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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Kossuth Radio’s “180 Minutes” programme

Éva Kocsis: We have Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in the studio. Good morning.

Good morning to you and our listeners.

“Factually incorrect; highly misleading”: these are a couple of the expressions used in the European Commission’s communique on the National Consultation. They then go on to deny – one by one – the claims made in each of the National Consultation’s questions. In light of this, even if you put all the signatures you’ve collected on the table in Brussels, why do you think that this would stop the politicians there, or even give them pause for thought?

First of all, the Hungarian government has sent the Brussels bureaucrats a document which seeks to elucidate the meaning of the questions asked as part of the consultation. There are some linguistic difficulties here. Although I don’t believe they wouldn’t want to understand what is said in that document, regrettably I have to accept that they simply aren’t able to. There are cultural contexts, and quite simply the cultural background factors are different in Brussels. When we say “Let’s stop Brussels!”, this means that we don’t want to transfer any further powers to Brussels, so we are seeking to defend the status quo: we don’t want to transfer powers related to the reduction of household utility charges or determining the price of electricity; or the right to determine our own taxes and wages; we don’t want to dismantle the fence, and so on. So when we say, “Stop, no further”, we’re simply defending the status quo. For some reason – if we rule out malice, and I suggest that we do – this can only be a cultural problem. They see this as an anti-European stance, despite the fact that, according to the rules of the Hungarian language, if we want to protect an existing state of affairs – and especially one that we created together with Brussels – it can’t be branded as anti-European. It should be seen merely as a position in the debate on further changes. This is what we wrote down, this is what we explained, as patiently as we needed to, and sent to Brussels.

So you’ll put it on the table in Brussels, and you’ll make the request you’ve just expressed to the Brussels bureaucrats?

I shall say, for instance, that when they try to force the relocation programme on us at our next upcoming summit – which is due some time in June – I’ll exercise my veto. I’ll refer to the fact that Hungarian voters have made it clear that they don’t wish to delegate this power to Brussels, and we wish to decide on who we should live alongside. Or when we vote on the issue of the price of energy being determined by the market or Brussels, rather than the Hungarian government. And I could go on. So this strengthens the Hungarian government’s positions, increases its impact, and demonstrates its determination.

Now that you’ve mentioned Brussels, and we’ll come back to what you’ve said just now… anyway, now that you’ve mentioned Brussels …

But excuse me, now that we’ve jumped head first into this issue, let me mention the most important thing: that I want to thank the one million seven hundred thousand people who took the trouble and are living proof that Hungary is not indifferent – Hungary is not an apathetic country. The Hungarian people are well-informed about what’s going on in the world, they’re interested in what’s going on, and if they’re given a chance they state their views, and have the mental capacity and judgement to take a stance on these issues. And they do so with confidence. This is a great encouragement for me, because the work of my government has always been based on the principle that we should seek to involve the people in our decisions on the most important matters. This, the National Consultation, is a democratic way of expressing our will, and a democratic form of decision-making. We have employed it on several occasions, and this has been the most successful so far. So I wish to thank everyone who took part in it.

Someone who also has a position of his own is George Soros, who has recently been to Brussels, and has published an article, an opinion piece on EU affairs, migration and Hungary, in which he wrote the following: “I have learnt that democracy cannot be imposed from the outside; it needs to be asserted and defended by the people themselves. I am full of admiration for the courageous way the Hungarian people have resisted the deception and corruption of the mafia state the Orbán regime has established. I’m also encouraged by the energetic way the European institutions have responded to the challenge emanating from Poland and Hungary. While the path ahead is perilous, I can clearly see in such struggles the prospect of the EU’s revival.” There are some who have interpreted this as a declaration of war, while others said that someone has finally dared to speak the truth. What is your answer to this?

Well, this is a declaration of war – there can’t be much doubt about that. We have here before us a financial speculator who has amassed an enormous amount of money by causing problems for other people, and even destroying the lives of many. He has amassed billions of dollars in this manner, and he’s using this money to bring about changes in the world – including on the European continent and in Hungary. He finances networks which operate as if they are his agents. The international term for these is “NGOs”. I wouldn’t call them “civil society” organisations, as here in Hungary that means something else. He pays a network, thousands of people. They’re activists – political workers in fact – and they’re working towards the goals set by George Soros. More specifically, as far as Hungary is concerned, this means the aim that George Soros openly declared in one of his earlier articles: that one million migrants must be brought into Europe every year – and he will supply the Europeans with credit for this purpose. He has put this on record. And the obstacle to this is Hungary, because the reason George Soros is unable to bring a million migrants into Europe is that the Hungarian government will not allow this. The Hungarian government is defending its borders and has built a fence; and in these circumstances it is impossible to implement the Soros script and plan. George Soros has supporters in Hungary, and there are some who want to see his programme implemented, rather than one which the Hungarian people want. The entire left is among the supporters of his programme. László Botka, the Mayor of Szeged, has announced that he’s going to dismantle the fence. This is exactly what George Soros himself would like. So there is a Soros plan, and the Hungarian voters also have a plan. These two plans are incompatible. And yesterday George Soros said that he’s going to implement his ideas, no matter what. This is a declaration of war.

Some of the claims he made are also reflected in measures contemplated by the European Union. How did this emerge at the NATO summit, where the issue of migration and European affairs were put into a wider context? 

Naturally – now how shall I put it – we could talk about that, but perhaps you’re right, and it’s not worth paying any more attention to this; but this Soros position – in addition to being elitist and anti-democratic, because it wants to impose something on us despite the will of the Hungarian people – is also insulting. It’s insulting to speak in such a tone about Hungary, about a country which was on the brink of financial ruin in 2010, and then pulled itself together without foreign help, from its own resources – in other words, not from the Germans’ money and not from EU money. This is a country which set its affairs in order from its own money, which is now an economic success story in Europe, and which stands on its own two feet. For this to happen a lot of people worked very hard – and I’m not talking primarily about the Government, but about the Hungarian people. We’ve achieved great results, and we have faith in our future. And then a financial speculator comes along and throws things like this in the face of the Hungarian people. And he does so while in reality the only network in Hungary with mafia-style operations, the only network that’s not transparent and conceals itself, is the Soros-style network. In Hungary every political actor is required to submit declarations of assets, they’re elected, and are required to render an account of their activities. After four years, if the electorate so decides, they’re removed from office. This applies to Members of Parliament, the Prime Minister and ministers: this is fully transparent and clear. There is an important element in public life in Hungary which is not transparent and not open – and that is the Soros network, with its mafia-style operation and its agent-like organisations. We must insist – as I do personally – that Parliament decides on making these organisations transparent, because the Hungarian people have the right to know who represents what and to what end, and what goals they seek to achieve through their operations. This requires transparency, and a law on transparency. As regards NATO, this same debate – the debate on immigration – was repeated there. This was a very exciting and interesting NATO summit. It was the umpteenth I attended. The agenda is usually dominated by the geopolitical aspects of security policy issues. On this occasion also, the meeting partly focused on these issues, but at its heart was the fight against terrorism, which departs somewhat – in fact significantly – from conventional warfare. Once again we faced a debate with which we’re all too familiar in the European Union. This is that there are some who say that every state has the right – indeed, the duty – to protect its borders, and to this end may resort to legislative and physical border closure, the adoption of counter-terrorism laws, and the screening of those entering its territory. On the other side, we have the same countries which in the European Union are supporters of immigration. Indeed, they’re advocates of the idea that Europe’s demographic and economic problems can only be solved through targeted resettlement. Here the debate within NATO is different to that in the European Union, because the United States is on our side. It may sound self-important to put it like this, so let’s put it more modestly: the United States, Hungary and the Central Europeans are on the same side. There our positions are stronger than at an EU summit.

In other words, if I understand you correctly, you regard the United States as a good, reliable ally.

Well…

Because for Western European leaders, especially after yesterday’s announcement to quit the climate agreement and the President’s visit to Europe, the mildest expression was that …

Let me take this step by step. First of all I just wanted to say that as far as immigration and the legislative and physical border barrier are concerned, everyone has the right – indeed the duty – to protect their own borders. So in this debate the United States and Hungary share the same position. Now, if you ask whether the United States is a reliable ally, we have to say that the United States is a member of NATO, regardless of the incumbent president. It is a treaty which you’re a party to until it is terminated, and so both Hungary and the United States are parties to it. There is a reason for the US President reminding us that no security is free, that it also imposes obligations and everyone must meet their obligation to ensure their own defence – and therefore collective defence – by ensuring the necessary military strength, developments of military capacity, provision of soldiers and army personnel. In the context of Hungary, this means that all member countries are required to spend at least two per cent of gross domestic product on their own security. Hungary will reach this level by around 2023–24, provided that the Hungarian economy and the Hungarian people continue to perform as well as they have done in recent years; this is the underlying precondition. As regards the climate agreement, the situation is that it wasn’t signed by the current US President, but the previous one, and the incumbent has decided to withdraw from it. I’m still in a state of shock, and so in Hungary…

Shock or surprise?

Shock. There is a consensus in Hungary – and I myself am part of it – that climate change is real: it’s not invented, it’s a reality. And there’s also a consensus that it’s dangerous. This is not a routine geoscientific occurrence, but something dangerous. And as we see that it’s a global phenomenon, the action we take to combat it – or the measures adopted to avoid its consequences – must also be global. These are the three pillars upon which our knowledge and policy rest, and these run counter to the US President’s decision. As to what will follow from this, please don’t ask me just yet, because it’s too early. Allow us to consider this question for a few more hours.

In that case, we’ll come back to that later. It seems certain, however, that the communication in this context is similar to what we observed after the NATO summit, or the G7 summit: to put it at is simplest, neither Angela Merkel, nor Martin Schulz, nor other politicians in Brussels see the United States as a reliable ally.

Well, I’d suggest that the Germans act with more modesty before making statements like that.

Would you perhaps also link this modesty as a footnote to development of a timetable for a two-speed Europe?

No, I’m talking about the fact that European history is more tortuous than American history, and a great many things have happened on our continent. Generalisations are dangerous. Hungary is not one of the countries which determine the fate of Europe, but even we are cautious about making statements such as that. Our continent has a difficult history, and some momentous and painful things have happened on this continent. I believe it leads nowhere if the Western allies – and the United States is an ally of Europe – indulge in name-calling. This can impair or obstruct this highly important Euro-American cooperation. The truth is that over the past hundred years this continent has only ever found the path serving the best interests of its citizens when the United States and Europe have cooperated. I wouldn’t like either the Germans or the Americans to break with this, and to obscure this historical truth with hostile rhetoric.

Angela Merkel did not mince her words: she was quite specific. In her view, the European Union must take control of its own fate. And if in this context we also consider the meetings which the German chancellor recently conducted on a two-speed Europe, as well as what George Soros wrote in the article I cited earlier about the need for a core Europe or multi-track Europe, it seems that Angela Merkel and the French president are outlining a rather clear timetable. This is not simply a set of directions, but a programme: a timetable which can be implemented in the near future.

First of all, we shouldn’t accept the underlying principles without thorough scrutiny – for instance, the idea that Europe must take control of its own fate. We should look behind these things – or, rather, deeply into them. First of all, in an economic sense Europe’s fate is in the hands of the Europeans. Today Europe is able to stand on its own two feet without the United States or the other players in the world economy. We would clearly be worse off if there was no world trade system. But it’s simply not true to say or think that Europe wouldn’t be able to stand on its own two feet, when one thinks of its own state of technological development, its own innovations, its own economic results, and the work capacity and morale of its citizens. We are able to stand on our own two feet. So in an economic sense Europe’s fate is in Europe’s hands. In that sense this statement is accurate. If we want to say that we want to take control of our own fate even more, we must cast our gaze wider than the economy. Then we see issues of the “consciousness industry”: whether public thinking is Europe is controlled by Europeans or by others. My answer to that question is that it is shaped and controlled by Europeans. There’s no doubt that there’s an American influence, following the waves of world trends. But on the whole Europe and Europeans control channels of communication, the media, thoughts, ideas and book publishing. In other words, everything exists that is needed for us to be able to think collectively in a country and on a continent. And so these are also in our own hands. The European Union has its own money – there are national currencies such as the forint, and the EU also has a common currency – so we can say that financially our fate is also in our own hands. What then is meant by Angela Merkel’s statement that we should take control? If control is there already, there’s nothing to take. But regrettably the truth is that there’s another dimension of our existence that we haven’t mentioned yet: the dimension of security. And the question is whether the Europeans are able to create their own security for themselves – because if not, then someone else will guarantee our security. And at this point we should recall the simple fact that today a great many US soldiers and military units are stationed on the European continent. If someone is serious about the need for Europe to also take control of its fate in a military sense – in other words, that we should be able to guarantee our own security without recourse to outside assistance – this raises a very important question, and leads us to choppy waters. Some serious conclusions follow from this idea. I’m not against discussing this at a European level also, but we should carefully consider what we say.

Considering what the Germans have said in connection with new cohesion funds, I conclude that they think that in the future cohesion funds should be distributed with reference to democratic values and the state of the rule of law.

I don’t believe they were serious about this, as the most important European value is observance of the treaties we have signed. And the migrant crisis emerged because the Germans failed to comply with those treaties. Therefore, if we were to tie financial transfers to European values, Germany would be the biggest loser. So I don’t think that this was a carefully considered proposal.

Quite high-level meetings – the NATO summit and the G7 summit – were held recently. On the whole, was any progress made at the NATO summit regarding the protection of the borders or on any other issue? I’ve read the statement by the NATO Secretary General, who said that from now on NATO will also intervene in the fight against Islamic State, but will not take part in specific military operations, and the Member States will strengthen their commitment to the fight against terrorism. This is good news from one of the world’s most important military alliances. But apart from everyone having had the chance to take a good look at Donald Trump from close up, was any real progress made?

Don’t be so cynical.

Well, I’m a journalist. 

But we’re talking about the freely elected President of the United States…

I was more cynical about NATO.

…who’s not an exhibit – something for us to look at – but someone who deserves respect as the leader of the American people. But of course we could also put it that way: we took a look at him, as many of us hadn’t seen him in person before. This wasn’t the essence of the NATO summit, however. We were informed of his plans for the future, and this was perhaps even more important. We weren’t disappointed, and we got what we expected: an American through and through, who doesn’t come from the elite European school which follows in the cultural tradition of royal courts, but from the harsh, cold and turbulent world of business. He speaks simply and plainly, doesn’t allow himself to be distracted, and uses in turn the considerations and arguments of reasoning and physical or military strength. This is not what we’re used to. And without doubt I had never attended a NATO summit with such a culturally diverse gathering of presidents and prime ministers. But I see an opportunity in this. I believe that we should try to see the good side of this and the inherent opportunity: finally we have someone who speaks in an open and straightforward manner. We agree with him on some things, such as the fight against terrorism or the question of national self-defence, while on other issues, such as the climate situation, we don’t. But one can talk to people like this, one can come to an agreement. Now it’s also true that Hungary is not a large enough country to act as arbitrator in the resolution of the major issues. So the rules of Hungarian policy which have been in place for five to six hundred years continue to hold: we must pay attention to what’s going on around us, we must try to be in everyone’s good graces, and we must ensure that everyone has an interest in Hungary being a successful country. In other words, no major force in the international community should think that they have a vested interest in Hungary being unsuccessful. On the contrary: whenever any large, strong country – including China – hears the word “Hungary”, they should remember that they also have a vested interest in the success of our country. I’ve been working on building this foreign policy for seven years, and we’re doing quite well. The arrival of the US President on the international scene hasn’t invalidated it, but has in fact strengthened our foreign policy approach.

I was actually being more cynical about the decisions of NATO; because after the Manchester attack it’s all very well agreeing to fight together against terrorism, but you don’t really have any other choice. So for the time being this is simply absurd.

So we can agree that we did everything that was possible at this point in time.

Let’s talk about domestic affairs – about family policy. You promised to announce many measures, and you have done so, but even if you promise families the earth, there won’t be more children in Hungary if women decide not to have children. Here in the studio last week we interviewed several experts on family policy, Hungarian and international family policy issues, and there were a number of differing opinions. The figures are not too promising. Everyone had something to say – some sighed, some took a deep breath – but when I asked them, all they said was that this plan may well succeed.

We should indeed start with what you’ve identified here as a kind of philosophical starting-point: whether there’s any point at all talking about family policy – because it is the people who will decide how things are. And you’re right, because the people will decide – and I’d like to stress that it’s primarily women who will decide how things turn out. Even though men find it hard to acknowledge this, even though we may have something to do with the matter as well, the situation is that women will eventually decide how many children will be born, what kind of a family they’ll live in and how. At the end of the day, it is for the women to decide. But I think women agree that if they have children, there is a future, because none of the women I’ve ever known – including every female member of my family – have ever called this claim into question. If there are children, there is a future; if there are Hungarian children, there is a Hungarian future. For all that, the decision is theirs. Now without doubt, if the decision is theirs, the question may arise: what is the Government fussing about? In response I would say that the right to make this decision cannot and must not be taken away – this can never even be in question. But in Europe there are quite a few family-friendly countries, and there are, let’s say, family-neutral countries, or countries which completely ignore this question. Our government – and I personally – have proposed to Hungary that we should turn it into a family-friendly country. Women will subsequently decide what they want, but the country itself will be family-friendly: in its general atmosphere and culture; its fiscal system and system of financial transfers; its education system and the availability of infant day care centres and kindergartens; and in its recognition of women – who can retire after forty years in work. In every respect we want to create an environment in Hungary in which women say that it’s good to raise children here. Then they’ll decide whether they wish to have children; but it will be much easier, simpler, smoother and better to raise children here now than it was before, or than it is in other countries. This is the culture we’re trying to build. So our demographic programme is one that seeks to protect families and children, and is aimed at the development of a family-friendly country. Of course, as you’ve mentioned, numbers are at the bottom of this: the population of Hungary is declining, and if there are no Hungarian children, there is no Hungarian future. This is the situation we’re in today: there are fewer and fewer Hungarian children, and therefore the Hungarian future is in a steepening decline. We’d like to change this. A long historical process has led us here to this point. So we must think of it in terms of three stages, and perseverance and patience – or from a Christian perspective I could say resolute faith – are the most important. First we must slow down the deteriorating trend which we have today: one in which more of us dying than are being born. We must slow down this deteriorating trend – this is the phase we are in right now. The next task is to stop this deteriorating trend. If we’re able to build a family-friendly country this may be felt at some time between 2025 and 2030. And then we must reverse the trend: after having stopped the negative trend, we must induce a positive trend. We may well talk about this in the future – but perhaps by then you will not be conducting interviews with me.

We will talk about this again, at least in the near future. In the past half an hour you’ve been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Thank you for having me.