Interview given by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the newspaper “Magyar Idők”

6 January 2016

Péter Csermely: Prime Minister, the popularity of the Government and Fidesz – as well as your own popularity – has changed a great deal this year. At the beginning of the year you faced dramatically declining popularity indicators, internal struggles and a society strongly opposed to some of the measures you implemented. Today there is no sign of that declining popularity, and you have effectively regained everything you lost in the months after the 2014 elections.

This is characteristic of the job we do. As I once heard István Csurka say in Parliament: “sometimes on wheels, sometimes on foot”. Right now we are on the wheels.

And it seems that you owe this to the migrant issue. Were you simply lucky?

The migrant issue is not only about migrants. There are root causes behind it which you must pay attention to if you are interested in what will happen to you, your family, your children and in general the ties which we call our country, our nation and European civilisation. A new horizon has opened up for Europe, with new opportunities and new threats. The migrant crisis is one of these. Since 2008 an enormous realignment process has been increasingly visible; this is something which at first one does not notice, because we are living our daily lives in it, as is the rest of Europe. We have had to cope with the financial crisis, an economic decline, the flow of migrants and the threat of terrorism. In every one of these instances Europe has merely reacted: Europe has been unable to ward off any of these threats, and has not even been able to predict them.

Perhaps this is because it appears to be very convenient for European countries to place politicians at the top of the EU who are completely incompetent and cannot be taken seriously.

Convenience is not the main consideration; the problem needs to be sought at a deeper level. It is not about the incompetence of the leaders of the EU, and it is not about the system in which they are selected. The question to which the EU responds incorrectly is what job we should elect these leaders to do. Europe has deluded itself into believing that the time of strong, charismatic leaders in politics – the time of Kohls, Aznars and Sarkozys – has come to an end.  It is said that such politicians pose threats which are greater than the benefits they generate; furthermore, it is claimed, the EU is not a community which requires leadership, but a huge humming machine in which we are cogs of different sizes and which needs the direction of a system of institutions. This view is the root of the problem. As long as our shared enterprises are going well, this concept may even be effective, but it is not enough when challenges and threats emerge and if things go in the wrong direction: bureaucracy is unable to respond. We need, we would need strong personalities. Ever since 2008 Europe has been in and out of crises, and it has failed to realise that its institutional routine is no longer adequate, because the environment in which we live has changed completely.

Hungary has been centre stage in Europe with its responses to the flow of migration. The reaction in noisy media outlets and in politics was initially one of increased opposition to Hungary, and to you yourself. This noise seems to have died down now, however. Do you expect the Hungarian solutions to become accepted as the definitive norm?

We did not seek increased international attention. We would have been happy if the majority of our partners in the EU had agreed, right from the beginning, with the view of the situation which the Hungarian government took. If this had been the case, there would be only some tens of thousands of genuine refugees in Europe today, rather than a million migrants. However, the majority of European leaders sided with the philosophy of Willkommenskultur, and by the time we succeeded in changing their views somewhat, the crisis had become almost unmanageable.

But this did not improve – let us put it this way – the official European perception of you. Isn’t the eternal role of the black sheep increasingly unpleasant for you?

What is unpleasant for me is irrelevant. If there is a crisis, only firm and clear responses are meaningful, and only strong and determined leaders who are able to define and implement these responses can help. What the Hungarian government and I represent is based on common sense and our everyday experiences. This is why people in Hungary and throughout Europe joined our ranks.

In Europe today there are hardly any stronger leaders that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. Yet on the migration crisis her view is completely at odds with yours. Doesn’t this refute your theory?

The German chancellor is a charismatic and strong leader – there is no doubt about that. Everyone –Hungarians included – has reason to respect and trust her. In her case, what is lacking are not personality traits, but room for manoeuvre. She sometimes reminds me of Gulliver, whom the Lilliputians tied to the ground with thousands of pieces of thread. Since the latest elections in Germany Angela Merkel has been forced to govern in an extended coalition. And not only does her Christian democratic party, the CDU, have no majority in the Parliament in Berlin, but the right itself has no majority. So the CDU won the election in vain; it is in government today merely due to the fact that the left-wing parties were unable to come to an agreement with each other. I believe that the German and the European left has forced upon the German chancellor the migrant policy which she is at present compelled to represent.

Do you not think that German-Hungarian relations might suffer as a result of the diametrically opposed migrant policies of Berlin and Budapest?

Indeed, on this issue the positions of the German and Hungarian governments diverge widely. If we became fatalistically resigned to seeing ourselves as a victim of circumstances this could even result in a conflict. But politics is managed by human beings, and if within politicians the intention exists to salvage from our relations that which can be salvaged, the alliance can be maintained. I believe that this intention does exist. It can be seen that what we are doing also serves Germany’s best interests. Hungary has protected its borders and it has created a regional cooperation scheme together with the Visegrád countries; we are supporting Slovenia and Macedonia so that they, too, can protect themselves; we are also ready to extend our support to Bulgaria – a country which should be swiftly admitted to the Schengen zone. Taken together, all this is significantly slowing the flow of migrants – something which Germany itself has a vested interest in.

That may be so, but no one in Berlin says as much. We see the usual double standards regarding Hungary: shouts of abuse are all there is room for. In this case Western politicians are hypocrites and liars. They have continually changed their views in recent months, but their declarations have one thing in common: the assertion that the Hungarian measures are awful. Only a few days ago news came that migrants’ money and jewellery are being confiscated by the authorities in Denmark. Had we done the same, I don’t know what would have happened; Budapest would have been bombed from the air. Do you still maintain that we should not be fatalistic?

We should not. Every nation – including the Hungarian nation – has its own destiny. Ours may be due to our linguistic isolation, our different origins, our geographical situation, or the political well-poisoning of the 20th century; I don’t know. But we have our own position, our own policy; in order to have our stance representing our own interests recognised, we must work twice as hard, we must be twice as brave, and we must demonstrate twice as much strength as others. But the end result will be the same. We will obtain respect and recognition, they will accept our position: we must show our determination and must persevere. We shall never get anywhere if we constantly seek peaceful pastures and always back down after the first skirmish.

You mentioned the united stance which the Visegrád countries have taken on the migration crisis. It was quite instructive to see how the West – which had been constantly preaching about “solidarity” – responded to this true manifestation of solidarity, which was not merely based on empty words.

One of the reasons is frustration. Central Europe is successful. At present this region accounts for the majority of European growth. Central Europe, which for twenty years was looked down upon and constantly seen as a source of problems, is grateful for the opportunity it was given in the past two decades and is grateful for cooperation, but now it is standing on its own two feet and is competitive in its own right. As a result of communism and Soviet occupation we do not yet live quite as well as Western Europe and we do not yet have the same capital strength as they do, but I am convinced that this region has responded better to the crises and challenges of recent years. The other reason should be sought in differing scales of values. There is a dividing line which starts at the Baltic States, and runs all the way through Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and the western border of Slovenia. West of this line there are countries which have long since given up on protecting families, but East of this line we all have family-friendly policies, and same-sex marriage is not accepted in any of these countries. In this part of Europe everyone also understands that we cannot let in masses of people whose true identity and intentions are unknown. This is not understood in the West, where they favour the policy of inclusion, and where this will result in grave problems.

However, at present those west of this line also keep saying that they provide the money; and if there is no cooperation on the migration issue, there will be no money either.

First of all, this is blackmail. We adopted joint decisions in the European Union earlier on how much we are going to spend on what. This has nothing to do with the migration crisis. If someone wants to link these two things, we must point out that this is revenge, this is blackmail, and no one has the right to do this. This is not the European style; to bludgeon is not legitimate European practice. Secondly, it is worth clarifying whether we indeed receive their money. After forty years of communism, Central Europe agreed to compete with large, highly capitalised western companies. We opened our markets in a way that gave western companies an enormous advantage, and they were able to acquire profit-making positions in our economies which we would never have had a chance of obtaining in theirs. The legal right to compete equally in the market is of no use; the difference in the size of capital makes this an illusion for quite some time. We receive the funds that we receive in order to redress the balance. Furthermore, the business profits withdrawn from Hungary and taken to the West are comparable in total with the grants which we receive from the West.

Why are you not prepared to compromise on the issue of the migration quotas? Hungary could take in a few thousand people without problems.

We could, indeed. But a few thousand people today, ten thousand tomorrow, and a hundred thousand the day after tomorrow; we cannot cope with this. This would be like a flood. If the dam bursts, it is too late. Letting in migrants is hardly a mistake one can correct. Furthermore, this is a question of principle: should it be possible for outsiders to tell Hungary that we Hungarians must live alongside people whom we do not want to live alongside? In this respect it is irrelevant whether we are talking about ten, one hundred or one million people. We are protecting our national sovereignty. If the Hungarian parliament so decides, we shall take in refugees, but we shall not allow Brussels to force a quota system on us.

A great many things are decided in Brussels as it is. Why is this a problem for you? And why does this consideration not bother politicians west of that line?

There are politicians who expect the EU to transcend the nation states. In Central Europe, by contrast, we take the view that the EU is a good thing because we – the nations – will become stronger in it, both individually and collectively. The advocates of the first view are pleased to see the arrival of migrants, as they can shake the ethnic foundations of the nations; they do not see this as something bad, but as something positive. We see this from the opposite point of view. There is another group of politicians who expect and receive new votes from immigrants. According to the available surveys, the vast majority of immigrants become left-wing voters. This factor shakes the entirety of European party politics, which is built on Christian foundations. In ten years’ time, new citizens who were allowed in now will be here together with their family members. We must understand that a person coming from the Islamic world will not vote for a fundamentally Christian party; we would not do so if the positions were reversed. They will side with the left, because there they will at least not be faced with Christian foundations. And after a while, if they are here in sufficient numbers, they will organise their own political representation of interests, which for the same reason will cooperate with the left. The conventional political balance of our continent – which is based on the intellectual and political competition between the left and the right – will be upset. The big question for the future is how the politicians and voters of Europe – and in particular the European People’s Party – will respond to this.

If there are so many fundamental contradictions and disputes within the EU, how long will this community be able to survive at all?

Europe is seeking its place in a changing world. We are living in times when the hierarchy of countries is changing, and new military, geopolitical and economic centres are emerging. We must face the fact that China will be the number one world economic power in the near future. In a few years’ time this will also be true of its military strength. Does anyone know what sort of world that will be? What will our world be like if the Anglo-Saxon dominance evaporates? What will the representation of Chinese interests be like? In such a world will Europe be a backyard or a front garden? And which way will Russia – a country with enormous territory and military might – be facing? The times of Yeltsin – the era of a disintegrating Russia – will not return; the Russians have learnt their lesson. Europe is perceiving this change: we are perceiving that the value and weight of our positions are decreasing. But we are still only at the stage of trying to make sense of what is happening to us. This in itself is not easy, because nothing like this has happened for centuries. It used to be clear that our civilisation was the strongest, the most viable and the most innovative. But that is no longer the case. So we here in the EU should not try to come to an agreement on the issues which separate us – because we cannot. There is no point in forcing homogeneity on ourselves. The EU needs success. We may have a future if there are more issues in which we are successful than those in which we have differences. The countries of the eurozone are the core of the EU; they should strive for more success. Up to a point these countries made good progress towards deeper integration, but this process has now stalled. If they are able to find a way out of this quagmire, the EU may even have a bright future. But if they are not, we shall be forced to face truly grave issues in the whole of Europe. We shall then have to reconsider the entire European setup.

For years joining the eurozone was one of Hungary’s main goals. Why are we now voluntarily giving up on this goal when we could join?

Because the eurozone’s growth prospects are at present unclear. Today I cannot with good conscience tell the Hungarian electorate that we should go ahead with joining, because I do not know what that would lead to. At this point in time, the reasonable approach is to root for the success of the eurozone, but to wait and see in which direction the countries using the common currency are heading.

I do not think that you should solve the problems of the Hungarian opposition, but I presume that you have an opinion on the situation. If you have benefited from the migrant issue, if you have been lucky, could you say that the opposition has merely been a victim of bad luck?

No. What’s more, I believe that the migration crisis only has a temporary and indirect impact on domestic politics in Hungary. There is a programme, a plan, a vision, a civic consolidation which is represented by the governing parties now in office, and none of the opposition parties are able to call the principles of this into question. So debates in Hungary today are not debates on the goals, but debates on the means; these are less significant and provide less of an opportunity to build a position as a challenger. In addition, the Hungarian people also see that the Government’s goals are realistic; even though we are unable to progress in huge strides, every year we come closer to these goals.

This is all very well, and it almost sounds too good. But what do you think are the goals which the opposition does not even want to debate?

The first one is the enhancement of our national sovereignty. For the Hungarian people there is no European bloc into which the country could merge which could guarantee a better future than that offered by being a strong nation. For us this is a matter of emotional, historical and economic importance. The second such goal is a work-based economy, because it is a basic tenet that the more of us there are working, the stronger we shall be. The third one is the promotion of families in all areas in which the Government can assist. The fourth one is the issue of security, public security; everyone wants strict but fair rules. A centrist consensus exists not only in politics but also in society: the vast majority of people see these goals as important, and regard the measures we are using to attain them as realistic. Additionally, we form a special community together with the generations of Hungarians alive today. The period since the restoration of independence in Central Europe is already longer than the one between the two World Wars. Throughout the past quarter of a century we have done it together: we have worked and struggled together. We are the contemporaries, the sons, daughters and parents of the Hungarian people. I believe that this is a very strong bond.

There may be more or less agreement on the above issues, but the opposition accuses you of resorting to dictatorial practices and of building and operating a corrupt mafia state leading towards a dictatorship; within this, they say, Hungarians are becoming increasingly impoverished and are fleeing the country.

These accusations are not serious; it does not take much to refute them, though it requires perseverance. On the alleged democratic deficit, it is enough to say that you should browse a couple of newspapers or internet portals, and you will immediately see that there is freedom of speech and opinion, which is the foundation and central principle of every democracy. It is alive and well, and is wider and deeper than in Western Europe – something which I never thought could happen. Regarding corruption, you should take account of the fact that we are in office as a government and others are not, and the common Hungarian perception is that those closer to the fire are always under greater suspicion than those further away. But governance does not mean that everything which happens and all policies can never be called into question, or that selfish interests can never be imagined in the background; this is because we are working, work is in progress and it is not possible to stop. This is an unavoidable concomitant of governing. We have here a political task which is not complicated, but which must be performed every day: maintaining order in the functioning of the state, exposing those who make accusations, and mocking hypocrisy. We are lucky that when they were in office the left-wing opposition thoroughly demonstrated what a truly corrupt government is like, and therefore any attacks coming from that quarter are as a matter of course discredited and ridiculous. As for the right-wing opposition, we must simply reveal the truth: the criminal background which has always characterised the world of radical politics in Hungary. And as far as poverty is concerned, people’s everyday experience of life is our defence, because after all reality counts for something. Compared with 2010, everyone who wants to work and wants to live by their work is doing better today. Everyone – apart from the opposition – has benefited from our time in government.

Do you not think that the Government’s reaction in terminating certain contracts with Telekom due to the Ákos affair was unjustified and childish?

I did consider what the right response would be, and I also pondered whether what we eventually did would seem disproportionate. But it did not upset me that a singer called Ákos had been attacked, because there are some people who like him and his music, and there are others who do not. That is a private matter. What made me angry was the notion that a rich and strong person – a foreigner who does not live here but merely operates a business in Hungary – can punish us, the Hungarian people, here in our own country, for our opinion. If we believe that this is something which must not be allowed to happen – and the Government took this view – we needed to send a signal to that effect which was loud and clear.

While all Christmas messages are fundamentally the same, what is your message to the Hungarian people for Christmas 2015?

First of all, I would encourage them to keep a positive outlook. We shall have an even better chance of achieving our ambitious goals. Personal income tax will decrease, tax benefits to families with two children will increase, and we shall launch a new first home programme. As regards wishes, there is a reason why every Christmas we tend to wish each other peace. Peace is not only a lack of war; the foundation of genuine peace is justice, and a happy life can stem from peace that is based on justice. I therefore wish my compatriots a more just world, more peace and a happier life.

« vissza

On Saturday morning, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán received President of Poland Andrzej Duda in Parliament.
In answer to questions from foreign journalists in Brussels on Friday, the second day of the summit of the European Union’s heads of state and government, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that Hungary does not like double standards, and therefore does not support them being applied to anyone, including Poland.
At a press conference in Brussels on Friday afternoon, in which he evaluated the agreement between the European Union and Turkey, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that Hungarian diplomacy has achieved its goals.
  • Viktor Orbán, 52
  • Lawyer, graduated at Eötvös Loránd University and studied at Pembroke College, Oxford
  • Married to Anikó Lévai
  • They have five children: Ráhel, Gáspár, Sára, Róza, Flóra
  • Chairman of FIDESZ, vice-chairman of the European People's Party


© Minden jog fenntartva, 2010