Katalin Nagy: The World Health Organisation has declared the Chinese coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency. Recommendations are being issued, while in China cities with millions of inhabitants are in lockdown and flights are being cancelled. I welcome Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the studio. What measures are needed in Hungary?
Good morning. It’s often said that the world is a big village, a global village; and there’s a lot of truth in that. One consequence of this is that whatever happens at one end of the village gets to the other end in a matter of moments. Therefore, in this world in which we live, wherever on this earth a new, unknown disease or epidemic breaks out, it also needs to be taken seriously on the opposite side of the world. A new epidemic has now broken out in China, but we must also take it seriously here in Hungary. So, even if at this moment we don’t know of anyone currently infected with this virus in Hungary, the most important thing is not to allow the issue to be downplayed. So today I can say that now there is no problem, but there could be. And since the Government’s task is protecting people from every kind of danger, including epidemics, we must prepare for the worst. And measures must be taken accordingly. On Wednesday we had a Cabinet meeting, at which we heard from the Chief Medical Officer. I think that in this country a lot of people know that we have excellent specialists and good doctors. If there was a global ranking of epidemiological experts, Hungarians would feature in a high position. I recognise this. We have a world-class laboratory equipped to rapidly carry out every test that is necessary. The question is not whether we have the required medical knowledge – and indeed our Minister of Health is also a medical professor – but rather whether we can coordinate the measures needed to be taken by the various disciplines. Because there is also the need for the policing of immigration, as this is something coming from outside the borders. If the virus were present or were to arrive in the country, the border control system would have to identify it immediately, then administrative measures would have to be implemented. This is why I’ve decided to set up an operational group, and I believe it has been formed this morning – led by Interior Minister Sándor Pintér. Its members include the Minister of Health and the National Chief Medical Officer. Incidentally, I’ve already worked with the latter, on the red mud disaster – which also had epidemiological aspects. She is an extraordinary woman who has already experienced the heat of battle, and is no stranger to difficult situations. So I think we’ve managed to gather together experts who can help in disease prevention. They’ve been assembled in one body, and at their head we’ve appointed the best professional in Hungarian public administration: the Minister of Interior. So I think we’ve been doing all that has been possible to prevent the disease. I repeat: currently there is no problem, but it may emerge, and therefore it has to be taken seriously. As far as we know, there are eight Hungarians in the region of China where the infection broke out. Seven of these would like to return home, and we have authorised the Minister of Foreign Affairs to take all the steps needed to ensure that those who want to come home can return this week.
Even the World Health Organisation has warned the whole world to guard against panic, because if we engage in excessive scaremongering there may be rather severe consequences – including economic ones.
Yes, but here we have to find a balance, because we must neither scaremonger nor downplay the situation. This is a virus that can leave a healthy person with a strong immune system almost unaffected, but there are particularly vulnerable groups. Well, in general in an epidemic one tends to worry less about oneself than about one’s children or elderly parents, because they are the ones who are not yet or no longer in the best physical condition. In the case of this epidemic, this virus, we first of all have to watch out for people in a weaker condition: the sick and the elderly. They are the ones who could be worst affected by this epidemic. We have to recognise this. Scaremongering is never good. If there is a problem in a country, whether it’s a natural disaster or an epidemic, the worst thing one can do is to scaremonger; such action disrupts the steady, unhurried, well-planned work needed for protection. This has happened in Hungary: there was scaremongering. I’ve also asked the Minister of Justice to check the adequacy of the legislation related to measures against such scaremongering.
In the area of border defence, an operational committee for extraordinary situations has been in existence in Hungary for a long time now. This week everybody could see – as there is footage of it – how at Röszke [on the Hungarian border] seventy or eighty migrants pushed down the fence and came in through the Röszke gate. How do you see this situation? What solutions are needed?
The first thing we should say is that we have already seen such a thing. This was not the first such incident, as a breakthrough was attempted earlier at practically the same location at Röszke. An attempt was made to break into Hungarian territory, to break through the physical obstacles on the border. Well, we have a system, so I don’t have to reveal it. But if some incident occurs, then everything is switched on: there are alarms and floodlights, and everything is activated within a moment. So it’s not easy to break into the territory of Hungary, because a very serious physical border barrier has been built here. For me, the lesson learnt from this case is that even the best physical and technical border barriers are worthless without brave people. In Hungary we know that women are generally the bravest. This was also the case this time: those eighty men broke through, and facing them was a woman. She was on duty, and instead of running away, she – I think – shouted at them. Then, as that didn’t work, she drew her gun and fired shots, warning shots. This caused most of those attempting the breakthrough to run back. Some of them stayed in Hungary and tried to continue on their way, but they were all tracked down and caught by the police. Minister Trócsányi was punished by the European Union for doing what we love and praise him for. It is thanks to him that not only is there a physical border barrier, but there are also legislative border barriers: in other words there are laws, submitted by him as Minister of Justice, that have helped us bring to court those people who have illegally broken into the territory of Hungary. These people have already been sentenced to around one year in prison, and we will expel them from the territory of Hungary.
Obviously border control has to be strengthened here, maybe in terms of more personnel. This costs a great deal of money. Will you state, as you have done several times to the European Commission, that perhaps the European Union could contribute to this border defence, to its costs? So far it has failed to do so.
Nearly one hundred thousand people are in the area between Turkey and the southern border of Hungary. That’s a huge number. Pressure is also increasing in the area adjoining the borders, defence is getting harder, and so we’ve doubled the number of soldiers on duty at the border. In January alone there were more than 3,000 attempted border crossings, attempts to break into Hungary – there were 3,400 to 3,500 – and this number is increasing. Accordingly, migration and border defence have again moved higher up our to-do list than in the quieter period of the past one or two years. As far as money is concerned, it is certainly a claim that we are maintaining – so far with modest success; even the term “pocket money” exaggerates the amount provided by the EU to help us defend the border. We are maintaining this claim because we’re not only protecting the Hungarian border: this is also the external border of the European Union. Consequently the work that we do and the money that we spend is not only important for us and not only benefits us, but also the Austrians who we are protecting, the Bavarians, whose castle captains we are, and all Germany, who we are protecting from illegal immigration to Europe from the South. What would truly be fair would be for them to take some of the financial burden from our shoulders.
And other responsibilities of the European Union?
The EU’s political responsibility is that there are Member States on the external EU border just like Hungary – but which, unlike Hungary, are not protecting their borders. They say they can’t or don’t want to – they have various arguments. And obviously migrants are flowing in through them. People who want to get to Europe through Greece – from Turkey through Greece – are let through by the Greeks, they arrive in Macedonia, then Serbia, and then they arrive at the Hungarian border. Naturally there is political responsibility in this, but what I’m fighting for now is more that the EU budget now being drawn up should not allocate money to joint border protection, but to those Member States that are successfully protecting their borders. We have calculated that locally we can protect the border with one quarter the amount of money that would be needed for Brussels to organise border defence units. So everyone would be better off if we enact border defence ourselves and we receive the funds needed for this, instead of setting up central units – the efficiency of which we find rather dubious, despite their best intentions.
Experts on security policy who watched the footage of the border encroachment said that it was clearly an organised operation. And the involvement of people smugglers and various NGOs arises time and again. Can we do anything about this?
I don’t want you to think I’m obsessed with George Soros, because one should retain some intellectual flexibility and not look for the same reason behind all events. But you would have to be blind not to see that here we have the Soros network’s people organising migration throughout the whole of the Balkan region. There is evidence for what I’m saying: if you go online and check the websites of Soros-financed organisations, you’ll see that in fact they’re platforms for advice on migration. I’ve always said that this man wants to acquire political influence, he is the world’s number one oligarch, he has enormous wealth, he wants to use his money to buy influence and he’s able to conduct worldwide campaigns: he uses covert mafia-style networked methods to finance civil society organisations or NGOs, groups, activists, and buys politicians. While in Europe it’s obvious that Europe’s interest lies in halting migration, this is why the members of Soros-funded organisations in Hungary and in the Balkan region itself – and politicians in Brussels bankrolled by him – all say that migration is good, and we should allow migrants to come to Europe. So this is the guiding principle of politics in Brussels. Behind the majority of debates lies the difference of opinion between bought politicians financed by Soros – who are pro-migration – and we who are against migration. They want us to dismantle the border fence, to remove the physical border barrier and let into Hungary these fine men who broke through across the border. Meanwhile we are working to stop them. If you watch this footage you can see confirmation of what I’ve always said: you won’t see any women and children in it. These are men of military age, in good physical condition – well prepared, in good shape and well equipped. They weren’t blown here by the wind. So we have to keep our wits about us: border defence and action against migration are still the most important European and Hungarian issues.
On the subject of NGOs, these are organisations like, for example, the Helsinki Committee, which some years ago issued a form to be filled out by prisoners wanting to claim compensation from the state. Here two weeks ago we discussed the fact that twelve thousand lawsuits have been launched against the state of Hungary, with the courts awarding ten billion forints so far to these convicts, and how you consider this to be an abuse of the law. Now the media has named the law offices representing these prisoners. György Magyar’s law office, for example, has managed to sue the state for more than 500 million forints in 420 lawsuits. On the one hand this lawyer says that how much he earns is his business and no one else’s; and on the other hand he says he hasn’t been involved in this for three years now.
Now, I’ve been a Member of Parliament for thirty years, and if I count my years spent organising anti-communist resistance this increases to around 35–37 years in politics. And I’ve been Prime Minister for fourteen years. One might think – and for a while this is also what I thought – that there’s not really much one could say to me that I haven’t heard already. I’ve seen so much that it seemed that things can only recur, at most; but it’s turned out that they don’t. Here’s this prison business. I’ve never seen anything like it in my whole life. There are people who call themselves attorneys. I also graduated from law school, and there are ethical norms there. So they call themselves attorneys and set up in business and bring twelve thousand lawsuits in Brussels against their home country. It’s completely obvious that these are based on a fabricated case claiming that in Hungary people are being tortured in prisons. Because this is what they’re saying: they’re being tortured, and the method of torture is that there’s no sunlight, there isn’t enough space, and so on and so forth. Citing these criminals, they swindle or extort judgements out of the European Court that we are supposed to abide by. In principle we are supposed to give the money to these criminals, and they certainly receive part of it; but 60 per cent of this money is transferred to the accounts of these attorneys. When at the Cabinet meeting I asked the Minister of Justice whether or not nearly 60 per cent of this money has been placed in escrow accounts with the attorneys, she said that this is true. So it’s completely obvious that this is a prison business. I don’t know what these people graduated in or, in addition to their knowledge of the law, how in their studies they missed out on the moral and ethical considerations underlying law. This is an absurdity. I know that everybody needs money to live and it’s better to have more money than less, and people would like to earn more than earn less, and it’s better to live in comfort than in discomfort. All that is true. But everything has its limits. So, it’s absurd for twelve thousand lawsuits to be filed against Hungary. I want to take the strongest possible action against this prison business. Of course, the first step now is to change the accommodation conditions for these criminals, prisoners or convicts, so that poor prison conditions can’t be used as a justification. To achieve this we’re going to take strong, rapid action to open new buildings and make them suitable, and to place prisoners there, in order to prevent malicious attorneys using this as an argument against Hungary. And then we’ll see what we can do in the cases which are already underway. Believe me, I am reluctant to pay even a penny to such people, because the money that we have to give them is money paid by taxpayers on their honest earnings. So they’re not cheating the state: they’re not taking money from the Government’s pocket, but from your pocket and from the listeners’ pockets. The lawyers are taking those people’s money and sharing it with criminals. All I can really say is that one’s mind boggles.
Is legislative amendment possible? Or should EU laws be changed in this regard?
A lot of things should be done, and that also applies to the EU. I don’t want to lead our listeners into such exotic regions of the legal sphere, but this is about international treaties that Hungary is a party to which contain general principles and which aren’t bad. The problem is that when these general principles are translated into practice in court judgments – for example when they are expressed in terms of square metres or a lack of sunlight – the court considers the circumstances to amount to what a treaty refers to as “torture”. But this is nonsense. So the problem is not necessarily with international legislation, but with the enforcement of rights and international judicial practice. Something needs to be done about this, but to do so is far beyond Hungary’s means and sphere of competence – so I wouldn’t venture to do that. I focus on trying to protect the country from abuses of law caused by such connivance between criminals and attorneys. And what’s utterly shameful is that these highly-qualified legal professionals come up with arguments citing morality. It’s an appalling situation.
In Gyöngyöspata the school district, the local government and the Roma families who were awarded compensation will soon start discussing resolution – if it can emerge – of the dispute about providing the families with training and adult education to the value of 100 million forints rather giving them the money. It’s interesting that experts in Roma issues, such as István Forgács or Fidesz MEP Lívia Járóka, have said that life in Gyöngyöspata has been calm for years. We remember the early 2010s, when the atmosphere in Gyöngyöspata was highly charged, with people marching there in the uniforms of the Magyar Gárda [Hungarian Guard]. So it has been calm for years now, and it feels like this case may be a pretext for shattering this calm. In whose interest could this be?
Yesterday I was visited by the Member of Parliament for the constituency in which Gyöngyöspata is located. On several occasions I have spent several hours dealing with this issue, so my understanding of it is a little deeper, and I’ve had the chance to look at what’s behind the conflict. In my opinion, few people in the country know that Gyöngyöspata is a small Hungarian town – not a village, but a small town – with a non-Roma population of approximately 80 per cent. So it is not a place where Roma are in the majority or almost in the majority, and the conditions there are not like those in certain villages in Borsod County. In Gyöngyöspata an 80-per cent non-Roma population lives with a 20-per cent Roma population. In recent years an alarming situation has developed in the school there. Many families didn’t send their children to school, and there was one child who missed five hundred hours of schooling. Children who did attend didn’t follow the rules, sometimes parents or children threatened teachers, occasionally there were instances of physical assault, and when teachers tried to restore normality they were accused of racism. So the situation in the school was alarming. The reaction to this from the non-Roma Hungarians was that they slowly began to take their children out of the school because they couldn’t study properly: either their classmates weren’t coming to school, or they were coming to school but causing havoc. So, in a settlement with a non-Roma population of 80 per cent, the children of that 80-per cent non-Roma population were being taken away from the school. Non-Roma people in Gyöngyöspata developed the feeling that although they are in majority they always have to be submissive and apologise, and that they are at fault. They work to make an honest living and just want their children to study. But those who have made it impossible for their children to study normally are now being awarded millions by court judgments delivered in proceedings launched by Soros organisations. They feel that they’re in a hostile environment in their own country: that the legal system, the courts and the government in their own country aren’t standing by them, but are instead somehow working against them. And they are expected to tolerate all this. And to this my answer is “no”. We stand by the 80 per cent of decent Hungarians who work and demand a normal education for their children, who in Gyöngyöspata now are on the back foot and are being made to look as if they’ve done something wrong. So I told the Member of Parliament to take urgent action to turn this situation around. It is absurd that people have to take their children out of their own settlement, where they’re in a majority, to a school in a neighbouring settlement because a minority is preventing normal conditions for education where they live. This is absurd. I’m not saying that this is simply an ethnic division, because there are certainly Roma families who want their children to attend a normal school, to study with non-Roma children, and who want their children to keep up with them. But the rowdy children have been preventing that from happening. This situation needs to be comprehensively resolved, and that’s why I invited him to be a prime-ministerial commissioner, in order to explore such cases and formulate proposals for us. I repeat that I certainly don’t want to pay families or parents who allow their children to miss school for 500 hours, or whose children’s behaviour makes teaching impossible when they are in school. Why should we pay for this? No one understands this – either in Gyöngyöspata or here in the studio. So I only want to say that such situations must not occur in the Hungary that we want to live in and in the country that we want to build in Hungary. Once again I repeat that it is unacceptable for the majority of honest people to feel that they’re being forced on the defensive, that they must be submissive and must change their behaviour. And I’d like to make it clear that the Government of Hungary stands by honest hardworking people. Moreover, as you’ve said, there’s an element of agitation, because in recent years things have started to become more acceptable – not only in Gyöngyöspata, but across the whole country. When in 2010 I took over leadership of the country, leadership of the government of the country from the Socialists, the Roma community was indeed in a desperate situation. The Roma minority was in a desperate situation: they were on welfare, and they could only hope to receive enough in welfare benefits through having more children; but they didn’t consider work to be a solution. With the public employment programme and our job-creation policies we’ve managed to bring Roma people back into the world of work. This was something huge, and they’ve seized the opportunity. And incidentally I’m grateful to them. Now if someone is driving on the motorway early in the morning – say in Heves County, in Gyöngyöspata – they can see minivans full of Roma workmen in overalls, one at the wheel and most of the rest of them sleeping. So clearly they’ve got up, set off, they want to work, they want a decent wage and they obviously want to raise their children well. So a positive process has started. But this is continually being obstructed by such issues provoked by George Soros’s organisation.
You’ve sent a mail congratulating Csaba András Dézsi, who has become Mayor of the city of Győr by winning the mayoral by-election. You said that the candidate was not only able to mobilise Fidesz voters.
Well, there’s nothing stamped on anyone’s forehead to tell you whether or not they’re a Fidesz voter; but from the numbers, at least, I can see that the new mayor has received more votes than Fidesz–KDNP candidates generally get through party lists. Therefore this statement may be justified. I think in the period ahead Győr will be in the right hands. A doctor was elected: a cardiologist. And clearly the city is close to his heart – as, presumably, are the hearts of its people. So the city is being led by someone who understands and cares for the people, and as I see it he also understands that Hungary’s success requires provincial cities like Győr, that are developing fantastically. So he understands that development and economic growth must be maintained. I’ve known the Mayor for a long time; he is a veteran member of Fidesz, an independent person who has always stuck to his views, which are often very distinctive. I’ve also had many discussions with him, and I’ve learnt a lot from these discussions. I think that this is the kind of person who is needed to lead a city. Furthermore, he’s a man of irreproachable character; and as in that city we’ve been morally compromised, we need to restore our honour. I hope he will be able to do that.
Thank you. You’ve been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.