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Easter interview with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Hungarian daily Magyar Idők

Ottó Gajdics: In Jenő Dsida’s famous poem “Maundy Thursday”, Peter was asleep, John was asleep, James was asleep and Matthew was asleep. One often feels like the poet himself, crumpled up on an abandoned railway station. But what can we hope for this Easter?

Viktor Orbán: This Maundy Thursday definitely differs from the figures in that poem, because now everyone is on their feet. The radical right and the left are preparing for next year’s election, and the liberals are mobilising. In Hungary now the dress rehearsal for the election campaign is under way. The question is whether the Government is on its feet or not. For those in government, taking part in such a dress rehearsal is difficult in many ways, because meanwhile we have a country whose affairs must be attended to, and in which decisions must be made; so we have less opportunity than our rivals to switch to campaign mode. It is already clear that the 2018 election will be crucial for the country. I know that right now the reader will put down this newspaper, because they have been told this so often, they have had enough of crucial elections and they just want a simple, straightforward election that will not decide either their personal fate or that of their homeland. But the truth is that in Hungary the national government is under constant pressure and attack, so in every election the most important thing at stake is whether we will have a parliament and a government that serve the interests of the Hungarian people, or that will serve foreign interests. Maundy Thursday prompts us to look behind and beyond the everyday hustle and bustle of our lives. Holy Week is a story which is difficult for the human mind to take in. How could it have been that just a few days after Palm Sunday – when people celebrated the Son of God’s entry into Jerusalem – we arrived at death on the cross? It is a mystery how the world can change so much, and an even bigger mystery how within another three days it can change even more. Easter is the most radical renewal that human history has ever known, and we have a special word for it: resurrection. Our secular world also tells us that the Hungarian community can be renewed as well, if it can see its own life from a higher vantage point and with a deeper sense of perspective. In 2010 we did not simply undertake to govern the country. We wanted our homeland to become a happy country with a revived spirit, which has cause for optimism based on its own achievements. Easter is a special moment, when we may raise our eyes to the reality that exists beyond our everyday struggles.

How do you see the fact that many people do not recognise the image of an optimistic country you have referred to, but call the system simply intolerable – something to be done away with and swept away?

This is natural. I must accept that we chose democracy as the modern Hungarian state’s form of existence; and democracy is a system in which everyone is free to think and free to form their opinions, which they may voice and represent together with others. Differences in views are inevitable in a system based on argument and debate. The question is whether we are able to disagree peacefully. It is easy to agree peacefully, but to disagree peacefully – that is a challenge of democracy. In my view, Hungarians are not doing badly in this department. We cope well with the fact that in modern European democracy there will always be groups which want you to go to hell. We must also take account of envy, which is likewise part of human nature. We should not forget the level at which unemployment stood when we came to office, how high household utility charges were, how much people paid in taxes, and the level of state debt. We gave people jobs, reduced household utility charges, reduced taxes, and also reduced government debt. It is no surprise that our opponents would like to be in our place. We have managed to achieve something that they couldn’t.

There is no need to worry about you, as you regularly take on these groups. Currently you are engaged in battles with Brussels, the Soros university and the NGOs funded by Soros – not to mention the opposition at home. Isn’t this front too wide?

Let us take a look at our history: this is something that the Hungarians themselves are responsible for. We would have no conflicts if we didn’t continually strive for an independent national existence. Neither would we have conflicts if we were to accept the dictates of Brussels or other political and financial centres – or if we accepted Hungarian or American billionaires telling us how things should be in our country. But the history of the Hungarian people is a story of freedom fights. We never accept – and we shall never accept – others deciding on our behalf how we should live. Looking at it from this point of view, the question is not how wide the front is: the question is whether or not there is national independence. Therefore the front is as wide as is required for the protection of national independence. Today we live in times in which international politics is a battlefield. The independence and freedom of European nations are at stake. And standing at the centre of this battlefield is migration. The Soros university, the transparency of international lobbying organisations and financial stability all emerge as secondary battlefields in the present dry run for the election campaign. There is no denying that everything would be easier if we adopted the status of a slave nation.

One often feels that the opposing parties don’t even speak the same language: everyone accuses everyone else of disinformation tactics.

There is little chance for the emergence of a common language; all the more so because we talk straight and don’t beat about the bush, whereas our opponents speak in an invented language: a modern-day Esperanto, known as “PC”. We write and speak the truth, while they invent it – or construct it, to be more precise. The struggle between these two languages can be seen across the entire Western world. The reason for the lack of agreement should not be sought in language, however, but in differing objectives. The biggest debate in Europe today is about migration. This is what will decide our future, and the fate of Europe. The question is whether the countries our children and grandchildren live in will the same as the ones we have lived in. I’m not talking about a different level of technological development, whether we can protect our jobs, or whether or not we can stop the growth of European countries’ debt burdens: these are simply better or worse versions of the same Europe. The question is whether the character of European nations will be determined by the same spirit, civilisation, culture and mentality as in our parents’ and grandparents’ time, or by something completely different. In the context of migration this is what is at stake. This is why the British left the EU.

Debates have been ignited by the fact that those who call themselves liberal and left-wing – who are supported with the money, power and networks of international forces, with George Soros at the forefront – claim that taking action against migration is wrong, impractical and immoral. The fence must be dismantled, migrants must be let in, and by mixing with us – the traditional peoples of Europe – they must be given the chance to create a new quality. In contrast with this, we want to preserve the foundations of Europe: we do not want parallel societies, we do not want restructuring of our population, and we do not want to replace Christian civilisation with a different form. Therefore we are building fences, defending ourselves, and are not allowing migrants to flood us. Our vision of Europe is diametrically opposed to that of the Soros-style international networks. How could these two world views, these two camps speak the same language? Unlike the British, we are staying in the EU. We are not an island, our country and our lives form part of Europe. This is our place. Our fate is bound together with the other countries on the continent. I see a single option, and that is reform of the way the European Union operates. This is why in Brussels we are a reform opposition.

What are the chances for your political community in this struggle?

What does “doing well” mean in Hungarian politics? The country is fine. Compared with earlier periods in Hungarian history, this in itself could be an indication that we are doing well. We have a national government with a cast-iron mandate and majority. Its determination is undiminished. I see no sign of retreat. There is also unity, and we have no disputes that would compromise our capacity to act. Fidesz – started by a few youths with their collars turned up – has become Central Europe’s largest political party. Ours is a catalogue of astonishing stories. We sank the communists’ flagship, created a constitutional revolution in 1990, beat the left three times, implemented a programme of national unification across the borders, passed the new Fundamental Law, sent the IMF packing, made the banks accountable, reined in utility service providers, and are on the way towards full employment. Put briefly, we are doing fine, thank you very much – and we will do even better.

Aren’t you concerned that the Soros university issue could disrupt this unity? Many intellectuals on the right have expressed their disapproval.

The different views formed on the Soros university do not affect the overwhelming majority and unity which rejects migration and the Soros-style network which hides behind it. However, the university is a sensitive issue related to intellect and learning, and this hits a nerve with both students and teachers. We should view this as perfectly natural. The subject of universities is an important and sensitive one – even though barely ten per cent of the students studying in the Soros institution are Hungarian. Over time it will become clear that the fears are unfounded: everyone will eventually realise that this is not about closing universities, but about applying the laws equally to every Hungarian university. There can be no special privileges, and no one may stand above the law – not even George Soros’s people. I do not believe that the civic intelligentsia would be happy to be allied with people whom the impending legislation will clearly show to be operating with foreign funding, serving foreign interests, and following instructions from abroad. All this is about the fact that – through his organisations in Hungary, and hidden from the public gaze – George Soros is spending endless amounts of money to support illegal immigration. To pursue his interests he pays a number of lobbying organisations operating in the guise of civil society. He maintains a regular network, with its own promoters, its own media, hundreds of people, and its own university. He wants to keep the pressure on Hungary: the country which expects even the likes of George Soros to observe its laws. I believe that George Soros must not be underestimated: he is a powerful billionaire of enormous determination who, when it comes to his interests, respects neither God nor man. We want to protect Hungary, and so we must also commit ourselves to this struggle.

You are not spared by your Hungarian opponents either. They make gutter-level ad hominem attacks on your people from all directions. Many look on in sympathy, others in disbelief, and ask how anyone can put up with this.

While the billionaires behind our opponents have money, we have exactly as much strength as we get from the people. Which is the stronger – which is worth more in Hungarian politics? We govern on behalf of the Hungarian people. Before every major decision, I have sought to involve the people in a debate on the most important issues. With the national consultations I have tried to create points of national agreement; we have not asked quiz questions, but have sought support and confirmation which give us strength for our struggles here and abroad. This is also why they attack the national consultation at every opportunity. Speaking of personal attacks, the words of Margaret Thatcher come to mind: “I always cheer up immensely if one is particularly wounding, because I think that if they attack one personally it means they haven’t a single political argument left.” No one can deny that we have defeated unemployment, that it is increasingly worthwhile to work, and that year after year everyone can take a step forward. The family support system has proved itself and is successful, and public security is better than in most European countries. Naturally the Government is not beyond reproach, and a great many issues have yet to be addressed. There are things which can be criticised, but on the whole Hungary is slowly pulling itself together, and will soon find its feet. So rather than defending ourselves against attacks, we must win. Therefore I do not bother much about smear attempts and campaigns. We are old war horses: we know the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. Plenty of times we have seen our noisy opponents eventually fail and creep away in silence. The strength of our camp lies in its organisation and perseverance. We are decent people, naturally, and we itch to respond to these crooked, arrogant and brazen accusations. But we are too smart to ever get carried away by our emotions. We demonstrate our strength when required, and we do so in a disciplined manner and with unity. We shall take the next step when the time comes.

What does Easter mean to you personally?

I am lucky because I live in a loving family. I have the opportunity to put into practice what I believe in and find important in life and in my job: work which is wonderfully creative, diverse, splendid and exciting. The crucial importance of the decisions only add to this. Whatever others find stressful and irritating, I find encouraging: a challenge that will bring renewal, and an opportunity. It is Easter, so let us call this Christian optimism. I wish all your readers the opportunity to share in this, through the grace of God.