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Constitutional foundations protect Hungary against court rulings that are detrimental to families and against attempts by “anti-family” international organisations, NGOs and networks “to penetrate” into the country’s state affairs and decision-making, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in a speech to the 3rd Budapest Demographic Summit. Good family policy needs economic foundations as well, Orbán said, noting that allocations in the central budget to support families had doubled over the past ten years. The prime minister highlighted the need for a predictable family support system over the long term.

Orbán said the key to the success of Hungary’s demographic policy was “Christianity regaining its strength in Europe”. Partners in this endeavour such as Serbia and the Czech Republic, represented at the summit at presidential and prime ministerial level, are already on board, Orbán added.

The prime minister said the demographic policy’s success would be ensured if the country’s annual economic growth rate exceeded the EU average by at least 2 percentage points between now and 2030.

Orbán said there was abundant scepticism in Europe as to whether Hungary could achieve its demographic policy goal of a 2.1 fertility rate. But those people said the same before about other Hungarian government measures such as “sending home the IMF”, introducing a banking tax and a progressive income tax, levying a tax on multinational companies, cutting utility costs, creating one million jobs in ten years, stopping migration and building a border fence, he added.

House Speaker László Kövér said at the conference that “having children is a public affair of the most personal kind” and suggested that it should be made “the most important public issue in social, economic, cultural, and political terms” in each European country to help the bloc survive.

Katalin Novák, state secretary for family and youth affairs, emphasised the importance of addressing the issue of demography. “The responses we give to demographic challenges will determine our future from a cultural, economic and social point of view,” she said.

“Demography in 2019 is not just one of the many issues to be addressed, it is the most important common issue for us,” she said. Europe has become a continent of “empty cradles”, while several countries in other continents such as Africa and Asia are facing challenges posed by overpopulation, she added.

Addressing the summit, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić called it important that demographic changes were being addressed as one of today’s top challenges and an issue that calls for immediate action. Vučić also emphasised the gravity of Europe’s demographic woes in terms of the future of central Europe, and the need for the continent as a whole to find solutions to the problem. He said Serbia was ready to cooperate with Hungary and the other central European countries in tackling the issue.

Andrej Babiš, the Czech prime minister, said the effects of a population decline on Europe could be almost as severe as those of climate change.

Tony Abbott, Australia’s former prime minister, advocated a policy that sees family support as a means of promoting population growth in place of immigration. He praised Hungary’s family support scheme as unique, saying it should be studied by other countries.

Migration and border protection were in the focus of bilateral talks between Orbán and the former Australian PM. Both agreed that every country had the right to determine whom they allow to enter its territory and with what conditions, Bertalan Havasi, the PM’s spokesman, said. Europe should follow the Australian and Hungarian practice of border control if it is serious about protecting its own citizens, Orbán and Abbott agreed at their meeting.