BUDAPEST, Hungary (ChurchMilitant.com) - Hungary is pushing forward with a raft of pro-family measures designed to boost the country's birth rate.
Last month, the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán began offering married couples a €30,000 ($34,000) loan with built-in benefits aimed at encouraging larger families.
If a couple has one child within five years of receiving the loan, the government will eliminate interest on the loan and halt monthly repayment for three years. If a second is born, repayments will be postponed an additional three years. If a third child is born, the loan will be written off entirely, and any money the couple has contributed up to that point will be returned to them. Couples may also adopt children to satisfy the terms of the loan.
To qualify, a couple must be married (with at least one spouse on their first marriage), the wife must be between 18–40 and at least one of the pair must have contributed to the social safety net in the past three years.
If the marriage ends in divorce, or if the couple fails to produce (or adopt) a child during the five-year period, they must repay all they have borrowed, as well as interest accrued, within 120 days. Couples who remain childless will be granted an exemption if they can provide a medical certificate indicating why.
According to the Hungarian State Treasury, early results are encouraging, with approximately 2,400 families applying for the loan within two weeks of its debut.
The program is the latest in a series of pro-family initiatives the Orbán administration has introduced recently as part of its Family Protection Action Plan, under which women with four or more children are exempt from paying income tax for the rest of their lives.
Hungary has lost nearly 1 million people over the past four decades. After peaking at just over 10.7 million in 1981, the country's population began to slump and today stands at just under 9.8 million.
But while most European governments are adopting open-door migration policies in hope of staving off demographic collapse, Hungary is looking to its own people to reverse the country's decline.
In an interview with Fox News' Tucker Carlson earlier this year, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó explained the rationale behind his country's new pro-family policies:
We understand very well that if we are not able to turn around the negative trend of demographics ... then we will definitely not win the future. And we want to win the future, so we need more kids. We need to turn around the negative tendencies, so we have put together an action plan — we have formulated our economic policy in this direction. So the question in families whether to be brave enough to have another kid must not be an economic decision anymore.
Speaking to Breitbart News in June, a government spokesman underscored the crisis facing not just Hungary, but all of Europe: "Europe is at a crossroads. Western Europe seeks to address the problem of demography with simple solutions which only offer short-term success, but convey catastrophic consequences in the long run."
"Hungary has a long-term approach and opts for the more difficult path, as a result of which, however, Europe could become an economically strong, rejuvenated continent," he said. "Either we encourage births by placing the interests of families in the focus of politics, or we encourage ever further flows of migration."
"Our goal is to halt Hungary's demographic decline using family support measures," the spokesman continued. "What we need is not numbers, but Hungarian children: we're not seeking to sustain an economic system, but Hungary, the Hungarian nation and Hungarian history; we want to encourage the continuation of our families for several generations."
"So the hostility to the childbirth incentives programme stems from the fact that those who want to solve Europe's demographic problems through migration abhor family policy," he added. "The converse is also true: we who want to solve the problems of Europe and our own country through family policy abhor migration."