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Katalin Novák, Hungarian Minister of State for Family, Youth and International Affairs.
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‘Christian worldview’ drives Hungary’s stunningly successful pro-family policies: Minister for family

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WASHINGTON D.C., May 22, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Hungary’s astounding success of creating an environment where marriages and families are flourishing and abortion numbers are dropping did not happen by chance, the country’s State Secretary for Family and Youth Affairs told LifeSiteNews in an exclusive interview, but because the Orbán-government policies are “based on our [country's] Christian worldview and the traditional definition of the family.”

“The Hungarian people are family-oriented, respect traditional values and want to live in peace and security. This is based on real feedback, not assumptions,” Katalin Novàk, Hungarian Minister of State for the Family, Youth and International Affairs, told LifeSiteNews (read full interview below). 

“According to a recent poll, 79% of the Hungarians share the view that we should preserve our Christian heritage, which means that a large majority supports policies that are rooted in Christian culture. The seven-point Family Protection Action Plan and the Hungarian Family Act are based on our Christian worldview and the traditional definition of the family,” she added. 

Novàk said that the policies encourage young Hungarians to marry and have more than one child. The government is hoping to reverse negative population trends through the "family-friendly" approach instead of turning to migration. 

“We conducted a national consultation in December last year in which we asked Hungarians whether they agree on the policy direction of putting families at the focus of attention instead of migration. The answers confirmed that the Hungarian people see the future in the increased support of families. Having such a family-oriented population, it’s obvious that we place a greater emphasis on creating the necessary conditions to start a family and bear more children. That’s why we have introduced a lot of measures that provide real support for families wishing to have or raise more children,” she said. 

Secretary Novák cautioned, however, that in order to understand the drive behind this Hungarian pro-family movement, one must understand the history of the Country. 

“Hungary’s population has been decreasing since 1981. After more than 40 years of communist dictatorship, in 1998 to 2002 we had the chance—for one term— to lay the foundations of a family-friendly country. After 2002, 8 years of liberal, socialist governance completely destroyed Hungarians’ confidence in the future. This period of Hungarian history was characterized by increasing taxes, austerity packages and the dismantling of the family support system,” she said. 

“In 2010 (the Orbán Administration) won the election by a two-thirds majority. We announced a family-friendly turnaround with the aim of restoring Hungarians’ confidence in the future, by putting families at the focus of attention again. Since then, we have been building a family-friendly country that aims to meet the long-term needs of families,” she added. 

When pressed for details on applied policies, Secretary Novák spoke of, among other items, tax breaks for families, housing programs, interest-free loans for married couples. 

“Hungary now has a family-friendly tax system. We have enacted a housing program that has already helped 400,000 Hungarians (in a country of 10 million) to acquire a larger and more comfortable home. Hungarian Parliament recently approved the 7-point Family Protection Action Plan that includes, amongst others, a life-long exemption from personal income tax for women raising 4 or more children, and a general purpose, interest-free loan of more than $33,000 USD for married couples where the woman is under 40,” she said. 

“We have placed great emphasis on helping Hungarian women with children through the development of the nursery school system and by introducing measures that secure their right to go back to work. In addition, our Constitution is also clear on the subject (of abortion). Life begins at conception; the life of the foetus should be protected. Killing should never be celebrated,” she added.

As the Orbán Administration has been labeled “extreme right-wing” by much of Western Europe along with the media, it was surprising to hear how much emphasis was placed on supporting women. The west has seemed to struggle with the idea of femininity and leadership – especially heightened after the 1960’s sexual revolution, where women insisted on “asexual equality” replacing feminine dignity. As Secretary Novák is not only a state politician, but also a mother of three, LifeSiteNews pressed her for more details. 

“Since 2010, we have been working on making career and family compatible with each other as easily as possible,” she explained. 

“We provide the opportunity and necessary conditions for mothers to freely decide whether to go back to work or stay at home with the child. I think we are on the right track, but we still have a lot more to do. It is not necessary to have outstanding ‘leaders’ when talking about this topic. Everyday heroes, simple role models, can have an even greater impact.”

“In Hungary, I have launched an initiative called Women for the Hungarian Nation that embraces women who lead by example and work for the sake of Hungarians. Being a working mother is never easy, I can assure you. The government can be of great help. I think feminism is too much when it ends up encouraging women to give up their privileges. It’s our privilege to bear children, to give birth and to breastfeed. Let’s not lose those privileges,” she said.  

The continued pressures on countries such as Hungary from other nation-states to ease up on pro-family initiatives has been daunting—including pressure from some surprising sources. Few in the press covered the Verona World Congress of Families. The Vatican refused to send delegates or acknowledge the event. To Secretary Novák, that was a great opportunity lost to inform the world of all the good pro-family policies—like those enacted in Hungary— has achieved. 

“Such occasions provide an excellent opportunity for pro-family forces to learn from each other, sharing thoughts and best practices. The whole event was about discussing principles and concrete results within the field of family policy, and paving the way for more and more pro-family initiatives that bring real change in the lives of families all around the world.”

“I was happy to share our results achieved in the past 8 years within the field of family policy with other decision-makers and representatives. Today, Hungary is spending more than $6.6 billion USD on families, twice as much as in 2010. This is almost 5% of total GDP—almost two times higher than the OECD average. Abortion numbers have dropped by more than a third, divorces have seen a marked decline and the number of marriages has risen by 42%. Also, the fertility rate has increased by more than 20% since 2011, which clearly shows that Hungarian women feel increasingly confident about having children,” she said. 

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LifeSiteNews interview with Katalin Novàk, Hungarian Minister of State for the Family, Youth and International Affairs

LifeSiteNews: Madam Secretary, for those who are not aware of who you are and what office you hold, could you please provide a synopsis – and the history of this position (is the Hungarian State Secretary for Family and Youth Affairs a position created under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán?

Katalin Novàk: The Ministry for Family and Social Affairs was established by the Orbán government between 1998 and 2002. It remained more or less in place under the socialist-liberal rule, but its role was diminished as the emphasis of these governments shifted almost entirely away from supporting families. During the two governmental cycles of the socio-liberal coalition, an external debt spiral started to develop due to intensive borrowing and falling economic growth. The governments mostly failed to preserve the family-policy related results of the first civic government. They cut back on housing allowances and made the conditions of family tax allowances significantly stricter by restricting them to families with three or more children and by tying them to a specific income limit. The heritage of the new government in 2010 was a country on the edge of economic, political and moral bankruptcy. Hungarian demographic indicators and health conditions were extremely poor, especially compared to other EU member states. These indicators have dramatically improved since Fidesz-KDNP came to power in 2010. Between 2010 and 2014, family issues were treated together with social affairs. Since 2014, we have had a separate State Secretariat responsible for family issues under my leadership. Prime Minister Orbán wanted to put an even greater emphasis on family policies and it has remained at the heart of our governance ever since.

How have the people of Hungary reacted to the promotion of pro-life, pro-traditional family legislation? 

Hungarian people are family-oriented, respect traditional values and want to live in peace and security. This is based on real feedback, not assumptions. We have asked them several times about how they assess their current situation and how they imagine the future, in order to have a clear understanding. Our citizens’ feedback is crystal-clear. For example, young Hungarians want to have an average of 2 children, two-thirds of young people would also like to live in marriage. Moreover, we conducted a national consultation in December last year in which we asked Hungarians whether they agree on the policy direction of putting families at the focus of attention instead of migration. The answers confirmed that the Hungarian people see the future in the increased support of families. 

Having such a family-oriented population, it’s obvious that we place a greater emphasis on creating the necessary conditions to start a family and bear more children. That’s why we have introduced a lot of measures that provide real support for families wishing to have or raise more children. 

Do you believe Hungary’s support of family and traditional culture could benefit Western Europe and the United States? If so, how? (Seeking applicable solutions to current crisis attacking traditional family, marriage, life, womanhood and masculinity.)

I deeply believe in the power of sharing best practices that work in certain countries and using the experiences of others in policy making. We have a comprehensive approach, we support families through a lot of different fields from nursery development to the tax system and housing, and also have measures that are unique in the world, like life-long exemption from paying personal income tax for women raising four or more children.    

In Western Europe, political and economic elites do not believe in the Christian family model and do not want to take steps towards a family-friendly Europe. They choose the simplest path when it comes to the demographic decline of the continent and stigmatise conservative, pro-family forces as “dark”, “authoritarian” and even “far-right.”

You, along with other world leaders, attended the World Congress of Families in Verona. Although this was the case, very few in mainstream media covered the event. Can you tell me what role Hungary played in the outcome, and what you took away from it?

Such occasions provide an excellent opportunity for pro-family forces to learn from each other, sharing thoughts and best practices. The whole event was about discussing principles and concrete results within the field of family policy, and paving the way for more and more pro-family initiatives that bring real change in the lives of families all around the world.  

I was happy to share our results achieved in the past 8 years within the field of family policy with other decision-makers and representatives. Today, we are spending more than 6.6 billion USD on families, twice as much as in 2010. This is almost 5% of total GDP, which is almost two times higher than the OECD average. Abortion numbers have dropped by more than a third, divorces have seen a marked decline and the number of marriages has risen by 42%. Also, the fertility rate has increased by more than 20% since 2011, which clearly shows that Hungarian women feel increasingly confident about having children.

It’s very sad and unfortunate that the biased liberal media, NGOs and some politicians think that we are extremists just because we are supporting families. They simply ignore other opinions that are not in line with their views and grab every opportunity to attack us. 

Can you give me some thoughts on how the History of Hungary has brought the country to this point of deeply pro-life/pro-traditional family support?

Hungary’s population has been decreasing since 1981. After more than 40 years of communist dictatorship, for one term from 1998 to 2002 we had the chance to lay the foundations of a family-friendly country, but after 2002, 8 years of liberal, socialist governance completely destroyed Hungarians’ confidence in the future. This period of Hungarian history was characterized by increasing taxes, austerity packages and the dismantling of the family support system. 

After we won the election by a two-thirds majority in 2010, we announced a family-friendly turnaround with the aim of restoring Hungarians’ confidence in the future by putting families at the focus of attention again. Since then, we have been building a family-friendly country that aims to meet the long-term needs of families. 

Now we have a family-friendly tax system, a housing program that has already helped 400,000 Hungarians in a country of 10 million to acquire a larger and more comfortable home. We have placed great emphasis on helping Hungarian women with children through the development of the nursery school system and by introducing measures that secure their right to go back to work. Hungarian Parliament recently approved the 7-point Family Protection Action Plan that includes, amongst others, a life-long exemption from personal income tax for women raising 4 or more children, and a general purpose, interest-free loan of more than $33,000 USD for married couples where the woman is under 40.

The west has struggled with the image of feminism – especially heightened after the 1960’s sexual revolution, where women insisted on “asexual equality” replacing feminine dignity. You are a mother of three. How does the Hungarian culture and approach to family life support your balance of professional obligations and that of a family? (Examples could be work-life balance, support of pregnancy, etc.)

Since 2010, we have been working on making career and family compatible with each other as easily as possible. We provide the opportunity and necessary conditions for mothers to freely decide whether to go back to work or stay at home with the child. I think we are on the right track, but we still have a lot more to do. There are parts of the new Family Protection Action Plan that helps young families within this field. For example, grandparents are becoming eligible for subsidised parental leave if they stay at home with their grandchild, in addition to which we will also be providing complete crèche coverage by 2022. Being a working mother is never easy, I can assure you. The government can be of great help. I think feminism is too much when it ends up encouraging women to give up their privileges. It’s our privilege to bear children, to give birth and to breastfeed. Let’s not lose those privileges.  

There is a popular movement among men, right now, led by Canadian clinical psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson, to restore the masculine dignity of men. Unfortunately, there are no women leaders that have provided similar leadership for women. How would you encourage women, especially in what you’ve learned through your life experiences?

It is not necessary to have outstanding "leaders" when talking about this topic. Everyday heroes, simple role models, can have an even greater impact. In Hungary, I have launched an initiative called Women for the Hungarian Nation that embraces women who lead by example and work for the sake of Hungarians.

What words of warning do you have to political legislators who are seeking to suppress family rights, or – even more horrifically – seek to promote abortion, late-term abortion, infanticide, eugenics and euthanasia?

In Hungary, everything you mention is subject to proper regulation. Our Constitution is also clear on the subject. Life begins at conception; the life of the foetus should be protected. Killing should never be celebrated. 

It is said that the strongest laws seek to reinforce established cultural practices. How has this been demonstrated in the “Family Protection Action Plan” and the Hungarian Family Act?

According to a recent poll, 79% of the Hungarians share the view that we should preserve our Christian heritage, which means that a large majority supports policies that are rooted in Christian culture. The seven-point Family Protection Action Plan and the Hungarian Family Act are based on our Christian worldview and the traditional definition of the family. Having children is more of a cultural decision than anything else. We need good policies and strong financial support, as well as a family-oriented atmosphere and mentality. 

Do you believe that more events like the World Congress of Family should be encouraged?

Absolutely. Today’s major global trends increasingly try to question the traditional definition of the family and our traditional ways of life. It is imperative that decision-makers and influencers from the political sphere and civil society stand up together and express their opinions on this subject. 

With the results you gave in question 5, how would you encourage Vatican/Catholic Church leaders to play an active role?

I do not think it is my job as a politician to encourage the Catholic Church to participate in any  (particular) event. The Church is an independent institution and the Hungarian government respects the separation of the church and the state. To answer the first part of your question: I think that – historically speaking – it is precisely the Church that has played the greatest role in defending the institution of the family. In Hungary, we have had several joint programs with the Hungarian Catholic Church, and they all turned out to be a great success. If the Vatican stands up outspokenly for traditional family values and life, it provides a major encouragement to pro-family and pro-life initiatives.

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