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: A summit of EU heads of state and government ended yesterday. In the final declaration, EU leaders called for restraint and a ceasefire in relation to events in the Middle East, while Ukraine would be given additional air defence equipment and military support. I’ll be asking Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for details. Good morning.

Good morning. In addition to that, the longest item on the agenda – or the same length as the war – was the state of the European economy, and our deteriorating competitiveness. So I’ve had a difficult two days.

And it’s very interesting that, in relation to the events in the Middle East, Western leaders have called for an end to the hostilities, while they would give Ukraine more weapons. What’s the reason for this contradiction? Because one detects a certain dissonance here.

It’s clearly felt by the leaders in Europe, and by the citizens, that the world has become a dangerous place, and that the Middle East is turning into a war zone because of the terrorist attack on Israel and Israel’s defence of itself. Everyone fears that this Israeli war against a terrorist organisation could turn into an interstate war; and the Iranian air strikes and some kind of response to them early this morning – although Hungarian intelligence reports are still contradictory – are also moving events in that direction. There is the war in Ukraine, and we who live here in Central Europe also see that there’s unrest in the Balkans, where there are also unresolved issues. So the situation requires extreme discipline and caution. What we really need now is strategic calm, and there must be no panic. Each conflict must now be handled differently, and so I agree with those who say that we must do everything we can in the Middle East to ensure that the conflict doesn’t escalate into war and set the whole Middle East alight. It won’t be a matter just for the peoples living there, although they’ll suffer the most, but it will be a matter for us – because it will create refugees, it will create wartime devastation, and it will create new costs and economic outlay for Europe. So if we can pacify and contain this conflict, everyone will be better off – both in terms of saving lives and in terms of the economy. The war in Ukraine is another matter. In Brussels the mood is for war. So when I talk to you about this issue, we say that it is the Russo-Ukrainian war. And so from what I’m saying there’s a perceptible distancing – at least that’s my intention; because this is in a neighbouring country, and this is a major conflict. The poor Ukrainians are suffering terribly, hundreds of thousands of people are dying, there are widows, orphans and bombed-out cities. So what we see is terrible. But despite this, our clear position is that this is a Russo-Ukrainian war: it’s not our war, it’s a war between two Slavic peoples, and it should be brought to an end as soon as possible with a ceasefire and peace negotiations. So for the Hungarian people this isn’t a war in which we’re involved. But if I listen to the leaders in Brussels, they talk about the war as if it were their own war. And they are involved, because they started by sending helmets, then they went on to send weapons, and then it turned out that they would be sending tanks. Then come planes, and now they’re talking about the fact that – having lost what they call their war – they’ll sooner or later have to send soldiers. And NATO is also drifting in that direction. We’re in a difficult situation. One chapter in this war has come to an end with them raising the question of sending troops to Ukraine. Until now there had been no talk of that. NATO has also stayed out of the conflict. Now NATO is organising a mission in Ukraine – not to send soldiers, but to coordinate training and weapons supplies; and it wants to build up its own financial resources through collecting from member countries. So NATO is also sliding into this war. By saying that soldiers might have to be sent, another chapter of this war has begun. We were able to stay out of the first chapter. Now the question is whether we can stay out of the second. We want to stay out – there’s no doubt about that. So we want to stay out of this war. I think we’ll be able to. Everywhere I go, I say – and I try to say it with the necessary emphasis – that as long as Hungary is led by a national government we shall not intervene on either side in this Russo-Ukrainian war.

But how can we stay out of it? Because you mentioned NATO and the European Union as the voices – or that there are voices coming from NATO – which are increasingly pro-war; and we are members of both alliance systems.

Yes. Well, as far as NATO is concerned, perhaps it’s simpler there, because NATO is a defence alliance. NATO was created – and this is why we Hungarians joined it – so that if any NATO member state is attacked, we can count on the help of the other NATO members. There’s no question of us attacking someone together, of us taking military action outside NATO territory. The Hungarian position is nothing other than adherence to NATO’s original mission. It is a defence alliance. The EU is a different matter. The EU is not a military organisation, and therefore it doesn’t have military capabilities. While Member States do have those capabilities, they don’t want to intervene in the war under the European umbrella. But they do want to give money under the European umbrella. So we have to make sure that we don’t end up in a situation in which European leaders send money from the Member States to Ukraine – especially Hungarian money, because they’re regularly determined to send Hungarian money. On every occasion I work – we could call it a “veto” – and I ask for extraordinary council meetings to avoid a situation in which we suddenly find that the money owed to Hungary doesn’t end up in Hungary, but in Ukraine. That must be avoided at all costs. So the situation is difficult. And we’re alone – but the Vatican is also on the side of peace. So there are pro-war governments in Europe, there’s one pro-peace government in Hungary, and there’s the position of the Vatican – which isn’t insignificant, as of course it has intellectual and moral strength. But politically we have to hold out, because I expect – and I don’t want to hide this either – that this pro-war European thinking will crack. This is because, after all, in Europe we have democracies, and it’s becoming clear to more and more people that there will be no solution to this conflict on the battlefield. Diplomacy must regain the leading role, a ceasefire must be achieved, negotiations must begin, and – at a time when in Europe we’re also struggling with very serious economic difficulties – as little money as possible must be given to Ukraine. Of course it’s even harder for the Ukrainians, but the European middle class is suffering, our economic competitiveness is deteriorating, we have no money for the green transition, and we have no money for the enlargement into the Balkans. If you look at how much money the Chinese and the Americans are putting into their economies, Europe is lagging far behind. So we have enough problems here on the economic side, and I think that these aspects, which the liberals have so far successfully pushed under the table and swept under the carpet, will come to the fore. Furthermore this is an election campaign. An election campaign is a time for clear and open speech. I’m convinced that the people of Europe will push their governments towards peace, and we just have to hold out. It was the same with migration: we were alone, but in the end people just pushed their own governments into a position against migration; and I think that in the same way people will push their governments – which are still pro-war today – towards peace.

We’ll talk about migration in a moment, but this is in line with a recent survey commissioned by the European Parliament, which shows that the largest proportion of Europeans expect the new European Parliament to bring peace after the elections. So there are no pro-peace voices in Western politics, or an effort is being made to silence them, as we saw this week at a conservative conference. 

We see that in Western Europe freedom of expression is in a bad state. Liberal societies have developed in which those who shape public opinion – most notably the media, universities, research institutes, foundations and, of course, politicians – have become monochrome, and say much the same thing. I know that this is hard for Hungarians to believe, because we’ve always seen the West as a symbol of freedom; but that’s the past. So if I go to another country – no matter which – and I open two newspapers, let’s say German newspapers, one left-wing and one right-wing, I’ll be reading exactly the same thing about important issues. So, quite simply, in Western Europe today there’s an opinion steamroller that the Hungarians cannot imagine. And this is coupled with the phenomena of everyday oppression. It’s one thing for a campaign launch event to be banned – because I went to Brussels to launch our campaign in Brussels, and it was banned; but in everyday life, if in his or her place of work an ordinary employee says something openly about migration, say, that isn’t in line with the official position, the next day that person could be out of a job. Your listeners might feel that this is an exaggeration, but it isn’t an exaggeration: these are everyday experiences. One can’t just post anything on Facebook, otherwise there will certainly be consequences. If your opinion differs from the centrally approved opinion, there will be consequences. The most alarming aspect of the ban on our event was not the ban itself, but that threats were made to those connected to the hotel hosting us. A telephone call was received by the wife of the head of the catering company, openly threatening them that if they wanted to provide us with food or coffee or make the premises available to us, then there would be negative consequences – not overtly political, but very important for them in their everyday lives. So the fabric of Western life has been transformed. In the public square in Hungary, if you want to form an opinion about something, you can get a conservative reading and a liberal reading, and the media – social media and information sources in general – will have interpretations from both angles. And if you express your opinion openly, you’ll have no problem – at most, people will disagree with you. But to be sanctioned for expressing an opinion – well, Hungary isn’t there, but the West is. Now I can confidently say that people over there may mumble, grumble and hum and haw, but in the West today people are not raising their voices as we did in the second half of the 1980s and standing up for freedom as we did. This is why I can say with certainty, without exaggeration, that today there is no freedom in Europe without Hungary, without the Hungarian people, without the voice of the Hungarian government. 

Just as now, one subject under discussion at this conference was migration. What makes this issue especially topical is the fact that the European Parliament has now adopted its controversial migration pact. To what extent, if at all, can this package reduce the migration waves – which, according to Frontex, are on the increase again, especially in the western and eastern Mediterranean?

It’s not good if a politician seems to have a fixation on certain issues, and I’d also like to avoid fuelling such a view; but I’ve just attended a conference in Brussels, another event, at which I brought up the Soros Plan. Everyone says that it doesn’t exist, but it’s written down: George Soros himself wrote it, signed it and published it. I took it out and read it out at the conference. Over there, too, it isn’t widely known that it exists. In this it’s written, George Soros wrote – and I’ll tell you when, in September 2015 – the following: “Here is my six-point plan on how to settle the migration crisis.” Point number one is to let one million migrants into Europe every year. That’s the first point. The second point is that, since the EU doesn’t have enough money to do this, it should issue bonds – in other words, it should take out loans. I assume that he, of course, is willing to make these available. And the third point is to create safe zones so that migrants from countries where there is trouble can pass through them to get to Western Europe without risk. So since 2015 there’s been a plan in which the goal is written down. This is to break Europe apart with one million migrants brought in every year, to change its cultural foundations, to marginalise Christianity, to suppress traditional European values, and to create a mixed, blob-like society in Europe – which in economic terms offers great profits, great profit potential. This is what George Soros has written. This is what’s happening, this is what’s being implemented. Sophisticated legal debates are being conducted, but if I look behind the legislation, what’s actually happening is that the Soros Plan is being implemented, step by step. European leaders don’t want to stop migration. They take great pains to avoid any phrase that says that it must be stopped. They use the word “manage”. Migration needs to be “managed”, as Uncle George has said: one million people must be brought in every year, they must be paid, a safe route must be opened up. So, while the legal text of the migration pact is being debated, we need to be aware that in fact there’s a very clear political intention on one side, and a very clear political intention on the other side. On one side we say that no one – not Uncle George, not the bureaucrats in Brussels, no one – can tell Hungarians who we should live with. The Hungarians shall be the ones who decide who we wish to live with on the territory of Hungary; we’re not prepared to give up this right, and we shall not allow ourselves to be deprived of this right. 

It’s interesting to note that at national level many countries with large immigrant communities – such as Finland, the Netherlands or France – are tightening their migration rules, or are planning to tighten them. What are the lessons for Hungary? Or what lessons about the medium- and long-term effects of migration can be drawn from what we see in Western Europe?

Tightening rules won’t help. So if something is fundamentally wrong, then it’s useless to tighten rules. What we need to do is identify what the origin is: what the “differential specificity” is, as they used to say in the old world, when teaching the history of the workers’ movement, of Marxism. This is how we can get to the heart of the issue. The heart of the migration issue is this: Should migrants be allowed to stay in the country until their application has been adjudicated? This is the key to everything. If you allow someone to cross the border, say illegally, which we see every day as they pour into Europe, they will cross the border. They’re allowing them in. They’re not saying “Wait now, because we’ll process the applications.” But they’re not waiting outside the borders, they’re waiting inside. And even if the result of applications is negative, pigs will fly before those people go home. Well, as far as repatriation or return programmes are concerned, if one-fifth or perhaps one-quarter of them are successful, this means that four-fifths or three-quarters of those people stay. So the key is that you have a legal system and you have the power to enforce it, to say: “Sure, submit your application at a Hungarian embassy, my friend, or even at the Hungarian border; but you can’t enter – you can submit it there, but you can’t enter, you’ll have to wait outside. We’ll decide whether you can come or not. If you can come, we’ll let you in; if not, you’ll never enter.” If a country doesn’t say this, it cannot stop migration. And Westerners don’t want to say it. So they’re suffering. That’s why they’re tightening rules, making changes, putting together a new pact, or a migration package. That doesn’t lead to results. Because the key issue is where you have to wait until your application for entry is decided on. And if – like the Westerners – you’re not strong enough, or if you’re a supporter of the Soros Plan, then such a rule won’t be introduced, and you won’t be able to stop migration. 

In addition to migration, there’s another area that will affect our lives in the long term, and that’s agriculture and food security. Now European farmers are preparing for another collective protest in Brussels. In fact they’ve been demonstrating with varying degrees of intensity since the beginning of the year. Why is there no common European solution for them? Because the demonstrations and the discontent show that so far no such solution has been found.

Because, strange as it may seem, the dumping of Ukrainian grain and the war are closely linked. Up until the start of the war, there was no dumping of Ukrainian grain. So it’s the war that’s brought this down on us. This is one of the war’s undesirable consequences. And since there are pro-war governments, they can’t reject the consequences of war. So anyone who says that this is their war obviously wants to help the Ukrainians in any way possible – for example by letting Ukrainian grain into Europe, which is destroying Europe’s own farmers. This is a problem for us, too. We’re able to protect our own Hungarian market, so we’re not allowing Ukrainian grain into the Hungarian market. While Hungary is a country with around ten million people, its agricultural production is capable of supplying twenty million people. So we have to sell at least half of what we produce. Therefore our problem isn’t in Hungary, but in the markets where we’ve been selling our surplus produce. These were European markets, where Hungarian grain was bought – typically most of it by the Italians. Now we’re being squeezed out of these markets, because cheap Ukrainian grain has arrived there. And if we lose our European markets, we’ll lose our revenue, and the price of grain will be depressed – something which is already threatening farmers’ livelihoods. The situation in Hungary is also very serious. The Government has adopted a five-point action plan, an action plan to try to help farmers. But we’re facing very difficult times, because the European Union isn’t willing to protect the European market. And if we look at who’s winning in the Ukrainian dumping of grain, we see that this means that the winners are on the one hand the Ukrainian oligarchs, and on the other hand the big American companies that have bought up Ukrainian land. So today the European Union isn’t representing Hungarian farmers, but Ukrainian oligarchs and big American companies: it’s representing their interests against European farmers. This is why the farmers are rebelling. And they’re right. 

The European Union’s polling institute has also asked Europeans for their views on the issues we’ve been discussing. More than two thirds of those polled are dissatisfied with the handling of migration, while well over half of people see the handling of the war between Russia and Ukraine and the economic situation as being bad. How would you rate the EU leadership’s work over the past five years?

I don’t think my marks as a class teacher are needed here, because the facts speak for themselves. Politics isn’t a complicated genre. Of course it has a technical depth, but the basic issues aren’t complicated. Well, people elect leaders, leaders say what they’re going to do, they do it or they don’t – and if they don’t, they have to be removed and replaced. The leaders themselves have set the key targets: the green transition has failed; improving European competitiveness and the economic situation has failed; strengthening of the middle class is in decline; they’re incapable of tackling migration; peace is the most important of European values, yet we’re up to our waists in a war. So the current Brussels leadership have failed in all the important goals they’ve set. They don’t deserve another chance. In such a situation we must go out and elect new leaders. This is the essence of our programme. 

Now, the question is, can these dissatisfied voices be channelled into the mainstream? Or is a European Parliament election, say, an adequate instrument to channel these dissatisfied voices into the mainstream? Because we know that these people you’re talking about, whom we call the Brussels bureaucrats, are not only among the European Parliament’s elected representatives, but are much deeper in the institutional system. 

These are important questions, and we can speculate about them for many hours, but we’re in an election campaign. In such a situation what you need to do is not to speculate but to fight: you shoot, you load, you shoot, you load. So we have to speak out, we have to stand up, we have to represent our views, we have to tell the people what they can expect from us and ask them to send these leaders packing and elect new ones. And then, once that’s done, once the election is over, then comes your question of who to channel with, this way or that way. But in such a situation, you don’t need to engage in intellectual debate, but you have to take out the tools you have and fight the opponent. That’s the task. This is why we’re holding a campaign launch today. Overall, what we want to say to people is that there are, of course, many issues and many problems in European life, but today the most important issue is the war. In reality, there are two paths before us: peace or war. The Brussels bureaucrats are pro-war. The Hungarian Left are pro-war – they get their money from Brussels, so what else could they be? We’re pro-peace. The European people are pro-peace. We need a pro-peace majority in Europe. This is what’s at stake in this election. 

In the past half hour I’ve been asking Prime Minister Viktor Orbán questions about war and peace, migration and the forthcoming elections.


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