Gábor István Kiss: The extended deadline will expire at midnight tonight, and the National Consultation questionnaires can still be posted. With me here is Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Good morning.
Viktor Orbán: Good morning to your listeners.
In the last few days there have been news reports about 2.2 million people having sent back the consultation questionnaires. Do you have a more recent number?
No, that is the number I have myself.
What is the significance of this number?
First of all, we should thank those who sent back the questionnaires. I don’t know if you did so, but it’s worth trying – even for those who aren’t interested in politics. It takes some effort. This is not a simple matter of ticking a few boxes: you have to read the questionnaire, including long explanatory texts supported with examples – you have to read and understand the questions; you have to have the will to complete the questionnaire; perhaps you should also discuss it with your spouse or friends; then you need to put it back in the envelope and post it. It appears to be an accepted principle that the Hungarian people are not interested in public life, politics and the future in general; but in reality, when it comes to an issue that is important to them, they don’t simply participate, but make considerable efforts to state their opinions. We’ve already had several consultations. This is a modern innovation in Hungarian public life, which means that people don’t feel that their only opportunity to state their opinions comes just once every four years, in an election; but they have the chance to do so more frequently and with appropriate impact. I can’t even remember how many consultations we’ve conducted so far – seven or eight; but this has been the most successful. It follows from this that people believe that this question is perhaps the most relevant and important one for the future. And I don’t think that this view or these feelings are an exaggeration in any way: in my opinion also, the future of Hungary will be determined by the issue of immigration. And people appear to have a clear view on this.
Seeing this number [2.2 million], have you ever considered that, in arguing for the importance of the consultation, you must also be defending liberal and socialist voters? After all, more people completed the questionnaire than voted for the Fidesz list in the 2014 election. So it’s obvious that these are not all your voters.
Of course, but immigration is not a party issue. If there’s one thing that can be described – calmly, without emotion, and even with sad resignation – as a national issue or national issue and not a party issue, that thing is surely immigration. Because if we let in migrants, it is not only Fidesz supporters who will have to live alongside them, but every Hungarian. And this fact – and the gravity and importance of this fact – overrides everything else in the hearts of the people – indeed, in the sphere of instincts and gut feelings. People have healthy instincts, and these override all forms of party affiliation and loyalty.
You say that the Soros network and the social policy vision it pursues poses a national security risk to Europe and Hungary. What is the basis of this claim? Do you also have intelligence on this? Government party members in the National Security Committee claim that this threat is well-founded, while opposition members say that it’s not. Shouldn’t you disclose the relevant information to the public?
There’s some confusion here. This is an interesting debate, and – as is customary in such interesting, popular debates involving large numbers of people – all sorts of opinions surface. From time to time even the most basic facts are called into question. For my part, I have always said that George Soros as an individual is a secondary issue. There have always been and will always be financial speculators. One of them happens to be a talented Hungarian. We could even celebrate this fact – especially if he didn’t attack our financial system; but regrettably that is something which he has done. We have been able to fend off such attacks, however. So one can live with a financial speculator – even one as extremely rich and influential as him. He funds of all sorts organisations, which I won’t detail now, because that would distract us, but we’re talking about the promotion of drug-taking and views which undermine the traditional family model. One can even live with these things, however, because they’re part of political discourse. And it is in the nature of political debate that on a particular question some people will have Opinion A, while others will have Opinion B. This is as it should be. But suddenly the enormous wealth of this international speculator – who has just ploughed 18 billion dollars into his foundations, and these are astronomical figures, colossal sums – and the enormous machinery he has built over the past twenty or thirty years suddenly trained its sights on the issue of immigration and began to occupy itself with it. From that point in time the issue became a matter of state and of national security, and the Government was compelled to become involved in it. George Soros published his programme, his plan as to what should be done, and started mobilising the entire machinery in order to see his plan implemented. From that point on, the very existence of Hungary has been at stake. We know that, as we speak, tens of millions of people are knocking on Europe’s door; and over the next decade hundreds of millions will do so. These are not political refugees: only one or two per cent of those who have arrived in Europe so far can be regarded as refugees; the rest are economic migrants. Quite simply they want to come here in the hope of a better life. But it is vital for Hungary that we don’t let this happen, that we protect that which is ours, and that we preserve that which we have worked hard for. We want to protect it, but this network, this machinery, this vast amount of money, this financial speculator, wants the opposite: he wants to dismantle the fence; he doesn’t want nations to be separated by borders; he wants to change our mentality; he wants us to greet the arrival here of people from cultures which are different from ours, and he wants us to give them money. In other words, his plan for the future – which he wants to implement, come what may – is completely different from the one that the Hungarian people intend for themselves. We want a different future, and from that point on it has been my duty to deploy all possible means at the state’s disposal – including intelligence, the secret services and, of course, the sphere of legal and public political discourse. This is why we ordered the preparation of an intelligence report on the structure and modus operandi of the Soros machinery, and its leverage and influence on Hungary and Europe. There’s also a silly debate about whether a Soros plan even exists. This is a problem of understanding the written word, as George Soros himself released the document which he indeed calls a plan. In this document he wrote, “Here is my six-point plan”. Later he states that this plan is contrary to what the Hungarians want, and his goal is to see his plan prevail. And if someone doesn’t want to influence the decisions adopted in Brussels – as many claim George Soros doesn’t – then one must also ask this question: why does he go there? Whenever I go to Brussels, it is always to influence the decisions made there in a way which is best for the Hungarian people. I haven’t seen a single person in Brussels who didn’t go to the Commission or the Parliament with the goal of influencing the decisions made by them. Why is he received there, if not to discuss what’s important for the future of Europe? In Europe today the most important question is that of migration, and in the ten years ahead of us this will remain the central issue in European politics. This is the situation, these are my reasons, and this is why the Government and I decided on the preparation of a report with the involvement of intelligence and secret service capabilities. That report is now complete, and the Government debated it at its Wednesday meeting.
How much of it will be put in the public domain? How much of it will be disclosed to the public? You invite citizens to take part in the consultation, and we talk a great deal about this topic. It would be beneficial to support these arguments with some factual information.
We must be careful here. Parliament has a committee with the authority to deal with these issues. After all, in international affairs there is information in the public domain, and there is information which is only obtained through effort. There is a reluctance to reveal one’s capabilities regarding the latter. No country anywhere will do that. But we don’t need to go too far. I’m happy to quote from one of the documents cited in the report, an Open Society Foundation document dated August 2016, reporting on what they had accomplished up to that point in time. It states that they have funded the activities of influential stakeholders in the field of migration – including think tanks, political research centres and civil society networks – in order for them to shape migration policy and influence the regulation of migration, as well as the regional and global processes determining its implementation. There’s no beating about the bush there.
But Prime Minister, your single vote in the European Council of prime ministers is enough to prevent this from becoming law.
It would be good if that were the situation. In the European Council two years ago I vetoed the mandatory migrant resettlement quotas. Then George Soros’s influential people in Brussels chose to make sure that, even though the decision had not been passed in the Council, the Commission would make an extraordinary decision to table a legislative initiative which we had no control over. And as a result, by avoiding the Council – the meeting of the Council in which I have a right of veto – they moved the debate to a lower level, where a two-thirds majority was enough. At that level three or four of us opposed the proposal, but in vain: the decision was pushed through regardless. This is what we contested before the court, which ruled that while such a one-off decision can be adopted, it cannot be regarded as law. So we did achieve a result, but now there’s a precedent: despite the fact that in a specific case Hungary has a right of veto in the Council, we were tricked on the decision regarding the mandatory distribution of migrants. So the situation is dangerous. George Soros has already had his concept pushed through in the European Parliament, and has had his plan approved. Pressure is already being exerted on the Council. The prime ministers are now under siege, and the European Parliament is demanding that we also ratify the decision adopted by the European Parliament, and start the process of resettling migrants.
There’s another dimension to this mode of operation, this social policy concept, or the operation of the Open Society Foundations: the Hungarian dimension. So far we’ve concentrated primarily on the European aspect. We’ve seen a personal video message, we’ve seen that offices are being opened around the country and we’ve seen calls for proposals. You’ve said that these actions violate the boundaries of Hungary’s sovereignty. This reminds one of how political parties usually operate.
Well, first of all…
As parties operate offices and build networks in order to attain a clearly definable goal.
First of all, I think it’s important to keep our wits about us. We’re not only faced with an extensive network here, but also with a talented man. Let’s not deny that. A man who is able to build such economic influence, who is able to develop a network capable of influencing major European decisions, and who is able to invest 18 billion dollars in operating a system of foundations – as he did recently – is indeed a talented man. Here we have a speculator – a financial speculator. The rule of thumb here is to never watch his lips, but always his hands. A speculator is the sort of person whose words can charm the birds from the trees. So we should only pay attention to what’s happening, and not to what is being said by the organisations which he has bought and are in his pay. We should only pay attention to what’s happening. This is why I asked the intelligence services to compile a report on what’s happening; and it’s completely clear that what’s going on is the implementation of a concept which George Soros himself has referred to as a plan, which we have introduced to the public in the National Consultation. The operations of these organisations are like those of a political party in the sense that every party focuses its attention on the next election. And, as I’ve said earlier, now they’re trying to weaken and remove governments which take action against their immigration policy: against the resettlement of Muslims. To this end they will sponsor publications, engage in propaganda activities, strengthen civil-society organisations, pay hundreds or thousands of people, and set up so-called “civil society centres” in various parts of the country in the run-up to the election. These will function precisely as parties do in an election campaign. In other words, the Soros network and machinery has entered the Hungarian election campaign. No one’s happy about this, but it’s better for us to face up to this inconvenient truth than to bury our heads in the sand and then be caught unawares.
Do you think it’s possible that they will take these practices as far as supporting Members of Parliament who will be presented as independents, and behind whom everyone else opposed to the Government can line up?
I would rather not give advice to Hungary’s opponents.
Let’s talk about your increasingly regular visits to the European Parliament. We’re still talking about the migrant quota issue, pro-immigration and anti-immigration stances, and the issue of the blocking of funding to Hungary. Several Members of the European Parliament have said – including in a series of interviews on public service media – that they won’t compromise on this, and that they believe that it is a good and feasible idea …
But that’s nonsense. Yes…
… for Hungary to be punished with the withdrawal of funds after 2020 – or even now.
I’ve seen and heard things like this, and it’s all nonsense. First of all, all such proposals are contrary to the fundamental rules of the European Union. In addition, the budget of the EU – which is a seven-year budget which also applies to Hungary – must be adopted unanimously.
Hungary was in the limelight in the first half of the week. As you have put it, those two days were important. A Chinese delegation came here, and they had talks with you and your fifteen counterparts. In a logistical, financial and world economic sense, Budapest was the centre of the world. At the international press conference you listed the results achieved by mentioning cities: Komárom, Kazincbarcika and Sárvár. Does this mean that the large sums spoken about will have smaller results that can also be felt locally?
I would like to thank the Hungarian people for their attention, and the residents of Budapest for their understanding; because without the patience of the people of Budapest we would hardly have been able to successfully execute perhaps the most important scheme of the past decade. We needed their patience and understanding, because it’s not easy to safely move sixteen prime ministers around a city, and as regards their day-to-day convenience the people are bound to suffer. But as far as I could see, they understood what was at stake. In situations like this Hungarians tend to be impatient, but this time we received far less feedback of that nature. With these announcements I sought to ensure that all of us were able to see that this was not merely a diplomatic event, but that we were talking about the future of the Hungarian economy. So it doesn’t matter whether you like it or not, no one in their right mind can question the fact that in the world economy the Asian economies are on the rise: not only China, but also India –though there today China is undoubtedly the strongest. Those who are interested in economic history may recall that in around 1840 India and China were together responsible – if I remember correctly – for some forty per cent of the world’s total production, although later we Westerners gained the upper hand and raced ahead. Now this process is returning to the world’s natural proportions, as determined by demography: population figures. There are some who like this and others who don’t, but this is not a matter of taste – this is happening. And the question is what a community – for instance the Hungarian community, we Hungarians – must do, and how we should respond to this development. We Hungarians see an enormous opportunity in this – partly because we’ve always had good relations with China. This is quite a mysterious thing, but in the communist times – some time around 1948 – we were the first in Europe to recognise them, and we’ve never had any conflicts with them. In the old days, during the Soviet occupation here, there were Soviet-Chinese conflicts; but even then we didn’t take an anti-Chinese stance. There’s some mysterious age-old cooperation which also stretches back many centuries further, because of the Hungarian people’s oriental origin. So there’s something here which results in a positive attitude, a positive approach from both sides. Furthermore, the Hungarian economy is doing well now. In a European context, we belong to the group of countries that are growing most rapidly: the Central European countries. For some years we’ve had economic growth of between three and five per cent, and we’ll remain in that bracket. It has now become a commonplace that the European Union’s economic engine is in Central Europe, of which Hungary is also a part. So now, with the rise of the Chinese economy, we’re offered an opportunity. There are some who look upon this process – the rise of China and Asia – as a threat and a challenge, but we don’t: we see it as an opportunity. And this means that we must strike deals and build economic relations. This issue is not a theoretical one: there is indeed a business in Szeged which during a visit like this has been able to sell products to China worth around forty million dollars; the Prime Minister comes here, and we can arrange for two freight trains to transport Hungarian goods to China in enormous shipping containers. We’re able to come to an agreement on financial cooperation. We’re able to raise funds for the Komárom bus factory, and the people of Sárvár can implement a major thermal project in China. But we also obtain hundreds of billions of dollars for Eximbank, which it will be able to offer to small and medium-sized enterprises. Therefore a visit and relationship like this – not based on ideology, but on the foundations of common sense – can have profound implications for our everyday economic life, affecting all ten million Hungarians.
There will be a railway line through Szabadka [Subotica], which is of primary importance for the Chinese enabling a link with their own sea trade route, the Silk Road on the Sea. Will this project ever pay off its costs? We’re talking about a loan of 550 billion dollars, provided with a state guarantee. How will the investment costs be recovered?
When thinking about this we should remember that the Chinese have bought one of the largest Greek ports, the Port of Piraeus, to which they transport Chinese goods by sea. At the same time, in that port they also collect some of the goods bound for China. Now, the question is how the goods make their way there. There is competition on that front. The goods bound for Western Europe and coming from Western Europe must somehow make their way to that port, and there’s competition for the route of the railway line. We have competitors. And I believe it is a great feat that we have managed to launch the Belgrade-Budapest line, to be followed later by the Belgrade-Piraeus investment, because this is the railway line that will transport these goods. In my view, the return on this project in forints is secondary, because what is important for the country is that this transport route runs through Hungary. And this fact in itself makes Hungary more valuable. This is the same as when we lay a pipeline conveying oil or gas from the East, say from Russia: we don’t consider whether we’ll ever recover our initial investment. The primary consideration is that the goods are able to be transported here and through us. Until the end of time, this will always be an economic opportunity for us Hungarians – not just because we charge customs duties and fees, but because the goods travel through our territory, and this adds to our importance, our influence, and our ability to exert influence.
Is there a percentage that you would regard as ideal in terms of the slice that Hungarian businesses could take from this enormous construction project?
Of course. We always start at fifty-fifty, and then try to move upwards. One needs to realise that we’re going to implement a large part of the project from Chinese funds. This means that in order for this project to be implemented, we Hungarians won’t need to withdraw large amounts from the Hungarian economy; we’ll have obtained these funds from elsewhere and will pay them back in stages – just as for the Paks Nuclear Power Plant. And there will be a few other major projects like this. So in the future Hungary will need to implement great things: energy supply, transport, air and road transport. And it’s a good thing not to need to withdraw funds from the economy in one large single amount, because we would feel the lack of it. Instead we can settle our finances with loans which are long-term, safe and subject to favourable financing terms.
Can you perhaps give us an example, something for which the details are not yet known, but which will be a result of this meeting?
We have a few under negotiation. I’ll announce them in good time.
On a similar scale?
Yes. Some of them are perhaps closer to our hearts.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, thank you for accepting our invitation.