Interview with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on commercial station tv2’s “Facts – Evening” television programme

17 September 2015

Transcript of the interview with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, which was broadcast on 14 September 2015. in the ’Facts – Evening’ programme of TV2.

Csaba Azurák: Prime Minister, thank you very much for accepting our invitation. Let us begin with the latest news, perhaps: will you declare a state of emergency due to mass migration on Tuesday?

The new legal situation will enter into force in the morning – or to be more precise, at zero hundred hours on Tuesday; this will entail new passages in the Penal Code. Based on these, the Government will have the right to declare a state of emergency. We shall discuss this at the Cabinet meeting scheduled for Tuesday, and we shall make a decision. If you want to bet on it, bet on “yes” rather than “no”.

Soon – as worded in your government communication, and as you yourself put it – a new era will begin in the migrant crisis. Before we embark on the details, please tell me, do you expect scenes of crowd violence at the Hungarian border?

We do not know what is going to happen. We are prepared for all eventualities, simple situations and complicated scenarios alike. There is a fence on the border which lets everyone know where the Hungarian border is; crossing it or even attempting to cross it at a point other than the designated crossings qualifies as a crime, and if someone commits this crime, the police will enforce compliance with the law. In other words, the police will arrest those persons concerned, and will then launch the relevant fair legal proceedings. This crime carries a maximum prison sentence of several years, or expulsion from the territory of Hungary.

I am intrigued by the latter. What exactly will a migrant or illegal migrant find when they arrive at the Hungarian border after midnight? Previously there was talk of U-shaped transit zones closed in the direction of Hungary, then the position of the Government changed, and you spoke about administration points. So if a migrant arrives at the fence from the direction of Serbia after midnight, what will they find?

First of all, they will find a sign. We have given everyone – including ourselves – quite a few days to prepare for the new legal situation. This will be new for everyone, including the police and the courts. There will be signs at the border which clearly indicate which way a person wishing to legally enter the territory of Hungary should go, and what they should do; this is because we are not closing the border completely, but are simply enforcing compliance with the laws which have always been in force. So – not to beat about the bush – even earlier it was not legal to enter Hungary other than at designated border checkpoints. Then also, crossing the border elsewhere was not law-abiding conduct, and qualified as a misdemeanour; but the punishment was so mild that not many people took it seriously. Additionally, it was as if we had drawn a line in the dust and said “This is the border, you cannot cross this”, because there was no physical border barrier. Now there is. So we display these signs. Those who arrive – migrants, say – can see the arrows and know which way to go; they must go to these border checkpoints, where there will be administration points, where they can submit their documents, and where they can state what they would like.

Within what timeframe will asylum applications be assessed?

There is a procedure for this; it is already quite rapid. The Hungarian government regards Serbia as a safe country – or to be more precise, the Hungarian government has decided that, as a matter of course, every EU Member State and every country accepted by the EU as a candidate country (and Serbia is a candidate country) qualifies as safe. If a country were not safe, how could it be a member or potential member of the European Union? Based on this logic, this is what we laid down in the government decree. It is this decree that must be enforced at the border. In this case, if someone claims to be a refugee, we shall ask them if they have submitted an asylum application in Serbia; if the answer is no, their application will be refused, as Serbia is a safe country.

While I am aware that there is no good answer to this question, let me ask you: what percentage of deportations or refusals do you expect?

A high percentage.

Over ninety per cent?

Look, it depends; it is not for us to decide, but for those who come here.

I am only asking because you must have some experience by now.

Our experience is that most of those who arrive here have not submitted asylum applications in Serbia, even though they should have. The reason that we were unable to enforce the Hungarian rules was just because they came in such large numbers and there was no scope to secure the border, because we did not have a fence. But just between ourselves: it is quite absurd, and does not cast us in a particularly positive light, that a one thousand-year-old state is unable to enforce its own laws. The simple physical fact is that too many people are coming. In a situation like this, we must find a solution, as the Germans and Austrians are trying to find a solution now. We may have woken up a little earlier, and therefore we may be somewhat further ahead. They can only control their border crossing points; we are also able to control the green border, so Hungary is perhaps that much further forward.

We shall come back to the Austrian and German reactions later. Before that, however, let us talk about the fact that there are almost five thousand soldiers at the border to help the police in their work. What powers do they have? In particular, after the 21st, when you need a two-thirds majority for their “deployment”, in inverted commas. So what powers do they have? We have read about a great many scenarios, but you have made it clear that firearms will not be used, for instance.

The situation is that right now we are unable to directly use the army for border surveillance responsibilities, because the opposition did not support our proposal on that. Therefore, in order to curb this modern-day mass migration and to be able to draw on the assistance of the military, we are required to change a two-thirds law. The opposition did not agree to this, but manoeuvred in a way which has cost us two weeks. Sometime at the end of September Parliament will be able to carry out the required legislative amendment, and then this will no longer be an issue, but at present it is. So what the army is allowed to do according to the laws in force at present is a reasonable question. They call this a nice little legal debate, and now it even has its own literature. I believe that lawyers have looked into it from every angle. In this situation, the army can facilitate the work of the police. This is what the army can do.

Talking about the military, the departure of Csaba Hende is one of the events of the last few days. Is it true, as we have learnt from the press, that he tendered his resignation because you were not satisfied with the speed of the construction of the fence, the border fence?

Look, there is a bad Hungarian habit here, which I believe (the writer) Mikszáth also mentions; there are short stories and sketches about it. If a Hungarian is told that the deadline is thirty days, he will complete the job on the thirtieth day. But the thirtieth day is the latest date. You can carry out a particular task in an office in three or four days; no one says you are not allowed to. And when we are running for our lives, when the enforcement of our laws in Hungary is at stake, you cannot just complete something by the deadline if you could have somehow completed it before. In this sense, the responsibility is not the minister’s, because he would have completed the job by the deadline; but I would like to have seen much faster progress, so I was compelled to accept his resignation.

You have mentioned the anticipated eventuality that from midnight an enormous number of migrants – tens of thousands are expected – may become stuck on the Serbian side of the border.

We should not discount this possibility, but I did not say this, as an opposite scenario may well occur. Today no one can say precisely. This is a business, and while everyone is talking about immigrants and asylum and war zones, we hear very little about the fact that this is a business. And quite a lucrative business at that. What is more, I believe that we cannot rule out the possibility that in several countries there is some kind of relationship between the authorities and human traffickers. This is an organised business now. Those who organise this business do not like to lose. The situation now is that those who want to dump people at the Hungarian border will never get paid for their role as human traffickers, because they will not be able to carry their “consignment” all the way to the agreed destination, which is Germany. Therefore the traffickers themselves will have to find another route if they are to complete their “orders”. This will cause problems in Croatia and Slovenia, but I sincerely hope that there, too, there are governments which are capable of making decisions.

I only wanted to point out that by securing the Hungarian-Serbian border from midnight tonight – and this border will be secured much better than before – we will not have solved the problem. They merely have to find a new route, or we divert the flood of migrants to a new route.

We have nonetheless solved three problems. We have complied with European regulations, we have enforced the laws of Hungary, and we have protected Hungarian interests. This is not a minor achievement.

I was not talking about those problems, but about the flood of migrants. As you yourself mentioned, these people heading for Germany will reach their destination by avoiding Hungary.

Each country must solve its own problems. Every one of the countries which signed the agreement referred to as “Schengen” agreed to use their own resources in protecting their external Schengen borders; this is what it says in the agreement. Consequently, if they criticised Hungary earlier for not being able to enforce the Schengen Agreement, they had every right to do so. But when they criticised us for seeking to enforce the terms of an agreement which we all signed up to, it is unfair and unjust. In the first place we should mention Greece here, as Greece is the first EU country encountered on the route from that direction; if Greece had observed what we agreed on, and if they had fulfilled the obligations they were supposed to, we would not have any problems on the Serbian-Hungarian border, and neither would the Austrians or the Germans.

How much has the Hungarian state spent so far on the transportation, food and registration of temporary migrants? And how much money has the EU given Hungary for this? Just so that we can compare.

The total we have spent so far is around thirty billion forints, and by our reckoning we will spend more or less the same amount during the remaining period. This means that we are talking about some EUR 200 million. And the EU has given us a few million euros to date. So these two figures are not even comparable.

Prime Minister, less than 24 hours ago the Austrian government had a crisis meeting and later the Germans announced the reinstatement of border controls. Slovakia and the Czech Republic are considering the same. This is despite Austria having strongly criticised the Hungarian government when it attempted to focus its measures in that direction. What consequences will the German and Austrian decisions have for Hungary?

We could joke about the fact that the Austrians are now doing something which Hungary was continuously criticised for earlier, but this is not the time. This is not the time to feel satisfaction, and this is likewise not the time to talk about our own role, which I believe is positive. This is not what we are talking about now; we may yet come back to this issue in later evaluations. We now have a problem, a challenge, an extraordinary situation which we must resolve. We are better equipped to solve this problem together, rather than individually, and I am therefore pleased if the critical, anti-Hungarian tone is absent from the statements of the Austrian chancellor and the Austrian government, and we are finally able to cooperate in a sensible manner.

Did you read my questions before the interview?

No, I didn’t.

The next one would have been whether you feel some sort of satisfaction due to the change in the Austrian and German positions. But let us skip that.

I didn’t say I do not feel satisfaction; I only said that this is not the time.

This is not the time to talk about it. Fine. In an interview you gave the German newspaper Bild at the weekend you said that European leaders are living in a dream world, and they have no idea about the dangers. Does the Austrian-German reaction to the current shock – because I believe we have every reason to call it that – which we were talking about mean that European leaders, Western European leaders are finally beginning to wake up from that dream world?

We hope so. The next few days will tell. It is certain that the people forced this change. Judging by the swift changes in the positions of governments which we are observing in Western Europe today, above all I would conclude that Europe is, after all, a land of democracy; Europe is a democratic political world. You cannot go against the will of the people here for long, and without genuine arguments. You can for a short time, and with the right arguments, but it is very difficult to do so for a long time and without genuine arguments. And the everyday experience of the people both in Western Europe and in Central Europe, and in our own world, too, is that they are uncertain; there is fear, they do not understand what is going on, and they seem to sense – and I am going to talk about this later, because this is something I mention whenever I can – that their very way of life is in danger. Of course there is crime, we should have no illusions on that score, and there is an increased threat of terrorism, this is another thing we should have no illusions about; there is the problem of freeloaders, because not all of the migrants coming here today will be hard workers, and there is pressure on social welfare systems. But the real fear – at least, this is the primary consideration for me – is that our way of life has been challenged. Because we see that wherever in Europe larger Islamic communities have emerged – as the German Chancellor said – parallel societies come into being. So experience shows – real life, rather than theory, philosophy, or liberal fairy tales – that when these communities arrive in Europe, they create their own societies according to their own religion, culture and way of life, and these societies exist side by side. The future supply of arrivals is almost unlimited – as we can see from the numbers coming now; and if we look at the demographic figures, we can see that these communities have far more children than our communities living according to the conventional European, Christian way of life. Simple mathematics leads us to the prospect of a Europe where our way of life will be in the minority, or will at least be faced with a major challenge. So in fact we are defending our way of life. Europe is a region in which we pay attention to one another, respect one another, and work hard for peace and security. This is a peaceful and safe world; but it is not like this of its own accord. We have worked hard for this, and we are concerned for its survival.

If we read international or domestic criticisms, the gist is that what you are experiencing or talking about as a concern is being voiced by the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, who 25 years ago tore down the iron curtain and is now building a fence on the country’s southern border. And this is not even mentioning other comments, such as: a journalist from Bild – I am sorry, but I am going to quote him verbatim – who called you Europe’s number one villain; the Austrian chancellor accusing the Hungarian government of methods reminiscent of the Nazi era; or the most recent covers of foreign and Hungarian newspapers, which portray you with a Hitler moustache. How did you personally take these attacks? What do you think about them?

First of all, regarding the fence, we have to point out that the purpose of the Iron Curtain built under Soviet occupation was to take our freedom away. The fence we are building now is in order to help protect our own way of life and freedom. These are two different things; I do not see any emotional or intellectual problem here. The other question is more difficult. Look, I am human, too, though this hardly matters – or it matters the least, perhaps. No one is happy being referred to in derogatory terms; I think my mother is not happy that her son is referred to as some kind of a villain in newspapers which see themselves as reputable. And let me tell you, I myself am not indifferent to these attacks. But this counts for very little compared with the constitutional oath I have taken to protect the country. After all, if I allow myself to be influenced by photos, journalist’s opinions and such unpleasant attacks like these, who will be here to make decisions at the right time with a cool head? So I must tell you that, while I am also human, I cannot afford the luxury of being affected by these opinions; because if I was, I would not be able to do my duty. My job is not an easy one; we do not normally talk about this – and it is, after all, nobody else’s business. Those who are afraid should not go into the woods. But it is very important to always stay calm and cool and in a fit state to make decisions. The bigger the problem, the more important this is.

Let us take a look at another aspect of the criticisms. The majority of those levelled at the Government and you  personally accuse you of a lack of solidarity and humanity, and I think this is perhaps the most difficult question to answer on this topic. In the context of refugees and migration, can political logic and the arguments that you cite overrule, say, human kindness? At the weekend you yourself said that the photo of the body of the little refugee boy was shocking. You yourself said that you would...

About which, of course, it turned out…

That the father was a human trafficker…

His father is a human trafficker, who went to pick up his next “consignment”, as though nothing had happened. So much for the reliability of the media.

Yes, but the photo…

Not including your interview, naturally, that is always an exception.

Regardless of this, that photo is shocking.

Look, there is indeed a problem here: how should we manage this problem humanely, and at the same time rationally, based on our own interests? And the question is whether these two considerations contradict one another.

I am sorry, just one question, or the end of my sentence. So you yourself said that yes, you would welcome refugees into your own home. Yet the decisions taken are setting a different course for the management of the refugee question. Why?

Because my conclusion is that most of the people coming here are not refugees. Our emotionally difficult situation stems from the fact that we live in a better, more comfortable, more peaceful world than the world they come from. There is always a kind of tension inside a person who has a better life: there is something that needs to be settled, and the question which needs to be answered is “Why is it that I have a better life, and that other person has a worse life?” But the other important thing is that the people of Europe should have the self-confidence to say (in Hungary for example) that the source of what we have is hard work. We have worked harder than many European nations for our standard of living, and it was not easy. We have had everything here: world wars, communism, the defeat of communism, economic crisis. So what we have here today is not something we took from someone else, and it is not something that was gifted to us; it is something we have worked hard for. It is important for us to realise that not everyone works as hard as we Hungarians do for the standard of living they expect. There are some who work less, and in this case it is not unfair for those who work more to be able to create better circumstances – more peaceful and safer circumstances – for themselves. Here it is the war which upsets things, because there are so many people here who did not leave their homeland of their own free will; but I think that here, too, we must apply the rule that these people are entitled to have their human dignity respected and to live in a safe place, and they are also entitled to return at some point to the countries they were forced to leave because of the wars. They can best achieve this if they remain in that region, and this is why we must support Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. That is where the refugee camps are, from which they can return home at the end of the war. Life for people in the refugee camps cannot be described as good, but these are safe places and people are no longer in danger there. What is more, these people charging through Hungary do not even stop in Austria. These people are not coming here for safety, and are not fleeing for their lives. Those who think that Serbian, Hungarian or Austrian living standards are not good enough definitely don’t see safety as their top priority; they are more interested in standards of living. They want a German standard of life. I understand this, but as I said, a person who lives in better circumstances must understand that other people would also like to have what they have. But we have worked for this, and I would point out once more that no one can possibly ask us to share things which we have worked for with people who are no longer in trouble, and who are no longer in danger. They have every right to expect us to help them as much as our circumstances allow. They have every right to expect the European Union to send money to the countries from which they come, so that the people who live there can also have opportunities, because everyone has the right to a chance in life, including Syrians. But this is not the same thing as saying “I’ll come here, and try to take from the Europeans something which they have worked for”. At the same time, my view is that it would be good to hear the words “please” and “thank you” more often from the migrants, rather than phrases such as “I am entitled to this” and “I demand that”.

I am going to say two more words: “momentous” and “historic”. In your various interviews and statements over the last few weeks you have rather frequently used these words to describe what is happening now. Let us distance ourselves a little from the realm of daily news, and frame this refugee issue in a wider context. I believe that many people around us are asking what is going on in the world and, in particular, why.

You have to be a very clever person to attempt to answer a question like that. I do not venture to do so; I will merely add something to your question or the possible answers. I have seen many a difficult and complicated situation in international politics, and I have learnt that while one always believes that there is some ultimate explanation hidden in the background, which should be found in order to understand a complex situation, this is not usually the case. The usual course of events is that something happens, which then attracts or triggers another factor, another interest, a third factor, and yet another business interest – and in the end, a single event has turned into a problem springing from many roots. I am convinced that even if there is some political intention to drive these people away from their region (and I believe that such an intention exists), and even if there is some intention to give them money to come to Europe (and I believe that such an intention exists), this is not an explanation in itself. Just as valid is the explanation that overnight tens of thousands of people – taxi drivers and human traffickers – saw a business opportunity in migration. I have been to the border, and I asked the police what is happening on the other side of the fence – who cuts the wire and how, and how much money they receive for this. So all of a sudden tens of thousands of people found an opportunity to make money, and as a result, politics, malicious intentions and the everyday logic of business all add up – each one reinforcing and intensifying the other – to unleash a mass of people with a formidable force and intensity which can only be resisted with firm policies. We shall obviously need more subtle evaluations in the future, but I would warn everyone against believing that there is a single factor that can be identified. Civil society organisations join in. Here, in Hungary, many of the civil society organisations supported by the Soros Foundation have launched themselves into action. They all demand that the Government leave the border open. So I believe that there are many different identifiable organisations, individuals, forces and policies behind this phenomenon.

Prime Minister, what do you think is at stake in Europe’s response to the current crisis? Is it really true that history is unfolding before our eyes, or is this just a political slogan?

Let me say once more: the facts tell us that the people arriving in Europe now come from a different way of life and a different culture. They hold different views, and lead a different way of life. If you say Islam, and I say Christianity, I am not saying that they and we have a different relationship with God. I am talking about a culture and a way of life. For instance, equality between and women, or the structure of the family, monogamy or polygamy, education, what we teach our children. Take customs related to sexual relations which have evolved in European culture over a very long time: they are what they are, but they have evolved on the foundations of a culture, and they are very different over there. And I could go on. These are different ways of life, and we can observe that those who came here in large numbers continue to pursue their own lifestyles, rather than the European one. It is a liberal dream – or I don’t know what to call it, an illusion – to believe that European values are so attractive to others that they cannot wait to seize the opportunity to transform their own personal and family lives, and to live like we do. They do not want to live like we do, because they hold different views on the world, they think differently about the place they occupy in the world, about how they relate with God, other people, and the economic system. Therefore parallel societies come into being, and from then on sheer mathematics comes in to play, and because they have higher birth rates, are more family-centred, and in some respects lead more spiritual lives than we do, they are more competitive. And Europe is what it is. If we allow a competition to evolve between two civilisations here, in Europe, we Christians will lose. It is sad, but this is the situation. This is something we must face up to. This is also a criticism of the courage of our own Christian societies, but that is how it is. If we allow this competition, we will lose. We can only keep the continent as it is by not letting everyone in, and not allowing a competition of this kind to start.

It is difficult to talk about the terrorist dimension of the refugee question without being accused of inciting panic, and this is naturally not my intention, but we cannot avoid this topic. You have access to intelligence reports. Based on these, can you tell us if there are people coming here who are sent by various terrorist organisations – the Islamic State is mentioned here most frequently – exploiting the current flood of people? And if so, in what numbers?

They are coming, and luckily, they are going, too. This is not good news for Europe, but it is temporary reassurance for us because they are only passing through Hungary. But we do know that they are coming, and we know that they are moving on. However, we cannot filter everyone out.

For what purpose?

Based on their contacts, there is nothing well-intentioned in their plans. Europe must therefore face the fact that, as a result of this failed policy – as Europe’s immigration policy has failed and collapsed before our eyes – and as a result of forcing through management of the situation with a failed immigration policy, a very serious situation has developed. The western countries of Europe have been penetrated by large numbers of individuals who – based on their former contacts – can reasonably be presumed to harbour malice in their hearts and who are capable of harming us, when the time comes.

We have talked about the problems enough. Let us talk about something a little more difficult: the solution. You have already made mention of it, and here I would once again go back to the interview you gave to the German newspaper Bild. In this you spoke about a plan which you would table at the next EU summit. This includes financial assistance to be provided for the countries around Syria, and the protection of the borders of Turkey and Greece. What does this entail exactly – for instance on financial assistance?

Look, I am quite willing to talk about this, but now the debate is about something else. This is not the hot potato at present. There are two issues on which we must win on the international scene. One of them is to convince  Europe that, as the Greeks are unable to protect their own borders, we should urgently set up a pan-European force, a border guard force, and should go south to protect the Greek borders; because if the Greeks do not protect their borders, what we see today will continue. And of course, Hungary is protecting itself with the fence. But migrants are moving towards Croatia and Slovenia, so Europe is not yet out of the woods. We should therefore send military or policing forces there.

Are you talking about a so-called EU defence force, an EU army?

The European Union has an organisation called Frontex, whose name we hear frequently these days, but which has no teeth. In practical terms, the total amount of help that Frontex was able to offer Hungary was a contingent of 58 people. There are more people than this working in the kitchens catering for our defence forces and police, so this is a negligible number. Using the contributions of several countries, we must turn Frontex into a strong force  which would be able to lawfully take over the protection of the Greek borders from the Greeks. Of course, this would be subject to Greek consent, and we do not have that. At the same time, the others also lack determination. The second threat we must now address is that they want us to set up refugee camps in Hungary. We must make the leaders of Europe understand that this is out of the question. Because the problem must be addressed as near as possible to its origin. If a refugee camp is set up in EU territory, it must be in Greece, but not in Hungary under any circumstances, as this will bring the conflict one thousand to one thousand two hundred kilometres closer to the heart of Europe. It must be kept where it is. At today’s talks between interior ministers Hungary must make clear, and must not compromise on the position that, to use the European term, there will be no “hot spots” (in other words, refugee camps), distribution centres or collection points of any kind in Hungary. If we have agreement on these two things, then we can talk about money, we can talk about the amendment of the Schengen Agreement, and many other issues as well. We have a Hungarian position on the solution.

Can the shock which, say, the Germans and the Austrians have just received accelerate the creation of the unity which you yourself have mentioned now? Can it accelerate a kind of process where more and more leaders will stand behind you or join you? I am thinking of the V4, the Baltic countries and Denmark. But to mention the latest news, can the turnaround in Austrian and German politics accelerate this?

It can, and this is not such a complicated thing. What do you teach your children? You teach your children – this is what is taught everywhere in European civilisation – that a clever person learns from other people’s mistakes, a stupid person learns from their own, while a hopeless person does not even learn from their own. They have not learnt from the mistakes of the Hungarians, and are now learning from their own. This is what is happening. I think this will channel decisions in the right direction.

Prime minister, thank you very much for accepting our invitation.

Thank you!

« 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