The fifth Budapest Demography Summit, held every two years since 2015, took place on September 14-16, 2023, at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, capital of Hungary. As the name suggests, the summit focuses on population trends and policies related to demographics. Since its inception, it has become a global summit. [i]
It is understood that the recent Budapest Demography Summit highlights a conservative-right trend in Europe and its surrounding regions. Particularly, Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, often associated with this trend, appears to have used the summit for that particular purpose. Moreover, the presence of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni among the opening speakers supports this point. Additionally, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, known for his nationalist rhetoric and considered a close ally of Orban, as well as Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, who has gained attention for his pro-Russia stance within the European Union (EU), are also among the invitees [ii]
In this context, when the guest list is examined, it can be said that Orban, along with Hungary’s President Katalin Novak, attempted to gather like-minded individuals within Europe to convey a message. Indeed, when Orban’s opening speech is analyzed, he indicates the upcoming European Parliament elections, emphasizing the need for “family-friendly and conservative forces” to come to power and highlighting the need for a political change. [iii]
It is understood that there were academic speakers as well. In this regard, one of the prominent figures is Jordan Peterson. A psychologist and author, Peterson is known for making controversial comments, and he has described Orban as “Europe’s Donald Trump.” [iv]
From this point of view, it would not be entirely wrong to consider the Budapest Demography Summit as a platform where the views of the far-right are expressed and promoted. However, it can also be said that it is a platform where the EU is criticized, especially by Orban. In this sense, Orban’s opening speech, in which he stated that Europe is still dealing with “nonsense” instead of important issues and that Europe is governed by a “progressive, liberal political elite,” is noteworthy. [v]
On the other hand, the participation of Giorgia Meloni as a speaker is also significant. Although Orban and Meloni have different views on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War, the presence of the Italian leader, who has become one of Orban’s most important allies within the EU, as a speaker reveals the nature of the program.
However, it should be noted that Meloni’s close friendship with Katalin Novak may have also played a role in her participation in the program. But with Meloni’s visit to Hungary, the two leaders, Orban and Meloni, may have tried to get closer, setting aside their differences. It can be expected that these two nationalist leaders will make efforts to create a new bloc within the EU by putting their differences on the back burner, especially on the issue of Russia.
In this context, the presence of Serbia at the summit, which is trying to find a place within the EU, also reveals its position. On the other hand, it is observed that there are guests from outside Europe as well. One of these guests is Philip Isdor Mpango. The participation of Tanzanian President Mpango in this summit can be interpreted as an expression of the far-right and conservative trend’s intention to keep the topic of “demography and family” on the agenda outside of Europe.
From this perspective, when the guests and speakers of the Budapest Demography Summit, where family and population policies are discussed, are examined, it is possible to consider the summit as a platform where conservatism and the far-right are emphasized, especially in Europe. Although it is not explicitly stated that this is the main purpose of the summit, an analysis of the rhetoric of Orban and other speakers will reveal that such a situation is in place.
[i] “Hungarian Leaders Discuss Challenges At Budapest Demographic Summit”, Xinhuane, https://english.news.cn/20230915/e5fe835c3710406fad396b2a70c5caae/c.html, (Erişim Tarihi:18.09.2023).
[ii] “Viktor Has Giorgia On His Mind Ahead Of Hungary’s Demographic Summit”, Balkan Insight, https://balkaninsight.com/2023/09/13/viktor-has-giorgia-on-his-mind-ahead-of-hungarys-demographic-summit/, (Erişim Tarihi:18.09.2023).
[iii] “Budapest Demographic Summit Champions ‘Traditional Family Values’”, Euronews, https://www.euronews.com/2023/09/16/budapest-demographic-summit-champions-traditional-family-values, (Erişim Tarihi:18.09.2023).
[iv] Aynı yer.
[v] “V. Budapest Demographic Summit Opens Its Doors”, Hungary Today, https://hungarytoday.hu/v-budapest-demographic-summit-opens-its-doors/, (Erişim Tarihi:18.09.2023).