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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Kossuth Radio’s programme “Good morning, Hungary”

Katalin Nagy: It’s the 15th anniversary of the leaking of the Őszöd speech. Hearing these words, one remembers that this country once had responsible prime ministers such as Count Lajos Batthyány or István Bethlen. I’d like to welcome Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the studio. What are your thoughts on this speech? Has your opinion changed in 15 years?

I’m one of those – Good morning to you all – who had no reason to change their minds. Also back then, this was a chilling moment in Hungarian politics, and every time you hear it, it is still chilling to this day. The most chilling thing about it is – I wouldn’t say terrifying because we’re perhaps past that, but it is most certainly chilling – that the person who caused this whole situation, who delivered the speech, who deceived the people, then seized power with lies, then took the people’s money away, then bankrupted the country, that same man is still the leader of the Left. So what we’re talking about is not the past, but the past living with us that is still here and wants to keep returning. When I think about my own job – which naturally doesn’t revolve around the Őszöd speech and the Left, but the country and the people – we’re making decisions with which we’re trying to rectify all the things that were botched up at around the time of and after the Őszöd speech. We shouldn’t forget that it’s not only that people were beaten bloody, that the people were deceived, and the country was governed against the people – which as was later revealed was not possible because it had grave consequences; all this was preceded and followed by economic measures as well. They took away the 13th monthly pension, they took away a monthly salary from the people, they took away the family support system, in Europe this is where the prices of gas and electricity were the highest compared with earnings because they doubled or even tripled them. Today, it is the political memory of this speech that still lives with us most, but it had very serious economic policy consequences for the country as well. They took years away from people’s lives just because they tried to desperately hold on to the power they had obtained with lies, and in the end they bankrupted the country. This is the story, all of it together, that brings to mind the memories of those years as a heart-rending recollection to this day. And all you can think of is how good it is that this is in the past now, and how good it is that perhaps in just another year even the last bad memory will disappear from our lives when we finally manage to give back the 13th monthly pension; next year, we’ll be able to give back the second weekly instalment, or perhaps even more. Then we’ll be able to say that we have a family support system again, we restarted the housing support scheme, we gave back everything they had taken away, we’ll increase wages, the minimum wage will be raised to 200,000 forints, and pensioners, too, will be given back that Ferenc Gyurcsány and his associates took from them. Then we’ll be able to say that we have left the Őszöd speech entirely behind us.

Ferenc Gyurcsány lied, provoked the people, had the electors beaten up. Meanwhile, the  Orbán Government takes the view that in between elections it is possible to communicate with members of the electorate by seeking to reach points of understanding, by launching consultations. The latest one was just concluded, you have the detailed results about what members of the public think regarding the most important tasks now facing Hungary. It says that the minimum wage can be raised to 200,000 forints; that was one of the questions. One inevitably wonders that you also need money to restart the economy. Brussels, however, continues to withhold the funds necessary for restarting. Were you compelled to issue bonds, to raise credit in order to advance that money?

Let’s take a look at things one by one. Indeed, the national consultation has become an important institution, an important practice in Hungarian politics. I’m not saying that it was inspired by the Őszöd speech because that would be harsh; the Őszöd speech is indeed beyond all normal human, moral considerations. I don’t think it inspires anything, it only knocks you off your feet, and puts you in a bad mood whenever you remember it. I would rather say that sometime at the very beginning of the nineties, at the time of the fall of communism in Hungary, a little idealistically we thought all sorts of fundamentally positive things about democracy, and believed that one day a government would be formed in Hungary that would ask the people for their opinion and give them the right to decide not only once every four years – that’s what we call elections – but would seek to find methods to enable the people to state their opinions about important issues also between two elections. The national consultation serves as such a means. As far as I remember, we introduced this sometime at the beginning of the 2010s when we were about to create a new Constitution, the Fundamental Law, and it was a great success, more than a million people sent their opinions back to us also back then. And this is why our Constitution rests on such sound foundations and withstands the storm of times – as we can all see this day after day – that this constitutional order cannot be ruptured or toppled either from without or from within. This is partly owing to the fact that we involved the people in its creation. Then later we had national consultations about economic issues, social issues, pensions, and migration. So everyone who in Hungary thought it was important to state their opinion between two elections about one important issue or another facing us was able to do so. I think this is a great achievement of today’s political life. We felt, and I felt we needed another consultation because the pandemic will change our lives. The lives of people in Europe – and I think this is equally true of the entire world economy – will not continue the way they were before the crisis, before the pandemic. We have a difficult decade ahead, characterised by recurring, ever further waves of pandemics, additionally combined with waves of migration. We’ll be living in an era of migration and pandemics, and we must prepare for that. It’s good if people know that we’re on the verge of such an era, and have a chance to give us an idea about the few safe points in their lives that they will insist on in this new era.  This is why we had to talk about the minimum wage; about whether we should have our own Hungarian vaccine manufacturing capacity which doesn’t come cheap, but according to 90 per cent of respondents we need such capacity. This is why we had to talk about families as we will face grave challenges in the coming years. People in the West and the European Parliament keep wanting to move the raising of children from the remit of their parents to the hands of political activists. We must resist this. We must stand up against Brussels on the issue of migration, for our own sovereignty and powers. These will all be difficult political decisions with serious consequences. And I see the national consultation as a means to reach points of understanding. Meaning that I don’t just presume what people think about one question or another, say when in Brussels from time to time I’m compelled to stand up to twenty prime ministers and the entire Brussels bureaucracy, but due to the consultation I know exactly what people think about one specific issue or another. And anyone who believes the country is important and public life is important and wanted to state their opinion did so. When I say something, it’s not just my opinion; I know for certain that I represent the position of the entire country. This is why the national consultation is of great significance. We always sought, I always sought to ensure that there would be consequences after the consultations; that the opinions stated in the consultations should lead to political, governmental decisions. We have already adopted one such decision. We asked the people about whether the credit  repayment moratorium should be upheld, and above 90 per cent of respondents believe that it should be maintained for the needy; equally for small and medium-sized businesses whose revenue fell by 25 per cent due to the pandemic and for families who need the opportunity to continue to avail themselves of the credit  repayment moratorium if they believe that they’re better-off with this option than with resuming the repayment of their loans. We’ve already decided on this, but we will also have a few other decisions in Parliament on Monday. When the autumn session starts I’ll be able to talk about those as well. And about funds. In the middle of the pandemic, we set a grandiose goal for ourselves. With the Finance Minister who’s responsible for an important segment of economic policy, we discussed at length how we could come out of this crisis in an economic sense whilst not losing sight of the fact that the fourth wave is coming. We pledged to come out in the acceleration lane, and to make decisions with which we can raise our economic growth to above 5.5 per cent already this year, in 2021. This wouldn’t have happened on its own, it would have been nowhere near that had we left the economy to its own devices; had we just dropped the reins between the horses, this growth would have been nowhere near 5.5 per cent. With some government measures – this has its ins and outs – we felt we’d be able to target that 5.5 per cent. Today, we can evidently see that according to all reasonable calculations – though the end of the year is still far – we’ll manage that. If that’s the case, we’ll be able to do great things, then we will indeed be able to give back the next weekly instalment of the 13th monthly pension; then we will indeed be able to make the income of the under 25s tax-free; then we will indeed be able to give back the actually paid personal income tax to families worst affected by the pandemic up to a certain limit; then we will have a beautiful year in 2022, despite the fact that the pandemic has taken its toll on us. Now, where does the money come from? Money comes from work. This may be bad news, so early in the morning, but every Hungarian must know – and regrettably, I’m unable to deliver better news – that we can only live off what we have worked for. After World War I, we were deprived of all the opportunities, territories and resources – minerals, coastlines, timber – that we call natural features. Today’s Hungary, too, is fantastic, it’s excellently suitable for farming, we also have bodies of water, but we don’t have the energy sources and raw materials that are available in a number of countries – because they didn’t lose them or have always had them. So in this country we can only live off that which we have worked for. In this country, everything has been created through hard physical work or intellectual power; meaning that if we work then there is money, if we don’t then there is no money. If we build the economy on benefits, there will be no money and we will eventually go bankrupt. If we build the economy on hard work, and organise the life of the country well, then there will be money. And this is why it’s good for everyone to know that after 2010, instead of this benefit-type, Gyurcsány-type, socialist-type economic policy that talked people out of work, we have built a workfare economy. Today in Hungary more people have jobs than at any time after 1990. This is why the economy is working, this is why there is money. On the whole, it’s true that more money comes from Brussels a year than the money we pay in, but if I deduct from this the sums that Western companies, the favourites of the Brusselites take out of this country every year, then the balance is negative. Therefore, I keep saying that our European Union membership is important not because we receive money from there – because in actual fact they take more money out of here than we receive. This is not what matters, on that score we register a loss on some scale. The European Union is important for us because it provides a market for Hungary. Meaning that we’re able to sell the work with which we’re able to produce goods, products and services. So we’re able to combine a workfare economy with high living standards in Hungary if the fruit of our work is consumed not just by ten million people – because we’re not enough to turn it into a thriving economy – but we have access to the European Union’s market of 400 million; then we have money. This is why we must stand up for the European Union, this is why we must stay in it, and this is why I keep saying that even if it’s falling apart at the seams, we’ll be among the last to leave the EU once it has run its course. We must be there because this is the only way for us to sell the products that we make through hard work, and if we are able to, there will be money. It’s not the Brussels funds that are important. Additionally, the recovery funds are loans. I can see that there is complete chaos and confusion in the Hungarian public regarding this, but I’d like to make it clear that the money that Brussels makes available to the Member States as recovery funds is all credit. At this time Brussels doesn’t want to give us this money for political reasons because we have disputes in connection with the LGBTQ community, we don’t want to allow their will to prevail, as in allowing them to have access to our schools and to play any part at all in the raising of our children. Parents have an exclusive right in this, they have the exclusive right to decide on the raising of their children. They want to take that away from us, and so they’re not giving us these funds. But these are loans which we will have to repay. It’s true that we’re taking them out together with the whole of the EU, meaning together with all the other Member States, and we’re repaying them together, but we will have to repay every last penny of the part falling on us if we choose to take out these loans. It’s a fact that we need funds for the development of the economy, especially after the pandemic, but if the Brussels loans are not forthcoming, then we turn to money markets alone and try to secure the missing funds. Last week, the Finance Minister did a genius of a job of this, and with a complex arrangement he brought to Hungary the most favourable credit facility of perhaps all time. So it doesn’t matter what Brussels does, Hungary rests on such financially sound foundations at present that we’ll be able to launch all important developments that are necessary in the wake of the crisis.

Figures show that the fourth wave of the pandemic is on the rise. 458 people were infected in one day yesterday, and there are quite a few people in hospital as well. Aren’t you considering making the wearing of face masks compulsory again? We see on public transport or in big shopping centres that many people are wearing face masks on a voluntary basis. It’s not compulsory, but they’re wearing them anyway.

Naturally, those who believe that it’s necessary because they think that it protects them, or at least helps to not infect others – as the mask is more likely to prevent an infected person from passing the infection on – should wear it. In fact, I encourage them to do so, but I must add that this is not the solution. Sure enough, I don’t want to talk anyone out of it because if they feel that with this they contribute also personally to their own safety and that of the country, they should do so and be cautious. The starting point is that there will be a fourth wave, we’ve been saying that for months. I don’t think that the fourth wave that has reached many countries of Europe will stop at our state borders. The question is not whether there will be one, but how grave it will be. That in turn depends on how many people have themselves vaccinated. We have every reason to be proud that Hungary could boast the fastest, or one of the fastest vaccination programmes in Europe, and we’re also proud that the third dose was first made comprehensively available in Hungary. We can say that it’s better to have the third dose than to not have it. If someone believes they need it and register, then they will get the third vaccine within two weeks, whichever part of the country they may live in. We must maintain the ability to take swift protective action under any circumstances, both in health care and government action. We need to be able to act more swiftly than in the normal parliamentary mode of operation, and so we will extend the state of danger and the special legal order until the end of the year. Isolation, quarantine, masks and so on – let me repeat one more time – will not solve our problem. This is a kind of virus that finds everyone. Only the vaccine helps. The elderly are at risk, and so anyone who refuses to be vaccinated takes a risk. All disease control experts agree that the vaccine works, and if the vaccine works so does the country. Those who have themselves vaccinated – even the elderly – have a very low chance of contracting the virus, whether for the first time or again, compared with not having themselves vaccinated. All sorts of numbers are cited. Some talk about a ten times lower risk or even more if people have themselves vaccinated. Therefore, I’m encouraging all Hungarian citizens, especially the elderly because they’re very much at risk; I’m also encouraging people with chronic illnesses, cancer patients, people who’ve had organ transplants to have themselves inoculated because they are at direct risk in the fourth wave. I can’t force them, the government is unable to force them to have themselves vaccinated. Hungary is a country where in a situation like this a large percentage of people don’t accept mandatory vaccination. In some places, for instance, in health care, in the case of health care workers, it is possible to make something like this mandatory. We’re discussing whether certain employers should be able to make vaccination compulsory for their workers or not. This is a big debate, we’re unable to conclude it as yet, but we are unable to impose mandatory vaccination on everyone in Hungary as a general measure because Hungarians wouldn’t stomach that. However, everyone must be encouraged to have themselves vaccinated because every vaccine reduces the risk of having a gravefourth wave. Young people think – that’s what makes them young – ‘let me play the lion too’ and that they’re bullet-proof. But that’s not the case; this is a kind of virus that hits them too, and the vaccine is a bullet-proof vest for young people as well. So I’m asking young people, too, to have themselves vaccinated. The more of us are vaccinated the less severe the fourth wave will be.

Yes, but the number of first vaccinations is going up very slowly. We can see that people over 60 and the chronically ill keep registering for the third dose, but this has been the same the world over.

Look, on top of that, we’re Hungarians. I experience, in some form or other, the way Hungarian people behave, the way we behave day after day. For instance, when it comes to paying taxes. Everyone knows that those taxes must be paid. There is more than a month to pay them. When do we pay them?

At the last minute?

At the last minute. Hungarians tend to share the view that until trouble hits, they won’t do anything that’s not part of their normal lives. When trouble does hit, they suddenly start scrambling;  this is in the nature of the Hungarian people. But if there is big trouble, you must conquer your bad habits. So I’m asking everyone not to leave anything to the last minute because once they catch the virus, the risk had already emerged, and whether they will survive or not, whether they will sustain long-term adverse effects or not is something that only the Lord can decide. We must take action, we must protect ourselves before we catch the virus. Don’t wait, have yourselves vaccinated today.

Pope Francis I visited Hungary. He celebrated the concluding Mass of the Eucharistic Congress. In the company of President János Áder, you spoke to the Pope for forty minutes. What did you talk about, Prime Minister?

The Eucharistic Congress was a fantastic event. We last hosted such an event in Hungary eighty years ago, and it may well be that there won’t be another one like this in my lifetime. It was in this spirit that I embraced this fantastic congress which was elevated by the visit of the Holy Father. It’s wrong to dwell on how many hours he spent here and so on, not only because it testifies to bad taste, but also because those who view the papal visit from this point of view misunderstand the situation as it was perhaps thirty years ago that the incumbent Pope last attended a Eucharistic Congress. He was here. He was not under any pressure of protocol or any other pressure to come here. He came to Hungary because he wanted to. And I think he came to this congress because this congress was held in Hungary, he wanted to visit us. I could also say – though I’m a Calvinist – that we’re important for him, this is why he came to us, and I think this is something exceptional, something that adds to Hungary’s prestige. This meeting that I held as a member of the delegation led by the President of the Republic with the Holy Father reaffirmed me personally. We avoided the topics that we disagree on. It was Sunday morning, that’s no time for debates; for instance, neither I nor he mentioned the issue of migration. I’m not sure if we have different opinions, but we surely have a different approach to this problem, and so at times like this it’s best not to broach the subject. However, we did agree – as was revealed, and much more deeply than I would have expected and hoped – on the issue of families, and personally this meeting gave me profound confirmation. The Holy Father made it clear that the fight we’re fighting for the protection of families is the most important struggle from the respect of the future of Europe. He, too, can see that powerful forces are at work, especially in Brussels, in the Brussels bureaucracy to relativise the family, and used harsh words that I myself have never used before. He said we cannot allow families to be relativised. The family consists of a father, a mother and children. Full stop. He didn’t say ‘let’s talk about it, let me hear powerful arguments’. He said, full stop, this is not up for debate. In fact, he even said ‘go ahead,’ meaning ‘just carry on, onward’. And we will. I think that on the whole this visit boosted Hungary’s reputation, and gave many of us confirmation. The Holy Spirit was all around, everyone who attended the closing Mass or any event of the Eucharistic Congress could feel that.

I only asked you briefly because the BBC published news reports that the Pope drew attention to the threat of anti-Semitism in Hungary, as if that had been the purpose of his visit.

I think he draws attention to that threat everywhere, but he could see for himself – as the representatives of Jewish communities were also present – that in Hungary, in contrast to Western-Europe, Jewish life is free. If anyone tried to live as a Jew in Berlin, Paris and quite a few other big cities in Europe as they do in Hungary – openly embracing their identity even in the streets – they could expect continual atrocities. Over there, very serious terrorist attacks are committed against Jewish communities. There is no comparison between security in Hungary and security in Western Europe in this respect either, and everyone knows that. But for all that, it’s important that wherever the Holy Father goes he should warn us that hatred, exclusion on grounds of origin and race is something that a Christian cannot condone.

Thank you. You’ve been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.