Paul Ronzheimer: Mr. Prime Minister, thanks for having us here in Budapest. Everybody in the world is talking about what happened on Saturday in Russia. What were you thinking at the moment when Prigozhin, the head of Wagner, ordered his troops to go into the direction of Moscow?
I saw that that belongs to the Russians and they will manage it soon. So I don’t see any major importance to that event.
No major importance?
What have you heard from inside Russia? You have good contacts.
No, we have intelligence services. It’s more reliable than anything else.
So what do you hear?
They said there’s no importance to that.
How can that be? I mean, you see Putin doesn’t look strong anymore.
You know, the Hungarian experience is that when you have a partisan-type unit and army, and you have to launch a real war with the regular army, and you have to subordinate the partisan units to the regular army, it’s always difficult to manage. I think that was the reason.
How weakened is Putin from your perspective?
If that could happen, it’s a clear signal of weakness; but when it is managed in 24 hours it’s a signal of being strong.
So you think Putin is still strong?
Putin is the President of Russia. So if somebody has a speculation that he could fail or be replaced, they don’t understand the Russian people and the Russian public structures.
Explain me why, because I mean we saw mercenaries heading into the direction to Moscow. No one was stopping them. I mean, they were in Rostov already – not the army, not the intelligence services. I mean it looked like that he had lost control for some time.
Probably they did.
But you still think he’s strong. Why is that?
Because that’s Russia. Russia works and operates differently than the European countries. It could happen in Russia.
So how would you see it?
I think it’s over and the war is going on. This is not an event which would lead us to peace. Because I always focus on, related to this war, through the lens of peace; because my position is that the most urgent thing is to have a ceasefire and to somehow create peace. This event does not play any role in that.
So this hasn’t changed anything from what you said in the past?
I don’t think so.
Would you give asylum to Prigozhin?
I would be surprised if he would ask for Hungary to give asylum for them. It’s a peaceful country. That kind of guy will never come to Hungary.
But what would you do if he asked?
They had a better option now: it’s Lukashenko, and Belarus is a far better option, I think.
Do you think Putin will still be president in 2024?
Of course, this is the reality.
Why are you so sure about that? Because we see a lot of talks in the past days of weakness of the Russian government, weakness of Putin. Americans, but also other European countries, saying this could be the beginning of the end. What is your opinion?
When there is a war, the talk about the war is part of the war. So it’s just propaganda. May I just say I don’t believe them.
You say it’s propaganda, but at the same time we see the first time that Putin looked kind of weak for some time, like for some hours. Because he said he would punish Prigozhin, and at the end of the day he was able to leave to Belarus – or it was announced. So how can we explain that?
That’s Russia. Russia operates differently than we do. But the structures in Russia are very stable. It’s based on the army, secret service, police. So this is a different kind of… it’s a military-oriented or minded country. So don’t forget that. They are not a country like we are, Germany or Hungary. It’s a different world. The structure is different. The power is different. The stability is different. So if you would like to understand from our logic how they operate we will always mislead ourselves.
You witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Empire itself, preceded by the defeat in Afghanistan as well. And in history… I mean, is history repeating itself right now? Is Putin failing over the war of aggression against Ukraine?
Nobody knows how this war will be ended. But speaking about the collapse of the Soviet Union, that’s a totally different story. Because the Soviet Union collapsed because we, I mean the people, we organized anti-communist resistance movements all around in the countries of Central Europe, and we pushed them out. So it was not because of the geopolitical power of something, it was just…
But it played a role.
It played some role, but the decisive element of this whole transition process was the will, the heart of the people – from Estonia down to Hungary.
What could bring Putin down in these days, weeks, months?
I don’t see. If I saw it, I would say it. But nobody knows that. He’s stable. He’s an elected leader of Russia. And he is popular, and the structures behind him are rather strong. So we have to take the whole Russian complex seriously.
In 1989 you made a courageous speech in Budapest calling for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary. Why, decades later, have you positioned your country in a way alongside Russia, and are considered even in Europe as a Putin friend?
Are you provoking me with that question? To say to a Hungarian that we are pro-Russian or friends of the Russians is something which is totally different.
I’m just quoting European people.
It’s just totally going against our historical experiences. So I’m fighting for Hungary. I don’t care about Putin. I don’t care about Russia. I care about Hungary. So what I’m doing is positions and actions which are good for the Hungarians. And definitely everything which is going on now between Russia and Ukraine is bad for the Hungarians. It’s dangerous for the Hungarians. We lost lives. Hungarian minorities are living there. Danger coming from the war is in our neighbourhood. It’s not like for you, you know, you are a German. So you have Poland and Hungary between Russia and the Ukrainian War.
Well but the retort from Poland is totally different to yours.
What I’m speaking about is that the war is not a theoretical moral issue only. It’s an immediate direct neighbourhood action. So we have to be very careful how we behave, what we are doing and what we are not doing. So therefore, what Hungary does is the interest of the Hungarian people. Full stop. So if you would like to know what the Hungarians think about Russia, don’t forget that the ‘56 Revolution against the Soviet Union is part of our DNA. Go to the House of Terror Museum, and you will see what the Hungarians think about that.
I would still like to understand why the countries neighbouring Ukraine see things so differently. So I talked to President Duda, to Prime Minister Morawiecki, many times in the past years, and they would always say we have to support Ukraine as much as possible, and Ukraine has to win the war.
That’s the point. So they think that there is a solution on the battlefield, but I don’t believe it. That’s the difference.
Why are you so sure that there is no way of having a solution on the battlefield? Because I mean Ukraine was able to defend themselves in Kyiv, so the Russians couldn’t take over Kyiv. Same in a way in Donbass. They got back territory already. Why do you think there is no way for that?
First of all, I’m not arguing against the Ukrainians. So I would not like to appear as somebody who does not hope that the Ukrainians have a chance to survive. But I am standing on reality. The reality is that the engineering of that cooperation between Ukraine and the West is a failure.
Why is it a failure?
Because I think that the way that says, “The Ukrainians are fighting on the front line, and we support them financially and by information and by instruments, and they can win a war against Russia” is a misunderstanding of the situation. It’s impossible.
Why do you say it’s impossible? Because in some areas the Ukrainians took back their land. They were defending Kyiv.
But what I’m speaking about are not certain events of the war. I’m speaking about the outcome of the war. And the problem is that the Ukrainians will run out of soldiers earlier than the Russians. And that will be the decisive factor in the end. That’s why I’m always arguing I would not like to influence and impact on the Ukrainians, but I’m always arguing for peace, peace, peace. Otherwise, they will lose a huge quantity of wealth, and many human lives, and unimaginable destruction will happen. So peace is the only solution at this moment. Peace means, at this moment, a ceasefire. So I am arguing on that basis about how we can reach the quickest way to a ceasefire.
You’re talking about the quickest way. I met President Zelensky two weeks ago, and he argues and says “There is no way of us sitting down with Putin, because we have to get back all of our territory, and there’s no alternative to that.”
I know that opinion. But what really counts is what the Americans would like to do. Ukraine is not a sovereign country anymore. They don’t have money, they don’t have weapons. They can fight only because we support them. I mean in the West. So when the Americans decide that they would like to have peace, there will be peace.
Well, if NATO and the EU had followed your advice at the beginning of the war, Ukraine would be now more a Russian-occupied territory in a way, because…
That’s a hypothesis. There’s no evidence behind it.
Well, I mean you argued that without weapons from the West, they couldn’t have defended themselves, and I was there when the war started and I saw that. So…
I argued in favour of peace at the very beginning. So if there had been negotiations at the very beginning, there would not have been so many lives lost and the country would not have been destroyed. So my position was at the very beginning that instead of making it a global war or something like that we should isolate it and take back the action from the military men to the politicians and to the diplomats. Because that war should not have happened. It was a mistake of diplomacy that this has happened.
Well, Putin doesn’t want that either. He said he didn’t want to negotiate, even before the war. Olaf Scholz, Emmanuel Macron, and other people tried to convince him not to attack. I mean there was a lot of diplomacy at the beginning of that war.
But the fact is that diplomacy failed and now the army is dictating events. We have to give it back to the hands of the politicians and diplomats, for a ceasefire and negotiation. This is the only way we can save lives at this moment.
When was the last time you talked with Vladimir Putin?
February, when prior to the war, I visited him. Two or three weeks prior to the war.
What did he tell you?
On what? There were many issues on the table.
About Ukraine and…
About Ukraine, he said that the Ukrainian army is very strong, very well equipped by the West. The soldiers are very well trained. So if there will be a conflict, it will be a very, very difficult conflict. The impression he made on me was that despite this fact he thinks that time is on the Russian side. That was my impression, which I said publicly anyway in the West: that this is in the mind of the Russians, that they think that time is on their side. Which is not good for us, but the fact is that unfortunately it proved to be true: time is on the Russian side, not on the Ukrainian one.
You also say that the war will not be over until the US stops supplying weapons.
Until the United States wants to have peace.
But still, if the Ukrainians didn’t have weapons, they wouldn’t be able to defend themselves, and that means in a way leaving them to their fate. Do you want that?
No, just the opposite. We would like to save Ukraine. And the only way to save it is for the Americans to initiate negotiations with the Russians and to make a security architecture deal, and to find a place for Ukraine in this new security architecture.
But Ukrainians clearly say, “We don’t negotiate with Putin.” There’s even a resolution from the Ukrainian side.
That’s true. That’s true. And Ukraine is a nation, it’s a country, and they have the right to decide on their own future: whether to go to war or not. Our right is also to give weapons and money, or not. If the Americans say, “Guys, we would like to have peace, therefore we won’t give money and weapons, there’s no other option for anybody – not even for the Ukrainians – except to go for negotiation and to create peace and a ceasefire.” So it is in the hands of the Americans.
If they followed your advice, Putin would clearly be the winner of this war. Wouldn’t that mean he would go further? He could attack Poland, Estonia, Lithuania. Why would he stop in Ukraine?
Because they are not strong enough. NATO is far stronger. No question of that. The events and the story of this war shows clearly that NATO is far stronger than Russia. Why would anybody who is weaker want to attack NATO?
Well, but Putin argued in the past that he wants his empire back.
But now we see how strong we are, and how weak they are. So we see what the capacity of Russia is in military terms. So we know it and we know NATO as well. If I compare what I see on the Russian side and what I see on the NATO side, it’s so obvious and clear that NATO is far stronger.
The International Criminal Court in the Hague issued a warrant for Putin in March, for war crimes. In Germany, Putin would be arrested as soon as he set foot on the ground. In Hungary, too?
I have no information that he would like to come to Hungary. So that hypothesis has no reality at all. It’s just a hypothesis.
Is he a war criminal for you?
For me not.
Because we are in a war. We can speak about war criminality after the war. If you would like to have a ceasefire and then negotiate, we have to convince those who are part of the conflict to come to the table. If you would like to invite them to the table and say “Come to the table and I will arrest you,” it’s not the best idea. So we can discuss all the legal consequences and criminal consequences after the peace or as part of the peace. So it’s just totally inappropriate to speak about them at this moment.
Me personally, and other reporters on the ground saw what Putin’s troops did there and what war crimes they committed. I mean, isn’t it clear that he’s a war criminal?
But it’s clear that we would like to have peace. And for peace, we need negotiations. For negotiations, we need negotiators. Who else will negotiate, if not the leaders of the countries who are at war? So we need Putin for peace.
From the very beginning of this war there was also a duel between President Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky. Who do you consider to be the greater politician?
The one who finally brings peace.
Have you ever tried to call Volodymyr Zelensky?
Oh I have, several times.
What do you think of him?
I don’t know him deeply, but he’s the elected leader of Ukraine, who is fighting for his country.
Ukraine accuses you of denying access to Ukrainian prisoners of war who were transferred from Russia to Hungary. Is that true?
I don’t think so.
Is there access for Ukraine?
Do the Ukrainians get access to their soldiers?
We got 11 persons who were war prisoners. They were delivered to Hungary and they became free men. So this is not Ukraine. The citizens here are not the property of the country or the state, they are free men. So if they would like to get in contact with the Ukrainians, they can do so. If they would like to go home, they can do so. Even if they would like to go to Germany, they can do so. So please understand that this is not Ukraine. Ukraine and the concept that Ukraine has about citizenship is different. Sometimes they see people as if they were the property of the state. In Hungary this is not the case. So the guys, the war prisoners, arrived in Hungary, and they became free men immediately.
So they can do whatever they want? Hungary is still blocking an EU attempt to allocate 500 million more to help fund countries’ military aid to Kyiv through the European peace facility. If Ukraine removes the Hungarian bank OTP from its “shame list”, let’s say, will your government authorize this money?
First we would like to understand what we are doing. So I don’t see what the concept of the West is on how to end this war. So we would like to have peace. Therefore, we would like to hear arguments on how, by our action at the European level, we are getting closer to peace. But we don’t have answers to those questions. Just pouring in money and giving military equipment is not the way to peace.
So that means you will also block in the future?
We would like to discuss clearly why people think that while what we have done up to now was not successful, it will become successful if we continue it. It does not sound very logical. We would like to have a more well-based strategy, a better engineered activity of the European Union.
So you say it wasn’t successful. Others, like the Ukrainians, would say it was successful. Other nations would say it was successful to send them weapons and to, you know, kind of help them to survive.
But we have to understand the fact that when you are in a war, talking about the war is part of the war. What else can the poor guys say, except that they are successful? This is because they are in a war. Hungary is not in the war. We are far more objective. We have enough distance from it to see it and study it. So our position is far more secure and safer than their position.
You said there’s no plan. Now there is a NATO summit coming up in Vilnius. What effective security guarantees can NATO offer Ukraine instead of membership?
Nobody knows that, so we are waiting for proposals.
What is your opinion?
Let’s see the proposals. This is not the Hungarian idea. It’s an idea of somebody else, probably the NATO headquarters, so we should see the proposals. We haven’t seen anything like that, just communication.
And under what circumstances are you willing to accept NATO membership for Ukraine?
It’s not in our mind, NATO membership.
So you would block it.
I can’t say that, because the treaty of NATO says very clearly that if somebody is at war, they cannot be a member of NATO.
Could Ukraine be a member of NATO after the war?
Let’s discuss it.
So you don’t know about what kind of security guarantees there could be. At the same time, the European Union has just put together the eleventh sanctions package.
Because you know…in politics there is an order of actions. You can’t mix it up. So first, this is very tough discipline in our job. So first, we have to have a ceasefire. Then we have a ceasefire. Then we can start to negotiate. And then we negotiate. The outcome of that could be a kind of peace, guarantees, or military or security guarantees for the Ukrainians. So it’s not the first step. It’s rather the number three or number four. So don’t start with the end. Start with the very first step.
What about sanctions? The European Union wants more sanctions against Russia.
So the sanctions… You are German, yes?
Okay. So you are famous for being good engineers.
Not me, but…
You are by far the best in the world, probably, yes? So I’m so surprised that we, led by the Commission, a German lady, are not able to engineer the sanctions in a proper way. So what we have done is just a failure. We said that sanctions will be good for two reasons. First, because they will force Russia to its knees. Second, they will bring us closer to peace. None of that happened. What kind of engineering of sanctions is that? So again, clarity: that’s what we need. Clear-cut arguments. What the target is, how we would like to reach it. Unfortunately up to now, sanctions are not a good way to reach our targets. That’s what I have seen.
If you had the possibility to speak to the Ukrainian people who are defending themselves at this very moment, on the front lines, against Russians who want to kill their families, who have killed their families already – we saw what happened in Bucha and other places – how can you explain then that they should just say, “Okay we can’t defend ourselves anymore, because we have fewer soldiers than Russia?” That’s your argument.
No, I don’t have that kind of argument. I have a description. That’s different. I would not like to convince anybody of anything. It’s not my job. It’s not our war. It’s the war of the Ukrainians. The task of making decisions on the moral and historical horizon belongs exclusively to the Ukrainian people. “So do your decision”: that would be my advice. “Do exactly what is the best for you. But what is the best for you must be defined by yourself. Nobody else can define it. Do it yourself. Because you are an independent, proud nation and country.”
Besides the war in Ukraine, in Europe, there’s a new big discussion about migration.
It’s the old one.
It’s the old one you say. Nothing has changed?
No, of course not.
So how do you see the situation in Europe right now?
The situation is that migration is getting more and more a historic challenge, and we Europeans are not able to find a proper answer. Intellectually, by planning, the answer is very easy; but politically we are not able to manage it. So the answer is very clear: if somebody would like to step into the territory of the European Union, first we have to have a procedure which is done, and those who would like to come must wait outside. So physically they have to wait for the decision of the Member States on whether they can get into the countries or not. When the decision is made and the answer is “yes”, you can get in, you can come. If the answer is “no”, you can’t. So we have to do that. But unfortunately, we Europeans are not able to manage it.
Why is that, from your perspective?
I don’t know. It’s difficult to understand, because different countries or various countries have different ideas on migration. Probably you Germans like migration. You are proud to become a country of newcomers. It’s your choice. In Hungary, we have another opinion. We think it’s too risky. So therefore we reject migration, especially the illegal kind, and we make a clear distinction between guest workers: we have a law and regulation for the guest workers, and one for the migrants. You don’t make that distinction, because your attitude to migration is positive; our attitude is more cautious.
How do you see the situation in Germany, if you see what’s happening?
No, it’s not my job. The migration issue… So I would never argue in favour of convincing you that “Please accept my position on the migration”, because you are German. You have your own position. Your country has its own. And I accept whatever your decision is . My only kind request to you is please don’t interfere with how the Hungarians would like to make our own decisions. So that’s what I would like. So I’m not interfering in the mindset of the Germans about migration.
How do you see it when in Europe politicians or people call you populist, or magazines even call you a dictator. How do you deal with that.
I don’t deal with it at all. They are not my voters.
So, aren’t you angry?
No, no, no, it’s politics. I spent 16 years in opposition and 17 years in power. So I lost, I won, I lost again, I came back. So that’s what I call democracy. I don’t know anybody in the European political arena who has the same track record on that. So that’s democracy. I understand that, like migration, we have big discussions and they would like to weaken the Hungarian position. But I have to be very clear cut on that. I always say, “Guys, OK, we disagree on migration, because we Hungarians think that there are some values which must be protected in Hungary. You can call them European values – like equal treatment for women, no homophobia, no anti-Semitism. If you look at those values and you look at the migration groups who are coming, these migration groups do not cultivate those kinds of values well. Why should we Hungarians take the risk of having communities which don’t respect or retain European values? So we reject it. You don’t do that. You let them in. But that’s your business. But don’t force me to make the same mistake, the same decision that I see as a mistake on your side.
Let’s talk about what’s happening in these days and weeks. The Greek coast guard is facing a lot of criticism right now because a few days ago, a fishing boat with possibly more than 700 refugees on board capsized off the port in Pylos under its eyes. How can we prevent such disasters at the EU’s external borders?
It’s very easy: make it very clear to all the migrants and to all the smugglers that “Guys, you can’t step into the territory of the European Union without having a decision on your request. You have to stay out.” As European, Brusselian, blah-blah languages say, that’s an “outside hot spot”. That’s the solution. If you don’t do that, the smugglers will always feel that they can continue their business. And the poor guys, the migrants, will feel that they have a chance to come in. If we have an obligatory quota system or something like that, or solidarity distribution, it’s a pull factor. So we are encouraging them to come, instead of saying, “No way, don’t take the risk, stay where you are, submit your request, we will respond and then you can move. Till then, please don’t move.” That’s the only way. Otherwise, they will move. They will come.
Why were you against The asylum compromise?
Because it’s a pull factor. It’s a pull factor. The message to the smugglers is: “Continue the business. We will manage it here. We will distribute them, just come.”
What exactly in this compromise is a pull factor?
If you say that we will distribute the migrants, it’s a pull factor by itself. I’m speaking on the basis of my experience. Just after the kind of news that there is a compromise on that which was opposed, by Hungary anyway, the activity of the smugglers on the Balkan route immediately grew, it rocketed up: more smugglers and more migrants came to the border. So the number of persons we have to arrest is growing and growing and growing, because they feel that now a historic moment has come.
So Hungary doesn’t want to take in relocated migrants as the EU plan proposes.
And will you agree to pay the fees?
No, no sir. For what? We are defending the border of Europe. We spend more than 2 billion euros on defending the Schengen Area against illegal migrants: 2 billion euros. We have got not a single penny form Brussels. Why should we pay more? We have to spend all our money to defend the border and to defend Europe and to defend Germany anyway.
How do you evaluate the fact that Angela Merkel has been honoured now several times with medals in Germany for her refugee policy?
I think she deserved to be decorated for various reasons because she was a very high-level leader of the European community. I respected her very much, but I always disagreed with her on the migration issue. So she will definitely not get a decoration for migration policy from Hungary. But for other reasons, probably she could.
If you look back to 2015, is there any statement you regret?
Not at all. Not at all. I was rather slow. I let… It took three months in Hungary to raise the fence, to build up the fence. It should have been done the first day.
So our Federal Interior Minister Faeser sees a Europe of open borders threatened if it’s not possible to effectively stop the number of illegal migrants at the external border.
Yeah, she is right, yeah.
So is the EU breaking up because of this, because of the migration issue?
No, no. Hungary is the champion of defending the outside border of the European Union. We have done everything to defend ourselves, Germany, Austria and Europe. So we are on the same line, if I understand correctly.
We see in Germany the right-wing populist party, AFD, getting more and more percent. They’re up to 20% now in the polls, even the same level as the party of Chancellor Scholz has. Are you happy about that?
No, it’s your job – it’s not mine.
But you have contacts with the AFD, don’t you?
We have very few, but we have contacts of all democratically elected parties of Germany. The reason why we don’t have stronger cooperation with AFD is that we don’t know exactly what the AFD is about. So it’s not clear-cut what their programme is. Is it pro-European or against it? So it’s not easy to understand. But anyway, it’s not our job, because we have to deal with the Hungarian parties and Hungarian issues. It’s your party, may I say.
What reason do you see for 20%?
Europe is living under very difficult conditions. The European Union was created for two things: the first is peace, and now we are in a war; the second was prosperity, and the economy is getting more and more troublesome and difficult to maintain the competition and providing prosperity for the people is getting more and more difficult. So I understand that the so-called protest parties are coming up everywhere in Europe. I’m not talking about Germany, I’m speaking about Europe generally.
Would you invite the head of AFD to Budapest?
There is no reason to do that. But this party is a democratically elected party. It’s a German party.
There’s also people saying in Germany that they are fascist.
Well, that’s your job. I would never say any democratically elected German party is fascist. It’s your choice. It’s not my job. Don’t provoke me into that discussion – no, no way.
In 2024 Hungary will take over the presidency of the council of the EU, and there’s a discussion now coming from the Parliament calling on EU Member States to prevent that. Are you taking this seriously?
No, we don’t. It’s rather a joke. It’s a political joke. I’m the only prime minister in the Council who has already assumed the presidency of a Member State, because I managed it. Was it in 2011? So I’m the only one who knows the job personally. So why exactly would Hungary be unable to manage that challenge?
What will be the main topic for you if you take over?
Oh, we have plenty. We have plenty. First of all, neighbourhood policy is important, especially the Balkans. Because unfortunately Balkans is not understood properly by the European and Brusselian elite. So we have to put more energy and emphasis. And the second, is to get back competitiveness, because the European economy is getting less and less competitive. So if we continue like that, we will lose the competition against not just the Chinese but even against the Americans. It’s not good for the European economy.
Serbia has released the three Kosovo police officers detained last week in the border area. Did you have any private negotiations about the issue in recent days with Serbia and Kosovo authorities?
It was not private, it was public. Full official.
And besides these official channels?
There was an official bilateral high-level meeting and negotiation between Serbia and Hungary, and the issue was on the table. And I tried to deliver arguments that there are so many enemies or countries who try to do bad things against Serbia that it would be better to reconsider this whole issue. But the President said clearly that it’s not a political decision, it’s a legal procedure, and the legal procedure must go on. And if I understand correctly, they concluded, luckily enough, on a proper outcome.
Also a few days ago in Tirana you criticized the process of the pace in EU enlargement as unacceptable and shameful. Europe has reserves for economic growth only in the Balkans, you said. Do you see too much opposition against enlargement?
Definitely. Opposition is a strong expression. What I see is rather a fatigue – as they say, enlargement, fatigue. So they are tired of it. But if you look at in a proper way where Europe can get new energy and strengths and competitiveness, the picture is very clear. We lost Russia. We decided on decoupling. So the Russian market and Russian raw materials and energy went to Asia. So it’s over. Ukraine is not a source of energy, so they’re just consuming up our energy. So the only remaining area where we can get a population which is well trained, ready to work, they have raw materials, they have energy, that could be integrated into the European economy, is only the Balkans. So we need more – I mean, the European Union – need the Balkans more than the Balkans need us.
What is your vision for the EU of the future – the United States of Europe or the Europe of fatherlands with a single market?
So first of all, I always prefer the single market. So this is the number one. But at the same time, there are certain values which are important – probably important for the single market, but important for our tradition, historical tradition. So Europe should stand for certain values, like equal treatment for women, as I mentioned, and against anti-Semitism. It’s very important to be very clear cut: zero tolerance to anti-Semitism, even among or with the migrants – no way. They have to understand it. Family values are very important. The value of peace. And sovereignty as well, because we are nations: German history, German culture is different from the Hungarian, or the Polish one, or the French one. They represent values. We have to preserve these values. So I will never accept any concept of a super state or the United States of Europe or something like that. We would consider it as an imperialistic model and reject it. We would like to see a single market and at the same time, strong sovereignty of the nations who are ready and able to cooperate among themselves and maintain the European values and strengths and prosperity of the people.
My last question Mr. Prime Minister. If you have the chance to talk to Vladimir Putin this week, what would you tell him?
I have a chance anyway, but…
Will you call him?
No, no, there is no reason to do so. I can call him any moment. And I think he would be ready to discuss any point.
Should you try it out, to call him now?
But for what reason? So we are serious people. If we call each other, it means that we would like to reach something. If you don’t have an offer, we don’t have an idea why we should discuss. So the problem is that Hungary is not strong enough in Europe to push the events to the direction of peace. That’s the reason why there is no sense in calling him.
And do you see any chance of convincing him to get the troops out from Ukraine?
I think what we have to understand is that the Russians do not operate their own life on the basis of being convinced about something. This is the nation of power. And there’s another big power who can convince them. But this is the United States. We Europeans start… we tried to do that. Don’t forget that. So when the Crimea conflict happened, we Europeans decided that we would create a peace, a lasting peace, ignoring the Americans, probably rightly anyway. And we reached the Minsk Agreement, which was guaranteed by the Germans and the French. But now it’s proved that the Germans and the French, even together, are not strong enough to guarantee peace. It’s sad. I’m not happy with that. So now when we have the war, the only way is negotiation between the Russians and the Americans and guarantee peace for Europe.
You said Russia is still powerful. There are many people who would disagree with that. We talked about this at the beginning. But again, why are you so sure that they are powerful and that Putin will stay as a president after what we’ve seen in the past one and a half years?
So you say “so sure”. I’m not so sure, because we are living in an uncertain world. So probably what we have discussed here and my position will be proved tomorrow to be inappropriate. But up to now, on the historical horizon, all my positions proved later to be right: on the fall of the Berlin Wall, on migration. And I think that will be the case with peace as well. But what I can say clearly is that in politics, the most valuable thing is experience. You are a German. You have experience with the Russians. We are Hungarians. We have experience with the Russians. So we have an understanding. So all the preconditions are here to understand how strong the Russians are, how they behave, how they fight, how they have evolved. You know it, we know it. So we should take it seriously.
We saw on the battlefield that they are not as strong as people thought.
You Germans were very deep in Russia, if I remember correctly. So don’t misunderstand your history.
No, I meant like what happened in Ukraine. We saw that they didn’t fight as many people expected.
But I’m speaking about the historical experiences. Politics is good to have good ideas on the future and to build up constructions in your mind. But what really counts is history and facts. If I have an opinion on the Germans I have my opinion on the historical facts. When I have my opinion on Poland, on the historical facts. When I have an opinion on the Russians, it’s based on historical facts. You have experience as well. So we should understand more and take more seriously our own historical experiences on what war with Russia is like.
Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister.
Thank you very much.