Prime Minister, what’s the focus of your visit to the Czech Republic, and why is it the Ústí region that you’re visiting? Is this an expression of support for the Czech prime minister and his ANO movement ahead of the upcoming Czech parliamentary election?
One of my favourite books is set here. The Ústí region, or more precisely the town of Ústí nad Labem, is the setting of Vladimír Páral’s novel “Lovers and’ Murderers”. There’s something about the whole novel that’s typically Central European, and which helped me to understand why we Central Europeans are the way we are. That’s the personal side of things. And of course I came here to work. Prime Minister Babiš is a good man to work with. I’m no ballet dancer, but when it comes to debating he’s probably tougher than me. He’s a straight talker, and that’s an admirable quality. Neither of us shy away from defending our country’s interests. The fact that we’ve managed to stem the migration tide, and the fact that on the subject of migration many EU Member States are now saying what we’ve been saying from the outset, is due in no small part to Prime Minister Babiš. This is a joint achievement of the Czechs, the Hungarians and all the citizens of the V4 countries. I hope that he’ll once more receive the trust due to him.
What do you have in common with the current Czech prime minister, how do you assess your cooperation with him, and how do you assess current Czech-Hungarian relations?
Czech-Hungarian relations have never been so good. We Central Europeans share a common destiny, which historical examples bear witness to. If we can work together, we can jointly attain our goals; but if a foreign power subverts this unity, then each of us is doomed to fail separately. That was the case in the Habsburg Empire, and it is the case now with Brussels. The quality of Czech-Hungarian relations is therefore a vital issue for both countries. Prime Minister Babiš is our partner in recognising this.
It’s no accident that Brussels often criticises you and Prime Minister Babiš by name. What’s the background to this criticism, and how do you explain it? What specifically are we talking about?
The Visegrad countries have achieved very significant successes over the past decade, and our politics represents an alternative to the model offered by Brussels. Many people are unable to accept this. What they find particularly difficult to understand is the failure of continuous attacks to break the alliance of the Visegrád Group countries. In the past decade we’ve reached the point at which it’s impossible to make decisions in Europe in defiance of our will. We’ve successfully resisted Brussels’ plans for a migrant resettlement quota: we were the first to stand up to Brussels, and Prime Minister Babiš was the first to stand alongside us. It was also thanks to our alliance that an anti-Central European budget couldn’t be adopted in Brussels during negotiations on the seven-year EU budget.
Are you in favour of holding a referendum in Hungary on leaving the EU? Or do you still believe that things need to change in the EU, and that this should be done through joint action and efforts by the Visegrád Group?
For us EU membership is not only an economic issue, but also a question of identity. We will persevere for as long as the European Union brings us peace and prosperity. The European Union also provides a market for our products. But this is by no means an opportunity that we receive free of charge. Recently our Polish friends debated a parliamentary report which showed that between 2004 and 2020 Poland received 593 billion złoty in EU disbursements, but that Western companies operating there took 981 billion złoty in profits out of the country. The criticism coming from those sitting on high horses in Brussels is unacceptable.
How do you see the situation in Europe and the European Union today, and what role do you think Russia and China can play globally?
On the issue of Russia and China, the EU is looking down the wrong end of the telescope. It doesn’t have an army, but Russia understands and respects the language of military might. We’re suppressing trade, even though it would be in our economic interest to cooperate closely. We want to show strength in an area in which we’re weak. Yet where there’s room for partnership, we’re closing the gates. The Brussels elites have donned ideological blinkers and are acting against the interests of Europe. Europe cannot afford to miss out on the huge economic opportunities on offer, simply because the United States sees China as its greatest adversary. Europe needs strategic sovereignty. For this it needs an independent military force and trade policy aligned with its own interests.
How do you assess the situation in Afghanistan, and what do you think its consequences will be for the development of world politics?
On 11 September 2001 there was an attack on our NATO ally, the United States. In such an event Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty comes into effect, calling on all member countries to provide mutual assistance. We have fulfilled this obligation, both because honour demanded it and because we have an interest in NATO functioning well. Subsequently the NATO mission in Afghanistan was increasingly transformed into an attempt to export democracy. Even at that time there were already people who suspected that such an undertaking was doomed to failure. Our American allies eventually saw this. The Americans had the right to say when the mission would end, and we accommodated them in this. It is not right, however, for the chaos that they left behind to be visited on us. The number of Afghan migrants along Hungary’s southern border is already increasing. The really big wave will only come later. We must stand our ground in the face of it, and Hungary is ready to do just that. It’s a sad fact that, just as in 2015, Brussels is once again stabbing us in the back. While we defend Europe’s borders, they provide no assistance – and even withhold the funding that we’re owed.
What do you see as the most important steps for the European Union, and what do you think should be changed in the EU?
The European Union has been taken prisoner by the Brussels elite. Their solution to everything is more centralisation. They need to acknowledge that this isn’t working. The eurozone, for example, isn’t working well, as its members have individually accumulated almost unmanageable levels of public debt, while their economic growth is below even the EU average. Migration is another problem area, with Member States having radically different views on the issue. The lesson is that we don’t have to do everything together, and that we need to return to the founding principles of the European Union. They have no strategic vision, so for want of something better they seek to centralise. They should let us work. In the European Parliament, for example, all day long they do nothing but insult and try to instruct Member States, while representing the interests of unelected NGOs. This must come to an end, and representation must be returned to the parliamentary representatives of Member States.
The European Union considers some Hungarian legislation to be controversial. Would you like to comment on this?
Brussels is attacking our child protection legislation. Hungary is a family-friendly country, and child protection is part of that. On the one hand, child protection means taking action against physical abuse; but it also means that children’s upbringing is the sole responsibility of their parents up until they reach the age of 18. These are fundamental principles that we shall not compromise on at anyone’s behest. The politicians who are attacking the Child Protection Act represent George Soros and the “open society” concept. They make no secret of the fact that they consider the institution of the family to be outdated, and that they therefore want to compulsorily sensitise our children to LGBTQ issues from an early age. This is why we are resisting, this is why they are attacking Hungary, and this is why they are trying to blackmail us with the withholding of resources due to us in the Recovery Fund. We are the only country in Europe where the people are deciding whether or not they want their children to be sexually sensitised. We’re holding a referendum on this, just as we did on the issue of mandatory migrant quotas. In Europe politicians are afraid to ask the people; with the help of the media and NGO networks they have decided to support mass immigration and to spread gender ideology, without asking people their opinion. This cannot happen in Hungary.
Prime Minister, what aspects of Czech-Hungarian relations would you like to see improved, and what key steps do you see as priorities in Hungary today?
Our long-term goal is to organise Central Europe into a well-functioning economic area. To do this, we need to improve infrastructure links between the Czech Republic and Hungary. We also need to place more emphasis on our cooperation in higher education, as this could be an important springboard. Yet the most important thing is that we do not turn back. Let Visegrad cooperation and the agenda for the organisation of Central Europe be a minimum requirement across the region that unites political parties.
In the Czech Republic your speeches and proposals often appear first on the portal parlamentnilisty.cz. You have many supporters among the portal’s readers. Do you have any message for them?
These are complicated times. We have arrived in an age of pandemics and migration. We need strong leaders and unity among people. One should keep one’s powder dry.