Katalin Nagy: The German EU presidency made a proposal to Poland regarding a compromise to avoid the veto. Late last night the Polish government announced that if certain conditions are met they’d be prepared to withdraw their veto. I welcome Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the studio. What are your thoughts on this? Good morning.
Good morning. Let’s review this story. Around now the European Union needs to prepare its budget for the next seven years, and the global pandemic means that it must also provide economic assistance for the countries in distress. The EU would like to do these two things in a single step. At the same time, there are countries which have decided – and the majority of the European Parliament share this view – that in addition to this, some extra legislation called “rule of law” regulation must be tied to this financial package. We won’t accept this, because while we’re clearly able to agree on a financial package, we’re unable to agree to an attached regulation that contains political issues. We mustn’t drag our feet, however. We’ve suggested to the Germans that these two things must be separated. We’d have no difficulty in rapidly adopting the budget and the economic recovery fund. Meanwhile we should put to one side the politically controversial regulation, referred to as the rule of law regulation, and discuss it later. We can’t conduct this debate now, and we wouldn’t be able to agree on it as rapidly as would be needed by the countries in distress which need financial assistance – and which don’t include Hungary. This is what we propose. This is the joint position that we’ve agreed on with the Poles, and neither of our countries will accept a position that’s not acceptable for the other. This is how we see the solution, as you’ve mentioned. Adding some declaration – like some little reminder stuck on a pinboard – won’t work. Hungary insists that the two things are separated.
But what about the Hungarian-Polish agreement? You said Hungary won’t accept an agreement that’s not acceptable for Poland.
Yes, and the Polish have agreed to do the same.
So they won’t accept it.
This is reciprocal. So we issued a joint declaration, a joint Polish-Hungarian government declaration, which was signed by both prime ministers.
The other day Mr. Weber, the leader of the People’s Party group in the European Parliament, said that what they’d like to add is that this shouldn’t be a political issue, and so the European Parliament shouldn’t be involved: instead it should be delegated to the Commission, and if anyone disagrees with their decision, it could be challenged in the European Court.
Everyone says all sorts of claptrap – including Mr. Weber. Perhaps there are fewer Hungarians than Germans, but we’re not stupid and we weren’t born yesterday. We have analytical skills, and so we’re able to connect events which seem to be independent of one another. Isn’t it remarkable that, in the midst of the pandemic, they’re trying to sell us an economic protection action plan to which they’ve attached a political regulation which allows a majority to force onto the Member States anything at all that can be described as the rule of law – which is everything, as we’re talking about one of the foundations of our lives. So they can class something in this way, and then push through any decision with a simple majority. This isn’t possible today, because the rule currently in force – which Hungary demands must be maintained – states that a majority decision cannot be used to force any Member State to do something it doesn’t want to do. And now, in the shadow of the pandemic, the Commission suddenly tables an immigration proposal which flagrantly reveals what the European Union wants to do: it wants to bring in 34 million migrants, or at least it wants to give 34 million migrants housing, benefits and citizenship. So we can see a connection between a proposal focusing on general principles and depriving us of the right to resist, and then the presentation of a proposal which we’ve always resisted. We can see what’s at stake here. They want to be able to use a simple majority so that they can vote to sweep away the anti-migration position of Hungary and Poland. This is what this is all about. Naturally they frame it in the language of the rule of law, money and funding, but that’s not the essence. At the centre of all this, at the heart of the matter, is that, unlike the present situation in which we can’t be forced to accept certain things, they now want to create a rule with which we could be forced into those things. In the end we would have fought in vain for five, six or seven years to prevent them turning Hungary into an immigrant country. We would have fought in vain for the right to be able to decide whom we want to live alongside in Hungary. Our declarations that we don’t want to become a migrant country would have been in vain. They’re now devising a legal instrument which makes reference to other issues, but which they will use for this. This will happen; I know them well enough, as I’ve been sitting among them for more than ten years. So they can tell me anything they like, but I only believe in one thing: legal guarantees.
Last Friday, when you had your first talks on this with Prime Minister Morawiecki, I asked you whether either of you were put under pressure or if any other political means we’re used to divide you. What happened last week – József Szájer’s Brussels incident, or the attack on Tamás Deutsch – shows that the pressure has moved up a gear. What’s your view on this?
What you’re saying is an uncharitable interpretation of events – especially uncharitable to the Germans. Nothing can be ruled out, but all I can say is that I’ve seen no evidence of any kind that could prove a connection between those events you’ve mentioned and the ongoing debate on the budget. I also have an imagination, but in politics facts take priority over one’s imagination.
A plan has been tabled, Brussels has a plan, according to which it wouldn’t be necessary for all 27 Member States to reach an agreement: 25 would be enough. So they would leave out Poland and Hungary. At the same time, however, they add that if these two Central European countries are left out, as soon as next year they should also be denied the right to draw on the funds they’re entitled to in the Cohesion Fund. Is this a possible option – for 25 Member States to come to such an agreement?
The Treaties of the European Union – which are the equivalent of a constitution – are a massive volume. It’s impossible to memorise passages word for word, but I’ve gone through this codex or these treaties a few times and I know all the passages that in theory could be used to circumvent unanimity. And as far as I know not a single one could be used to solve this problem. We can never rule out the chance that others are smarter than us, however, and so all I can say is that there’s no such possibility as far as I know. But let me turn this question around: why would that be a problem? We’re talking about two financial packages which have been connected together. One of them is the budget for seven years, and if we don’t agree on it now, before January, we’ll agree on it later. Everyone needs it, and the sums contained in it are due to Hungary, no matter what: they cannot be taken away from us. The only question is when the budget will take effect. The rule is that if it cannot enter into force on 1 January, then the logic that the EU will operate on will be that of monthly disbursements; each of these will be one-twelfth of the previous year, because every year consists of twelve months. There’s no problem in that: it’s inconvenient, but life will take care of it, and Hungary won’t lose any funding. The other thing you’re talking about – earlier referred to as the Next Generation fund, and now as the recovery fund – is another matter: it involves us in taking out a collective loan. If it were my decision alone, Hungary wouldn’t take part in this scheme, because – between ourselves – I don’t think that Hungary will benefit from seeking to take out a loan collectively with countries like Greece and Italy, and others with levels of national debt at around 150, 180 or 190 per cent of annual domestic product. This is because we’ll take out this loan together and we’ll pay it back together. And if some countries are unable to pay it back, and we’ve seen examples of this with one or two, their debt will have to be paid off by those who are able to do so. We always pay off our debts. So they can be sure that if another country falls by the wayside, then we’ll stand by them – as we’d be obliged to by the collective borrowing agreement. To be honest, I’m not happy for Hungary to take part in this. The question is why we’re taking part if we’re not happy with it. The reason we’re taking part in it is that if we don’t take this joint action, the countries in trouble – those with sky high levels of national debt – will be driven to the brink of economic collapse. Therefore we’re doing them a favour by being prepared to take part in this debt-based recovery fund invented for the 27 Member States. For Hungary this isn’t a matter of self-interest, but a gesture of solidarity. In this area our interests are much closer to those of the Austrians, the Dutch and several others. But although this doesn’t serve our short-term interests, we’ve agreed that we should take on this collective risk, in order to be able to rescue Europe economically. But it’s silly to depict being left out of this as a problem for Hungary.
Do you think there will be an agreement next week, on 10 December? And related to the Poles receiving a proposal from the German presidency, I forgot to ask you whether Hungary has received any such proposal for a compromise.
Everyone keeps repeating their positions. “Proposal” isn’t a word I’d use to describe a situation in which we repeat the positions we all know well – sometimes on the telephone, sometimes in person, and sometimes in video conferences. Hungary’s position is clear: political issues must not be linked to financial issues. This means that the recovery fund and the budget must be separated from the regulation called “rule of law”, which contains political criteria. These two things must be run on separate tracks. One of them must be brought to a swift conclusion; and we must hold negotiations on the other, and come to an agreement later, when we’re able to. This is the Hungarian position. Others don’t accept this: they want to link these two things, and because of them the countries in distress won’t have swift access to money. It is those other countries that are preventing adoption of the budget, not us. Our legal position is based on the foundations on which the EU operates at present. They want to change that. We say that everything should remain as it has been up to now, and then everyone can be satisfied: funds will be rapidly made available, the budget will be swiftly launched, and we can engage in political debate. Our position is reasonable, but theirs is not. Now they want to change something, in conjunction with the budget. To put it politely, they’re putting pressure on us to accept a change, arguing that if we don’t, then God alone knows what kind of huge problems will ensue. But let me repeat, we weren’t born yesterday. There’s no need to change the existing legal situation, because without any changes everything will proceed smoothly and swiftly.
You mentioned that Brussels has come up with a plan relating to immigration, within which they want to give housing to 34 million immigrants, they want to assist them in terms of housing. But this isn’t their only proposal: they would also give them the right to vote. Furthermore, they’d like organisations created by these immigrants to take part in political decision-making in the same way as any EU citizen. What can one say about that?
First of all we shouldn’t be surprised. This is the Soros Plan, pure and simple. George Soros has written it. I’ve read it, and this is why Hungary is engaged in a dispute with George Soros. He has a migration plan, which he’s published, and which is there for everyone to read. It contains six points, and exactly these things: migrants must be brought in and housing must be provided for 34 million people. Then, as these people won’t usually be in work, they must be given welfare benefits, and then they must be given voting rights. Who will they vote for? For the people who brought them in! Who will bring them in?
At least they will for a while.
Who will bring them in? Left-wing governments! When their numbers increase, then naturally – in line with the laws of biology and mathematics – their proportion within society will increase, and that of the non-migrant indigenous populations will decline. Eventually they will be so numerous that they won’t need left-wing parties, and they’ll have their own political organisations. But they [the Left] aren’t looking that far ahead.
But there are already Muslim parties…
Yes, but they’re still small and not significant. That could be the topic of another conversation, and I don’t want to take up the whole programme on it, but it’s also worth talking about where political decision-makers’ horizons are: what time scale they plan for, and how far ahead they look. In our line of business – in state leadership, if I may put it that way – over the past fifteen to twenty years I myself have experienced an unpleasant development, and seen it at close quarters: the time scale governing political discourse, communication, dialogue with people and resultant political thinking is becoming ever shorter. Earlier there were long-term and medium-term programmes. In politics today we hardly ever talk about medium-term programmes, let alone long-term programmes. Instead the focus first switched to the headlines in the next day’s newspapers. Now that we don’t have newspapers, the next question is what online platforms will report in the next hour: who said what, and what the response was. This narrows people’s way of thinking. Here’s this migration debate, for instance, but I don’t hear any opinions about what the percentage of migrants from different cultures and civilisations will be in one country or another in ten or twenty years’ time, what the percentage of indigenous inhabitants will be, and what the political consequences will be. There’s no doubt that if the Left give voting rights to 34 million migrants in Europe, then they’ll be able to rely on their votes and support for a very long time. The Hungarian Left are also thinking long and hard about this. Let’s be honest, we shouldn’t only be talking about the West, but also about ourselves. So – under the great European flags, as this is what Germany, France and others are doing – the Hungarian Left is thinking hard about how to implement the Soros Plan in Hungary, with migrants coming here as well. We shall resist this, because we are Hungarians and Christians. Their plan is to grant citizenship to migrants coming here, and when the elections come along these people will vote for the Left, and the Left will win. But the country will lose! It will also lose in historical terms. This is why I am resisting it. This is why I say this to our supporters, to the Right, to those who belong to the Christian national community, and to everyone who has children and is able to think beyond the end of their own life. Our lives will come to an end, some people’s sooner than others, but this will happen within a foreseeable timeframe. Beyond that, however, there will be our children and grandchildren. This is why I speak so much to people with children and grandchildren, because their sense of responsibility and time horizons are necessarily long-term. They are able – and life itself compels them – to think in the long term. They mustn’t allow Hungary to be transformed – either by Brussels or by the Left in Hungary.
The virus and the vaccine. We’ve heard that mass vaccination is starting in Moscow. We’ve heard that in Britain there are plans for mass vaccination to start at the end of the month, at the end of December. And now the latest information is that Pfizer’s vaccine will go to the United States first. So Europe will have to wait months for it. What can we expect?
We’re receiving contradictory news about what will happen. We know what has already happened, and we’ve received a huge slap in the face – not Hungary, but Europe, the European Union. In fact Brussels received this slap in the face, but it was so big that I’ve also felt the reverberations. Britain left the European Union. Brussels spoke about an imminent collapse, about the end of Britain. They said no one had ever made a worse decision, and that Britain was finished. Then a global pandemic came along. Our 27 Member States start ordering vaccines, Brussels sends me order forms, I pay, Hungary pays into various research projects so that there will be a vaccine at some point. And then here’s Britain, which has left the EU, starting mass vaccination this morning – and with a vaccine that we also ordered, together with Brussels. How can this be? So are the British really doing badly now? There’s a question related to this whole affair that points beyond the pandemic: who is now more capable of action – those who’ve stayed in and are together with Brussels, or those who are pursuing their own path and have looked for their own solution? The answer is that those who’ve left, who are pursuing their own path and are looking for their own solutions are able to protect the health and lives of their own citizens sooner than those of us who’ve stayed in. This is the reality, and we ought to face up to it. The gentlemen over here spend all their time in political debates about the rule of law. Meanwhile, in the areas which most need politicians and decisions in order to save lives and contain a pandemic, we’re simply being overtaken by the British, who’ve left the EU. This is a huge lesson. There will be plenty to think about, and there will be plenty for us to talk about at the upcoming EU summit. What I’m saying is that the vaccine and the fight against the pandemic are not political issues: the task facing us is to offer people the most reliable vaccines as soon as possible. And in this we mustn’t be deterred by political considerations. Therefore we must negotiate both in the East and in the West. And likewise we mustn’t be deterred from our goal by the interests of pharmaceutical companies, of large multinational corporations. So I cannot accept the saving of Hungarians’ lives being dependent on the outcome of multinational companies’ negotiations in Brussels, with 150 to 200 people dying every day while they seek agreement. This isn’t some childish issue we’re talking about. We’re talking about people’s lives. So I’ll do everything I can and we’ll do everything we can to make sure that Hungary has the most reliable access to the vaccine as soon as possible, from whatever source. This is why we’ve started registration. We’ve launched a website through which people can register. Its perhaps important for people to know that when a vaccine is available they won’t be vaccinated in the order that they’ve registered. Registration is important so that we know who wants to be vaccinated, because it will be voluntary.
Not everyone will request it.
Not everyone will request it. We just finished our biggest testing campaign so far, in which we tested hospital workers, people working in social care institutions and people working in nurseries and elementary schools. In that campaign 70 per cent of people agreed to be tested. We’re not talking about vaccination: 70 per cent agreed to be tested, and the rest rejected it. So this won’t be so simple. People are people, and they have their own ideas; and rather than standing to attention and waiting for orders, they shape their lives according to their own ideas. This is especially true if they’re Hungarian – we know ourselves. So 30 per cent refused to even be tested. We need registration so that we can assess the demand for voluntary vaccination: who wants it and who doesn’t. But we need to establish an order for vaccination, as we won’t have enough for everyone immediately. So we will have a protocol for that. I’ve just come here from a meeting of the Operational Group, at which we once more checked their decision on the clear order that’s needed for who should be among the first to be vaccinated. Healthcare workers will be the first, because they’re fighting for the lives of others. They’ll be followed by the seriously ill, with everyone else only coming after them. But we’ve also identified further priorities. Meanwhile we’re continuing the search for and the research into a vaccine. We’re also involved in research, and we’re participating in the Russians’ project. We’re communicating with the Chinese on a regular basis. We also have hopes in Israel. And of course together with Brussels we’re negotiating with Western companies.
What will be the situation related to restrictions after 11 December?
Today is Friday, and I can’t yet answer that question. Yesterday I consulted with disease control experts. We’re a serious country, and I come away from every one of these meetings with a stronger feeling that we have great minds in this country. They reveal fantastic connections, there are fantastic data sequences, and their in-depth analyses are helping in our work. So I’m grateful to them, and on behalf of the entire country I’d like to highlight the debt of gratitude we owe our scientists. Today another group of scientists is coming: the Medical Research Council, that works together with Minister Kásler. This is a team with a different composition of scientists and doctors. I’ll consult with them today. On Saturday I’ll also have two or three consultations, and I’ll also speak to economic experts. Then there will be a meeting on Sunday afternoon in preparation for the meeting of the Operational Group at 6 a.m. on Monday. Decisions on the period after 11 December – including Christmas and January – will be adopted at that Operational Group meeting at six on Monday morning. I’d like to make it clear that, based on our initial meetings, our professors, scientists and doctors are rigidly opposed to any kind of significant easing of restrictions.
And finally, on 6 December parliamentary elections will be held in Romania. This is all the more interesting and important for us because this date reminds us of 5 December: 5 December 2004, when a referendum was held in Hungary. With the result of the referendum back then we inflicted a deep wound on Hungarians beyond the borders. How do you see this?
Now that you mention it, naturally we must also face up to bad things, and we mustn’t deceive ourselves; but neither should we underestimate ourselves. Indeed, on 5 December our honour was tarnished.
The number of votes in favour wasn’t enough.
Let’s be clear, back then the Left spoke about 23 million Romanians [moving to Hungary]; so there was a massive left-wing, anti-Hungarian, anti-national campaign. The remnants of this still exist, because they’re there in the policies of the Left’s leading party today. They’re hostile to Hungarians beyond the borders, and they represent a completely different conception. The conception we represent is unification of the nation and cooperation, while the Left represent the conception of disengagement. They want to disengage from us our communities left beyond the borders after the Trianon diktat. In the Left’s opinion they’re not Hungarians, but just citizens of another country; or even if they are Hungarians, that fact is less important than their citizenship of another country. This is the Left’s position. This is a profound difference between us, between the Right and the Left in Hungary. In December 2004 they won when the number of votes in favour of the proposal wasn’t enough. But the number of votes in favour was higher than the votes against, and this was the moral foundation on which we were able to atone for this stain on our honour after our 2010 election victory – which gave us a two-thirds majority, for which I’m eternally grateful to Hungarian voters. We did this, the stain has been removed, this wound has been bandaged and healed. There is dual citizenship, we have the Day of National Cohesion, and this cannot change until the Left wins a majority in Hungary. The Hungarian nation is united and indivisible; countries have borders, but nations do not, because parts of the nation beyond the borders can be united with the rest of the nation. This is our policy. This is the direction from which we should approach the upcoming parliamentary elections in Romania. Regardless of our historical disputes, which are not simple and have left deep scars, Romania is an important country. For all our differences, we live here next to each other. We must live, and Romania is an important country for us. It’s our fourth most important export market, and we’ve developed very close economic cooperation. We meet the Hungarians over there and feel kinship with them, and when we go there we take money to Romania. So I believe that Romania and Hungary have very many shared interests. I think that one of our shared interests is for both our countries to have stable governments. Therefore we hope that the election in Romania will result in a stable Romanian government coming into being. And we also hope that the Hungarians over there, who have their own political organisation, the RMDSZ [the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania] – which has forged exemplary unity – will perform well in the election. I think that this is in the interest of both Romania and Hungary. So I ask every Hungarian in Transylvania to go to the polls this Sunday and vote for the list of the RMDSZ.
Thank you. You’ve been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.