Katalin Nagy: The EU has agreed its seven-year budget, and payments from the recovery fund could also start soon. A week ago, after the EU summit, the Hungarian prime minister said that common sense had prevailed. I welcome Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the studio. How did you manage to bring this match back from one-nil down?
In the same way that the Hungarian national eleven did against Iceland. What matters is the final result, and compared with that the score at any other point during the match is of hardly any interest. Perhaps it’s just as well that the public are probably less aware of the fact that negotiations had been at daggers drawn for months – mostly with the Germans, as they now hold the presidency of the European Union. These negotiations were about reconciling the position on the future of the EU held by the European Parliament with the diametrically opposing position of some Member States, including Hungary. This difference of opinion has now manifested itself in issues related to the budget, but in fact there is a much more deep-rooted problem: the European Parliament is continuously attempting to take control of the European Union away from the heads of state and government. In Brussels jargon this is referred to as an “institutional conflict”: the prime ministers have a council, called the European Council, and there’s the European Parliament; and these two bodies had their differences in the past, but now differences have also emerged on more important issues. So this is what one could call the European dimension of the whole affair. The Hungarian dimension was that the European Parliament wanted to link financial issues, budgetary issues, with all sorts of undoubtedly difficult and complex political issues. So there was a danger that, as we were not prepared to accept this link, the stubbornness of the European Parliament would bring down the budget, and thus also bring down the future of the economic crisis management fund – with neither being adopted. We had to negotiate with the Germans about the separation of these issues, about clearly separating political issues from economic issues, while at the same time enabling them to stay on speaking terms with the European Parliament. A few months ago this seemed like an impossible mission, but that’s the beauty of our job: you can find a solution if you think hard enough, and if you negotiate long enough. And this is just what happened. It was also thanks to the Poles. A special debt of gratitude is owed to our Polish brothers in arms; because we might have somehow got to where we are now on our own, but it was much easier to attain our goal together with such a large country as Poland, with its population of forty million. And towards the end the Central Europeans grew in courage: the Slovenians also made their voices heard, and the Czech president made it clear that it would be right for the Central European countries to jointly represent the Polish-Hungarian position. In the end, by the last day of the EU summit, there were enough of us to assert the interests of Central Europe. I regard this as a huge success. In fact I’ve been restrained in my celebration of this, or I speak about this with restraint, because I wouldn’t like the Germans or any other Western European countries with views at odds with those of Hungary to feel that we’ve somehow defeated them. That was not the goal. Rather than this, a beneficial, positive and reasonable joint European position was reached. A very large element of the position that was adopted is identical to the Hungarian position, but I’d prefer to see it as a shared European success, and not in any way as something that was achieved at anyone’s expense.
There was a great deal of pressure in the Western press, with the mildest reports claiming that the Hungarians and Poles were blackmailing the European Union and committing a political crime. Then this week we saw that while the European Parliament adopted the decision, they attached to it a separate resolution stating that they wouldn’t approve the European Council’s decision. In this they’ve sent a message similar to one that you yourself have sent in the past: “Hold your horses – we really do have a major role to play.”
In essence the European Parliament wanted to take control of the European Union. There’s an important question underlying this debate: What is Europe? Members of the European Parliament believe that Europe is Brussels, that the institutions operating in Brussels – such as the Parliament – epitomise the future of Europe, and that it is there that the decisions on the future of our continent must be made. We heads of government take the view, however, that the European Union is in the national capitals. We gather together in Brussels because that’s where we have talks, but that’s not the centre of the EU: it’s simply the place where we meet – because the European Union is in Warsaw, Bucharest, Zagreb, Budapest, Paris, Rome and Berlin. It’s in the national capitals. And this must find expression in the authority to exercise leadership. The Treaties clearly state that the direction of the development or progress of the European Union and the position of the European Union on strategic issues is represented and expressed by the heads of state and government. The European Parliament wages a continuous battle against this. But in fact there’s a network behind the European Parliament. This is where Soros’s people come into the picture. They have built powerful positions within the European Parliament through their NGOs, civil society organisations, research institutes, their media influence and all kinds of international background rating institutions, judging press freedom and democracy. We call this the global elite, an elite operating in the background which represents the interests of large international financial groups. They’ve gained a foothold in the European Parliament, and now from within the European Parliament they’re trying to seize from the democratically elected heads of state and government the decision-making powers which control the path taken by Europe. This is an ongoing struggle. On a larger scale, outside the EU one can also see that, in opposition to nation states and governments elected by the people for the representation of the public’s interests, all sorts of global organisations – essentially political and economic organisations – are trying to attain positions of power in order to decide on the future of the world, rather than allowing leaders elected by the people to do so. This is a new chapter of globalism.
The fight is not over, however. You yourself said so in the letter in which you replied to George Soros for the second time. At the same time, political actors also appear to share that view, as the European Commission has tabled another draft, another migration pact. They’ve reworded it slightly, but the original goals are still there. How can you fight against this week after week?
First of all, now that you’ve mentioned it, George Soros has indeed attacked Hungary in several articles he has written. I thought long and hard about whether it’s right for the Prime Minister of Hungary to engage in a dispute at all with such a man. He’s undoubtedly the world’s most corrupt man: a financial speculator, even though his makeup artists have given him the face of a philanthropist. But if I don’t engage in the dispute, no one else will. So I decided that I must reply. I sent my article to the outlet which published his article, and I was told that they wouldn’t publish mine. So that’s what freedom of the press looks like in the West today. A billionaire speculator attacks a country. Its elected leader wants to reply, and they refuse to publish his response. So I’ve started a little European samizdat, like in the old communist times here in Hungary: anything we weren’t allowed to publish officially we duplicated or photocopied, and distributed among ourselves. The world has moved on, because now we have online media and online publicity, and so my chances are that much better. But I’ll keep communicating and writing about this, and I’ll keep publishing so-called “samizdat” writings of one or one and a half pages. It’s not very nice to promote one’s own writing; but if Hungarians are interested in my replies to people from the West, I encourage them to look for my short responses, which can be read on Hungarian media outlets. In connection with the dispute with George Soros I wrote not one, but two. I believe that we’ve reached a watershed. I’d like to think further about how to move forward, because even if on this matter we won and not him, what George Soros has just done – with the active support of the Hungarian Left, incidentally – went beyond what a country can accept with just a shrug of the shoulders. From Hungary’s point of view it’s not normal that there’s a man, an American speculator – and also a son of Hungary – who’s working in Brussels to harm Hungarians however he can. In the entire international arena all he does is try to harm the Poles and – even more – the Hungarians. I don’t think it’s right that we’re just sitting here, fending off these attacks, pretending that this is the most natural thing in the world. So, in opposition to this man and his network, I think we’ll have to defend Hungary’s interests – our Hungarian national interest – more energetically than we have done up to now. We must take this seriously. This time we – and I – required a display of bravura to foil George Soros’s attempt to harm Hungary to the tune of many, many billions of euros.
George Soros’s dealings have been investigated in the UK and elsewhere, and what they’ll find will be nothing new. But let’s go back to the migration package, the draft that the European Commission is eager to see adopted next year. There was another proposal aimed at the introduction of gender education. Recently I read an opinion by a researcher, who said that these days researchers are only given access to funds for research if they claim they’re conducting gender research. And now there are not 72 genders, but 90!
At all events we should count on that – even though the heads of state and government have now managed to reach a good agreement on quite a few issues, and we have the bombproof financial background needed for economic planning in the coming years. I think this is good news. We’ll be able to plan ahead because we know exactly what will happen in the European economy, and it will be possible to coordinate the European Central Bank, the European budget, the Hungarian budget and the work of the Hungarian National Bank. The Hungarian economy functions as part of a larger unit, and so when it comes to planning the future it’s crucial for us that there’s not a single uncertain element. These elements seem to be stable now. We’ll be working on this in detail this afternoon and this evening – and perhaps we could even finish the work this afternoon. Quite a few important economic decisions are being prepared now, and so by tomorrow morning I’d like to make an announcement about the introduction on 1 January of further measures within the economy protection action plan aimed at combating the economic crisis created by the virus. But returning to your question, the fact that we’ve stabilised our stance on economic issues doesn’t mean that there aren’t unresolved differences on issues of a non-economic nature concerning the future – which are at least as important to our lives as the economy is. And we’ll have plenty of disputes in the future because of these differences, because of the conflict caused by the fact that the Western part of Europe is not tolerant, that they don’t accept the fact that here in Central Europe we think differently about certain issues, and they want to force their ideas on us. In my view, one of the historically most important issues is that of migration. They continue to want a Europe based on immigration. They want to give housing, pay, benefits and so on to 34 million immigrants, which I think is an insane plan. But I’m not challenging their right to do whatever they want to themselves. I do, however, challenge their right to seek to do the same to us. And this gender thing will be on the table – which a normal Hungarian doesn’t even understand, because these are the problems of such peripheral life situations that they don’t concern 99 per cent of people. Hungary is a normal country. In Hungary it seems ridiculous to even need to say that a father is a man and a mother is a woman, and that the purpose of marriage is for a man and a woman to commit to sharing their lives over the long term, so that they have offspring together and see their lives continue in the lives of their children. In Hungary these things are obvious. Now it’s also true that in every human community a certain percentage of people don’t follow the conventional way of life. But they’re the exceptions. In Western Europe, these exceptions – who, as you’ve said, now identify ninety, or heaven knows how many, ways of living together – are themselves sometimes uncertain about how to identify or define themselves. So you cannot regulate the lives of one hundred people based on the special circumstances of the one person who’s the exception. The ninety-nine must be the basis. There are situations that we regard as normal or general, and there are exceptions. We don’t want to condemn those who are the exceptions. I don’t think we should publicly judge them, because everyone is free to live their lives in the best way they can. But no one can demand that we base the lives of the remaining 99 per cent of people on the specific lifestyle choices of the 1 per cent. It’s easy to see that this would not be good, it wouldn’t lead anywhere, or could only end badly. Behind this whole gender debate I see a general phenomenon: in the West they want to show understanding towards a particular group of people representing a very small percentage of the population; but instead of tolerating them, identifying and accepting their differentness, they pretend that they represent the normal order of life, and they convert the rules relating to the exception into rules for human life in general. You can’t organise the life of a community like that. The Hungarian Constitution has now provided perfect clarity on these issues; we adopted important decisions on this at the latest sitting of Parliament.
Twenty-four years ago Ágnes Heller – that poor disciple of György Lukács – wrote that gender is not part of science. Despite this, it seems that in Western Europe they’re claiming the exact opposite.
It’s difficult to decide what constitutes science and what doesn’t. Once more, all I want to say is that there are always examples that diverge from generality – among plants and animals, just as among humans. And when it comes to people, we must give them the respect, the freedom and everything else they deserve. So I think our job is to make one another’s lives easier, not more difficult, and that also holds true for people who lead lives that are different from ours. But those people cannot demand that we make their outlook on life the basis of the regulations intended for the 99 per cent majority. I think this isn’t so much a problem of gender as a problem of tolerance. It’s not for the majority to adopt the minority’s way of thinking, but for the majority – preserving their own identity and their own position – to tolerate the positions of minorities, and give them what they deserve. But we can never accept that minorities’ conceptions of how to live should be the basis of life for the majority.
Let’s move on. In the past few days, or just over a week, the number of new infections seems to have halved, thanks be to God. There are around 7,500 patients in hospital, including between 500 and 600 on assisted ventilation. So it’s true that we’ve reached a plateau. How do you see this? Will there really be a downward trend in the second wave? The vaccine is the most important factor, isn’t it?
You’re asking me a difficult question. I’ve just come here from a meeting of the Operational Group, which is where we started early this morning. I can’t report any truly liberating news: I can’t say that the pandemic is decreasing, is in retreat, or anything like that. All I can say is that the numbers aren’t worsening, which isn’t much consolation. But at the same time I see that tighter measures are being continuously introduced in many Western European countries. At our meetings we always review most European countries’ newly introduced measures, and so just this morning I saw that the Germans are going into a complete lockdown – for two to three weeks, as far as I can see. I believe that we prepared ourselves well in the summer: we conducted a consultation, assessing people’s general attitudes to the virus, and which issues they see as important; we procured the necessary protective equipment; and we prepared our doctors and nurses. As I see it, the healthcare system is able to provide appropriate care for the large number of patients in the coronavirus pandemic. Today I again asked how many people we have: how many doctors and nurses. And the answer was that the biggest enemy now is fatigue. They’re tired. They’re doing a horrendous amount of work, doctors and nurses are doing superhuman work. They’ve been doing this for months now, so inevitably fatigue sets in – and that can easily turn into lethargy. And when there’s lethargy your concentration drops, and that can lead to trouble. So we salute our doctors, nurses and hospital managers who are keeping the healthcare system in combat readiness – and producing results, because the situation isn’t deteriorating. Of course now everyone’s saying that it’s good that it’s not deteriorating, but they’re asking when it will start improving. I can’t see any major improvement in Western European countries, so we can only trust in ourselves. We must maintain our border protection. I’d again like to ask people not to plan or consider skiing holidays, because we could face massive problems if winter tourism were to start up again and we reopened the borders – which we clearly won’t allow. So we must keep the borders closed. And the ultimate solution that everyone is looking forward to is the vaccine. We received some information on this today. There’s a chance that the first vaccinations could start on 27 December – or if not on that day, then the day after. As far as I can see now, enough supplies for around 35,000 people will arrive here in the last few days of December.
Here in Hungary?
Yes, in Hungary, and then we’ll start vaccinations – on 27 or 28 December. We’ll offer vaccination in county hospitals, but first of all in the South Pest Central Hospital, where we’ll start with healthcare workers – followed by the other healthcare workers in county hospitals. Vaccination will be free and voluntary. Naturally I’ll ask healthcare workers to have themselves vaccinated in the largest possible numbers, but I have to say that among them there doesn’t seem to be any general desire for that at the moment. We’ll need to talk seriously with doctors and nurses about whether they want it, how many of them want it, and so on. I wouldn’t like to set aside the voluntary nature of vaccination, meaning that we wouldn’t want to force anyone to have themselves vaccinated. But I’d like to ask those who work in the healthcare system to protect themselves in their own interest, because they’re fighting on the frontline, and we’d have difficulty replacing anyone who drops out. Therefore I’d like to see healthcare workers asking for free and voluntary vaccination in larger numbers than people in society at large.
How’s registration going?
The numbers are increasing. As I’ve said, at first we’ll have enough doses for 35,000 people, and then further supplies will arrive. Registration will be relevant at some point, because for as long as only limited supplies of vaccine are available, vaccination will be conducted in the order determined by the Operational Group; but once supplies are available in larger quantities and there are enough doses for everyone, it will be conducted according to registration. So I ask everyone who’s prepared to have themselves vaccinated to register on the relevant website.
Will vaccination points be set up?
Months ago the Operational Group devised a protocol which would enable us to vaccinate everyone who wants to be vaccinated in a single weekend. So the conditions are in place for a full, general and nationwide vaccination programme taking place over a day or two. We have such a vaccination plan. We have the necessary equipment, computer records and database, and vaccination sites have been designated. Everything is ready, and the only thing that’s missing is the vaccine itself. The only reason we can’t yet activate this system is that we haven’t got enough vaccine. Right now we’ll only have enough vaccine for healthcare workers. Therefore at the moment the only place where vaccination needs to take place is in hospitals.
Every national leader is saying that we mustn’t relax restrictions. In Hungary the Prime Minister has said – you’ve said – that a few days before Christmas there will be some kind of announcement about what will and won’t be allowed over the Christmas and New Year period.
First of all I’d like to say that this year Christmas will be low-key. Everyone loves a big Christmas because – in addition to the possibility of full personal spiritual renewal created for us by the birth of the Messiah – it’s a family holiday. And we love a big Christmas, because that’s when we can all get together. And if we can’t get together, we go and see those who, for whatever reason, were unable to come and see us. At this time of year the whole country hits the road, and everyone is on the move. The 25th and 26th are the days we visit relatives, and in Hungary this has been the case ever since I can remember – as it is today. This year this custom must be suspended. This is a huge sacrifice that we must make for the sake of our health. If we do what we normally do and have a big Christmas, we could harm those we love the most: we could take the infection to our relatives. Therefore I ask everyone to be content with a low-key Christmas celebrated in a smaller circle. And perhaps we’ll be able to fully celebrate our family holidays as is the custom in Hungary at Easter – but if not then, we’ll do so next Christmas. The rules relating to Christmas Eve aren’t clear yet. We’d like to make a decision on this on Monday, at Monday’s Cabinet meeting. We’ve already decided on the rules for New Year’s Eve, when the restrictions will remain in effect. The only question is whether there’s a chance of breathing slightly easier and having a somewhat more relaxed evening on the 24th, on Christmas Eve. What will and won’t be allowed will be decided at our Cabinet meeting on 21 December. I’d be delighted if the experts said that an exception could be made for this one night, this one evening, with less stringent rules being applied. I’d also like to hear the experts say that in the rule relating to the size of family gatherings the maximum number of ten people would only apply to those family members over the age of fourteen; then we could gather around the table in somewhat larger numbers. But we have to consult the healthcare experts on this. So the timetable is that the Operational Group met today, we’ll announce further measures in the economy protection action plan tomorrow, and after Monday’s Cabinet meeting we’ll be able to say what will and won’t be allowed on Christmas Eve.
So we should look forward to the holidays with a sense of caution.
A low-key Christmas.
A low-key Christmas. I wish you a Merry Christmas. Thank you for accepting our invitation. You’ve been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.