Prime Minister Viktor Orbán interviewed on Kossuth Rádió’s “180 minutes” programme

7 December 2015

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán interviewed on Kossuth Rádió’s “180 minutes” programme on the 4th of December in 2015.

Éva Kocsis: We have Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in the studio with us. Good morning.

Good morning.

Leaked information suggests that within just a few hours EU Interior Ministers will decide on whether to suspend Schengen – or will at least talk about it. What is actually going on? Is the European Union falling to pieces, or are the different regions being distanced from one another?

The smell of gunpowder is in the air. There are countries for which the conclusion to be drawn from the migrant crisis and modern-day mass migration is that the area of free movement within the European Union should be restricted. They wish to protect themselves – in my opinion against their own failed migration policy – by reinstating border controls for entry to countries which are not on the external borders of Europe. So what is going on at present is that some countries – we do not yet know the precise number, it may be six or seven, mostly countries which were founders of the EU – want to detach from themselves the Central European countries, through which migrants have been arriving in the European Union. This is why Hungary has always said that, if we want to protect the right of Hungarians to move, work, travel and trade within the European Union as before – without border controls and border restrictions – we Hungarians must, in accordance with our obligations, protect the external border of the European Union; that is the external Schengen borders between Hungary and Serbia and Hungary and Croatia. We have done just that: we have protected the borders. Therefore, from a Hungarian point of view, any kind of initiative which seeks to deprive the Hungarian people of the possibility of free movement is unacceptable, as we have been the only Schengen Area state to have truly protected the border of Schengen – or in other words, the external border of the zone of free movement.

But this attempt which you are talking about did not begin just now. This is just a new feature of the phenomenon.

There is always a strand of thought within the European Union that things would go better if there were fewer of us. One can always sense these thoughts hidden in the woodwork, and whenever a crisis emerges – for instance, the financial crisis or the migrant crisis right now – then they are voiced from behind the woodwork. We are unable to give a proper answer to this on our own, and this is why in Prague yesterday we agreed with the Czechs, the Poles and the Slovaks to jointly organise our efforts to protect our freedom of movement. We have established a group called “Friends of Schengen”: at present this comprises our four countries. Our ambassadors and ministers are currently working on and are identifying the content of this group, and we are calling upon other Member States of the European Union to join. Its purpose is to protect free movement within the external Schengen borders – or in other words, to protect the external borders of the Schengen Area.

It is rather strange that you would have to establish such a friendly group, as one would assume that this is a mandatory norm for everyone.

That is the case. It is strange, but we must do this because our interests demand it.

Let us go back in time a little. Hungary, too, is turning to the courts in connection with the quotas. What do you expect? Is this a symbolic gesture? What do you expect of the Court of the European Union, which criticises us on every possible subject?

In my view the European Court is an independent court, so I do not presume that any political organisation of the European Union – including, say, the Commission or the Council – would be able to put pressure on it. It is an independent body which deserves due respect. Our problem is more about the fact that they usually view the world from a different perspective, as they belong to that facet of Europe which represents life above the level of nations, while we are below that level, because we live at the level of nations. But we have these thorough public hearings and disputes at the Court in order to demonstrate these considerations. So my answer to your question is that this is not a matter of symbolism, but of substance: we want the European Court to annul the decision which was adopted by the European Council, the European Commission, and which is, according to our lawyers, clearly in contravention of the EU’s founding treaties and existing laws.

Let us imagine that this happens. Europe is full of migrants. What next? What will happen to those who are already here if, for instance, this court decision is passed?

This could be one starting point for assessing the situation, but I would choose a different one, and I would advise the Hungarian people to insist on our own starting point. Our starting point is that no one may tell the Hungarians or any other European nation whom they should want to live together with. We alone may make that decision: the jurisdiction on this belongs to the Hungarian parliament, the Hungarian government and Hungarian municipalities. We have to decide on this issue here. We must not be given orders from Brussels on whom we should live together with, and Brussels must not have the power to forcibly resettle here people whom we do not want to live together with. Whether we make the right decision, whether it is morally acceptable, whether it is a technically sound or a wise decision, is a matter for the Hungarian people. We shall decide on this together, and we must not under any circumstances yield to external pressure. This is my starting point, and after that we can talk about those who are already here, and so on. So I think we must clarify our starting point, or later on we could lose sight of where we are heading.

We shall talk about the practical aspect in a minute, but if I follow your logic, your line of thought, on the one hand we have the interests of the nation states, and on the other hand we have the responsibility we feel towards the countries of origin, the countries from which the flow of migrants is coming. Whose responsibility is that? Is it the United States’, the European Union’s, the Arab countries’?

I think that there are multiple fields of responsibility here. The first one is, of course, that everyone is responsible for their own lives. Secondly, responsibility lies with those who intervened: those who, for instance, dropped bombs or who wanted to transform a given country’s economic or power relations from the outside. The third field of responsibility applies to those who are closest to the people in trouble: the neighbouring countries and the region around them. And there is, of course, some degree of global responsibility based on the principle of humanity which applies to every person in the world, as we are all human beings; and even if we are far from one another, at the far end of these fields of responsibility or at the end of the day, as human beings we are all responsible for our fellow human beings. Naturally, our primary responsibility is towards the Hungarian people, because God has assigned this responsibility to us.

What follows from this?

I think what follows from this is that all political actors around the world must work on enabling people who have fled or moved away from their homes to return to the countries where they came from, because everyone has the right to lead their lives where they were born. Therefore the situation in Syria must be resolved, and then everyone who came from that region must be returned, must be offered the opportunity – indeed, should be legally obliged – to return and to start rebuilding the environment from which they came. I think that every European nation has the right to demand this.

Polls show that Europeans’ opinion on the resettling of migrants, on the quotas, is quite clear. But let us look at opinion in Hungarian society. In the light of this, why do you think there is a need for an information campaign?

First of all, this situation is highly volatile, and there are new developments every day. Despite the fact that I am paid – Hungarian citizens gave me this job – to deal with this question day and night, I do not find it easy to make sense of it either. When I try to imagine how an ordinary Hungarian citizen might make sense of the flood of reports continually pouring in and somehow understand the bigger picture, I have to conclude that this is not an easy task. At the same time, it is the Government’s job to try and systematise the important news and to inform people on how things stand, what the most important issues are, in which areas there are ongoing struggles, which questions we have successfully dealt with and which ones are yet to be answered; and if they have an opinion, the people must be given the opportunity to get involved and to state their views.

Let’s go back in time a little to the Turkey-EU summit. The meeting was seen as a success, inasmuch as mandatory resettlement quotas will not apply to those coming from Turkey now. They obviously apply, however, to those who are already here, in the country. What was the Turkey-EU summit actually about? Was it about the fact that Turkey has trump cards enabling it to gain admission to the European Union?

The summit was about the fact that the European great powers wanted to come to an agreement with Turkey at any cost. The European great powers wanted to come to an agreement with Turkey because they feel too weak to protect their own interests, and now they are trying to get the Turks to protect Europe and the interests of the European great powers. From our viewpoint this is faulty logic, and I said as much at the summit of prime ministers. I said that we support an agreement with the Turks, but we think that there must be a precondition: we must not give the impression of being a beggar, we must not beg for our security and we must not try to buy security. We should demonstrate – to ourselves, to our citizens and also to the Turks – that we are able to handle the refugee issue or migrant issue, the issue of modern-day mass migration on our own, without outside intervention or assistance. We would be better equipped to handle this situation if we came to an agreement with the Turks, but we can also do it on our own. I believe that if you are unable to protect your own security, then you will find yourself vulnerable and exposed – even at the negotiating table. We therefore proposed that we should protect Schengen’s external borders, that we should prove that we can stop the mass migration, and that we should then sit down and negotiate with the Turks. This was the Hungarian proposal. The great powers ignored this proposal. They said that we must come to an agreement at any cost within the shortest possible time, and this is why they struck this deal. While we are a smaller country, we could have exercised our right of veto; but I thought that it would not be wise from the viewpoint of the Hungarian people, or from that of Europe, if Hungary exercised its veto against the great powers, who had all decided that they would like to reach such an agreement.

In theory, or from the Hungarian angle, I understand what you are saying: that we must protect ourselves, but the actions of the European Union as a whole are not working. Nobody was even able to do so much as to give Greece a dressing down.

Yes, but I suggested that we should be able to do this, because it is purely a question of will. So the claim that Europe is unable to protect itself against this modern-day mass migration is not true. The Hungarian example, the construction of the Hungarian fence, Central European cooperation – cooperation between the Czechs, Poles, Slovaks and Hungarians, and cooperation with the Slovenians – all demonstrate that where there is a will, there is a way. The trouble is that there is no will, and that instead of generating this will within ourselves we now want to come to an agreement with the Turks. In my view this will put Europe in a disadvantageous position, but it is too late now – we have already set out on this path. Let us wish the great powers well, hoping that, after all, their calculations will prove right and that this will be the solution. One thing, however, must not take place under any circumstances: they must not enter into an agreement with Turkey to transport migrants to Europe in their hundreds of thousands and then to distribute them among the European states on a mandatory basis. There was such an idea; this had to be blocked, and I think it has been removed from the agenda, but attempts arise again and again. There is a meeting today in Europe, to which we were also invited, which will attempt to address this issue again.

When you say that resolving this issue is purely a question of will, you also say that the leaders of the European Union are deliberately causing what is happening – either explicitly or implicitly.

This is something that you cannot believe, and neither can the listeners, because it is so absurd.

Do you believe it?

Yes – and what is more, I realised that this is the explanation. Of course, you can never be absolutely sure, because in such intellectual questions there is no guarantee that you have found the explanation. But here I think this is indeed the case. We must indeed believe what they say. When we hear them – the leaders of the Western European great powers – say that we must let the refugees in, and that mass migration is a good thing because it will cure Germany’s ills, we believe that this is some kind of political trickery, and that in reality they think something completely different. We believe that, like us, they really think that mass migration is a bad thing, which must be stopped, because it brings the threat of terrorism, is a threat to security and will transform our culture; we assume that this is just as obvious to them as it is to us, but for some mysterious reason they will not say so. In this I think our assumption is incorrect. We must believe them: the European leaders actually believe what they say. They believe that life in Europe will be happy, shiny and desirable if we let these people in by the million, if we open the doors to immigration, if the migrants come here who – as they say – will cure Europe’s ills. In my view this is an insane idea, but they actually believe in it seriously; I think that this is the explanation.

Yesterday you said that we have seen the emergence of a bizarre coalition between human traffickers and human rights activists, and that this coalition is also supported from the outside by leading European politicians. I imagine there will be some door-slamming at the EU summits in the period to come.

That’s life.

But is this already a fact of life at EU summits?

There are times when it is difficult. We are human, too. Of course it would be nice to think that our leaders – including the Hungarian government – make cold, flawless decisions, free from emotion, only relying on pure reason and detached from all irrelevancies, like some kind of political robots. This is not the case, because we are human. We have emotions, we sometimes feel deceived, we are upset when others do not admit that we are right, when facts which are evident to us are not evident to them; we are upset when we feel that we have been arguing for hours in vain because others do not want to understand that for us Hungarians two times two is four. This can also occur in arguments between other nations. So these people are human beings, and wherever there are human beings, there is not only reason but there is also emotion, and there is history, and different ideas about the future, and all these things add up. And when there is tension and there is a crisis, the level of these tensions is higher and more pressing; but we shall find the right solution. The human world is such that difficult decisions are made in these circumstances; but for all that, it is still possible to make good decisions. We have already made so many good decisions. After all, the European Union is a fantastic success story and this continent is the most attractive in the world; this is why people want to come here. The way of life, the lifestyle which we have built after decades and centuries of hard work is, after all, one of humanity’s most outstanding achievements. So just because from time to time people make decisions when agitated, amidst struggle and conflict, we should not assume that they will not be good decisions; if we had only made bad decisions, we would not be where we are today. Europe is able to make good decisions, and the chance and hope of this will also remain in the future.

Is there less of this type of tension among the Visegrád Four?

Yes. I have to say that there are also disputes there, because the interests of these countries do not always coincide one hundred per cent – but there are not many of these. On the other hand, this group is pervaded by a spirit of friendship and camaraderie stemming from our common past and history, and this makes it easier to handle conflicts. We are closer to each other than to anyone else in the European Union. If I have a dispute with someone from Poland, I find it much easier to resolve than a dispute with someone from Portugal. I do not have any problem with the Portuguese, but they come from the other side of the continent. Over here, we understand each other from mere signs, gestures and sentences left unfinished. Among ourselves it is easier to demonstrate good intentions than it is with people living further away from us. So there are far fewer conflicts within the V4, and those few which arise are much easier to resolve.

You also spoke yesterday about the elimination of nation states. Then there are EU procedures currently being formulated – for instance, the European Commission has registered a citizens’ initiative which could mean invocation of Article 7 against Hungary. Do you think that these are related to what you have just said?

This is an act of revenge. The situation is that the crisis management measures – enacted by Hungarians, Central Europeans and the V4 for the management of mass migration – have been successful. Additionally, it has emerged transpired that the people in the western countries would also prefer this solution and would support it. But there are leaders in Europe, business circles and human rights activists who are angry at Hungary for having proved the opposite of their ideology: for having proved that it is in fact possible to protect this continent in a democratic manner which is in accordance with the will of European people, and they now want to take revenge on us and are seeking ways to do so. There is nothing out of the ordinary about this; as I have said, we are human beings. Greatness and pettiness are equally a part of human nature, and revenge is an expression of pettiness. We must get over this, we shall cope with this. But let us not forget that two major ideologies are clashing here. George Soros and his friends, the foundations maintained by them and their activists, a significant proportion of Eurocrats in Brussels and quite a few leaders in Europe believe – this is a particularly strong notion on the left, in the left-liberal world – that the nations represent a negative aspect of Europe. They are bad things which have led to world wars and are responsible for conflict. If there were no nations in Europe, life here would be happier. By contrast, we say that there is no Europe without nations, because the nations themselves constitute the essence of Europe, and therefore we want to strengthen nations, while they want to marginalise nations, and even eliminate them. In their minds, the mission of the European Union is to transcend nations. In our minds, the mission of the EU is to strengthen nations, to make them stronger in Europe. These are these two ideas which contrast so sharply, and on the other side there are major forces – both financially and in terms of power – which are inside Brussels and also have a wide network of activists.

One last thing, before we switch to current affairs. If we talk about migration again in six months’ time, what will be happening in Europe? I do not want you to make prophecies, but you are surely able to determine, based on your experience with EU leaders to date, more or less where we will stand.

It is not knowledge of these leaders that could help me to answer your question, though as the Scripture says, prophecy is repellent to me – or let’s say abhorrent – so it is not my duty or my job to make prophecies. Anyway, I would rather avoid making prophecies, but the fact of the matter is that the solution and the answer come from people. Today we can see that the will and intentions of the European people are increasingly further away from the will and intentions of European leaders. This widening gap is causing such internal tension in Europe – such democratic and political tension – that over the next six months we will not be able to live with it. So something will have to happen. Either the people will have to change or their leaders will; there is a better chance of the latter than the former. So I think that sooner or later the opinion of the people as a political reality in Europe must be acknowledged. You cannot go against the people. This is a democracy problem in Europe today. I usually say that it is time for the liberal era in Europe to be replaced once again by a democratic era. If we want to remain democratic in Europe, we must also settle this mass migration in accordance with the wishes of the people.

While there is a rather loud debate in Brussels on migration, there is another debate in Brussels: the free trade negotiations. Right-wing politicians, EU politicians on the agricultural committee, have rung alarm bells because they believe that the negotiations are going in the wrong direction. In Tusnádfürdő you also spoke about this prospective agreement. Do you have any further information on what direction the negotiations are going in?

The most important information is not which direction they are going in, because there are people there at the negotiating table and they are seeking to maintain the right direction. The most important information is that in the interim the Americans have concluded free trade agreements with others. They have entered into free trade agreements with substantial parts of Asia, and while the Far East appears to be far from Hungary – as its name suggests – in trade policy it is not far. Those agreements will also affect the international competitiveness of Hungarian companies and companies with manufacturing facilities in Hungary. At this point in time we must assess, analyse and understand whether these free trade agreements the Americans have concluded with others will put us at an advantage or a disadvantage, because this may affect the position we should adopt on the agreement we want to sign with the Americans and the Americans want to sign with us.

Yesterday at the Hungarian Standing Conference meeting you mentioned that connecting education, knowledge and the economy is an extremely important issue of national strategy. Those working in education must have pricked up their ears. What do you expect of Hungary’s education policy? Are you satisfied? This is a rather noisy area in Hungary at present.

The word “satisfaction” does not feature in my lexicon, and as long as I am in this job it is only right that it should not. What I see is that after World War I we lost the territories where most of our natural resources were located: having lost our mines, energy resources and natural resources – other than arable land – we were only left with what we have right now. Our single stroke of luck is that the Hungarian people are a clever people, with quick minds and a way of thinking which is in demand. We tend to believe that this is so in the case for every nation, but this is not true. We are a quick-witted people and are able to create something out of nothing. This is why I support the creation of a work-based economy, and this is why I favour connecting our intellectual capacity – our knowledge and education – to the economy. Such opportunities exist. Hungary is a successful country; if you look at the world’s 200 countries, we are ranked somewhere between 45 and 50. This means that at least 150 countries are doing worse than us. This is despite the fact that our history has not helped us at all; if anything, it has hindered us, rather than helped. This amply demonstrates that, based on the foundations of hard work and intellectual capacity, it is possible to create a good life, a happy life, a balanced life and prosperity in a country; this is what we are working on. But a condition for this is that education and science are linked to the economy; in other words, it is essential for education and science to be converted into economic strength. There is a problem if international surveys continue to show Hungarian school-leavers’ educational performance deteriorating with each generation, and if we continue to see students’ school performance , their comprehension and problem-solving skills, worsening rather than improving. This is not just a simple question of irresponsibility towards our children – it is that, too, because we are putting them in bad schools; but it is also undermining the opportunities of the Hungarian people, because the Hungarian economy cannot be successfully run with unintelligent people, with people who cannot solve problems, with uneducated people, with people who are unable to think well. We would all suffer the consequences of this. Therefore the key to Hungarian economic success is our children’s access to high-quality education which is has real-life relevance, is compatible with the economy’s needs, and should thereby improve Hungary’s economic performance. This is not yet in order in Hungary today. I am not saying that everything is bad, because I do not want to go to the other extreme, but I cannot say that everything is well. In fact there are some alarming signs, and therefore I see this as a formidable challenge for the next decade.

For the past half hour you have been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Forcibly excluding Hungarians from the Schengen Area would be unacceptable

Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister

« 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