The Prime Minister recalled that there would be elections in the European Union next year and the balance of power to develop there would also have an impact on Switzerland, would influence, among others, the country’s participation in the common market. He added that as Hungary will hold the rotating presidency of the EU in the second half of next year, we will have an opportunity to shape the EU’s agenda, including the enhancement of its control over the development of EU policies.
Mr Orbán said today Europe is not in control of itself, its share in the world’s GDP is decreasing, and by 2030 Germany will be the only European country in the world’s top ten, ranked in last place, he highlighted.
The European Union is unable to cope with the enlargement process, and neither is it able to manage regional conflicts, be those in Ukraine or in the Western Balkans, he stressed.
He said it is an important question whether Europe will be able to preserve its strategic sovereignty. He took the view that “today, Europe’s fate is chained to that of America,” meaning that if Washington loses ground, “we ourselves will also be on the receiving end,” and at present, this appears to be the main trend in the world.
He highlighted that in the wake of winning the Cold War, at the time of the fall of communism and the ensuing change of regime, the coming into being of a united Christian Western Europe and Christian United States was a convenient arrangement for Western Europe, and at the time, the American presence did not cause an unmanageable problem. By now, however, this has changed because in the United States progressive liberal forces have come to the fore, and are intensively spreading their principles also in Europe. Despite the fact that “the United States’ cowboy capitalism is alien to Europe.”
Mr Orbán stressed that Europe had in the meantime also lost its formidable politicians. When the generation characterised by the likes of German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and French President Jacques Chirac left politics, the EU lost its ability to have leaders who are capable of firm action.
He added that while there was a shortage of strong politicians, bureaucrats were everywhere. Former President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker openly admitted that the Brussels commission had turned into a political body. However, such an institution does not have the skills that it takes to play such a role, only politicians are able to adopt the changes that are necessary in Europe, he argued. The role of the EU’s political leadership must be played by the European Council comprised of the Member States’ heads of state and government; and to make matters worse, the central institutions, too, are characterised by a high degree of progressive liberalism imported from the United States.
Due to all these factors, today a special kind of responsibility lies with Central Europe, and Hungary in particular, where there is no liberal hegemony, there are no coalition battles, there is no migration, and neither are there riots in the streets. “Hungary has time to think about the future of Europe,” said Mr Orbán who then described “the Hungarian model.” He said Hungary is building not a welfare, but a workfare society which then leads to welfare.
Among elements of the model, he mentioned the central position occupied by family policy, the full restriction of migration, low taxes and the attraction of investments from both the East and the West.
He pointed out that the government wished to respond to demographic challenges with family policy instead of migration, and at the same time, the government supported family values instead of gender politics.
In the European Union, “Hungary is not a black sheep; it is the first swallow,” Mr Orbán said.
In answer to questions, he said Hungary has always taken the view that the risk of illegal migration is too high, and action must be taken against it, whatever it takes. He recalled that since the beginning of the crisis in 2015, the government has refused to accept the Western argument that migration alleviates workforce shortage problems, and leads to a more liberal society. Throughout, it has maintained the position that the risk is too high, and additionally, the letting in of immigrants creates parallel societies in Europe, given that larger groups of people with different faiths should be integrated into Christian societies, an endeavour that has failed. He observed that Christian culture itself should be popularised because it guarantees the most humane and freest world.
Hungary is compelled to protect the entire Schengen Area from illegal immigration, but has to date not received any financial support for this purpose from Brussels, he pointed out. Thanks to their effective action, last year alone, Hungarian border guards apprehended as many as 270,000 illegal migrants at the border.
The Hungarian system is effective also because it represents “zero attraction” for migrants, he added.
He said he does support, however, the limited and strictly regulated employment of guest workers.
From among the results of the Hungarian economy, Mr Orbán mentioned that last year the country had broken records within the EU regarding investments, employment and exports. He stressed that Hungary was ranked much higher than warranted by its population – in 34th place – in the “world rankings” of exporter countries. He pointed out that, in the meantime, the country was under the effect of severe financial sanctions from the EU; the EU unlawfully refuses to pay Hungary the funds it is entitled to, around EUR 3 to 4 billion a year.
Regarding Hungary’s economic aspirations, he made specific mention of the extremely low, single-bracket income tax as well as of the facts that there is no inheritance tax in Hungary, the corporation tax is now below ten per cent, and the government actively supports foreign investments. He said Hungary seeks to arrange “rendezvous” in Hungary for the world’s eastern and western companies with the best strategies.
In Hungary, instead of progressive liberal hegemony, there is pluralism, we stand for a sovereigntist position, and “the good news is that it works,” Mr Orbán said, recalling that he himself has been in politics for 33 years, and of this he has spent 17 years in government which makes him the most experienced leader in the European Union.
At the event lasting for an hour and a half, the Prime Minister also spoke about the situation in Ukraine. He took the view that Europe must prepare for the eventuality that if a political change occurs in the United States, Europe will have to cope with an enormous geopolitical conflict on its own, it will have to find a political solution to “an almost impossible” affair, and will also have to foot the bill. In the meantime, Europe is becoming impoverished, it does not have the money for a crisis of this size, he added.
Mr Orbán said there is no question that the invasion of Ukraine was an act of aggression on the part of Russia; a violation of international law. However, Europe did not respond well: the conflict should have been localised, but instead it has become global which is bad for everyone. He said the western strategy was that the Russians will lose on the front with western assistance and a new Russian leadership will come along. It is now evident, however, that the Ukrainians will not win on the front, and realistically, there will be no change in Moscow.
He said “we need a Plan B” because the West simply financing Ukraine is not a reasonable proposition. For the time being, however, Europe does not have such a plan, he pointed out. He also spoke about western hypocrisy, a good example of which is the United States’ procurement of nuclear fuel in large quantities from Russia.
He highlighted that the Hungarian leadership, too, can see how much suffering the Ukrainians are going through, and additionally, there is a sizeable Hungarian community living in Transcarpathia and many of them are dying in the war. Therefore, Hungary would like to stop the fighting within the shortest possible time. Achieving a ceasefire is the key priority, and then we can talk about a long-term peace agreement, he stressed.
In answer to a question concerning his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said we must understand the Russians in order to be able to handle them. Moscow has a different regime: while in the West freedom is the guiding principle, over there it is security because that is what they need to keep their enormous country together which is otherwise an almost impossible task.
In the context of China, the Prime Minister took the view that – as far as he can see – this is an enormous opportunity for Hungary, and so it must cooperate with Beijing. He pointed out that he did not agree with the concept that China should be detached from the European economy.
The stage discussion that followed the speech delivered in Zurich in a packed event room was moderated by editor-in-chief of Die Weltwoche established 90 years ago-Member of the National Council of Switzerland for the Swiss People’s Party Roger Köppel. In addition to many other illustrious guests, attendees included this year’s Nobel Prize winner Ferenc Krausz and former Czech head of state Václav Klaus whom Mr Orbán greeted as “an intellectual standard” of European conservative politics.
Several questions related to Swiss-Hungarian bilateral relations. Mr Orbán stressed, among others, the importance of the existence of Swiss-Hungarian friendship. He thanked Switzerland for having taken in Hungarian refugees in 1956, and also thanked refugees for having earned respect in the Alpine country.
He said as many as 900 Swiss businesses operate in Hungary, providing a living for more than 30,000 Hungarian families.
He also said Hungary likes neutral countries, but due to its geographical location, Hungary “does not have the luxury” of being neutral itself.
The Hungarian Prime Minister pointed out that European politics would be poorer without the host of the event Die Weltwoche. While progressive liberalism is the general trend, “it is reassuring that there is still a place in Europe – such as Switzerland – where one can talk freely.” “Die Weltwoche is not like a mainstream medium, and I’m not like a mainstream politician,” the Prime Minister said.