Péter Csermely: Merry Christmas, Prime Minister! This was the title of a united opposition demonstration a few days ago. The goodwill expressed by this phrase was presumably ironic, because their main demand was your resignation.
Every house has its own individual customs: there are places where they wish you a Merry Christmas, and where there is fellow feeling, gifts and the warmth of home. I’ve brought a family card with me, with which I’d like to wish the opposition and the whole country a blessed Christmas. Of course politics is a sphere in which fighting can break out even on Christmas Eve, and in a democracy demonstrations are part of everyday life. But there can be no place for violence, destruction and vandalism.
In Budapest and in the regions every existing opposition party has lent its support to these demonstrations, and they were joined by representatives from the trade unions. This is a new phenomenon.
This is also advantageous. At least the situation is clearer for everyone to see: the Government represents work, home, family and security; and in contrast to this, the opposition represents the policies that in the past have wrecked Hungary. On one side is the calm strength that seeks to defend the country; and on the other side there is aggression, violence, and support for immigration and tax increases.
They say – in addition to a lot of other things – that they are standing up against the exploitation of workers and demanding withdrawal of the measure they call the “slave law”.
People who speak out against this amendment of the Labour Code are speaking out against the workers, because this measure is in the interests of workers. Time will prove that this is the case. People who want to work more and want to earn more will now have the opportunity to do so. The amendment will lead to wage increases – and, contrary to the lies of the opposition, employers will have to pay these increased wages on a monthly basis, as has been the case up to now.
Then what is the significance of the 36-month time frame?
The time frame has nothing to do with the payment of wages. There is nothing new about the opposition parties misleading voters, but I expected better from the trade unions – if only because two years ago trade unions, employers and the Government jointly signed a comprehensive agreement valid for six years which related to tax cuts and wage increases, and back then the unions gave the impression that they could be a serious partner for the Government. My faith in that has now been dented.
Could a two-thirds parliamentary majority pass any measure that the opposition would support?
Yes: one that called for our resignation. Nothing else. Since 2010 there has not been a single economic measure that the opposition has accepted: whether we were talking about wage increases, family support, tax cuts, public works or the rescue package for borrowers with debts in foreign currencies. On every occasion they voted against the Government and the people. Most recently, for example, they were demonstrating for months for increased home care allowances; and when we took such action, what happened? They didn’t vote for it.
Isn’t the two-thirds majority the cause of this extreme deterioration in relations?
Following this year’s election victory I said that, in the interests of the country, we would be ready to work with a constructive opposition. They rejected this, because they want to overthrow the Government – whatever the cost. Yet they are not empowered to do so: that decision rests with the voters alone, and the next such opportunity will come in 2022.
The resistance was first declared by Ferenc Gyurcsány, who has repeatedly made it clear that he’s not willing to cooperate with the Government in any way.
The former Socialist prime minister has never made a secret of his desire to return to power. The rest of the opposition has fallen in line with this. We acknowledge the fact that the opposition has decided. The sport they have chosen is rugby: running forward, brawling all the while.
European politics is also tense, and elections to the European Parliament are approaching. You’ve often referred to the fact that this can result in a strengthening of the forces opposed to immigration, of which the Hungarian government is a part. But there is no guarantee of this happening.
There is indeed tension. Some years ago Western Europe embarked on an experiment. The large Western countries are trying to create a mixed civilization, believing that Christian Europe should be a Christian-Muslim Europe. Whether this experiment will succeed or fail is not yet clear, but there are growing signs that the path will be a long and bumpy one. Central Europe, on the other hand, has decided not to take part in this experiment, because the risks are extraordinarily high. We do not want mixed populations living in our countries, so we are defending our borders and opposing immigration. Everyone can see that Westerners do not respect our decision. They are trying to force their will upon us; and they are using the Hungarian opposition as a tool in this. George Soros and his networks will not tolerate Central Europe absenting itself from their great experiment in social engineering, and they are mobilising their Hungarian delegates in line with the logic of their international campaigns. Simultaneous demonstrations are being staged against anti-immigration governments in Vienna, Rome and Budapest. An important milestone in this struggle will be the elections to the European Parliament, when the forces defending Christian Europe will be ranged against the political forces promoting immigration. Once again we will see a repeat of the situation seen in history, when Hungary fights not only for itself, but also for Christian Europe. The Hungarian government shall not change its policy, and we shall continue to defend Hungary.
In Brussels the most striking threat in this area has been the mandatory quotas for distribution of immigrants. The EU leadership seems to be backing down on this, however.
Unfortunately the battle over mandatory quotas has not abated, and the issue was also on the agenda of the most recent meeting of EU prime ministers. This is about the large Western European countries seeking to transform the European Union into an empire. We, however, do not want to become part of any empire. We shall fight within the EU to ensure that the spiritual basis for European politics is not this imperial conception, but a Europe of equal nations. We shall be fighting for our independence, if you like.
What will count as victory? Or what will count as defeat?
We are not fighting this battle with military weapons, so the outcome will not be as conspicuous as it is in a war. In this struggle results will be declared according to who is successful and who is unsuccessful. And in this area Central Europe is performing well – even though we started with a huge historical disadvantage. For example, the Soviets withdrew from Austria in 1955. Central Europe is now finding its feet, and has become the economic engine of Europe. It is looking forward to a fine future. This is also true for our country, because year on year our results are improving. Hungary has set out on an upward path. It is time for history to start paying off its debt to us.
Yet after the election you called attention to the possibility of a crisis. Was this obligatory caution?
We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand. The outstanding question is whether Hungary’s economic success can be sustained throughout a European or global economic crisis. We only need to cast our minds back to 2008, when Hungary was among the first to hit the canvas. Now, however, the Hungarian economy is on a strong footing, and able to stand its ground in difficult conditions. In times of crisis, the value of a country having a stable government increases, and our two-thirds parliamentary majority will increase in value, because the capacity to act is an important resource. It has taken eight years for the Hungarians to convince each other that their work has value. Soon we will be in a position in which more people are working than ever before. This is why today the Hungarian economy is resilient.
The greatest danger for Europe – and therefore Hungary – is demographic decline. The response devised for this in the West has been immigration. If our country rejects this, then we must ask whether we will be able to reverse this process by relying only on our own resources.
Immigration comes with extraordinary risks, and the close coexistence of different civilizations raises difficulties which Europe may be unable to overcome. Furthermore, if a country sets out on this path it is effectively declaring its surrender. If we get to the point at which we are unable to sustain ourselves biologically, this means that we are not important even to ourselves. In that case, why would we be important to the world? So demography is destiny. Of course people do not shape their lives with such a perspective; instead they notice whether their country supports them in having and raising children, and whether each child is a blessing or a growing burden. The Hungarian government is doing everything possible to strengthen families, because we believe that the prospect for the continuation of Hungarian history – for the future of the nation – is in families. We Hungarians can only count on ourselves. This is why we have launched a national consultation on families. I consider this to be the most serious issue on the policy agenda in Hungary today. I am confident that we can create an agreement with Hungarian women that will help their lives, and at the same time strengthen Hungary.
For this there must also be an agreement with men.
My experience tells me otherwise. Women are stable points. And since the family can only be built on stable foundations, it is first and foremost the sensible course to reach agreement with the ladies. The future of families is in their hands, and the Hungarian world cannot survive without strong women committed to having and raising children. We men love to make confident statements about our importance, but if we look at the reality of Hungarian life, we can see that the network of women organises our lives.
What do you expect 2019 to bring? Politics will clearly be in full swing, with two big important elections.
Of course there will be elections in 2019, but our horizon is 2030. As a result of eight years of joint work, we are entering a new era – and I believe that we have not just started out, but are arriving. Hungary lost the twentieth century, but we want to win the twenty-first century. The last century robbed us of our self-esteem, prosperity, creativity and recognition, and it robbed us of national unity. Now we want to win all that back. And this can be fully accomplished by 2030. The one hundred years of solitude that was the lot of Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin is now at an end. We are also regaining the recognition and respect of our neighbours. But 2030 is not yet upon us, and today the country is preparing for Christmas Eve. So I wish everyone a happy, peaceful, blessed Christmas. This celebration reminds us of the limits of politics: politics can help people to live better lives, but not more beautiful lives. One can only make one’s own life more beautiful. It would be good if every Hungarian succeeds in this.