Éva Kocsis: Good morning, it’s twenty-five minutes to eight and you’re listening to “180 Minutes”. Infringement procedures, NGOs, migration and of course, the start of the campaign: these will be among our topics in the next half an hour. We have Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in the studio. Good morning.
If we start with the Act on NGOs, the infringement procedure or CEU, if we start with any of these, we see that Hungary hasn’t quite managed to convince the European Commission. In fact, regarding the NGO legislation, the objections that were previously on the agenda are still there. On this issue the Government has been given a month to respond. What’s next? Will you change your arguments, will you change the law, or will you stick to your guns?
First of all, in Brussels there’s a procedure for the settlement of disputes. This is necessary, because there may be disputes over exactly what the EU’s founding treaties stipulate and what their provisions mean; and if there’s a dispute, somehow it must be settled. Therefore disputes of this nature and dispute settlement procedures form part of the day-to-day functioning of the European Union: there are quite a few of these, and each country is involved in dozens of them. These tend to be technical issues. The issues you mentioned, such as the Hungarian NGO law, form another group of infringement procedures: you can smell from a mile off that these are political issues. In fact these have nothing to do with the Treaties. There aren’t many of these, and they don’t only apply to Hungary, but these few infringement procedures are used by bureaucrats in Brussels to try to take powers away from the Member States, or to impose a political decision of some kind on the Member States; and in doing so, the bureaucrats in Brussels resort to legal procedures. Well now, if you read the Brussels bureaucrats’ submission related to the Hungarian NGO law, all you can say is that across the whole of Europe it’s a complete laughing stock. An intelligent lawyer wouldn’t even bother dealing with it, because they’d get their fingers burnt. The document smells so strongly of being produced in response to a political directive, and it contains arguments which are so inconsistent, that a lawyer couldn’t even discuss it seriously, with a straight face. It’s so ridiculous that one simply doesn’t know what to do with it.
But which part of it is ridiculous? It says here, for instance, that the Act interferes with fundamental freedoms, violates the freedom of association, obstructs the receipt of donations and they can’t do their job.
But excuse me, these are ridiculous points. If someone accepts money from abroad, they will have to declare it. End of story. What exactly does this violate?
Well, for instance it harms and is a deterrent to foreign donations, and prevents the free movement of capital.
The free movement of capital – that’s the most ridiculous one. What do donations have to do with the free movement of capital? These are ridiculous points. This is what I’m talking about: a lawyer can’t take this seriously.
OK, so you’ve told us what arguments will be made in a month’s time.
If we were to accept these arguments, we ourselves would become ridiculous. This is a country which must be taken seriously.
So in a month’s time will you say that all of this is ridiculous?
But of course. What else could we say?
So the case will go to court and then Hungary will pay something as a fine?
The question is how much longer Brussels can stand being – how shall I put it – the laughing stock of Europe. If they want to…
Brussels appears to be able to stand it fine. In connection with NGOs or CEU…
That’s not how I see it.
That’s not how you see it?
Of course not. The whole of the European Union is in trouble because its leaders and bureaucrats adopt decisions like this. The people support the ideal of the European Union. At the same time, they can’t stand the leadership of the EU, because it insults the Member States with things like this, and it abuses its power. Everyone in Europe can see that. This is why the European leadership is not respected.
What will happen to the CEU legislation? A strange situation has emerged: the case hasn’t been taken further, but in a few weeks’ time you’ll have to respond to the criticisms. At the same time, CEU has come to an agreement with a US university, meaning that it will now be in compliance with the Hungarian regulations. Nonetheless, Brussels still has a problem. What will happen now? One question is whether CEU can continue its operations after this agreement has been concluded, and another question is what answer Brussels will receive. Will that answer be that it’s ridiculous?
The starting-point is that the laws must be observed by everyone in Europe – including billionaires, and even US-Hungarian dual citizens and the organisations funded by them. Hungary cannot compromise on this. This is the constitutional basis of our life; and so the laws must be observed. As you’ve described it, this is a complicated matter, and at this point in time it is being dealt with at expert level.
So is your message – that the laws must be observed – also aimed at those who have opted for civil disobedience?
Of course. The Hungarian laws are clear: if you don’t observe the laws, there are all sorts of sanctions attached to violations of the Hungarian legal system, and whoever breaks the law must be prepared for the consequences. I’m an even-tempered man, and the law does not exist for us to threaten people with. The law is based on reason. The law of every country is based on the fact that elected officials – people we elect to create the laws that regulate our lives – do their job, and, after a sufficiently long process of consultation, seek to convince citizens that the laws they pass serve everyone’s best interests, our common interests. The law is not a threat, the law is a rule based on the ideal of reason. But once we’ve passed a law conforming with the rules laid down in the Constitution, it applies to all of us and must be observed. This is what I say to everyone: observe the laws and there won’t be any problems.
The European Parliament is also doing fine, as they’ve passed a resolution which proposes the triggering of Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union. We’ve been talking about this Article 7 quite a bit in recent years, and everyone knows what it is. In simple terms it effectively means that in Hungary the rule of law and democracy are being compromised, in violation of the core principles of the European Union: we must stop locking up migrants in the transit zones; we’ve already spoken about CEU and the NGO legislation; and extensive corruption means that EU funds granted to Hungary must be scrutinised more stringently. How do you expect this procedure to end?
Just recently there was a delegation here from Europe, from Brussels. They audited projects implemented in Hungary, and then they concluded that these projects had indeed been implemented: they exist, and compared with the other European countries Hungary doesn’t stand out in any way – either in a positive or negative sense; I’d be happy if we stood out in a positive sense, but not even in that sense. What happens related to projects in Hungary is more or less the same as what happens elsewhere. What lie behind this – and what you yourself referred to – are again attacks of a political nature. I don’t wish to seem impertinent, but clearly while we – and not they – are protecting Europe, MEPs must occupy themselves with something else. What they are occupying themselves with is attacking from behind those who are protecting Europe; but I wouldn’t even go that far, because for us these attacks are like water off a duck’s back. It would be better to say that they keep pulling us back by our coat-tails. Meanwhile we and our soldiers and police officers stand fully-armed on the border, trying to apprehend, screen and eject from Europe people seeking to enter the continent illegally, and who may well be potential terrorists posing a threat to public security, human life and property. While we are doing this job, they sit in their comfortable offices and – as we say in Budapest – nit-pick in their pomp. Once again the European Union has clearly failed.
If I understand you correctly, the response to any criticisms from the European Commission and Parliament in the period ahead will be this: “The dogs may bark, but the caravan goes on its way.”
We don’t usually use such a disrespectful tone with the resplendent…
Your choice of words earlier was rather harsh…
…the resplendent European bureaucrats, but the situation is that there’s a Hungarian Constitution, in Hungary the people have a clear will, and we will also consult them. With national consultations, in such disputed matters our citizens, the Hungarian people, have given us a compass which guides our efforts. And recently we’ve accomplished something important: we’ve revealed a hidden underground network, the network of George Soros; and day after day we shall prove what the connections are. You’ve mentioned the commission that will prepare a report on Hungary: they’re all Soros’s people. They’re featured on the list that was made public in the international press: the list of Soros’s reliable allies. They’re eating out of his hand. They’re going to write a report which will conclude that it would be better if there was no fence, it would be better if we let in “refugees”, it would be better if we let in migrants and give them money, and it would be better if they were distributed. We have revealed that there is a Soros plan. The existence of this has been admitted to by the author himself, so revealing it was no great achievement, but at least we’ve placed it in the political spotlight. This is what we’re talking about now. One can understand things from this perspective. This is a very useful compass for thinking people to use.
Understood. An article penned by George Soros was published, and we’ve spoken about it a thousand times. At an economic forum held in Brussels in June George Soros also said that the EU must exert pressure on Hungary and Poland to uphold the rule of law.
He thinks that it’s promising that EU institutions responded energetically to challenges posed by Hungary…
And he thinks that talk of linking the disbursement of the cohesion funds to the rule of law is encouraging…
Very well, but so far this is only a statement. In the European Parliament why…
But that’s just what’s happening.
Very well, but for example The Financial Times has also published editorials…
Excuse me, but that’s exactly what’s happening. George Soros didn’t just make a statement: he communicated a plan. It’s just that we don’t remember things that happened two years ago, because since then so many other things have happened. The starting-point in this matter was that when the dispute between Brussels and Hungary began, I released a plan comprising several points which described how Europe should be protected. And I made recommendations to the EU. In response, George Soros published another plan, arranged into points as I had done, in which he described what he thought should be done, step-by-step. The Brusselites may well claim that they’re not interested in the writings of George Soros – though this argument is somewhat undermined by the fact that, for some mysterious reason, they regularly receive him and consult him. But in real life what’s happening is precisely the implementation of the plan published by George Soros. There’s no point in burying our heads in the sand. So should we presume that this is all a series of coincidences? No, this sequence of events is planned. There’s a concept which defines, step-by-step, what measures should be taken and how those measures should be implemented. Of course in Brussels they say that they have nothing to do with these ideas – but of course they do, and this is exactly what’s happening in real life. The question now is whether we want to be dupes and be taken for fools; or whether we speak out and say that Hungary is not a country of fools who can be led by the nose. The question is whether we declare that we can see through the pretence that these events are just a series of coincidences, and that when we look at real life, our initial views are confirmed. Indeed we’re no fools: this is a country with a people who should be taken seriously, with a history which should be taken seriously, and – horribile dictu – with a government which should be taken seriously, whose duty it is to understand what is going on. And we understand what is going on: George Soros has bought people and organisations; they are eating out of his hand; and Brussels is under his influence – and on the issue referred to as “immigration”, the Brussels machinery is implementing his plan. They want to dismantle the fence, they want to let in millions of immigrants, and they want to distribute them on a mandatory basis. And they want to punish those who don’t obey them. Isn’t that clear?
You have a rather strong opinion on this. Why do you need a national consultation on this question?
You see the battles we’re engaged in. If Hungary wants to protect its interests, everyone in Brussels must appreciate that the large majority of those in the Hungarian nation who are prepared to state their opinion stand up for those interests which I call national interests: the interests which the Government itself represents and which we seek to protect in Brussels.
Is this a campaign tactic? Because the campaign has started.
That’s a long way off.
They say that the campaign starts as soon as one enters office.
Fine – if we look at it that way, a politician’s life is nothing but a permanent campaign.
Well, if I look at Hungarian domestic politics, this seems to be the case.
But I think a campaign is something more serious than what’s happening now. A campaign is a focused, organised and carefully considered effort on the part of those involved. We don’t yet see that today.
So there’s no campaign. I wanted to leave this – domestic politics – to the end. We’ll come back to this when we discuss the campaign. But now let’s just talk a little bit more about what you just said in connection with “The Soros Plan”. Did you mention it at the latest EU summit in Tallinn? Or will it be mentioned at the meeting on 18 October between the Visegrád Group and Jean-Claude Juncker – if that meeting will indeed take place?
I always mention it in those places where it’s worth mentioning. But I don’t want to reduce myself to the level of a poor wretch who keeps manically repeating the same things, so I mention it in places where it carries weight and significance. I always talk about it in places where it can be discussed with the dignity that is worthy of Hungary. But everyone knows this anyway. I don’t think I could provide any European prime minister with new information by telling them over and over again my views on the issue of immigration. We don’t want to become an immigrant country; they are, that’s how they decided, and we respect that decision. But why do they want to force that on us? The Hungarian position is that simple. I believe that the meeting with Juncker will take place, and so the prime ministers of the Visegrád Four will conduct a friendly meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker on the eve of the next Brussels summit.
Friendly meeting? You’re smiling rather enigmatically, which is something our listeners can’t see. Press reports tend to suggest that there will be a rapprochement.
So that, too, is on the cards.
Let’s be optimistic.
Well then, let’s continue with the plan or concepts that were definitely on the agenda in Tallinn: the EU reform ideas. These touch upon what you just spoke about, and I believe that the two things are related. What did the V4, the Visegrád countries, say in response to the French president’s words, or when you heard Angela Merkel’s ideas, or when Western European politicians were patting each other on the back, declaring that this is the right direction, and there will be a two-speed Europe?
We didn’t say anything particularly important, given that we’ve already submitted two major documents in the debate over the future of Europe; and after those we have nothing new to say. The Visegrád Four have dealt with the future of Europe twice in the past few years, we have committed our position to writing, we have made it public, and we have also sent it to Brussels. So we have a valid position. We have now heard the concepts of a few other European leaders. My position is that it’s always useful to debate the future of Europe. This is an intellectually provocative question: it’s about our lives, this is our continent, this is our home, and the common future of European nations is relevant to every single nation. This is all very well. However, I always draw attention to the fact that we have already achieved results. So why don’t we protect them first of all? Here we have Schengen, for instance: one of the European Union’s greatest achievements. We’re now making grand plans for the future, and meanwhile the Schengen system is turning to dust in our hands. Rather than protecting the external borders, which is a precondition for free movement within Europe, no one except Hungary is protecting them. There has been no attempt to impose the requirement to protect our external borders on those Member States which are now failing to do so; instead fences and borders are being erected within Europe. Right at the outset we said that if we don’t protect the external borders, if we don’t build an external border fence, the Member States will erect fences between each other. Now there’s a proposal on the agenda to give Member States the right to reintroduce border controls for three years – not for six months in extraordinary circumstances as has been customary to date, but for three years – and, if necessary, to erect physical border barriers within the Schengen Area. We are in the process of destroying Schengen. While we talk about the future of Europe, before our eyes its greatest achievement is coming to an end. I always ask European leaders to at least protect what we’ve already achieved. The same is true on the issue of the employment of foreign workers – or “posted workers” in the jargon of Brussels. In Europe there is free movement for workers, and now we’re in the process of restricting it once again. So we’re talking about grand plans, we’re drafting a far-reaching plan with enormous, broad – I could even say, southern-style – gestures, but in the meantime on the details of genuine issues we’re actually retreating, and taking a step backwards.
Yes, but in connection with the Schengen borders, the relevant EU Commissioner, for instance, said that on the one hand there’s an extraordinary situation, and that on the other hand this is how the challenges posed by terrorism can be handled effectively.
No, we can handle them effectively by protecting Europe’s external borders. That’s how to handle them.
Let’s talk about your tour of Transylvania. You say that there’s no campaign. So that wasn’t part of the campaign either?
So you’re trying to say that this poor Martin Luther had an eye on the Hungarian election campaign when he selected the date…
I wasn’t trying to say that…
…the date when he nailed his Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, and timed this so that the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation would coincide exactly with the campaign, the Hungarian campaign. I think that’s is a bit of an exaggeration.
True enough, put like that it does sound like an exaggeration. To take the edge off that exaggeration, let’s be a little more specific. The school in Marosvásárhely, and the Ukrainian language law: on which issue have you managed to make genuine progress?
Time will tell: these are difficult, complex and confused issues. In this part of the world things don’t follow the accepted pattern of shaking hands, agreeing on something, and then finding that the agreement is observed. Over here there is ongoing wrangling. It’s hard to find your bearings in these cases. I look for people with good intentions, integrity and reliability, and try to come to an agreement with them somehow – so that at least these interpersonal agreements are some sort of a guarantee. As far as I can see, in this respect, we’re a little further forward in Romania, because I’ve managed to build personal relations with the president of the ruling party, and this appears to offer some hope for the future. Here I’m a little uncertain about the wording to use: we should meet two or three more times, seriously discuss a few Romanian-Hungarian issues, and then I can be more certain about my choice of words. But I believe that I can build something with the president of the ruling party there. This is not the situation in Ukraine. With regard to Ukraine, at the moment we’re trying to create a partnership among those countries whose minorities there have seen their rights curtailed: not only Hungarians, but also Romanians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Poles and Slovaks. So we’re trying to create a kind of common EU position which will make the Ukrainians understand. We don’t want to threaten them or punish them. We just want to make them realise that they can’t rely on anyone anywhere in the world other than the European Union, and that while they’re at war with Russia on their eastern border – or at least while they have a border conflict with Russia on their eastern border – and their economy is in trouble, some things are simply impossible While they’re orienting towards us, while they want to live together with us, while they want to cooperate with us, it’s simply not possible for them to reduce any level of protection of human rights which has already been achieved: to withdraw and curtail the rights of minorities – any minorities, not only Hungarians. It is always possible to augment and supplement rights, but they cannot be taken away. Those who take away rights, the rights of minorities, can’t get any closer to the EU, and we will be unable to support their aspirations. We’re asking our Ukrainian friends to understand this, and to seek a solution to this situation.
So in Hungary there’s no official campaign yet, but there’s quite a jostling crowd of prime ministerial candidates…
Oh I see. Now I understand what may have misled you.
Nothing has misled me.
But of course it has! What misled you is that all of a sudden there are so many prime ministerial candidates, and their number has rapidly increased…
I believe that the number of candidates for Prime Minister has misled a lot of people…
Yes, but just because a lot of prime ministerial candidates suddenly appear like mushrooms after the rain, it doesn’t mean that the campaign is beginning; because for the time being the Government is not in a position to take part in a campaign, as it has work to do. We simply can’t start campaigning six months before the election. The country has some serious matters to deal with. For instance, we must protect and maintain public security, we must support families, we must reduce taxes as far as possible, we must give people a chance to take a step forward, and we must make efforts to increase wages. So there’s still a great deal of work to be completed. We have no time to deal with how the burgeoning number of candidates for the premiership are entertaining each other and the public. The campaign will start – I believe approximately three months, two and a half to three months before the election – when the Government says that we’ve completed the four-year task of governing, this is where we’ve got from there to here, and we should now start the campaign and see who deserves the trust of the Hungarian people. But we’re still far from that.
Perhaps it’s not even correct to say that the number of candidates has multiplied, as one of the important challengers has dropped out.
But they are multiplying. Don’t you think so?
The numbers are multiplying, but one of your principal challengers has dropped out.
László Botka. Didn’t he qualify as your main challenger?
I keep saying, I’m trying to say that we’re busy working. We can’t be challenged for the time being, because we’re busy working. When the job of governing ends, in about two to three months, we can then talk about challenging, competing, jostling, campaigning and shouting. At this point in time we must concentrate on the job in hand.
Then we’ll come back to this during the official campaign period. What are your thoughts on the fact that the Center for Fundamental Rights has said that the Prosecutor’s Office could request the dissolution of Jobbik as a party if it fails to cooperate with the State Audit Office?
This is another issue that I’d be reluctant to elevate to the political stage. This is a technical, legal issue. There’s a regulation which stipulates how the operations of parties must be audited and what obligations parties have in this context. I’ll repeat: the laws should be observed, and then there will be no problems. I wouldn’t like to turn this into a political issue: this is a technical, an auditing, a financial and legal issue.
In the past half hour you’ve been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.