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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on the Kossuth Radio programme “Good Morning Hungary”

Katalin Nagy: Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is in the studio. Coming after the European Council meeting, why do you think that now, in the Danish parliament a few days ago, the President of Ukraine asked Members of Parliament to put pressure on Hungary to let weapons into Ukraine: to send weapons and to close the taps on the gas pipeline? Good morning.

Good morning. We need to be understanding of the Ukrainian President’s efforts: his country is in trouble, and as the force against him – Russia – is much bigger, more significant and militarily more powerful than Ukraine, he hopes to free himself from this predicament by drawing others into the war. We can’t blame him for this – and I, for one, don’t blame him. After all, he’s looking after Ukrainian interests and trying to help his own country. I have no real quarrel with him. Those who we do have a quarrel with are the Hungarian left, who want to obey the Ukrainian president. This war isn’t our war. We have nothing to gain in it, but everything to lose: we cannot help Ukraine without destroying ourselves, without dismantling Hungary, or without destroying our economy by having no access to energy from Russia. In this military conflict it’s perfectly understandable for Ukraine to wage an international campaign. We condemn the Russian attack, but we cannot help the Ukrainians without simultaneously destroying ourselves.

Is it acceptable to argue that those countries that aren’t helping Ukraine are also funding Putin’s war? After all, Hungary isn’t the only one with this problem: the President of Bulgaria has said that he doesn’t want to get involved in this war, and he’s saying the same thing as Hungary, isn’t he?

Here, too, in this arena we find the big boys – most of all the Germans. There are countries that historically don’t have the absorption and transport capacity that would allow them to do without oil and gas coming from Russia. Germany would have great difficulty in doing without it; and even if it wanted to move away from the Russian system, it would take years to do so. Austria is in a similar situation, so are the Bulgarians, and so are we. So is Serbia, although it’s not a member of the EU. So Hungary, for example, didn’t decide not to have a coastline; and I’d welcome proposals on how to transport liquefied gas and oil on tankers berthing in sea ports belonging to us. But we don’t have the ability to do that, as our history saw us losing our sea coast. Therefore oil and gas come to us through pipelines. If it comes, we have it; if it doesn’t, we don’t have any. So it’s not a question – as some clever people in the West think – of putting on our pullovers in the evening and turning down the heating a little, or of paying a few forints more for gas when we fill up our tanks. The reality is that if there’s no energy from Russia, there will be no energy in Hungary. I’m not saying that this is life and death, but the question is whether or not the economy can function ; quite simply, the Hungarian economy cannot function without such energy sources. And it’s easier to pick on us than on the Germans. I read an article which said that when the Ukrainian president talks about Hungary, he really means Germany.

Yes, but experts are suggesting that if these gas taps were turned off it would only take eight to ten days before the Hungarian economy was rocked, or shaken to its foundations. Why don’t other countries accept this? At the same time, you can see that in Germany it’s already been said that a kind of state of emergency has been declared, because gas won’t be coming through the pipelines.

They accept it. At the last EU summit, the German-Austrian-Hungarian trio made this very clear: we made it clear that it would be inconceivable to extend the sanctions to energy. And for us it wouldn’t be worth it. So there’s a cheap Russian energy source: gas. And then we turn it off and replace it with expensive American gas. This in itself is a great idea, but if I add that we don’t know how the American liquefied gas transported across the sea by ship will reach Hungary, then these proposals are clearly absurd. So Hungary will stick to its own position. The problem is with the Left, which in the background has, I think, already concluded its own agreement with the Ukrainians. And if they were to win on Sunday – this election hasn’t been held yet, and that can’t be ruled out at all – then arms supplies to Ukraine would start immediately, and they’d also shut off the oil and gas coming from Russia. And that would wreck Hungary. This is risky, this is dangerous: the Left is playing with fire.

But what are we to make of the Opposition’s candidate for prime minister claiming one day that he didn’t say that young Hungarians should be sent to war, and then the next day saying that young Hungarians understand the word “blood” better than oil, and that they prefer blood to oil? Why does he contradict himself?

Initially I tried to make sense of these conflicting thoughts; but I gave up, because they came in such quantities that it was difficult to follow any line of logic in them. I don’t even want to focus on the Opposition or the Left’s candidate for prime minister. If someone listens to what he says, they can form their own opinion.

Let’s return to the economy, because it’s a very important issue. Analysts are saying that these sanctions might not only result in the collapse of the European economy, especially if this military conflict is a prolonged one, but that the whole world economy will be shaken and convulsed by a major transformation. What’s your opinion on that?

In my opinion we’re facing a major and deep economic crisis in Europe. Its problems, its roots, go deeper than the war between Russia and Ukraine. There’s a general competitiveness problem in the European economy. In addition, Europe is attempting to make a transition, a technological transition. Even before the war, Europe wanted to remove so-called fossil fuels – coal, gas and oil – from its economic system; and the European Union has solved this – or wants to solve this – by raising prices. So energy prices aren’t going up on their own: they’re the result of a European decision, a decision taken by Brussels, by Brussels bureaucrats. That in itself has caused a shock. In addition to this, war has broken out. This would have been a problem in itself, but then the European Union responded to the war with sanctions. We were never happy about these and we never supported them; but we accepted them, because even though we thought they were a mistake, in the interest of European unity we decided not to block them. So the sanctions came, and they pushed the price of energy up even further. And the energy crisis will lead to an economic crisis in the not-too-distant future: within a few weeks or months. We’ll have to somehow dodge this, we’ll have to elude it. So the next government will have the important challenge and task of cushioning the impact on Hungary of the economic crisis caused by high energy prices in Europe, and somehow eluding it. That will be a question to be addressed after the election, but I can already see the furrows multiplying on the brows of European leaders. We’re in a trap: we’re imposing sanctions on Russia, we don’t want to abandon our climate policy based on raising energy prices, and at the same time – regardless of these factors – prices are going up all over the world. It’s a trap. What’s more, this has so far only been about energy prices and related rises; but now agricultural work’s started, we’re in the middle of it, and the world’s grain supply is also in question. If Ukraine and Russia are removed from the world’s grain supply – Ukraine because of the war, Russia because we’ve imposed sanctions on it – a global food crisis could be ignited. This would particularly affect Africa, but perhaps it could even affect us here in Europe. We could see something that we hadn’t expected: there could even be shortages of certain basic foodstuffs. So the storm clouds are gathering.

How should this Hungarian solution be arrived at? The Opposition claims that the Government will introduce austerity measures if it’s re-elected.

There’s always a debate about how to deal with economic crises. Hungary has seen some difficult economic periods and crises over the last thirty years, and we know how each political tendency deals with crises. The Left are always thinking about austerity measures, because they always impose them. So austerity is a left-wing instrument for dealing with economic crises. This led them to take away the thirteenth month’s pension, this led them to take away part of people’s salaries, this led them to abolish the housing support system, and this led them to dismantle the family support system. This is a left-wing crisis management system: economically finely crafted, extremely painful, and, in my opinion, misguided. We never use it; our national side uses a different remedy – one that prioritises economic growth and tax cuts in such situations.

Yes, but this requires money, doesn’t it? We can see that the Hungarian government has been taking steps since last autumn – whether it’s the fuel price freeze, price caps on basic foods, or, say, the freezing of interest rates on loans. So what options, what room for manoeuvre, does the Government have? Now, of course, some money due to us has come from the EU, but it’s obviously been given primarily to help the more than half a million refugees who have already arrived here.

Yes, but I don’t trust the EU, and I never trust external forces; I trust ourselves. We have money when we work. The Hungarian economy is functioning well today, and I believe that the governing party can win the election, because in the period leading up to the present we’ve created one million new jobs. And when there’s work there’s everything – including money. I clearly remember that in Hungary before 2010 there was mass unemployment, while today there are more jobs and more job opportunities than there are people who are able to work. And now there are approximately 4.7 million people in work. Work generates money, and work is how to deal with a crisis. So when this difficult situation in Europe arrives, the Hungarian government must above all endeavour to preserve jobs in every way it can.

The protection of families has always been a priority for the Orbán governments – whether the second or the third. So, in your opinion, what more needs to be done to enable families to live their lives even more prudently, but with expanding opportunities?

Well, first we have to protect ourselves: we must protect ourselves from the consequences of war; we must protect ourselves from the consequences of energy price rises from Brussels; and we must protect ourselves from the consequences of the transformative international economic changes resulting from the war. And then, in order to further strengthen support for families, we need to implement the plans that we had before the pandemic and before the war. We’ve built up a good system, that throughout Europe is often cited as an example ; but there are still a few gaps in it that need to be filled. Now that we have income tax exemption for people under 25, this will have an impact on young people’s employment, on when and how they have children, and on when they need help to start families. So there’s work to be done in order to complete the family support system.

Children are important for families. We’re now holding a referendum on 3 April, together with voting in the election. What do you think about the fact that LGBTQ organisations and NGOs linked to the Soros network are encouraging voters to spoil their ballot papers in this referendum?

Indeed, the war has impacted on the election campaign, it has overwhelmed it, and the referendum has been pushed into the background. This is understandable, because the most important issue at stake in this election is peace and war. People want peace, the national side is the guarantor of peace, and the Left, in my opinion, is a risk to our peace and security. This is an issue of such weight that it’s eclipsed everything else. And although it’s very important, we’ve seen the comparative relegation of the question of whether there should be a return to a failed past, whether the pre-2010 Gyurcsány era should return, or whether we should continue what we’ve started over the past 12 years. And people also feel that if there’s a single mishap this could be ruined for good. So on Sunday we’ll have thirteen hours – from 6 in the morning to 7 in the evening – to decide the future of Hungary. This is when the decision must be made. Opinion polls are secondary: these thirteen hours are what count. If we make the right decision, we’ll have salvaged our next four years; but if not, we’ll land ourselves in trouble. Now the referendum is also a matter that would be extremely important in itself, were it not taking place in the current situation. I call on people everywhere to prevent this from being neglected, because what’s at stake here is the future of our children. And in Western Europe they started by turning a blind eye to this sort of gender insanity, thinking that it wasn’t a child protection issue but a lifestyle trend, and that it would just go away. But then it didn’t fade away but became organised, and in the Western European world today parents are no longer in control of the issue of their children’s upbringing, and they can no longer set the pace and rhythm of what’s presented to their children in terms of sex education. Pressure groups and lobbying organisations have formed, backed by a large, global liberal media network. All this is being done in an attempt to make our children believe that the fact that they’re boys or girls at birth can be changed, and that such a change would be the solution to some of the problems in their lives – of which there are plenty at a young age. And parents have lost the opportunity to present these very difficult issues to their children when and how they see fit. Hungary hasn’t yet drifted into this situation. Hungary can still protect its children, and Hungary can still put a stop to this gender madness, if in this referendum we clearly affirm the simple statement that a father is a man, a mother is a woman, and our children must be left alone. And then we can protect our children and the right of parents over the sex education received by their children. This is a much more important issue than it seems to be now in the shadow of war.

This has been a very long campaign. In fact the Opposition started campaigning last year, and here I’m thinking of their primary elections. In the last few weeks or days, however, a great many things have come to light – including things that raise suspicions of election fraud. What’s your opinion about the fact that hundreds of thousands of people who have never given their name, address or telephone number to a left-wing party or organisation have received text messages addressing them by their first name and asking them to “vote for change”? 

This is a serious matter. I stood in the first parliamentary election in 1990, so I’ve seen elections over the past thirty years: local elections, European elections, national elections and even referendums. But I’ve never seen fraud like this. So tricks can happen, and that’s not good. But it’s not simply a trick when the data of hundreds of thousands of people is illegally obtained and then used to send political messages without their consent. This isn’t just election fraud, as it also raises the question of freedom. Who has the information about me? Who collected it? How did they collect it? Who gave it to them? Who gave permission? Where was it sent? Was it sent abroad and then sent back from there? I think that the lawyers will have plenty to do after the election. This is massive election fraud, and a very serious offence which must be investigated down to the last detail.

Yes, but isn’t it the Opposition whose members have been talking for months and making statements in foreign newspapers that Hungary’s ruling party is preparing organised fraud, and that the election won’t be fair? I’ve lost track of how many hundreds of OSCE observers there are in Hungary – and even more will be coming.

There’s an army of them here now. They’re welcome, by the way, and such things are good for Hungarian tourism. But there are so many of them that if they were soldiers there would be enough of them to win a war. Well, over the past twelve years the Hungarian left has suffered one defeat after another. If I add the fact that we also defeated them in ‘98, I can understand why they’re pinning their hopes on help from abroad. So they’re doing something wrong. It isn’t my job to think for the Left, but they’ve manoeuvred themselves into a situation in which their only hope is help from outside. Now the stakes are really high, and although we haven’t been talking about it here in the final stages of the election campaign, there’s the utterly extraordinary phenomenon of the Left’s candidate for prime minister having admitted that they’ve created an electoral alliance in which both the fascist tendency and the communist tendency have retained their independence. What this means is that they’ve created a completely unnatural alliance, abandoning all moral and politically important standards and notions of identity – and perhaps also of honour. In other words, the only aim their alliance has ever had is the acquisition of power. And if they don’t win now, in hindsight they won’t even be able to explain and justify this coalition in terms of success; and then very serious questions will arise, creating a great deal of tension for the future of the entire Left. That isn’t my business, and I don’t want to interfere in it. But the great lesson it provides for all Hungarian political parties is that you mustn’t surrender your honour, your programme, your intellectual orientation or your identity, just to come to power. And you mustn’t join forces with anti-Semites, communists and extreme right-wingers with whom your views are incompatible and who would only bring trouble to your country. This will be a great lesson for us all. 

But how can you reconcile this with the fact that they keep talking about the violation of democratic rights in Hungary whenever they’re not the ones in power? 

Well, they can’t say, “Look, we’re inept, we made mistakes, we have a bad programme, we were at fault.” So people look for some kind of explanation about who’s to blame. And in any country very few people answer that question by saying, “Well, yes I’m to blame.” We can’t expect the Left to do that, even if it’s true. But I think that the important thing for the country now isn’t the Left, but the future of the country; and this hinges on the question of war and peace. We must prevent ourselves from being drawn into this war. I can only repeat that this isn’t our war, and even though the Left says that it is our war, that’s not true. This isn’t our war, and we must stay out of it. And if we want the country to continue to be built, we need peace. Peace means construction, war means destruction.

Is this what’s at stake?

In an election in Hungary the stakes have never been higher – at least not in the last thirty years, in all the elections I’ve seen. Elections have always been important, but deciding in an election on the issue of plunging into war or an energy embargo that threatens to bring the economy to a complete standstill is something unprecedented. So we really need to get our act together. I want all your listeners to appreciate the gravity of the situation, to see the horrors, the terrible consequences of war and the threat to Hungary, and to stand up for our country, to protect Hungary and vote for peace.

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