Éva Kocsis: Good morning, we have Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in the studio. Good morning.
Viktor Orbán: Good morning.
Let’s start with the Brussels summit, at which conclusions were adopted. We’ll talk about them in more detail, but are these conclusions in fact a kind of fig-leaf to cover the fact that you haven’t really managed to agree on anything?
No, this is part of definable genre: it’s not easy to translate the jargon of Brussels into readily digestible Hungarian. This is understandable, and so perhaps there’s no need for the ironic tone. After all, the prime ministers of 28 Member States sit at a table, and it is in itself an enormous feat for us to manage to reach an understanding about anything at all – even the weather. At the same time, these are sovereign Member States, and therefore calling the closing document of such a meeting a “resolution” – which would be logical according to the Hungarian language – is out of the question. In Brussels a solution was therefore devised whereby the name of the document closing prime ministers’ meetings and expressing their joint intentions should be “conclusions”. This document is adopted on every occasion. There are times when the head of one Member State or another threatens to exercise their veto on issues that are not quite to their liking, and so there are no “conclusions” which those at the table think would be a global scandal. I’m not sure that anyone in the EU apart from us would notice this – but that’s just another cynical remark. So perhaps we sometimes attribute more importance than we should to the word-for-word drafting of the texts completed there. But at any rate, this is a major operation, and a difficult one, and the significance of the “conclusions” is that in essence they chart the direction for the other institutions of the European Union. So this is the closing document of a meeting held at the highest level, which all the other EU bodies – the Commission in particular – must take into consideration, and, in the course of their own work, implement as the direction to be followed.
What should we conclude from the fact that this document effectively makes no mention of the quotas?
You may conclude exactly what you’re thinking: as we didn’t manage to come to an agreement, this issue couldn’t be incorporated into the text. And that’s just the way it is. On the one hand, for twelve to eighteen months I’ve been fighting to ensure that at the end of a meeting of the prime ministers no document – of “conclusions” – is adopted that provides outlines for a future European asylum policy which would set a policy direction resulting in the violation of Hungary’s sovereignty. In consequence, until we are able to come to an agreement, we won’t say anything on this issue in the conclusions. We have made a little progress, however. There was enormous pressure on us – on me at least – to come to a compromise on the migrant issue, and to consent to some kind of mandatory quota which could also be part of general regulatory solutions in the future. I managed to avert this, and we agreed that the issue of the new European migrant system or questions about the immigration system will again be comprehensively and intensively dealt with at the December summit of prime ministers. And we will make an effort to ensure that a decision of some kind is adopted by next May, by the end of the first half of the year. We’ll see.
What are the other Member States of the European Union hoping for by December? That the Hungarian prime minister will change his mind?
Well, meanwhile there is a rustle in the bushes, if I may put it that way.
Could you clarify?
The committee of the European Parliament dealing with this question – and the European Parliament will also have a later role in the legislative process – has already drafted the core principles upon which it wants to build EU immigration policy. Our principle is very clear: only the Member State affected may decide who may live within its borders – regardless of whether they are refugees of any status, migrants or immigrants. If a country is unable to decide who may stay in its territory, that country is effectively finished. If we ever got to the stage of being told by Berlin or Brussels who may live within Hungary’s borders, we would be subjects of Berlin or Brussels. That is unacceptable. This is an issue of sovereignty, and an issue of principle on which we must not compromise – no matter how many people we’re talking about. Because once a gap is opened in this wall, the water will flood in. Any such gap must be closed. There are all sorts of background negotiations, conferences and meetings under way, and currently a net is being woven. They want to put pressure on us – not only on me, but on all the Central Europeans – so that we surrender. In opposition to this, my strategy – and the other Central European countries are also doing so – is to openly stand up for our own national interests. We say that there are now two types of country in the European Union. Lamenting over how this came about is like crying over spilt milk. Anyway, in the EU there are two groups of countries, with distinctly different characters. They don’t like it when I say that there is a migrant-free zone – Central Europe – and there are countries which have turned themselves into immigrant countries. The future of the European Union depends on how we can live together. I’m ruling out the possibility that either country group being able to impose its ideas on the other. Although I would strongly recommend it to the countries concerned, we’re not going to see migrants being transported out of Western Europe: we don’t have the power to convince governments which see their nations’ futures as immigrant countries that they should remove migrants who have arrived illegally in their countries. Similarly they can’t force us to take these people in. So the solution isn’t to be found in either of us becoming like the other. We’ll have to get used to the fact that in the future Europe will be divided in two. The question is how we should live together – or, as the French say, how this cohabitation between the two groups should be implemented. And we need to make efforts to ensure that it will be implemented. I support an approach in which we establish the fundamental principles of our coexistence by acknowledging our differences.
The circumstances in which this debate took place were rather interesting; you’re talking about the debate in the LIBE Committee. You had a discussion about the quotas, or rather you didn’t have a discussion, and Donald Tusk himself said that the quotas have no future. Meanwhile the LIBE Committee – in which the majority support taking the matter further – said the opposite. Rather than discussing what you’re talking about – the need to live together and acknowledge our differences – they said that those who want to depart so much from their approach should be given a good dressing-down, perhaps even in the form of some kind of punishment.
Yes, but they won’t succeed. At the same time, I believe that the most important development of the past few days is that it’s become fashionable to leak information. There’s also a movement – which some call “Euroleaks” – which in some mysterious way obtains documents which the authors want to keep from the public. And now the disclosure of documents relating to the Soros Empire is on the agenda, and these leaked documents have also arrived in Hungary. In those documents you can clearly see that this network, the Soros network, has an extensive sphere of influence – particularly in the European Parliament, but in other European institutions also. They operate a well-constructed network. They also have a list of names, which shows that out of the over seven hundred Members of the European Parliament, this network or empire regards more than two hundred as its friends and collaborators. In every case they have good reason to believe this, and they regularly use these people to implement their plans. These documents reveal, for example, that they want Europe to be a continent with a mixed population, and they seek out MEPs who are ready to cooperate in the implementation of this plan. There are quite a few of these MEPs on that committee – including a Hungarian, regrettably. They have now worded the proposal for the European Parliament that will be needed to create a mixed Europe. This is what we’re talking about.
Fine, but this type of pressure is officially known as “lobbying”: they’re lobbyists. Such people exist in most of the world’s countries, they’re officially registered and laws regulate their operation. Isn’t it a bit of an overreaction to have them investigated by the intelligence services, as the Hungarian government is doing?
It’s not an overreaction at all; it would be if these organisations truly operated openly. If these organisations saw themselves as lobbying organisations, as you’re suggesting, they would be registered, we would have information about their annual budgets, and we would clearly see the connections between them. We would see in black and white the empire or network – comprising some sixty to seventy non-governmental organisations, or bogus NGOs, in each country – which is seeking to influence life in Europe. But this is not the case. We need the involvement of both the national security services and the Information Office in order to make sure this information is revealed to the public. All we want is to see, understand and find out about what’s happening, and we want every European citizen – including Hungarians – to have the opportunity to understand who is seeking to influence their lives, why and to what purpose. We want to apply to them the same principles that apply to us – or to me, personally: Hungarian citizens are fully aware of this, as they see what’s happening, everything is transparent, they can cast their votes, they can give us responsibility and they can take that responsibility away from us. Politics – and international networks that seek to influence politics – must be conducted in a transparent manner, in the public spotlight.
But isn’t it enough for them to publish the details of their operations on their websites? What more do investigations by the intelligence services seek to uncover?
For instance, the documents now released reveal that in Brussels they’re working on using legal procedures to punish the Hungarian government, whose position on the issues of refugees, migrants and immigration is diametrically opposed to that of Soros’s people. They’re seeking to influence various decision-makers in Brussels with the aim of having Hungary condemned and stigmatised in every way possible, and to force it to change its migrant policy.
You don’t need Soros for that – there’s the LIBE Committee.
Where is this happening, who are these people, and what are the measures? For instance, they adopt decisions related to Hungary. They launch an infringement procedure against us. We’re not just talking about asylum regulations here, but all other regulations too. Then there are human rights reports. We have to find out who these people are and which individuals they use when pursuing the plan of having Hungary condemned on one issue or another. We’d like to see this, and to find this out. Who are the Hungarians who are collaborating with them in this process from here, from Hungary? So we’d like to see the truth revealed.
Well, [European Commissioner] Tibor Navracsics has said that there’s no Soros plan. Who is collaborating with this network?
You see, not even he knows – so this is yet another argument for finding out.
But why does the fact that the views of an organisation which would like to achieve something in connection with migrants are shared by the LIBE Committee and many EU politicians necessarily mean that they are all under the influence of George Soros?
This network is financed by a large central foundation. That’s where the money is. You yourselves may have recently heard that billions of dollars were channelled into this system, and this can be linked to George Soros.
That’s how George Soros supports his civil society organisations.
That’s right, and they’re mobilising these networks for the attainment of a certain goal – in order to have Hungary condemned or to discredit Hungarian politicians, for instance. This, too, is stated in these documents: the goal of the Soros organisation, this international network, is to target and discredit decision-makers in Hungary if they refuse to cooperate. Obviously other countries may also fall within their sphere of interest, but we are only focused on Hungary. In my opinion, this is permissible. It’s not pleasant, but things like this happen: if you’re easily scared, don’t go into the forest. It’s part and parcel of this line of business. But it’s not right that the Hungarian people are unable to find out that these are coordinated campaigns aimed at discrediting certain Hungarian politicians who stand up for Hungary’s independence. So let the people find out.
What kind of a dinner partner is Jean-Claude Juncker? Was there quiet music in the background and were those at the table chatting amiably, or was there a heated debate?
Knife and fork, and good table manners.
Was it a quiet or a loud debate?
Indeed Brussels has its own tone of voice, and by Brussels standards, Hungarian politics may be described as strident. Over there they rather follow the French…
Jean-Claude Juncker himself is not a restrained person.
No, but he’s not strident either. Brussels very much resembles the culture of old governments or royal courts. It has an air of sophistication and restraint. You’re not supposed to use harsh words there, and you’re not supposed to practice straight talk: equivocation is more profitable. So Brussels has a whiff of an established, elitist culture. It’s like that even when we’re speaking amongst ourselves. I’m not saying that there aren’t sometimes more intense exchanges, but they’re very rare. So this is a series of meetings for the prime ministers which has an elite pan-European atmosphere.
Are you trying to say that this meeting between the V4 and Jean-Claude Juncker was a friendly get-together combined with dinner?
I was trying to say that no matter how serious the things being said, their form of expression is sophisticated, cultured and civilised. I could also say it is “European”: in no way is it a rebellious “kuruc” style.
So, after this, are the V4 united?
The V4 were in full agreement on all the issues on the agenda. Clearly the migrant issue was the most prominent one on which we stated that Brussels should try to understand that they simply cannot tell us what should be happening within our countries’ borders. They should simply abandon this idea. They, too, had their expectations. On more than one occasion President Juncker said that at times he finds it unfair that in Central Europe – and particularly in Hungary – Brussels is blamed even for things that it’s not responsible for. He said that he’d like to see more cooperation on our part. I told him in turn that we’d like to see more respect, and that this isn’t simply a question of style – though style is the man – but a question of double standards. We feel that certain other countries can get away with things that we are taken to task for. In legal language this is called an infringement procedure. But in reality this is unfair on Hungary and the Hungarian people. Double standards are the embodiment of disrespect.
News reports that have emerged in the past few months claiming that the V4 are divided seem to be true. This can be inferred from the fact that Slovakia’s Prime Minister, President and the Speaker of Parliament felt the need to issue a joint statement declaring that if some Member States are making faster progress in certain areas of integration, they are ready to be a part of the process and to form part of that core. And if we look at the issue of posted workers – on which there was also a vote – the Czechs and the Slovaks voted for the proposal, while the Poles and the Hungarians didn’t. Let’s talk about the issue of posted workers first. Isn’t this a well-conceived plan by the French to divide the V4? Because here we’re talking about a political issue, as it affects very few people: fewer than one per cent of EU workers. Isn’t this more a political issue?
This is not about the V4, but the labour market. The French don’t care whether the V4 are united or not – they wanted to attain a single goal. They have a problem, and I also discussed this in person with the French president, who called me on Saturday evening, I think it was. We reviewed this situation at length, because he knows that I’m coordinating the V4’s position on the matter, as at present we hold the V4 presidency. We discussed what he wants, which we cannot accept. We said that if we want a regulation on this issue, and he wants one, we want guarantees for our hauliers in the regulatory scheme that they’re suggesting. This is a complex system of correlations – and if you don’t mind, I won’t go into it now – but the essence is that if we’re not careful our hauliers will find themselves very badly off. If the issues of transport and the transportation of goods are also subject to this new rule, then Western European haulage businesses will stand to benefit, while ours will lose out – and we want to avoid that at all costs. I said this directly, and said we’re asking for guarantees. If we receive these guarantees, we’ll be able to vote together on Monday; but if we don’t, we won’t be able to. We haven’t received these guarantees. Of course they say that they have good intentions. We’ll regulate transportation issues in three months’ time, and then our requests will also be taken account of. But at this point in time we haven’t received these guarantees, but only good intentions – which in my line of business are not sufficient in themselves: they’re not enough, and not reassuring. So there will be a battle on this issue. We must protect the best interests of Hungarian hauliers and Hungarian haulage businesses, Hungarian businesses engaged in the transportation of goods. As I’ve said, the V4 has fought well, and I coordinated these efforts. We remained together for as long as it made sense to do so, and then we agreed that we could vote separately. What happened then was that two of us went one way, and two went the other way. This is of no significance, we’ll take a united stance on the issue of haulage the same as before.
How do the results of the recent Czech and Austrian elections influence the V4 and Hungary?
I think that they will increase our importance. The parties, ideals and individuals that have been given mandates by the Austrian and Czech peoples are very similar to ours, and on the most important issue – the issue of immigration – they are singing from the same hymn-sheet as us. The Czechs believe that they are a sovereign country, and now the Austrians also share this view, and from this it follows that no one can send anyone to those countries: they will decide who may live within their borders. This is the most important dividing line in Europe today. Therefore I can say that the countries that reject immigration have gained in strength as a result of these two elections.
In your speech on 23 October you went beyond migration, and spoke about a more distant prospect. The Slovak president raised a similar issue in a speech of his that I referred to earlier. He spoke about this core Europe…
Excuse me, please allow me to respond to that. Naturally the Slovaks speak about this in a different tone of voice, because they’re in the core. Slovakia is the only one of the four Visegrád countries that is a member of the eurozone. We can regard the eurozone as the core of the European Union; it would be well worth discussing whether this is really the case, but it wouldn’t be possible within the confines of this programme. But if we assume that to be the case, as a member of the eurozone Slovakia is undoubtedly part of that core. And they’re behaving accordingly: they’re pursuing a logical, rational and predictable policy.
On 23 October you said that now it’s being decided whether the peoples of Europe will take back control over their own national lives from European bureaucrats acting in cahoots with the economic elites. You also said that we must achieve far-reaching changes in every field: in politics, in the economy, in our intellectual life – and, above all, in culture. Is the reason for your moving a step beyond migration and speaking about the entire European context that there has been an acceleration in these negotiations on a core Europe, a multi-speed Europe and reforms related to the European Union?
Yes, in part. We’re in a big battle, and we have to take one step at a time. The science of war has its own branch of literature, which tells us how these things should be done. Let’s just remember that I said – I think first in February – that 2017 would be a year of rebellion in Europe. Who is rebelling against whom? Let’s put it this way: we can see that the nations are rebelling against the globalist elites. This is what you’ll find if you look at the Czech election – and the Austrian one, in particular. The changes in Germany, despite the old elite retaining its position, are also pointing in this direction. So one simply cannot ignore the fact that in Europe a process is under way, the essence of which is that the nations are trying to gradually take back control over the decisions which are important to their lives. We are also involved in this struggle: we don’t want to surrender our rights, and wherever double standards are used against us our rights are curtailed, and we want to reclaim them. This is the determinant issue in international and European politics today. But one mustn’t charge too far forward, because this is such a new phenomenon that in this debate we can only rely on our own people. If we put forward our arguments too hastily and the Hungarian people are unable to take them in, to consider and understand them, we’ll find ourselves detached from our people. And if we’re detached from our people, we can’t fight successfully. In politics there’s a maxim that while of course you must always be a few steps ahead of the people, you must not be so far ahead that they lose sight of you – otherwise the entire national political system will fall apart. So I’m satisfied with the performance of the past year or two. If someone were to conduct a survey now on how over the course of twelve to eighteen months we’ve managed to change the interpretative framework within which we present the public with what has happened to Hungary and the nations of Europe, we’d find that we’ve done an excellent intellectual job. European politics – and also Hungarian politics, which is an integral part of it – are being interpreted within this completely new framework. The people understand this, and they are receiving information about this with the assistance of national consultations. This is another reason why the National Consultation is important: not only for people to complete a questionnaire and send it back, but that they talk about it, and form an opinion about it. This is for all us Hungarians to slowly but surely find a common denominator; and once we’ve found a common denominator, we can assert our interests. Building the nation is a complex and difficult process comprising several stages, as we must take into consideration the emotions and ways of thinking of ten million people.
We have very little time left, but I’d briefly like us to talk about pensions and health care. On the one hand, the Government’s communication on pensions seems to suggest that there will be a pension supplement, and an adjustment. The pension supplement is calculated in relation to GDP growth, but based on the Government’s projection in the budget. Are you prepared for the eventuality that you may have to adjust this?
We’re in October now, and at this point in time it is possible to predict the final figure for the end of the financial year – 2017 in this case – with great certainty, so it is possible to attach financial consequences to these assessments. There’s no risk in this. I believe that under no circumstances should we decide on issues such as this before October, as I’m cautious when it comes to dealing with public money.
But has it been decided that there will be a pension supplement, an adjustment and Erzsébet Vouchers?
Yes, all of that has been decided.
So there will be all three for certain.
Yes. We convened the Seniors Council, I’ve met their members, we’ve reviewed the situation, the economic situation, the state of the budget, the legal rules in force, and we’ve made decisions together with them.
And apparently it’s also been decided that there will be a significant pay rise in the healthcare sector – at least this is what János Lázár has said. We’re talking about considerable sums indeed here.
And we’ll increase the salaries of 98,000 people in health care.
But nonetheless the big question is whether this will make the whole system any more efficient. Doctors that I’ve spoken to have said that while this is a very significant pay rise, many young doctors don’t go abroad to work because their pay here is not enough. One reason they do so, for instance, is that older doctors won’t let them work or give them the chance to practise here, due to the custom of patients giving gratuities. They also say that the Hungarian healthcare system doesn’t have the right approach to their professional development.
Organisations representing the medical profession must take a position on issues related to professional matters. I make decisions based on their views, and this is also the case on this occasion. We planned and prepared for these pay rises together with the bodies representing the medical profession and doctors. I wouldn’t link the general state of the healthcare system to pay rises. The healthcare system must be continuously modernised: the development of modern technologies necessitates this anyway. It’s no longer possible to have a good healthcare system which won’t need further development: whether we like it or not, nowadays health care is in a state of constant change, dictated by the logic of technological development. We need very close cooperation between the medical profession’s organisations and decision-makers, the Government. But at the same time people must be able to make a living. We can’t tell doctors and nurses to wait until the quality of the system improves somewhat: they need money now, and they’ve already waited long enough. I remember that part of their pay was taken away under the socialist governments before 2010. Then the financial crisis came, and there was no scope for pay rises. The Hungarian economy is finally beginning to pull itself together and find its feet, and it’s very important that we pay wages and pensions from the proceeds of our own performance, rather than from debt. So it’s well worth looking beyond the money, both in the case of pensions and health care pay rises. Money is important, but in this context I’d like us to be proud in the knowledge that we can do this not by using other people’s money – as we did earlier, and which led to massive national debt – but by the Hungarian people generating the resources in Hungary to fund this pay rise. And beyond the money itself, this should fill us with pride; for my part I am proud of this country, and of the working people who are able to achieve this. Doctors will receive a rise of a hundred thousand forints, clinical pharmacists will also receive a significant rise, and medical personnel and pharmacists without specialist qualifications will receive a rise of fifty thousand forints. So I’m saying that there will be a change in the lives of 98,000 people. It will not be a decisive change, as the sums are not on that scale, but it will be tangible compared with the earlier state of affairs. They, too, will take one step forward.
In the past half an hour you’ve been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.