Katalin Nagy: In Budapest yesterday afternoon Viktor Orbán received Prime Minister Morawiecki of Poland. At a press conference after the meeting, they both confirmed that they’re prepared to exercise their veto. I welcome Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the studio. So you haven’t changed your minds, have you?
We considered everything, we thought everything through, and we continue to stand by our position in the summer, when the two countries were already acting together. Even though back then we’d only just emerged from the first wave of the virus and the second wave was ahead of us, we said that quite a few European Union countries would find themselves in great trouble. Fortunately Hungary is not one of them, touch wood, but some countries will be in serious trouble: countries with high national debt which will find it difficult to cope with the second wave of the crisis – particularly with its financial consequences. This is why assistance must be provided urgently. And indeed we put together a crisis management fund. Also back then we said that this would need to be rapidly channelled to those in need of it, and all political debates would need to be put aside. The other camp refused to put them aside, claiming that the time had come to establish a link between political debates and budgetary issues. In July we managed to repel that attack, which in my opinion is an irresponsible attempt to link two disparate matters: politics and crisis management. But during the summer and autumn, the European Parliament – which also plays a part in this whole game – managed to persuade the German presidency to link these two matters after all. I think this was a bad decision. They shouldn’t have surrendered to the European Parliament. We must tell Members of the European Parliament in no uncertain terms that they represent an untenable and irresponsible standpoint. If they insist on creating a link between political issues and economic crisis management issues, they will destroy several European Union countries.
Of course their response is that they’re not the ones who will destroy those countries, but Hungary and Poland will. Have you seen any initiative or proposal seeking to sow division between you and Prime Minister Morawiecki since you both sent your letters stating that you’re prepared to exercise your veto?
In the world of politics a hammer and a wedge are always near at hand. They’re trying to drive a wedge in what is the best place for them: between countries that are standing together as allies. A Central European cooperation scheme is now emerging that I think offers fantastic opportunities of historic dimensions. In my opinion here in Central Europe we’ll be able to protect our national sovereignty – something which is less fashionable in the West. We’ll be able to defend our countries from immigration, while Western Europe already consists of immigrant countries. In my opinion we’ll be able to defend our Christian traditions, way of thinking and way of life. Meanwhile the West is already multicultural, with everything mixed with everything else. So I see great opportunities in cooperation between the states of Central Europe. This is making slow progress, because throughout history the countries of Central Europe frequently turned out to be enemies of one another, and for a long time each believed that it could only become stronger at the expense of its neighbours. Now it’s become clear that we’ll become stronger more easily by acting together rather than individually or at one another’s expense. This is a new perspective, which will take time to understand and to translate into the language of political action, into a common economic policy. But this is happening, and we’re living through this today. The rebirth of Central Europe and cooperation between the states of Central Europe is one of today’s defining historical processes. This is what the next ten years will revolve around.
Youve given an interview to Die Zeit, in which you said that these two issues should be separated. So you’ve repeated the proposal from July; and the Polish prime minister agrees with this approach. Do you think that there will be an agreement? Chancellor Merkel has said that she sees a chance of coming to an agreement – although this could just be a sign of her usual political optimism.
One can always come to an agreement.
So will they accept this proposal?
The positions are clear. Our votes, the votes of Poland and Hungary, are essential for the creation of the European crisis management fund and the budget. Without us, those two programmes won’t come into being. By contrast, linking political debates with economic issues is not a question of a legal nature: it’s a political decision by some EU countries and the European Parliament. So our position is rock solid, while their position is merely a question of political will. Their position can be changed, but ours cannot. In that event there will be an agreement of some kind. I don’t want to accept a compromise. So this isn’t about reaching some kind of compromise, but finding a solution. More often than not compromises aren’t solutions, but simply bad decisions. We must now focus on giving the necessary financial resources to the countries in distress and on initiating the European Union’s next seven-year budget. This is the task in hand. Naturally at the same time we must contain the virus and save as many lives as possible. We must develop vaccines, and so forth. This is what I think we should focus on. This is a solid position. Linking any political debates to this is optional – any political debate could be linked to it. Now the European Parliament and other actors financed by the Soros network want to connect issues related to the rule of law to this. Together with the Poles we’ve clearly stated – and we’ve been doing so ever since July – that this is out of the question. Those who put so much pressure on Poland and Hungary to force us to eventually surrender our position were sure they’d succeed. But those who thought that don’t know the history of the peoples of Central Europe. Others might have thought that they’d buy us off with money; but we can’t be bought off, because at the heart of Central European history is the fact that we cannot be deterred from our intentions on matters of sovereignty, freedom and independence. Thirdly – and I think this is something new, because four or five years ago the situation was different – we’ve clearly named the protagonist who, like a spider in the background, is weaving a web, organising groups, campaigns and actions which further his own intentions. That protagonist is George Soros. George Soros is both a Hungarian citizen and an American citizen. It would be best if he went back home, back to America. When it comes to European political issues, it’s not entirely clear why we should take seriously what George Soros has to say. He may – in fact, we know for a fact that he does – have quite a few Members of the European Parliament in his pocket. But we must make it clear that George Soros cannot have a decisive – or for that matter any – influence over European political issues. I clearly remember that back in 2015 and 2016 he was already writing that countries which don’t let in immigrants must be punished financially. What we have on the table now proposes the same – even if in somewhat more elegant terms. If we were to accept the European Parliament’s proposal, it would mean that unless we let in migrants they could take part of our budget away from us. Brussels is saying that a country that doesn’t let in migrants can’t be considered a country under the rule of law: only one which turns itself into an immigrant country can be a state under the rule of law. We shall not do that: we shall resist, and we shall not accept any financial consequences being tied to it. This proposal is from George Soros, and today it is being represented by the European Union. In my view it was wrong of the prime ministers and the German presidency to yield to this political pressure that George Soros is exerting through the European Parliament. They should not have yielded, and if they hadn’t, we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in today.
What do you think of the fact that Project Syndicate refused to publish your reply to George Soros?
This is the Left’s interpretation of press freedom: there’s always space for their own voice, but anyone who takes issue with them is sidelined, silenced and ignored. This is completely alien to the European culture of debate. If someone writes an article attacking countries and those countries want to respond, the rules of Europe’s culture of debate demand that their response be published, even if one disagrees with it.
There have been quite a few examples of Western European press outlets simply refusing to publish your replies, whether they’re written by you or [Minister of State] Zoltán Kovács.
This is where we stand now. Let’s be thankful that we’re not like them.
You’ve said that it’s obvious what’s going on in the background. And your words seem to have been confirmed by the fact that a commissioner on the European Commission has clearly stated that not enough immigrants have arrived in recent years, and that more are needed to replenish the labour market in an ageing continent. Interestingly, they’ve been saying the same thing for five years, no progress is being made, and no one’s satisfied with the situation. The Southern states aren’t satisfied either, as they’ve had enough of all these people, and they say that those immigrants should be distributed among the Member States.
I think that on the issue of immigration Brussels bureaucrats have got things back to front. I don’t know how sincere their belief is, but they undeniably say that immigration is the solution to a problem; and I can’t rule out the possibility that some of them sincerely believe that. In reality, it is immigration that is the problem. Therefore the most important issue and the greatest challenge faced by Europe is how to curb immigration, and how to prevent ourselves from becoming immigrant countries. At least this is still the goal in Central Europe, while in the West the situation is worse, as they’ve already set off down that path. I’m not sure if there’s any way for them to backtrack after they’re already in: once 10 per cent, say, of a country’s population are immigrants. I don’t think that the biggest problem is immigration from Christian countries; even though that always brings problems, at the end of the day we come from the same cultural background. The main problem is the masses of people coming from outside the European cultural environment, the Christian cultural environment. If the numbers reach 8, 10 or 12 per cent of a country’s population, reversing that is the problem they have. At that point you can only talk about how to coexist, and make concessions on your own values and culture – as otherwise coexistence won’t work. This is what all the debates in Western Europe are about. This is why Western European patriots feel that day by day they’re losing their own countries, and losing control of their own lives. But we don’t want to interfere in that, because it’s their business: they’ve made that decision, and they’ve created that situation; in earlier times they were colonisers, and clearly this fact is connected to immigration. That’s their problem. We don’t have such a problem, because there are no immigrants here, and there won’t be for as long as there are national governments in Europe, in Central Europe – and above all in Hungary. We don’t have to solve the problem of coexistence, but instead the problem of how to avoid being forced to live alongside people whom we don’t want to live alongside. I know this sounds rather harsh, but I think that Hungary has an interest in continuing the policy which we adopted a thousand years ago, and which we’ve kept alive in Hungary ever since: Hungary belongs to the Hungarians. It would have been better if Europe had continued to belong to the Europeans, but as far as I can see this is no longer true in Western Europe. But here it is true. Central Europe belongs to the Central Europeans, and Hungary belongs to the Hungarians. This is a political position. Over the course of a thousand years, hundreds of thousands of people have given their lives for this. So to my mind this isn’t something to be decided on by the generations alive now: parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents and so on have gone before us, creating more than thirty generations of history. What has happened here for more than a thousand years cannot simply be brushed aside. The Hungarians wanted something here. A generation cannot simply snap their fingers and discard all that, saying, “What a great idea, why not solve our problems by letting in a few million people coming from a completely different culture?” And then we would find that we once had a history of a thousand years, with heaven knows how many hundreds of thousands giving their lives for it: people from the humblest backgrounds, all the way up to our authors, poets and intellectuals, sacrificing their lives to defend their homeland. But, some say, “We don’t care about that now, it’s history. We need workers, so let’s bring in outsiders.” I advise the Hungarians to reject that stance, which seems to have taken root in the West. In this sense of the term, under no circumstances should we allow ourselves to be westernised: let’s not turn ourselves into an immigrant society, and let’s not convert to multiculturalism. Let’s be thankful that we’re Hungarians, let’s be thankful that we’ve survived, and let’s pass on this possibility to our children and grandchildren. To my mind, this is also our duty. Naturally, everyone decides for themselves what their duty is, but I’m one of those Hungarians who believe that this is a duty. I do my job accordingly.
Another important issue after immigration – or perhaps even before immigration – is the virus and the pandemic. Only this morning, one of the managers of the Public Health Laboratory said that sewage samples show that in the coming days there won’t be a rise in the numbers, and they’re expected to stabilise. What do you expect, and where do you stand on ordering and purchasing vaccines?
There are now two battlefields, or two frontlines: one in hospitals, and the other in schools. On the first battlefield, in hospitals, we’re saving lives. On the second battlefield, in schools, we’re saving jobs – because if parents are unable to take their children to school, they must stay at home and can’t go to work. In addition to the inconvenience, this could also cause people serious difficulties for their livelihoods. Now as regards hospitals – because after all, saving lives is the number one priority – at the moment I can’t see any promising signs. I’d like to ask everyone to exercise caution. The strict curfew measures came into force around two weeks ago. In this extremely difficult period, we’ve reached half-time; and we must hold on and complete the second half. Then after 11 December we’ll see where we stand and what the next logical steps are. But now I’d like to call on everyone to hold on, and not to give up. It’s inconvenient, it’s difficult, but only half of this month-long period has passed, and the second half will be at least as important as the one we’ve just finished. If we’re disciplined, if we observe the rules, we’ll succeed – as we did in the spring. So I’m optimistic – but not because I see any changes in the current day-to-day data. I can’t see any significant changes there. Indeed as I see it, as a proportion of the total number of infections the number of hospitalisations has fallen; but despite this, overall the number of people in hospital is increasing. I came here from a meeting of the Operational Group. From what I see, there are around 9,500 people in hospital, meaning that we’ll soon reach 10,000 patients requiring hospitalisation. It’s true that we have one and a half times this many reserve beds left. So while there will be enormous pressure on the healthcare system, as far as I can see it will continue to withstand the pressure in the weeks ahead. I think that our doctors and nurses are doing a great job, as are the medical students who have stepped in to assist them, and the soldiers whom we’ve mobilised. But the greatest contributions are being made by doctors and nurses who have been relocated, because they must stand their ground without the support of their families. So at present the system is functioning and everyone is coping – with difficulty, under tiring conditions, but they’re coping, and will continue to cope in the coming two or three weeks. This is what’s happening in hospitals. Now, as regards schools, we’ve started the comprehensive testing of those working in nursery and elementary schools, in addition to those in the healthcare system and social care institutions. There are those who accept being tested, and others who don’t. Yesterday I also took part in one of these “guerrilla operations”. One needs to see this as something like a paramilitary operation: it requires discipline and precision. I see that there are teachers who don’t want to be tested, but only small numbers of them. So we can confidently say that at the weekend, on Monday or Tuesday, when we’ve completed the first weekly round of screening, we’ll have a general picture of the situation. This morning the Operational Group decided that the next weekly round of testing – the second round – will start next week. Incidentally, we have a very large number of young volunteers, including medical students, whom I’ve spoken to. They’re fine, wholesome young people, seeking what’s good in life, and striving to use their own lives to serve that which is good. Now they’re helping their fellow human beings.
And do they have adequate protective clothing? At the beginning of the week, a politician from DK [the opposition party Demokratikus Koalíció] called upon the Hungarian government to provide adequate personal protective equipment to medical students.
Everything was in order where I was. I can’t be present everywhere, but I can tell you that my personal experience has been reassuring. Cars were available, there was personal protective equipment and test kits. Everyone has packed lunches, because out in the field they need something to eat. Where I was in the neighbourhood of Bicske, the whole atmosphere was very fraternal and caring.
The most important thing is the vaccine, which everyone is waiting for. All the doctors I speak to say they wish it was already available. Is there a vaccination plan? In this regard, how will the Government distribute it once it’s available?
We developed our vaccination plans some weeks ago. There’s a plan for the vaccination of people who request it – as it must be strictly voluntary – once enough doses are available. We’ve designated 13,000 locations where vaccination will take place. So we’ve developed the scenario for mass vaccination. And we also have another vaccination plan, which we’ll implement first. We’ll put this into practice in a first round sometime in December or January, when there will be fewer vaccines available than the number of people who’d like to be vaccinated. There will be far fewer. This secondary vaccination plan will be about who should have priority access. We must give this priority access to healthcare workers, those working in the defence operation, then to members of the groups most at risk, and so on. At any rate, in order to avoid bottlenecks we’ll start a campaign, perhaps as soon as next week, enabling every Hungarian to register. They’ll be able to register early, so that we at least have an idea of how many people are considering being vaccinated. So far we only have surveys on this similar to opinion polls, which are too inaccurate for us to rely on. So we’ll launch online and mail-in registration so that those who want to be vaccinated can register to be among the first to receive the vaccine.
Advent starts this weekend. What can we expect this Christmas? Do you think restrictions will be eased somewhat?
The Operational Group has already started dealing with this issue, and we’ve also reviewed the situation in Western Europe. As I see it, there’s a debate about what should happen with regard to ski holidays. The Italians want lockdowns, and so do the Germans. The Austrians are trying to save the season. I’ve said this here before, but let me repeat: I ask Hungarians not to book ski accommodation and ski trips abroad, because they won’t be able to take up their reservations. They can be sure that Hungary will have rules which prevent people going abroad as tourists, on ski trips, without very strictly enforced quarantine procedures. Naturally no one can be locked up in their home, nor in their own country. We’re not there yet, the situation isn’t that serious yet. If they do travel abroad, however, there will be strict checks and very stringent quarantine procedures when they come home. This is because during the first wave ski trips were a particularly dangerous, identifiable and verified cause of the spread of infection. In the spring this was the cause of the greatest problems in the Czech Republic. I like this sport, which I think is a beautiful one, and I’m glad that there are ever more families in Hungary that can afford to go skiing in Austria for a few days, or for as long as a week. I’d like Hungarians to have even more money, and I’d like to see even more of them being able to afford ski trips. Leading a healthy lifestyle is important. But this isn’t the time for that. The Hungarian state will protect Hungarians’ health through strict regulations, including during the skiing season. So there is this debate. And there’s another debate about what will happen at Christmas. The Operational Group has said that we’re not yet able to make a decision on that. We’d like to speak frankly and clearly. We don’t yet know the rules which we’ll have to live by during the Christmas holidays and New Year’s Eve. Listening to our hearts, we’d like every family to be able to meet without any restrictions, and to celebrate Christmas and New Year as normal. But it will be eight or ten days from now before I’m able to say whether or not we can afford that luxury. The Government will, however, decide on that question in eight to ten days’ time.
Thank you very much. You’ve been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.