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen!

We tend to regard today's crisis as a global one. Some would certainly doubt this to be the case. But even if today's crisis were truly global, one thing is certain: its focal point lies in our Western civilisation. What we find in its background is a process of re-grouping going on in the world economy and the world markets. It is formerly backward, poorer countries that seem to be pulling through and winning out at the end of all these years and all these processes. Which might have serious consequences even beyond the economy itself. It might well have military as well as diplomatic consequences, dear ladies and gentlemen, and, of course, ones that might influence the scientific endeavour, too. It is my personal conviction that one of the top positions taken by the winners of this global re-grouping will in fact be grabbed by science, what with all those new science centres and world-acclaimed universities growing out of cities formerly neglected for their scientific output.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen!

Re-grouping or re-structuring on such a scale has never occurred in the world peacefully, i.e. without going to war in the modern era. In fact we can go back even further: not just in the modern era but also much-much earlier. It is my conviction that it is our most common interest today to preserve peace, keep processes of transformation under control, and reinforce the stability of political governance.

Dear Guests!

What can the world's scientific community learn from all this? Starting from common sense, we can say that people are basically of two kinds, one that considers all that which is, and another that considers all that which is not. A little more precisely, one that meditates on whatever already exists, and another that meditates on the non-existent. The first kind of person is shut into the problems of the present, and looks for solutions drawing on his/her already existing stock of answers. The other kind of person starts from the observation that the world is always more than we can see or understand, he/she therefore is constantly prepared to pose new questions and try to find new answers to those questions. It is my personal experience that in today's politics we need people of the second kind first of all; equally, science is ultimately about searching for something that does not yet exist or something we do not yet know about. During critical periods up goes the value of persons equipped with such searching eyes that want to see things that no one had seen before them. It is quite easy to understand after all that the crisis is in fact just our fear of our opportunities vanishing and our sense that we lack the knowledge or the force, even the tools, that could enable us to continue with the usual business of our lives by eliminating the problems heaping up before us. It is in such times as this that protagonists of both the economy and politics are forced to search for something that does not yet exist; it is for this very reason that they do well to exchange ideas with the world's top searching specialists, i.e. scientists. This is why I think that this Forum and all similar conferences are of the utmost importance. And this is why it is sensible for politics to attend a gathering of scientists. Let us search together for that which does not yet exist!

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen!

What we see all around us is taboos once thought infallible, theories once thought fail-safe crumbling down, changing our lives in their wake. We have to make peace with the fact that for us to be able to solve all the upcoming problems of the period before us it is imperative to find new, unconventional solutions. It is hardly necessary for me to hammer on the fact in your company that a scientific view that has become part of the canon is very-very difficult to bring down. Also, you must be familiar with the liberating effect of a new approach gaining ground. We Hungarians, Central-Europeans and Europeans tend to believe that the crises of the developed world have been overcome by the courageous force of a multitude of imaginative and innovative people rather than brutal force or meek procrastination. We all know the simple facts of life; a hundred years ago only a hundred people could do the job that is done today by merely ten. Even a few years ago, only a hundred people could do the job that is done today easily by merely ten. Today, a thousand cars per minute want to get on the motorway that did not have to handle more than a hundred cars per minute a few years ago. Not so long ago, we thought it absolutely normal to work at the same job all through our lives, and now it is natural for everybody to have occasional check-ups for their qualities, and change jobs. We tend to use our resources at a quicker pace than they regenerate, and we owe the world an answer to the question: how do we feed and provide a human life to 7 billion people living on Earth?

Such are the problems that demand new answers from you, too. Especially here, in Central Europe we firmly believe in the answers you scientists can offer to our problems. The prestige and recognition attributed to research institutes, the Academy, and universities is probably nowhere as high as in Central Europe. The reason is very simple. We believe that the Soviet Union and its dictatorial satellite regimes were by no means defeated by armed fighting; rather it was the quick technological changes of the last two or three decades of the 20th century that did it.

I was still a street resistance fighter in the second half of the 80s when we learnt that the leaders of the dictatorship were more upset by the appearance of photocopiers among the political opposition than any number of rebellious political manifestos. Indeed, computers, mobile phones and their technological extensions have dealt a bigger blow to Central-European dictatorships that anyone would have previously imagined. This is why we believe that scientific findings are useful and have a beneficial effect upon our lives.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen!

Each crisis brings along the possibility of an outdated, crumbling old world giving rise to a new one. There is more and more need for new solutions; this is why everyone including politicians look to those who are searching as yet unexplored terrains. We are today in a deep crisis and the best we can do is looking for ways of supporting and investing in the future. We once had a Nobel Laureate, Albert Szent-Györgyi by name, who put this beautifully: „The future will be like the school of today." Our most urgent duty therefore is to re-think and re-organise, through hot debates, education completely in Hungary. The example set by Singapore, China and India also urges us to re-think education completely as stipulated by the new Hungarian education bill to be enacted by Parliament.

In the meantime, we have to care also for the present and our short-term future. We have to encourage industry including small and medium sized enterprises to invest in research and development in order to find new solutions. I suspect this is the order of the day also in your countries: at times of crisis one has to think twice before one spends a dollar, an euro, a forint. Consequently, we have to be thoughtful in allotting resources for research, too. But we also have to realise that the most unfortunate policy by far would be not to invest in our future merely in order to save money. That is why in future we shall have to support all scientific and corporate research that might be able to give real answers to the problems heaping up before us. That is why, dear ladies and gentlemen, Hungary, a poor country facing extraordinary challenges in her economy, and amid all her financial difficulties attributes a priority to the well-being of her research universities and her Academy.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen!

Innovation and scientific discoveries can only snatch us from the grip of the crisis if we can remove all obstacles hampering novel ideas. Superfluous bureaucracy, poor regulations are all our enemies in this endeavour of ours. We, politicians, who can do a lot with our decisions for change to happen, have still a lot of work to accomplish for all the creative energies to come out into the open.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen!

Those attending World Science Forum today, whether scientists, industrialists, or politicians, have one thing to keep in mind: we have to carry on our work in humility towards an ultimate goal. Politics, the economy, and science all have to keep in mind that none of them can be an end in itself. I think our common goal is more important now than ever before, namely, leading mankind over into a new era without any loss and in peace. We also need to get back to our common sense, I believe, we need to get back to our common values bridging civilisations, i.e. the culture of work, family, and respect. Should we be able to act in unison and find a way in the face of dire circumstances, and again, we shall be able to let the spirit of science out of its bottle as we did many times through our history, then we can enter in peace an era of a new innovation explosion, a new scientific-industrial revolution giving thereby hope to the whole of mankind. This is because all of us or at least many of us feel that the stakes are high; not once in the history of the World Science series have scientists held as much responsibility as today.

Please, allow me to wish you good health, a lot of stamina, and a successful round of sessions in accomplishing your responsible work.

Thank you for listening to me!