Katalin Nagy: The best news recently is that on Wednesday there were no coronavirus deaths. The last time we had a day like this was perhaps ten months ago, sometime last September. I welcome Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the studio. Is the news now wholly good, or should we look at what’s happening abroad – for instance in Turkey and Russia, where they’ve started administering third doses of the vaccine because they’re concerned about a fourth wave? What’s your view on that?
Good morning to everyone. As I see it, this morning’s report says that in Hungary there have been no deaths due to the virus in the past 24 hours.
So this is the second consecutive day.
Zero is a good number. Seventy-six of our compatriots are being treated in hospital without the need for assisted ventilation, and there are twenty-two on ventilators. Today, the number of people who have been vaccinated will reach five and a half million. This means that more restrictions will be lifted. And today or tomorrow five million of our compatriots will have received a second dose of vaccine. This is a remarkable achievement. We’ve just marked Semmelweis Day, and I’d like to express our appreciation and gratitude to healthcare workers for their hard work in the defence operation and the vaccination campaign. I think I can do that on behalf of us all. As you’ve asked about the fourth wave, it’s very important that politicians avoid retraining themselves as epidemiological experts, because the most harm that politicians can do is to send confusingly contradictory messages on epidemiological issues. So I consult experts, observe, talk to people and ask questions. Today I can tell your listeners that in most parts of the world the emergence of a fourth wave is taken for granted. So there will be one. It’s estimated that it will occur sometime in September or October. At the same time, there’s also a general consensus that those who have been vaccinated stand a good chance of being unaffected by this fourth wave. It’s well worth paying attention to the pharmaceutical companies’ own efficacy ratings. They say that their vaccines are around 90 per cent useful, successful and effective; and Hungarian surveys indicate similar numbers. This means that, even with the best vaccine, ten people in one hundred could be reinfected. But the extent, virulence and potential threat to life of such reinfection greatly depends on whether someone has received the first two doses of vaccine. Those who have been vaccinated will very probably be unaffected by the fourth wave; but even if the fourth wave finds them out, its agonising, debilitating character will be greatly reduced, and they’ll recover from the disease more easily. This is how we can sum up the opinions of the world’s virology experts today. The Government looked into this question yesterday, and examined how many beds, ventilators, therapeutics and vaccines we might need in a worst-case scenario. We established that Hungary is fully prepared for another wave, a fourth wave. After a longer discussion I’d ask my children what the lesson to be learnt is. The lesson is that the vaccine saves lives. So I ask everyone to accept the vaccine. If they’ve had themselves vaccinated, they have a good chance of escaping illness in the fourth wave as well; if they’re not vaccinated, they’ll realise that hiding from the virus without being vaccinated is simply a vain hope. This is the kind of virus that will find them. I ask everyone – and there are many of them, we’re talking about several million Hungarians – who hasn’t yet been vaccinated not to be deceived by the present numbers, by the fact that no one has died and there are few people in hospital. Instead of this, their decision should be influenced by considering the situation which Hungary found itself in during its most difficult moments.
Experts say that the Delta variant is extremely virulent, and primarily infects those who haven’t been vaccinated. Clearly this isn’t a decision for individuals to make, but if the medical profession finally concludes that some people might need a third dose of the vaccine, will it be possible to have that third dose?
At the moment we’re not giving people a third dose. We’re adults, and now that people can choose their preferred vaccine, it’s everyone’s own personal, individual responsibility to have themselves vaccinated; and if they don’t have themselves vaccinated, the consequences for them are also their personal responsibility. We can only provide them with care, but we can’t save them from infection. That’s not possible. Everyone can look after themselves. We’re cautious about administering third doses of the vaccine, because we don’t know what effect it would have. Once again, in Hungary there are tens of thousands of virologists: volunteers who have very strong opinions on this matter. I only look at one thing: whether the pharmaceutical companies which developed these vaccines, and have the most information, will assume responsibility for any undesirable effects if we administer a third dose. Until pharmaceutical companies take a clear stance on that matter, our virology experts say that we, too, must be cautious. The moment may well come when experts are united in agreeing that it’s possible to give people a third dose, but this debate has yet to be concluded. Some say one thing, others another, and the situation is uncertain. So we must be patient.
This week the International Monetary Fund has also increased its forecast for growth in Hungary. It seems that the initial figures for the economy’s relaunch are favourable, but you said that this 5.5 per cent growth won’t happen of its own accord. What will it take? Beyond the decisions you’ve already adopted, are there any further plans regarding this?
First of all, more restrictions will be lifted when we reach the figure of 5.5 million – and perhaps by this afternoon or this evening that many people will have been vaccinated. People will no longer be required to wear face masks, except in social care institutions and hospitals; they won’t be required to wear them in shops or on public transport either. Naturally, if someone believes that they’re safer wearing a face mask they can wear one, but it will no longer be mandatory. People will be allowed to enter restaurants, cafes, hotels, leisure facilities and ticketed, seated cultural events without needing to show an immunity certificate. Restrictions relating to shops will be lifted. Instead of 50 people, up to 100 people will be allowed to attend private events, and the number of guests permitted at wedding receptions will be increased from 200 to 400. There are three types of event for which we’ll strictly and firmly maintain the requirement to show an immunity certificate: sporting events; music and dance events, so night clubs; and concert-like events, let’s call them that, held indoors. For these the essence is physical proximity. For these music and dance events, these – I don’t know how to put it properly – parties, restrictions are being maintained because it would be premature to lift them; and so these can only be attended with an immunity certificate. Reopening will in itself boost the performance of the economy, but in fact the cogwheels are grinding. I don’t know what your listeners’ experiences are, but life is not relaunching as fast as one would have thought. Sixteen months is a long time, and people become conditioned. They don’t know exactly what’s coming next. Many say – as I do – that the world is entering a more dangerous era: we must monitor ourselves more closely and we must be more cautious; and so the speed, the tempo, the contacts, the activity, the exchanges required by the economy are returning more slowly. This is why it will be necessary for us to adopt government decisions that may sometimes seem unexpected and robust; because if we just leave the economy to relaunch on its own, it will be slow, growth will be low, there will be less money, the amounts available for distribution will also be lower, as will the incomes which people see in their pockets. Therefore we need firm, proactive government decisions intervening in the economy, and we adopted some of these yesterday.
You said that prices in the construction industry have risen dramatically, and there are several reasons for that. You mentioned that this price increase should be stopped, because otherwise government funding – the assistance provided for people in their housing refurbishment projects – will disappear very quickly, and will go primarily to internationally-owned construction materials traders and manufacturers.
Yes, some of the decisions we’ve adopted relate to this issue. We’re imposing a restriction on exports from October. One of the reasons that the price of some products has increased dramatically is that the quantities being taken out of the country have increased. As we’re part of the European Union, however, we can’t introduce a restriction on the export of, say, timber, iron or steel overnight; we must first report this to Brussels. There it’s called a notification process, and in practical terms this means that it must be approved; so either we’ll receive that approval or we won’t. One of the EU’s biggest problems is slowness, and thus it’s a long process, which will take four months. This means that we’ll only be able to introduce a restriction in October. But up until then we’ll introduce mandatory reporting for exports and we’ll try to introduce pre-emptive purchasing rights for the state. Thus we’ll try to keep these key construction materials inside Hungary. But we’ve also decided on the extension of working from home, on export credit insurance and on launching job creation projects in seventeen towns. Furthermore, we’ve succeeded in concluding 3-year wage support agreements with [state railway company] MÁV, [state long-distance bus company] Volán, the postal service, the national motorway toll service provider and employees at the national waterworks. This means that we’ve outlined a 3-year, predictable series of pay rises for employees at state-owned companies. We’ve come to agreements with the trade unions, and so this increased pay, this increased wage outflow will be an extremely important step in the relaunch of the economy. At the same time, we also have plans to curb price rises, because we believe that there are some construction materials for which the extra profits being realised are not acceptable. And so if we notice sales prices above a certain level, we’ll annul 90 per cent of the price above that level. So we’ll definitely introduce an excess profits tax on gravel and sharp sand, and we’ll look into this possibility for other products as well. Mines with extraction rights where operations haven’t started – which is something which necessarily restricts supply – will be required to start operations within a year of having been granted their concession; otherwise we’ll revoke the right, the concession, and award it to someone else. So on this point we must intervene in the economy, or else the state grants we provide for housing projects will end up not in the pockets of lower-income Hungarian citizens, but in the pockets of those who control the construction materials trade. This wasn’t our intention; we didn’t want to assist them in realising excess profits, but instead we want to give lower-income people an opportunity to refurbish their homes. Everyone will have the opportunity to apply for a grant of up to 3 million forints, and to a very low-interest – or perhaps interest-free – loan of up to 3 million forints. This combined sum of 6 million forints is significant for anyone who wants to refurbish their home. If prices increase dramatically, however, that won’t be worth 6 million, but only half or a quarter of that. This is why the Government must intervene here.
Last week the European Union heads of state and government held a summit which you yourself attended. While the Hungarian child protection legislation hadn’t even been published in Hungary’s official gazette, meaning that it wasn’t even available in Hungarian, it was interesting that politicians speaking German, English or other Western languages in the European Union had already launched a rather well-organised and coordinated attack against Hungary. And now they’re taking the country to task over this law for something that isn’t even in it. Did you expect such astonishing opposition?
Grammarians won’t be happy with the words I choose, but we Hungarians express it something like, “same old, same old”. This is how it usually happens. This is how it was with migration, this is how it was with the tax on banks, this is how it was with the reductions in household utility bills, this is how it was with the extra taxes we levied on multinational companies. So it’s the same old, same old.
Yes, but to go this far?
It was undoubtedly a tough night for me, and there were some harsh attacks, but I can reassure everyone that I gave as good as I got. While you’re not allowed to take a spear into the chamber, everyone got exactly what they deserved.
This legislation is about the protection of children, so what problem does the LGBTQ lobby have with it?
First of all, there’s this Übermensch mentality: this colonialist mentality. The Dutch prime minister is a prime example of that. In my opinion they don’t really think through what they can and can’t say about the people of another country, and about the laws of another country. They behave like the colonialists of old, who told other countries what laws they were allowed to have, how they should live and how they should behave. And behind all this, I also see some kind of moral ascendancy, a kind of Übermensch attitude, convincing these people that they know better than others. In my opinion, the Dutch prime minister is personally convinced that he stands on higher moral ground than we Hungarians; and therefore he thinks he has the right to tell the Hungarian people how they should live, how they should think, how they should raise their children, and what they can and they can’t do in school. He will tell us this from Amsterdam or The Hague. This isn’t an unusual attitude. He’s a prime example, but there are some others who have somehow inherited these bad instincts from their European colonialist past. This clashes with the love of freedom of those arriving from Central Europe, who dislike such things; because for forty years we lived in a world where this was exactly what happened. We don’t take kindly to this. To be more precise, we’re politely tolerating it; but, as I’ve said, we’re giving as good as we get. There’s a big debate. In Europe this debate is about whose business the education of children is, including the sex education of children. I don’t dispute their right to do so, because this is about their children, they’re raising them, but people in Western Europe have decided that NGOs, civil-society organisations, organisations popularising LGBTQ lifestyles – meaning lifestyles departing from the conventional family model – should be allowed to conduct sensitisation and sex education campaigns in nursery and elementary schools. And they believe it’s the duty of the state to limit the exclusive rights of parents, and to allow – in a state-organised way – children to be introduced to sex education material at a very early age. The other half of the world, the other half of Europe, our half, says that they can do that, but over here the situation is different. A child does not have such personal choice. Although everyone’s free to have an opinion on the subject, how two people over the age of eighteen live together and what they do is something that we see as their private affair, as a question of personal freedom. This is why Hungary protects homosexual people’s lifestyle, and the freedoms related to it. This law, however, isn’t about people over the age of eighteen; the legislative amendments are only about those under eighteen. In their case, we believe that parents, first of all, must be aware of what their children see or come across, and what influences they’re exposed to; they are the ones who must decide whether or not their children are exposed to such things. And it’s the duty of the state to provide the conditions necessary for education – by drawing parents’ attention, for example, to the fact that in the mass media there will be content and information of a certain type. And then parents will be free to decide whether or not their children watch such programmes. The same applies to rainbow activists wanting to go into schools in order to “sensitise” children, as they say. First of all, the state has the right to accept or reject this – but mostly to reject it, because only appropriately trained people are allowed to deal with children. Secondly, a parent has the right – even if the state has already approved – to say, “Thank you, Dear State, but no thank you. You may consent to this, but as a parent I have the right to ensure that my child isn’t exposed to something like this.” And we recognise this precedence of parents’ rights over those of schools and the state. There’s a Central European country where this is also laid down in the Constitution. And I’ve even found a document of the European Union which clearly lays down that the education of children is the prerogative of parents, and parents are allowed to raise their children in accordance with their own personal worldview, and religious and pedagogical convictions. This is the essence of the debate. Naturally our opponents – the organisers of the Soros network – aren’t simply interested in this particular case: they have a vested interest in continually trying to present Hungary in the most negative light possible. We don’t know whether behind this are merely the economic interests and personal worldview of the Soros network, or also the state interests of a large foreign country. It’s difficult to establish how these enormous, gigantic US funds and foundations are linked to the American state, but the question is one that deserves our continuous attention. But however it is, it doesn’t matter how they’re organised: I’m sure we’re better-organised than they are. We’re here, this is our home, this is our country, and here the Hungarian people will decide how they raise their own children. Raising children is difficult. You’ve clearly encountered that, and so have I. I know that the most difficult time is in puberty, when children’s sexual and social behaviour is developing. We can also remember from our own lives that it was a difficult situation, and it takes time: not everyone likes you, sometimes you feel disappointed. But the answer is not to provoke them into changing sex. We must encourage them to try to live with the physical and mental features that they have, and thus to find their places in the adult world. This is a major challenge for us parents – and for schools, too. We don’t want anyone apart from us influencing this.
Now that we’re talking about children, our correspondent in Brussels reported that at last week’s European Union summit you had around eight minutes to discuss the issue of migration. Since then some things have happened: in Germany a Somali migrant who arrived in 2015 stabbed and killed three people and injured several others; and [in Vienna] a thirteen-year-old Austrian girl was drugged, raped and brutally killed by Afghans. Time and again this must surely draw the European Union’s attention to the fact that what they’ve been doing since 2015 might not be good, mustn’t it? Are they aware of the consequences that uncontrolled immigration can lead to?
First of all, we offer our condolences to our Austrian friends, who are truly shocked by what happened. The whole of Austria is up in arms, and outraged. At the same time, the Chancellor of Austria is fighting with exemplary spirit to deport migrants who were let into his country illegally. This is a difficult situation, because these perpetrators came from Afghanistan, of all countries. The United States and NATO are now in the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan, and if the situation over there escalates, then migrants from Afghanistan will be setting out for Europe in very large numbers. Therefore Hungary should also take on a role in the stabilisation of the situation in Afghanistan. I could say that as regards migration, Hungary’s first line of defence is located in the territories from which migrants are setting out. In the case of Africa, this means Mali, while elsewhere this line extends from Syria all the way to Afghanistan. This is our first line of defence. Analysing the situation in Hungary, our starting point should be that while last year there were around ten thousand attempts by illegal migrants to break into the territory of Hungary, so far this year – I’m trying to give you an exact number – there have been 38,000. This means that the pressure on our borders has multiplied, and this will continue. So we must prepare to live with more intense migration pressure than during the pandemic, than over the last sixteen months. We’ve launched a national consultation because we must somehow create a kind of understanding among the Hungarian people about what we should prepare ourselves for. In the world there are two approaches. According to one approach, the world will return to how it was before: there was a pandemic lasting for sixteen months, it took its toll on us, but we’ll shake it off like a dog shakes off water, and our lives will slowly but surely return to where they were before. According to the other approach, the world won’t be the same as it was, life in Europe has entered a dangerous era, and we’re facing an era of pandemics, waves of migration and population movement. If the first is true, we must act in accordance with that; if the second is true, we must act according to its dictates. What we do, how we arrange our lives, how we strengthen Hungary in the years ahead depends on our answer to this question. This is the first question in the national consultation. I believe that the world to come will be a more dangerous one than the one we’ve known up to now. We must acknowledge this, we mustn’t bury our heads in the sand, and we must prepare for an era of dangers: we must strengthen Hungary on the points expressed in the questions in the national consultation – including the issue of migration. On this I’d like to receive confirmation on whether Hungary should continue firmly standing up for its position and rejecting the resettlement of migrants. Help must be taken to where the problems are, rather than bringing those problems here; this is what the European Union should be doing. This is what I stand for. I’d like to see maintenance of the consensus on this position.
Thank you. You’ve been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.