“In Hungary, we say that you can only be a good European if you’re a good Hungarian,” the Prime Minister said in answer to the question as to what it means to be a good European.
He argued that, according to the Hungarian way of thinking, Europe consists of sovereign nations; however, some Member States are making attempts to reinforce European institutions and would hand over ever more powers to Brussels.
Hungarians observe this “centralism” with concern due to their historical experiences, he said.
The guideline of Hungarian history is the fight against empires, and “we don’t want to surrender again our sovereignty and the rule of law that we finally achieved for Central and Eastern Europe 31 years ago,” he added.
In answer to the question as to why Hungary is not leaving the EU, following Britain’s example, he said “it’s better for us inside the EU,” and Brexit “was a great mistake, it should have been prevented”.
He said he primarily expects the EU to preserve the European traditions of many centuries of culturally diverse, sovereign nations.
“We want a cultural context in which we feel at home,” he said.
Hungary also expects from the EU the possibility of gaining access to modern knowledge and technology as well as geopolitical stability and security.
“It is important for us to belong to an alliance that offers security,” the Prime Minister said.
He highlighted that Hungary naturally fully accepts the core values laid down in Article 2 of the Treaty of Lisbon.
These values are also laid down in the Hungarian Fundamental Law, he pointed out. He added that in Hungary it is inconceivable that a Jewish institution should need armed protection.
One of Europe’s largest Jewish communities lives in Budapest, and “it is society’s duty to ensure that Jewish life can thrive to the full,” Mr Orbán said.
He highlighted that the forces governing in Hungary at present came “from the anti-communist, rule of law movement”.
“I always tell our Western partners who call our rule of law into question that, ‘Dear Friends, Where did you ever fight for the rule of law? I fought for it in the streets of Budapest,’” Mr Orbán said.
“In my view, the very situation that I’m being asked questions about the rule of law is absurd,” and “unfair, above all, because the unsubstantiated accusations were never connected to clear and objective criteria,” he said.
Regarding the state of the press, he said, among others, that “objective studies show that the market share of media highly critical of the government is well over 50 per cent”. He added that the government “doesn’t interfere in” media affairs.
In the context of family policy issues, he pointed out that, according to the Fundamental Law, the family is a bond between a man and a woman, and this does not mean intolerance.
Regarding the fact that in a dispute concerning a story book he said “they should leave our children alone,” he said the volume contains tales full of “sexual propaganda” the purpose of which is to influence children’s personalities.
“In Hungary, there is a limit, and the majority of people agree with what I said. We are patient, but we must ensure that our children should grow in peace,” Mr Orbán highlighted.
“Fierce protests (against the book) are justified”. At the same time, resorting to symbols that take us back “to the world of fascism or communism” is not right, he said in reference to the fact that one of the leaders of the ‘Our Country Movement’ publicly destroyed a copy of the book.
Regarding his approach to Islam, he said the Hungarian people would not like people of Muslim religion to appear in their country in large numbers and to cause “a cultural change” in their lives. “We ourselves let in” the Muslims who reside in Hungary, and they “accepted that they live in a Christian-Jewish country, and observe our laws”.
This basic expectation applies not only to Muslims. For instance, “we have excellent relations with the Chinese, but we wouldn’t like five million Chinese to come to our country tomorrow,” the Prime Minister said.
In connection with the legal disputes with the EU concerning the circumstances of asylum-seekers, he stressed that “we are fundamentally opposed to illegal immigration”. At the same time, asylum-seekers received “decent care,” the only objection was that they were not allowed to move freely outside the reception centres.
This is why Hungary set up transit zones open towards Serbia or Croatia; however, “regrettably, the EU didn’t accept this either”. Therefore, they closed down the transit zones, but neither did the European Commission accept the solution that asylum requests must be submitted at Hungarian foreign representations operating in safe third countries. Therefore, we must now wait for another court decision in this “cat and mouse game,” Mr Orbán said.
He highlighted that he is opposed to all policies which create the impression in those who need help that the solution is to come to Europe, with regard to the fact that, as a result, everyone would set out on the perilous journey that is full of trials.
He said Hungary observes the rule set forth in international treaties which lays down that people fleeing from their homes for important reasons are entitled to shelter in a safe country. However, there is no international right which allows asylum-seekers to choose the country of their destination.
According to the Hungarian approach, help must be taken to the needy, rather than “bringing problems here”. This is why Hungary set up the aid organisation Hungary Helps which provides considerable assistance compared with the size of the country, the Prime Minister explained, adding that “a kind of Marshall Plan” should be launched for “the African and Middle East countries from which migrants are coming”.
He highlighted that the EU’s approach to the reception of refugees extends far beyond the rights laid down in the international treaties on the status of refugees.
Regrettably, this approach and mentality has become “the political yardstick, and anyone who doesn’t share this policy immediately becomes a black sheep,” he said.
He added, among others, that in the next twenty years, migration will be “a major issue of European civilisation,” and on this issue national parliaments will have to decide.
He stressed that, in a cultural and religious sense, Hungary “is a very diverse country” in which religions and world views live together in harmony, without conflicts.
“We love diversity within our own culture, but we’re cautious with anything that comes from outside, also because we’re a small country,” Mr Orbán said.
Regarding his rhetoric described by the authors of the interview as anti-German World War rhetoric, Mr Orbán stressed that his words are never intended against the German people, and as he is elected into office by Hungarians, not Germans, in his statements he addresses the Hungarian people, not Germans.
Citing statements made by senior German politicians about Hungary, he added that politicians’ choice of words should, in general, be improved, and there would be a need for “a verbal détente”.
He highlighted that the 2015 refugee crisis clearly revealed that “German politics believes in a post-Christian and post-national Europe” which the Hungarian people do not believe in.
In this situation, “we should be tolerant towards one another, and should state that ‘this is how you see things, and this is how we do, but for all that we can still be friends’”. However, the Germans said that everyone should see migration in the same light as the majority of Germans. The Hungarian people do not want this, and this causes recurring tensions in bilateral relations. “This is the Hungarian take on the past five years,” Mr Orbán said.
He also spoke about German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In his words, the politician “is a strong woman who bears two crosses all at once: German politics as well as European politics”. Yet, she still stands tall for which she deserves respect.