Katalin Nagy: As we’ve heard, the European Commission is launching an infringement procedure against Hungary, because of “Stop Soros” and the amendment to the Constitution. Then we saw that on his Facebook page the Vice-Chancellor of Austria called this procedure absurd, since Hungary did not make the same mistakes as Germany, and did not welcome refugees with open arms. So the Vice-Chancellor of Austria doesn’t understand why this procedure is needed. I welcome Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the studio. How do you see this: will the European Commission change its policy, the immigration policy it has pursued to date?
Viktor Orbán: This Commission won’t. That’s the bad news. The good news is that this Commission’s days are numbered, as its mandate expires next May. In the European Union the system is that there are elections every five years, and in Hungary they will take place next May. And not only will the mandate of the Parliament – the European Parliament – come to an end, but also that of the European Commission. So I don’t attach any importance to the Commission’s latest decision. We have to find a way to duck and dive and soldier on until next May. Everything that the Commission launches, initiates and proposes now has already run out of time.
Their latest proposal – because they’ve switched tactics – is to say “Okay, so if there’s no mandatory migrant quota, then countries will receive six thousand euros for every migrant they take in.” Italy’s interior minister Mr. Salvini immediately replied by saying that his country is not looking for handouts – and in any case helping someone and integrating them into society doesn’t cost six thousand euros, but at least fifty thousand. This is still the measure that the European Commission is trying to push through – but it seems it won’t be successful.
But – and I’ll say this again – the Commission’s move is similar to what we saw as school children in Biology experiments, when a dead frog’s leg continues to jerk a couple of times, but with no further significance. At the same time, this is also a question of principle: of what Europeans’ money should be spent on. And the way of thinking which states that it should be given to migrants instead of Europeans is a dangerous one. We’ll have to be careful to ensure that after the elections to the European Parliament we see the formation of a Commission which doesn’t come up with such idiocy and nonsense. Similarly, after the European elections we will need a Commission which does not penalise countries like Hungary which defend their borders, and if possible doesn’t penalise anyone; but if it really wants to penalise someone, it should be those who, say, have let millions of migrants into Europe – in violation of prevailing European regulations. We need a new Commission, a new concept and a new approach.
The Foreign Minister has also officially announced that Hungary is quitting the talks on the United Nations’ migration compact. Then we got the news that, after the United States and Hungary, Australia also announced that it will not sign this convention. Do you think that we will see the withdrawal of others, who favour the approach of Australia, Hungary and the United States, and who say that the question of who we let in is solely within our competence to determine?
This is a provocative issue. While countries generally don’t entirely disregard UN decisions, they don’t see them as having direct consequences for their lives. At the end of the day, this system was not invented in order to function as a world government. Of course bureaucrats and some politicians who’ve failed in their own countries and then parachuted into the UN would like to continue their political careers, and would like to take part in global governance, but these are aberrant individual ambitions. In fact we established the UN after World War II to be a place where the leaders of countries with contradictory interests can stay in permanent contact and talk to each other: to be a place where we can resolve conflicts, and a place where we can perhaps agree on a few fundamental guidelines which all governments will thereafter attempt to follow. Therefore member states don’t normally see the UN and its decisions as a threat to them; that’s not how they normally see them. Today, however, the situation is different. Migration – which now in fact is a mass population movement, a global population movement – is an issue on which one must not adopt irresponsible statements, and on which one must not create documents which run counter to the interests of some UN members. That is what is happening now. So in my view people are now waking up, and member states are beginning to realise that the UN – which in fact they don’t take particularly seriously – is about to adopt a document which can later serve as a benchmark for the regulation of global mass migration. This is because the UN says that, after it is adopted, everyone should draw up action plans and start implementing them. It’s true that this is difficult to enforce legally, but for about ten or fifteen years the world has been familiar with a particular expression: the instrument of “soft power”. By this we mean the media, the judiciary and instruments which can shape public discourse. And, sure enough, if the UN issues a guideline on mass migration, a host of essentially liberal bodies, the media, battalions of journalists, universities and individuals in the judicial system will guide decisions in a direction which permits global migration, or mass population movement. Therefore in my view it was no coincidence that the world’s foremost country was the first to say that this will not end well. At the same time, we must recognise that the majority of UN countries have an interest in promoting migration, as they are countries of origin for migrants. After all, the majority of countries are those which people want to leave, and the minority are those to which they want to go. And as there is an attempt to create a kind of majority mood, this document which the UN plans to adopt is fundamentally based on the viewpoints of the countries from which migrants originate: the countries which generate mass population flow. This completely ignores the views of those who are not migrants, who don’t want to leave their country, and who don’t want their life here in Budapest and in Hungary to be turned upside down. This document completely ignores the views of these people, those like us, and the interests of our countries. And therefore it was no accident that the United States was the first to say that it wanted none of this, and that it would withdraw. It was followed by us, and now the Australians. Not everyone’s alarm clock is set for the same time, and there will be some more.
You mentioned next year’s European parliamentary elections. We’ve heard that Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former advisor, has contacted European parties of the right. You also met him. He has decided to create a movement, an organisation called “The Movement”, in order to counter the pro-migrant policies of Soros organisations and their interference in politics. Do you think there’s enough strength in this movement to act as a counterbalance? After all, George Soros has been doing this for twenty-five or thirty years.
Let me take a step back and look at this from a wider angle. In America now there is a debate about whether or not the Russians interfered in the US elections, or whether anyone at all interfered in the internal affairs of the United States. Hungarian citizens – residents of Budapest, say, like myself – sit down and read this in the newspaper. They laugh their heads off. The Americans are talking about someone interfering in their politics. I’ve been in politics for more than thirty years, and I don’t remember a single year in which the Americans didn’t interfere in Hungarian politics. Of course the interference wasn’t from governments – although there have been a few times when governments themselves also interfered. There were a few instances when the Congress or the House of Representatives interfered, but of course this is not the most frequent form of interference. The most frequent form of interference is when billions of dollars are spent on setting up foundations or arranging for foundations to be set up. At present this is shrouded in mystery, but these foundations hide behind and use resonant, humanitarian slogans to interfere in non-American affairs – meaning the internal political affairs of other countries. This is everyday practice. So when this debate is going on in America, I don’t really understand why no one says, “But folks, this is just what we do around the world, and we do it with enormous amounts of money.” Well, this is now a feature of the modern world, against which it is very hard to mount a defence. We Hungarians are unable to prevent it, as various international rules and established practices enable foundations and associations to extend their operations beyond borders and thus voice their opinions. What can one do in a situation like this? Hungary is defending itself by requesting transparency. So we accept that people can interfere in one another’s affairs, and that foundations can also state their views in Hungary: Soros foundations finance some sixty-seven such fake civil society organisations in Hungary, and they’re trying to create a certain mood among the public here. Of course it’s not possible to ban something like this, but we can require one thing: for you to tell us who you really are. Who finances you? Whose interests do you speak for? We must ensure a degree of transparency, so that when a Hungarian voter hears the opinion of a fake civil society organisation, they can realise that these are people who are financed by Soros, by Americans – and from time to time by the Germans or by Brussels – in order to influence Hungarian public opinion. So I believe that we must require transparency. This is the most obvious form of defence. The Hungarian legislature has understood this and has fulfilled its duty in this regard. Our Members of Parliament, the Hungarian parliament, fulfilled their moral duty to enable Hungarian voters to find out who is speaking, why they are speaking and whose is paying them to speak. Now, the question is that if someone from America looks at the intellectual map, they will see that we can identify mostly liberal attempts at influencing public opinion, and attempts at exerting pressure on governments. What has now happened is that an American has said that it is all very fine for Americans to support liberal thinking in Europe, and to want to help governments which embrace such views, and this is how they want to influence public opinion; but not all of America is liberal. An American has said “We are here as well, we conservatives. And there may even be Christian democrats. Why don’t we make our voices heard in Europe?” And someone who had this idea – and who happens to be a former advisor to the US president – came here, looked around in wonder and said that here in Europe there is room and opportunity to spread conservative American views. I wish him great success in this. If this is how the world is, if it is open, if anyone can engage in intellectual activity in the territory of another country, then it’s good if these activities are as diverse as possible, and if the face of America that we see is not only liberal, but also conservative.
In the past few weeks you have met with some very important politicians. The Foreign Affairs Ministry has said that it was a peak in diplomacy, a hectic schedule. You had meetings first with Chancellor Merkel, then the Chinese prime minister, the Israeli prime minister, President Putin and President Erdogan; and, most recently – two days ago – you paid a visit to Montenegro. Is this good for Hungarian foreign policy? Is there a need for this? On the one hand I suppose it’s very tiring to fly here one day and there the next. Is this necessary?
I’m not short of air miles, that’s for sure. In itself travelling – when you get off a plane, have a meeting, get on a plane, come home, not even knowing which country you’re sleeping in – is not very attractive. So it was not a desire for fun that spurred us to set the wheels of diplomacy in motion; we believed that by doing so now Hungary could gain some benefits, some opportunities. Why is this? There is no other country in the world with a government which has been able to win the trust of the electorate and win three consecutive two-thirds majorities. Therefore, in terms of political stability Hungary today occupies a prominent place in world politics. Furthermore, as I was able to lead Hungary’s government once before – between 1998 and 2002 – I myself am beginning my thirteenth year as prime minister. This is also extraordinary in global terms. If I’m not mistaken, Mrs. Merkel and I are the doyens of the European continent – if I may say something like that in connection with a lady. And there’s no one else in the same position anywhere in the world. In America, after two terms a president cannot be re-elected for a third. The Turkish president has just changed the political system there, and President Putin has at times been president, and at other times prime minister. So Hungary – partly because of me – can be said to be one of the world’s most stable – most politically stable – countries. This is an advantage. This is a message we must transmit. This advantage must be capitalised on. In itself it is worthless, but it can be capitalised on, as we can make it clear that our policies are dependable, they are continuing, and we can be relied upon in bilateral relations; we have a track record, and we’re not starting from scratch. So if, after an election as successful as the one we’ve just had, one arranges a busy diplomatic schedule, one can increase Hungary’s worth and its diplomatic importance, one can generate confidence in Hungary, and one can stress that Hungary is a dependable and reliable country with which it is worth entering into long-term cooperation. The essence of politics is that one must gather friends: not enemies, but friends. This is not only because it is better to be a friend or make friends than to be hostile – though that is undoubtedly true – but also because this makes a country stronger. We can make Hungary stronger if we have many friends who are not only our friends in words, but with whom we can develop real cooperation which is also advantageous for us. So, finally, through political stability and through making friends a busy diplomatic schedule increases – and has increased – Hungary’s strength. I have just completed a successful period of diplomacy.
Are we also feeling these advantages in the economy, in economic relations?
We can see the proof of this in the numbers, as stability and predictability are at least as important in the economy as they are in international diplomacy. Perhaps they’re even more important, as investors and businesses are always exposed to risk. You can never entirely eliminate risks from business: it is business because alongside success there is the risk of failure. But everyone attempts to eliminate unnecessary risks. And as economic activity is itself risky – an enterprise will either succeed or fail – everyone tries to minimise the risks arising from politics. Today in Hungary there is no political risk of any kind for investors. This is a very precious thing, and it should be communicated and emphasised. Predictability, long-term tax regulations, the durability of the Government’s economic philosophy in general, and the Hungarian model which we have built and operated consistently for years all send the message to both Hungarian and non-Hungarian businesspeople that they are not exposed to unnecessary political risk.
A week ago, last Friday afternoon, Parliament adopted next year’s budget. Are the budget figures definite? In its projection, the National Bank of Hungary said that it is working with an inflation rate which is a little higher than that assumed by the Government’s macro-economic analysts, and an economic growth rate slightly lower than that assumed by them.
The period in which the budget was drafted was a strange one, including in an intellectual sense – and not particularly on account of the details. Whether inflation will be 2.5 or 3 per cent is no doubt important for experts, but it has no significant bearing on the Hungarian economy. In this respect we must make sure that those whose income is tied to the inflation rate should not lose out, even if the rate is unfavourable; in this respect pensioners are the most important group. But in 2010 we – and I personally – concluded an agreement with pensioners. Every pensioner should know – and I believe they do – that the purchasing power of their pension will be preserved for as long as we are in government: for as long as Hungary has a Christian democratic government. Unlike periods under former socialist governments, when pensioners saw their pensions taken from them and the purchasing power of pensions was reduced, we concluded an agreement which states that this can never happen again. And we shall keep this promise. So if inflation doesn’t quite go the way we expect, but rises by a few tenths of a per cent, pensions will increase at a correspondingly higher rate, to enable them to preserve their purchasing power. I believe that it is very important for the Hungarian government of the day to enjoy the trust of pensioners for two reasons. One reason is because we’re talking about a large number of voters, and this is an important part of stability. The other reason is what I see as a moral issue, as we can thank pensioners for the fact that we are able to sit here in this studio today: they are our parents and grandparents, we owe them a debt of gratitude, and we have moral obligations towards them. We must repay them this debt of gratitude, and we must recognise their lives’ efforts not only in words, but also in the value of their pensions. Therefore it is important that they do not lose out; if anything, they should win. If anyone looks at the economic history of the period from 2010 to the present, they can clearly see that over almost ten years – little by little, step by step – pensioners have been given back almost all the value which was taken from their pensions by the Socialists. So not only have we preserved the purchasing power of pensions, but we have also sought to compensate for the assaults on pensioners perpetrated by the Socialists. I’d like to reassure more than two million people that the details of the budget’s inflation figures are technical debates which will not affect their lives and living standards. But this has not been the budget’s true intellectual challenge, because over the past few years this is the sort of thing that we have always been able to resolve. The new development has been that in economic policy two contradictory phenomena are emerging simultaneously. On the one hand, there is a stable Hungarian economy. It is clear that we’re assuming growth of approximately 4 per cent, and that there is a Hungarian model which we built after 2010. We – and I personally – have invested a great deal of energy in creating this Hungarian model, and now it’s working: this bird is in flight. Western European economic analyses also rate Hungary as a success story. However, there are dark clouds gathering over the world economy. No one dares to say that there will be a crisis, because that would be a very strong, very alarming statement, and no one likes to be the bearer of bad news. But anyone in their right mind can see these clouds. There is a dispute between the United States and Europe over how we should trade with each other. The price of oil is an uncertain factor, there are US sanctions against Iran with an impact on the world economy which is hard to measure precisely, and one can also see that Chinese-US economic cooperation is not exactly heading in the direction of friendship. We can also see that debt interest rates on the international money markets have been low for years, and now these have begun to rise. The sovereign debt of countries in the European Union – and particularly of those in the eurozone – is also higher today than it was when the 2008 financial crisis hit. That crisis was also induced by a combination of high rates of sovereign debt and rising interest rates. One can see the initial signs of this in the world economy. Although we want to prepare an optimistic budget – as Hungarian affairs are going well, the Hungarian model is working well, and we feel strong enough to operate this Hungarian model – in the world economy negative signs are emerging. So the question was how to draft a budget which is optimistic and based on the Hungarian economy’s growth, and which at the same time can serve to defend the country and ourselves against any negative changes that may take place in the world economy. This is the conflict we had to resolve. Finance Minister Mihály Varga did just that, and I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate him. He has formed a large budgetary financial reserve which we can use to counter a crisis and defend against all or some of its effects, while using the budget to maintain the Hungarian economy’s growth rate at above 4 per cent. I believe that this budget is a fine achievement, and let me say once more that the credit for this is due to the Finance Minister.
On your Facebook page, when will the countdown to your holiday reach zero? As far as I know you’ll soon be leaving for Tusnádfürdő.
This is how one’s holiday starts: one gives a lecture at an open university. Indeed, on Saturday morning I’m giving my customary lecture at the Szeklerland open university, and then on Monday I’d like to take my regular annual leave. I don’t like elected politicians who continually complain that their job is hard; if it’s hard they should get another job – no one’s forcing anyone to be a member of parliament or a prime minister. But the truth is that now I’m tired, and the past year has been a long one. Partly this has been because there has been continuous international pressure on migration from those who seek to turn Hungary into an immigrant country. This means that the prime minister of the day must be on call at all times, and one has to keep one’s wits about one. Our positions are strong, but we must keep our wits about us. This is like a crack in a dam wall: if it starts leaking, you must spot it in time; if you notice it too late, you will not be able to stop the dam from bursting. On the other hand, we had to complete a diplomatic circuit, and we’ve spoken about that. We’ve been through an intense election campaign, and somehow we had to win the election, and give our all in the process. Then after winning the election, rather than continuing with the same composition and structure of government, I transformed it to meet the challenges of the next few years. Then we had to create this budget. So now I’m running low on energy, and I could really do with a battery recharge. This doesn’t always show, and indeed it’s the Prime Minister’s job to always give the impression of a fit, cheerful and healthy individual. But this is not always the case, and when one is tired one becomes impatient. As soon as you begin to be impatient you should quickly go somewhere – on holiday if possible; because at the end of the day politics is about dealing with people’s affairs, and you can’t do that when you’re impatient. You need the greatest patience with people, believe me, and you also need patience for people’s affairs. If you run out of that, you need a rest, you need to recharge your batteries, and you need to refresh yourself. Then we’ll start again at the end of August, the beginning of September.
Enjoy your holiday. You’ve been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.