Interviews / Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on the Kossuth Radio programme “Good Morning Hungary”

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on the Kossuth Radio programme “Good Morning Hungary”

Zsolt Törőcsik: Tamás Sulyok, the President of the Constitutional Court, has been nominated as President of the Republic by Fidesz-KDNP. This was announced by Máté Kocsis, leader of the Fidesz parliamentary group, at the end of a meeting of the governing parties’ parliamentary groups. I welcome Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the studio. Good morning.

Good morning.

The two governing parties’ parliamentary groups made this decision at your suggestion. What considerations are behind the nomination of Tamás Sulyok? 

Legally, in terms of form, it’s as you’ve described: I made a proposal to the parliamentary groups, because that’s what our regulations dictate. But the reality isn’t like that. For such serious decisions the reality is always that there are long consultations and negotiations, and opinions must be gathered. So one mustn’t be hasty. This is an important decision for Hungary, and a carefully considered decision must be made – partly out of respect for the candidates, partly out of respect for the office, and thus also for the country. In the final round the range of possible candidates was also discussed by the presidency of Fidesz, and in the end the decision was for the President of the Constitutional Court Tamás Sulyok: we decided in his favour, and after that the parliamentary groups gave the green light. Hungary is a strong country. Now there’s been such a problem, the previous president resigned, and people’s hearts are still aching – as a result of a matter on which the decision of the President and the opinions of the people were strongly opposed to each other. These are painful things, but in every trouble there’s a ray of hope. And now, after having surveyed those whom we felt – and also hoped that Parliament would feel – to be worthy of this work, calling, and mission, we found a good number of Hungarians who were worthy. This strengthens a person’s faith in their own nation and country. I was very happy to have been presented with such a wide range to choose from. In the end we thought that he was the one delineated by experience, expertise in the Constitution and legal matters, knowledge of international law, familiarity with the international arena, and knowledge of the natural system and natural history of political institutions – combined with a life path conferring professional authority. So in the end the combination of these qualities brought him to us as the most suitable candidate, and we decided on him. But I will say it again: Hungary is a strong country, because at a moment like this, it is presented with more than one option. 

And there’s another aspect here. You’ve also referred to the pardon decision which in recent weeks has caused outrage across society, and in your annual “State of the Nation” speech you also said that national unity has been upset. Can the person of Tamás Sulyok be a guarantee that this national unity will be restored?

Well, now let’s look at the specific case. So, we’re talking about a decision to grant a presidential pardon. Such a decision is made when there’s an application for a pardon: someone asks for it, and then it’s assessed. Pardon cases are completely separate from the work of government: they’re specifically the exclusive right of the President to grant – as the word itself tells us – a pardon. And then, based on the terms of the pardon request, the President decides whether to say “yes” or “no”. And the President said “yes” in a case in which there could only be one correct decision: “no”. The correct decision would have been to reject it. And I have to say that that was the feeling of everyone in the country, or almost everyone. This is especially true on the Right, because family values – the protection of children, children as being precious – are at the heart of our political credo. This is why national unity was shattered by this decision. The only way to restore unity was for the President – to her credit, having done a fantastic job, by the way, and we all loved her and continue to do so – to admit this mistake and leave office. A new president is entering office who will need to restore this unity or balance that has been upset. This starts with making it clear that there will be no pardon – that’s to say, no mercy – in cases involving paedophilia or related offences. So when he addresses the country for the first time I very much hope that the President will make it clear that this must not happen, it must not be allowed. I hope that he’ll also call on us to make the necessary legislative amendments and government decisions to ensure that such things don’t happen. I’ve already taken some of these steps, by the way, and I’ve ordered a full review and audit. In a decent country such as Hungary, what happened in the Bicske children’s home and what the pardon case has brought to light must not happen – it’s quite simply unacceptable! And if it’s no longer possible to tear those who lay a hand on our children into little pieces, then at least when they’re convicted there must be no pardon and no mercy. So there’s work to be done here, and I think the President can identify the relevant tasks: he’s a lawyer, he’ll be able to arrange his own tasks in this way, and he’ll also be able to identify the tasks falling to the Government. 

You’ve mentioned the Government’s task in this matter, and the parliamentary group also has a role in it. Yesterday Máté Kocsis said that they can submit a new proposal in the spring session, and the legislation can be changed and tightened on twenty points. In a review like this, which you’ve talked about in relation to this issue, what are the main points? 

First of all I’d like to see whether suitability tests have been carried out properly when appointing the managers of such children’s institutions. Because it’s absolutely unacceptable that a person like the one at the centre of this case – not the President, but the director of a children’s home, who committed a paedophile crime – could do this, and the community in question didn’t immediately explode afterwards, but cover up, hide and fudge the facts about all that happened. So here I’m afraid that the suitability test, which has to be done from time to time, was done improperly. From this it should have been clear that there was a problem there. So now we have to examine every such institution from the perspective of whether the current leaders have passed the appropriate suitability test, whether they meet the conditions, and whether this covers everything. It should cover lifestyle, sexual deviance and psychological fitness, so people who pose a danger to children cannot work in schools, kindergartens, orphanages, and so on. So on this we have to create order now, and we shall create order. I will personally monitor this, and at the end I’d like to conclude it with appropriate decisions. 

As both you and Máté Kocsis pointed out, there are laws that can be tightened with regard to child protection. We remember that the 2021 amendment to the Child Protection Act gave rise to serious debates in Brussels, and you’ve said several times that this is one of the red lines, one of the issues on which the Government won’t give in to pressure from Brussels. Could another tightening lead to further disputes with Brussels? 

It could certainly lead to them, but if we started from what the bureaucrats in Brussels don’t like, then we’d end up looking like them. We don’t want to look like them, we don’t want to live like them, and we don’t want to live by the rules they live by. So we don’t want migrants, we don’t want gender activists in schools, and we don’t want war. So I can name the four or five things in which the way we arrange our lives is different from the way that the Brusseleers arrange them – or the way they want us to arrange them. This is why our starting point can’t be what they want: we must start out from what Hungarians want, how Hungarians want to live. In certain matters no one can intervene except God the Father – and, according to Hungarians, in some cases not even Him. So Hungarians will decide how to regulate child protection institutions and how to regulate school education. I think that Hungarians will once more say that the sex education of children is the responsibility, duty and privilege of parents alone, and it cannot be subverted by any LGBTQ propagandists, who we don’t want to see anywhere near schools, let alone in schools. So we have our own vision of life and we’ll enforce it. We shall not allow anyone, from anywhere – an ambassador or a bureaucrat from Brussels – to high-mindedly intervene in our lives here.

There are attempts by Brussels to do this, because, for example, they want to decide in Brussels on implementation of the so-called LGBTQ Equality Strategy or the Migration Pact before the European Parliament elections. Is there any chance of these issues being adopted or approved without the consent of the Hungarians, and why is Brussels in such a hurry to settle and adopt them?

There’s a phrase in the Hungarian language that accurately describes the situation in Brussels. It’s what Hungarians call “panic before the gates close”. So their song is over, their mandate has expired – or at least it will expire in June – and the fine burghers of Brussels will be making one last dash, thinking that they can now complete what they failed to do when they were younger. It’s a well-known fact, and it’s happening over there. So suddenly the LGBTQ issue’s being wheeled out, migration’s being wheeled out, they’re pushing for war, and they have to get these over the line. So now we’re in such a period: a more difficult, more aggressive political period in Brussels. And Hungary has to fend this off. There’s not much time left now, as the elections are in June. I see the Migration Pact as the bigger problem. On the LGBTQ issue, I think if you go out on the streets in Hungary and ask ten people’s opinions, eleven of them will tell you where they’d like to send anyone who comes up with the idea that parents shouldn’t be the ones deciding on how to raise their children. On the issue of migration, the situation is a little more divided, although in Hungary there’s also a massive majority in favour of national sovereignty related to migration – in other words, that only Hungarians should be able to decide on whom they wish to live with. There’s a very large majority behind this: there’s been a referendum on it, which has clearly shown this, and there’s been a consultation, which has also shown this. But – to put it bluntly, on a Friday morning – there are a large number of paid agents here. So, if I remember correctly, George Soros published a programme in 2015 or 2016 among his published writings. This is the notorious Soros Plan, in which he’s described what needs to be done. And it contains exactly the same proposals that are now in the work plan of the Brusseleers, who are panicking about the closing gates. The proposals are that migrant ghettos should be set up, that at least a million people should be brought in every year, that they should be paid, and so on and so on and so on. They say that migration shouldn’t be rejected, but managed – this is the Soros Plan’s scenario. And so far we’ve been able to block it. I’ve been fighting since 2015, first alone, and then as part of a growing bloc, and in the end the countries that can stop the idiotic pro-migration rules in Brussels were in the majority. Now we’ll have to withstand one final assault; but we’re not alone, as there are several countries that don’t support pro-migration rules. There are those who have explicitly and courageously opposed it, such as the Slovaks, who have stood their ground. And then there are those who have opposed it by abstaining or objecting only to certain parts of it. Such are the Czechs, and perhaps even the Poles – although now the wind there is blowing from a different direction. The Italians are thinking clearly, and the Greeks are also suffering. So there are quite a few of us here who are living our lives in the middle of the migration wave, and so far we’ve managed to defend ourselves well. And we don’t want to throw the result of the struggles of recent years – that we’ve remained migrant-free countries – out of the window because of a final pre-election rush by Brussels. 

There’s one other issue in which social attitudes have changed a lot – recently, at least. This is the issue of the Russo-Ukrainian war. Yesterday was the sad milestone of the second anniversary of the outbreak of the conflict, when Russia attacked Ukraine. The other day the European Council on Foreign Policy carried out a survey which showed that only 10 per cent of Europeans believe that Ukraine can win this war. Barely two years ago, however, this percentage was much higher, and Western European society was much more optimistic. What’s changed?

But back then they’d have had even less reason to think that. It’s a very difficult issue, because Russia attacked Ukraine, and this raises a number of theoretical and moral questions. But war is fundamentally a question of Realpolitik: there are numbers, there are power relations, and what’s decisive isn’t the intention, but the capability, the consequence and the result. So this is a difficult aspect of our profession: the distinction between peace and war, when to choose violent means to achieve goals, when not to choose violent means, how to avoid it, and so on. But the realities were obvious from the first moment. This is why Hungary has always said what it said. Of course Russia has attacked Ukraine, this issue must be settled, but we mustn’t enter a war. So the West mustn’t throw itself into a war in which it’s obvious from basic mathematical, real-life facts that there’s no solution on the battlefield, because the Russians won’t be defeated by Ukraine, no matter how much equipment and weaponry we give them. If the Westerners don’t get involved in this war with their own armies, then Russia’s military superiority will continue, and we can say with certainty that Ukraine will have no military superiority. NATO’s very first decision was to declare that it didn’t want to send troops, that it didn’t want to get involved, that it didn’t want a NATO-Russian war, that it didn’t want Western European troops to be stationed on Ukrainian soil and to engage in combat with the Russians. So once the Western European countries had ruled that out, from then on it was clear that we had to seek a ceasefire and peace, because with the current allocation of military force Russia cannot be brought to its knees militarily. Anyone who tries this, I believe, is plunging their axe into a tree that they cannot cut down; their axe will be stuck in its trunk, and they’ll be trapped. And this isn’t child’s play, because hundreds of thousands of people are dying, we’re talking about widows, and we’re talking about orphans. We’re talking about the destruction of cities, terrible destruction, and on both the Russian and Ukrainian side things of great value being lost, irreplaceable human lives being lost. So it’s a heavy responsibility. And on behalf of Hungary, I believe that the morally correct position is to make the reality clear: there is no military solution to this conflict. We need a peace process, a new peace process that will bring this conflict to an end, and at the same time create a Europe for us that’s viable in the long term. I understand that we and the Poles are still between the Germans and the Russians, the French are sitting on the Atlantic coast, and the British are sitting in the safety of an island. So from that perspective life looks different. But from Hungary’s point of view, it looks as if a global power is fighting a major war on the territory of a neighbouring country, a war that’s costing hundreds of thousands of lives. And however and whenever it comes closer to us and what effect it will have on us, we can say with certainty that it will have a more immediate and tangible effect on us than on the French or the Germans or the British. Therefore, we Hungarians cannot and do not share the British, French and German point of view, which seeks to force a military solution. We need peace in our neighbourhood. For us, having peace and security here is an existential question, a matter of life and death. Peace and security is impossible with a war in a neighbouring country – especially when one of the participants in that war is Russia, which is a nuclear power. This is a huge risk for the peoples of Central Europe, including Hungary. So from the Hungarian national point of view the correct moral position is a ceasefire and peace negotiations. 

Could it even be possible for the European Union’s position to change in that direction? Because if we look back at the past two years, the EU’s objectives have changed: at the beginning of the war the main objective was weakening Russia, and a policy of sanctions; following that, it’s now arms and material support that seem to be the main priority.

The West has its foot trapped in this hole: it’s stepped in it and can’t extricate itself. Public opinion will sort this out. So I don’t see the leaders that I know coming to the conclusion which can be summed up as follows: “We made a calculation, we made a mistake; it’s true that we did what we did at the request and with the encouragement of the Ukrainians, but we misjudged the situation. Consequently, we’re faced with the risk of continuous war, a continuous expansion of war. This is bad for Europe, and it will ruin us economically.” This war is consuming an enormous amount of money without any chance of military success, and it must be stopped. After all, eventually the taxpayer will simply ask: “Why are you, Dear Friend, sending money to a war in which the side you support has no chance of winning? What kind of responsibility is that to your own citizens – or is it irresponsibility?” That moment will come. And then the Western European leaders will have no choice but to come up with some excuse and say that there’s really no prospect of a military solution now, so let politicians come to the fore again, give diplomacy a chance, let there be a ceasefire and let there be peace talks. It won’t be easy to admit this mistake. The migration mistake wasn’t easy either, because now there are millions of migrants, and someone still has to say, “I made the decision, I let them in, I changed the legislation, I proposed the legislation in Parliament.” So leaders and politicians bear personal responsibility. Someone’s saddled the peoples of Western Europe with migrants, or allowed those peoples to be saddled with migrants – with the associated threat of terrorism, crime and unmanageable economic problems. The same is true for the war. Someone has to say, “I made a mistake.” Sooner or later someone in the West will have to say that. This is why we’re looking forward to the US presidential election, because it will give us that chance. Because while the leaders over there are also just people, and they don’t like to admit their mistakes, the election will solve this problem; because hopefully the current president will leave office, President Trump will return, and he’ll be given a free hand to make peace. He can make peace without accepting blame. So in politics it’s very difficult to admit mistakes, and then say that we’ve been going in one direction but now we have to go in the other direction. And this won’t happen in Europe by itself. For this, elections to the European Parliament are needed, and in America a presidential election is needed. And if there’s a new configuration, then the European institutional system and leaders that emerge from a pro-peace European election and a Donald Trump winning in America, can, as I see it, create peace together, as an essentially American initiative. 

One consequence of – or reaction to – the Russo-Ukrainian war is that Sweden asked to join NATO, incidentally giving up 210 years of neutrality. The Hungarian parliament is due to vote on this on Monday. And today you’ll receive your Swedish counterpart. How did you persuade the governing parties to support Sweden’s application for membership?

We also had some unresolved military and arms issues. I told the parliamentary group that I understand their opposition, I see it as justified, but they should give me time to engage in a confidence-building process with the Swedish prime minister to get to the point at which I can present the parliamentary group with a tangible argument for why it should support Sweden’s accession. I’ve spoken to the Swedish prime minister on several occasions, and this process is being concluded here in Budapest today: we’ll settle all the outstanding issues; we’re concluding a military-industrial agreement – a serious one, for a country of our size; and we’ll also establish some decisions, directions or objectives for military cooperation. And we have to accept – as for their part the Swedes also have to accept – that we’re not the same. So the values according to which Sweden organises its life are different to the values according to which Hungary organises its life. But, regardless of individuals’ personal beliefs, Hungary is still fundamentally a country with a Christian culture; it’s a Christian country, and in our society Christian values are fundamental. These values – in line with which we all live our personal, family and national lives – form a fine long list. We’re a family-centred country, and the modern configurations that are prevalent here in Europe aren’t accepted by Hungarians, although they’re accepted in Sweden. And we’re pro-peace, while the Swedes are pro-war in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. So obviously in values there are clear differences between the two countries. But this is manageable, because we don’t want to tell the Swedes how to live; and if they don’t want to tell us how to live, then the door is open for cooperation. We’re not now entering into a marriage, because in that case the problem of values would be difficult. What we’re entering into is a military alliance, which is about the fact that if one is attacked, the other will come to its aid. This can be agreed on while still having differing values, as a military alliance can be created on a basis of interests. Sweden is a serious country. So is Hungary. We’re grown-ups, and we’re able to agree on cooperation based on interests. I think that we’ll finalise this today, and on Monday the Hungarian parliament can put its final seal or signature on it and ratify the agreement.

I’ve been asking Prime Minister Viktor Orbán questions about the nomination of the President of the Republic, child protection and the Russo-Ukrainian war.


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