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: Welcome from Brussels, and I welcome Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the studio of the public media centre.                                                                                              

Good morning.

Yesterday evening, at the post-summit press conference, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, said that defence preparedness must be increased and economies must be put on a war footing. Was the whole mood of the summit as ominous as that press conference?

It feels strange coming from Hungary to Brussels now. Hungary looks like a normal country. Yes, in Hungary there are interludes reminiscent of a soap opera like “Neighbours” or “Dallas”, or a reality show; but after all, back home cool-headed, calm and rational thinking is practised. And when you arrive in Brussels and talk to the politicians, you’re surprised: there’s a warlike atmosphere, warlike language and warlike logic. Somehow the leaders here talk as if they’re fighting their own war against Russia. So they’re not like us, who say, “Look, this is a war between Russia and Ukraine. This isn’t our war.” Of course we have to be sensitive to it, because it’s in a country neighbouring us, and because hundreds of thousands of people are dying. So we can’t be indifferent to such human tragedy; but we’re not a belligerent party, on either side. This isn’t a football match, where you have to cheer for someone: they’re fighting their own battle, and we’re a different country, a different community, with different interests and a different approach. Such detachment, which one needs in order to remain calm, is completely absent here in Brussels. Here they’re fighting their own wars on the side of Ukraine and against Russia. We are not at war with Russia. They are at war, and they talk about defeating Russia. And in order to achieve this, they’re committing themselves to ever more things and daring to do ever more things – or at least preparing to do ever more things. I clearly remember how this spiral of war started – because they’re in a spiral of war, which is leading to ever more serious things. I remember that initially it was a case of, “OK, let’s send helmets, but let’s not send lethal weapons.” I remember the German chancellor saying that such a thing was impossible. Then it turned out that we were sending weapons, then lethal weapons, then an increasing amount of lethal weapons, then tanks, then aircraft – and now there’s talk of actually stationing soldiers in Ukraine. It hasn’t been outlined exactly what this would mean, where they’d be stationed, what weapons they’d have and what the purpose would be; but preparations have already begun for it to be perfectly natural in this situation for soldiers from Western European countries to be stationed in Ukraine. For Hungarian ears this is shocking. I feel as though I’ve arrived in another galaxy, and we must be careful not to be sucked into the psychosis of these twenty or so state leaders and lose our ability to orient ourselves according to the proper national interests of Hungary.

Yes, you did indeed warn us about this a year ago, when you said that the time would come when sending ground troops to Ukraine would come under consideration, even though then everyone thought that such a thing was out of the question. How far do you think Western leaders are now willing to go in their support for Ukraine? And, if boots were to be put on the ground, what would be the consequences of such a move? 

The most alarming thing about all this is that what two or three months ago would have been – or was – unthinkable has now, two or three months later, become a simple everyday matter. I remember when the Germans said that they weren’t prepared to send weapons to Ukraine that could kill people, so they’d send basic equipment instead. Their most memorable idea was to send helmets, which was something the Ukrainians even ridiculed. Now we’re talking about Germany giving Ukraine missiles: missile systems that could perhaps be fired as far as Moscow – or at least deep into Russian territory. So what today is absurd and unthinkable will be reality in two months’ time. And this is a spiral of war. But this isn’t a video game, it’s reality. So the consequence of one word, one decision, one weapon delivered, is that the next day someone dies, and not one, but tens of thousands, or now hundreds of thousands, of people die. So here the consequences of these statements and decisions are hundreds of thousands of widows, hundreds of thousands of orphans, millions of people fleeing from their cities, lives ruined, cities ruined, the work of generations wasted. So these are terrible things, and increasingly we’re talking about them as everyday reality. So we have to steel ourselves. I’m happy to talk to everyone and I’m in favour of rational debate, but somehow we need to dig in our heels and say “Ceasefire, peace negotiations: ceasefire, peace talks, otherwise we’ll be dragged into it.” And although we’re not united in Hungary either, because the Left is pro-war, it’s true that the Hungarian government is sober and pro-peace, and the country can feel safe. This much is true. But at the same time there’s another voice in Hungary: this voice from Brussels, through the Left, which says, “No, we should send in weapons.” And then sooner or later they’ll say that if NATO troops are going, then we should go too. So in Hungary there’s an organised political force that would drag us into this war. This must be avoided at all costs, and to do so we need enthusiasm, perseverance and determination. It’s fortunate that Hungarian public opinion – as far as I can see – has retained its sanity.                                                                                        

Yes, and this is also indicated by a recent survey from Századvég, according to which 86 per cent of Hungarians are opposed to soldiers from European countries or NATO troops fighting in Ukraine. But we haven’t heard much of such surveys elsewhere. Why are European voters not being asked whether they want their fellow countrymen to fight in Ukraine, their countries to be involved in the war?                                   

The truth is that they are being asked – just not in the way we think. So they aren’t offered a referendum or a national consultation. Here in the West it’s generally much more common to say that one has to ask people in elections, then we’ll try to do our job well, and we’ll talk about it again in four years’ time. In Hungary over the past ten years or so we’ve developed all kinds of techniques for involvement, some of which are popular, some of which are criticised; but it cannot be said that in Hungary the Government doesn’t regularly offer people the opportunity to not only express their opinions on our communal issues, on our important issues, but also to express them at the right volume level. Of course one cannot completely submit to changes in the public mood at any given time, but we can promise – and I’m committed to this – that we won’t make decisions that are important for the country without consulting the people. And indeed in elections it’s the people who will decide how much their views were accepted by the current government. What’s happening here, if you look at current elections, is that – war or no war – in every country in Europe they’ll be holding the upcoming parliamentary elections. And what European leaders are sensing is that European public opinion is more supportive of parties that are pro-peace, and less supportive of parties that are pro-war. The reason this isn’t leading to a pro-peace turnaround in Europe is that Brussels is actually a prisoner of George Soros’s network. So I don’t know how well the Hungarians can picture this, but here the Soros network is embedded in the European institutions – so much so that the European institutions are giving them money for their operations. So here the Soros Empire’s people are no longer simply in a position to influence opinion, but have such a strong bargaining position that they can take some of the money they need to maintain themselves from Brussels’ coffers. They’re present within the Commission, they’re in the European Parliament, and quite a few prime ministers are clearly Soros-backed people. So I have to say that the opinion of the European people, and the assertion of that opinion, is also made increasingly difficult by the fact that Brussels itself is increasingly becoming a prisoner of the international network of activists that George Soros has worked hard to build up over the past thirty years.

Yes, this is just how a fault line is emerging between societies and the political elite in Western Europe. And this fault line is also reflected in another issue: that of Ukrainian grain and European farmers. Yesterday you wrote on social media that one of the most important issues at the EU summit would be Ukrainian grain. For months European farmers have been protesting against this and other measures that adversely affect them. Is there a solution from Brussels in the pipeline?

Perhaps one sentence might help your listeners understand what the root of the problem is. Hungary is a country that supports international relations, and so we don’t support isolationism: we support trade, investment and economic cooperation. But now we’re suddenly opposed to the import of Ukrainian grain to Europe. What’s the reason for this? This can be understood by considering the fact that the European Union is imposing extremely bureaucratic and strict rules on European farmers related to how they farm, what chemicals they can and cannot use, whether GMOs are allowed, whether genetically modified seeds are allowed, what environmental aspects must be taken into account in farming, what chemicals and how much artificial fertiliser can be used. So they’re reducing the productivity of European farms, of European farmers, with requirements that are very strict – and often beyond what is reasonable. There are no such rules in Ukraine. So when one farmer has to produce wheat under strict constraints and another does so without any constraints, then the unregulated farmer has a huge competitive advantage: he can produce and supply more cheaply, and can still make a profit if he sells his product more cheaply; and if he can sell his product more cheaply than a Hungarian farmer, he’s taking the Hungarian farmer’s market away from him. This is what we’re suffering from today, and so this is a very serious problem for Hungary. Up until now Hungarian farmers have been able to sell some of their produce to the rest of Europe. There are six or seven countries in Europe that produce more food than they consume. We’re talking about a problem for these six or seven countries, including Hungary. Our people produce, sell their produce on the European markets, get pretty good money for it, and use that money to fund production for the following year. Now cheap Ukrainian produce is coming in, Western European buyers – food industry buyers – buy this cheaper Ukrainian produce, process it and produce cheaper food products from it, also making bigger profits. And meanwhile they’re not buying Hungarian produce. The latter stays in the warehouses. We’re now full, and we’re making a huge effort to find a way to store this stock somewhere until next year’s harvest, so that our farmers don’t go bankrupt and have the income they need to farm for the upcoming year. This is now the essence of the problem. But Brussels is deaf to this. So it’s in a war fever, it’s in a spiral of war, and it thinks that if we help Ukrainian farmers we’ll also be helping Ukraine through this. But through this we’re destroying ourselves. It would make much more sense to go back to where we were and say that we won’t let in grain from Ukraine – or, if we want to be fair, the other solution is to say that we’ll apply the same relaxed rules to our farmers as we do to farmers in Ukraine. So if we want competition, there has to be fair competition: the conditions for production have to be brought into closer alignment. So we shouldn’t have strict rules in Europe either; or else we should set the same production conditions on imported grain as we do on our own farmers. There’s a reason that farmers are angry. Farmers can roll with the hardest of punches. So, instead of going about their own business, it takes a lot for them to say, “Let’s get together, organise and get moving.” That kind of thing is more typical of factory workers or public sector workers. But not farmers. When farmers organise, get moving and go somewhere, you know you’re in trouble. And today there’s huge trouble everywhere all across Europe – I mean in the countries that produce for sale, that export agricultural produce. But Brussels cares more about Ukraine than about European farmers. 

Do you think that the demonstrations that you’ve referred to and that we’re witnessing also reflect the general mood in Europe towards Brussels? 

I think so. So it’s difficult to think about the European institution in an objective or factual way, but if we want to gain a good perspective, if we go back to square one, we have to go back to the question of why we created the European Union. We created the European Union for two reasons: we wanted peace, and we wanted prosperity. Now, in comparison with that, they’re marching into a war. And the economy isn’t delivering prosperity, but is causing more difficulties for ever more groups in society: for example farmers – and the middle class is struggling to survive. So there’s no success in terms of prosperity either. So we have war and hardship instead of peace and prosperity. That was the promise that Brussels is failing to deliver today. Therefore the feeling of the people towards the bureaucrats in Brussels is basically negative. Those feelings aren’t towards the European Union, because the idea is to work together in those areas in which we’re strong and to combine our strengths, and in those where someone is weaker, to collectively try to remedy the weakness. Everyone supports this, all normal people, and it’s a good idea. The problem is with the Brussels bureaucrats.

This is what you said on 15 March and before: that Brussels must be occupied. Most of the polls show right-wing parties gaining ground in the European Parliament elections. But how significant can this be? What will it take to succeed in occupying Brussels? 

I too think a lot about whether we’re approaching the European political struggles in the right way, whether we understand them well. Because, you know, we think in traditional categories: there’s right, there’s left, there’s globalist, there’s sovereigntist. But here a new dimension has opened up now, and I’m trying to adapt myself to the new situation in some way. So the crucial question isn’t who’s on the Left and who’s on the Right, but as European leaders grow ever keener to march into war, I see that the decisive question won’t be of party affiliation, but of who’s pro-peace and who’s pro-war. So if I had to talk to someone about this in Hungary today, say to the electorate, I’d say that I think it would be a good thing if in Hungary – and in other European countries too – we sent to the European Parliament as many pro-peace politicians as possible, and as few pro-war politicians as possible. This is the crucial factor. And then it’s also worth discussing how this will result in Left-Right cooperation, or who will be stronger. But the most important thing is to stop this war psychosis, because we’re marching into a war. And let’s not forget that this was a local matter, somewhere over there, outside Donetsk. And now we’re talking about the involvement of NATO countries at a military level. And if, God forbid, one of the NATO countries gets involved in an armed conflict with Russia, then we’re not so far from a world war. It’s difficult to say this because it’s a dark phrase and it brings back very dark memories, but it’s possible to go from a local conflict to a world war. I usually tell our friends here in the sheltered world of Western Europe that the world wars started in Central Europe, and that in school we learn that World War I didn’t start with the announcement that World War I was beginning. It was a local conflict: perhaps we called it, if I remember correctly, the Third Balkan War. And it only developed step by step, it spread, and later it turned out that this had been the first act in the world war. So I always warn them to take care to prevent Europe and the world finding itself in a situation in which we think we’re dealing with a local conflict, while in fact we’re creating a growing war zone, a war psychosis, and – God forbid – a world war.

Is this pro-war and pro-peace fault line also present in domestic politics?

This is without doubt, I think, the most important issue in Hungarian domestic politics. Once again, there are these issues similar to TV reality series which keep the viewing public in suspense, but of course they’re not the important thing. The important thing is the war. And in this, the pro-war stance of the European Left is also reflected in Hungarian politics, because, to put it simply: he who pays piper calls the tune. The Hungarian Left’s feeding tube and umbilical cord are here in Brussels and in America; this is where they’re fed and financed from, where they’re bought by the kilo. As two Hungarians at a bar table would say, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” So, since they’re the servants of the pro-war American and European forces, including the European Left, they naturally take a pro-war stance in Hungary. Everything is summed up in this short sentence: “We must do what the Westerners are doing.” The independent policy that the Hungarian government is pursuing is that we don’t want to get involved in this war. Regardless of what they say to me here in Brussels or what the French say, it’s all very interesting, but it cannot influence the policy of the Hungarian government, because that can only be based on the interests of the Hungarian people. This approach is also banned here in Brussels, and the Hungarian Left also attacks it continuously. So they’d drag Hungary into the war. I have no doubt that if Hungary didn’t have a national government of the Right, we’d be knee-deep – or even waist-deep – in the growing conflict between the countries of Western Europe and Russia. 

On 9 June Hungary will hold elections not only for the European Parliament, but also for local government, and last week Fidesz named its candidate for Mayor of Budapest. Alexandra Szentkirályi is standing. Meanwhile, the leftist city administration is constantly saying that the Government is bleeding the capital dry, and that it has no plan or concept for Budapest. What is Fidesz’s goal in Budapest, and with Budapest?

So let’s jump over to Hungarian domestic politics. Let’s say that one of our most important goals is to get the money we deserve here in Brussels, and not to allow this to be blocked by the left-wingers from Hungary who work here in Brussels. Budapest is important, and I’m happy to deal with the issues that are important to the people of Budapest. But for the people of Budapest today there’s no more important issue than whether the Hungarian Left can ensure that Brussels takes away part of the high salaries paid to teachers and kindergarten teachers and take it back here to the European centre. Because that’s the battle that’s being fought today. So the Hungarian MEPs here in Brussels are openly and publicly speaking, working and arguing that the money that today is being given to teachers and kindergarten teachers – Brussels money paid through the Hungarian government – should be withdrawn and taken back. So for Budapest I don’t think there’s any more important issue than having a sovereign Hungarian government in Hungary and stopping people coming to Brussels who are working against the Hungarian people. Now, if we’re talking about urban policy, Budapest is, after all, the nation’s capital. And of course it’s the home of the people of Budapest, and it’s important where the trams stop and how the public services operate; but it’s the capital of our nation, and it can’t distance itself from national affairs. Looking at Budapest since 2019, when the last local elections were held, I can see that Budapest is also held captive. And I see the old faces. I’m not exactly a novice ballet dancer in this area either, so I know almost everyone: I think I know everyone who once worked in support of left-wing governments as economic experts, ministers, state secretaries and so on. Now they’re sitting in the government of the capital. So I don’t know what ordinary people looking at Hungarian politics see. They probably see the Mayor of Budapest. But this is a deceptive picture, because the important issues in the city aren’t decided by the Mayor of Budapest. Well, it’s hard to imagine that he decides on important matters. On the other hand, because I know the players, I can see very clearly that those who once ruined the country – who bankrupted Hungary before 2010 – are all working in the capital, sitting there, being paid from there, and pursuing the same policies that they did in government before 2010. The reason Hungary went bankrupt, the reason it had to be pulled out of bankruptcy, is because someone took it there. Those who took the country there are now taking the capital there too: this is why its coffers are empty. It’s the richest city in Hungary! Well, not only the richest, but the richest by far, with the greatest potential, enormous economic potential. Well, it should be flourishing! Everything there should be fine! It should be clean! I don’t not want to interfere in the work of the Mayor of Budapest, but, based on the numbers and how the city performs in the economy, Budapest should be more orderly than anywhere, have the highest standard of living and offer a pleasant, comfortable life. But this isn’t the case, because money is flowing out of the capital’s coffers, just as it did from the country’s coffers before 2010. I hope that the Hungarian people will elect a mayor who will put a stop to this. People like Gyurcsány need to be banished from the background of the city’s administration. If this doesn’t happen, then all the resources of Budapest will drain away and be lost, and we’ll see the bankruptcy that the city is already very close to.

In the last half hour I’ve been asking Prime Minister Viktor Orbán questions about subjects including yesterday’s European Union summit, the Russo-Ukrainian war and the Ukrainian grain situation. 


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