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

Zsolt Törőcsik: Yesterday, four days after the elections, it emerged that the European Court of Justice has fined Hungary roughly 80 billion forints [200 million euros] for violating EU immigration policy, and added to this a fine of roughly 400 million forints [1 million euros] a day. With this, the Court has set the fine at seventy times the amount requested by the Commission. This decision is one of the topics I’ll be asking Prime Minister Viktor Orbán about. Good morning.

Good morning.

How do you assess this judgment?

As a judgment that’s been handed down by George Soros’s court. It’s a well-known fact that the European Union – the Brussels bubble, as we call it – is full of George Soros’s people. This is true of the European Parliament, the Commission and the judiciary. Soros has a plan – he announced it, he never hid it, he wrote it himself, he signed it, it was published – to bring in one million migrants a year; if the EU doesn’t have the money, he’ll lend it to them, and it must be resolved that the traditional face of the European continent – which is Christian, which is European – must change, and that Europe must be turned into a continent with a mixed population. It’s all right if the continent runs out of whites and Europeans, and then some other kind of people come from elsewhere. This is the essence of the Soros Plan. Yesterday the first person to welcome the Court’s decision was George Soros’s Brussels chief. This is the situation. Incidentally, this is an old war. It started in 2015–16, when Hungary was faced with the difficult decision of how to defend itself against the flood of hundreds of thousands of young male migrants from the south, which was like an invasion. We built fences, and deployed police, soldiers, border guards and border hunters. We did everything possible. We spent 2 billion euros on defending Hungary, on keeping Hungary a Hungarian country. We have a dispute with Brussels: we don’t think that Brussels has the right to tell us who we should live with. Because Brussels’ demands on migration means that we should let them in, give them money, feed them and allow them to live here with us; and it won’t be for us to decide, it will be for Brussels to decide. We insist that Hungarians – only Hungary and Hungarians – shall decide who we live with. This is the essence of the dispute. Now there’s a big fine to pay. I’m trying to think about how to solve this in a way that hurts them more than us. There are possible solutions. We’re not known – the current Hungarian government is not known – for giving up or for despairing because we’re faced with what’s at first sight a difficult situation: we don’t complain, and we don’t wring our hands. My mind’s working on this. There will be solutions, and the Hungarian people can be sure that this will end up hurting Brussels more than it hurts Hungary. By the way, this is a huge amount of money. So everyone would be happy if 80 billion forints could be distributed among families today, or given to pensioners, or spent on child protection. And an extra 400 million a day. That’s a huge amount! The world has never seen anything like it. So when I say that it’s shocking or outrageous, given the history of European Court of Justice rulings to date, I’m expressing myself in very mild, understated tones. So it’s simply insane.

Yes, and this question is also interesting from the point of view of what options the Government now has. Because the Court has said that if Hungary doesn’t pay, then at some point this money will be withheld from the EU funds that Hungary’s entitled to. 

That’s checkmate. So for us the solution isn’t for us not to pay, and then just stare in astonishment and laugh. Because, contrary to the lies spread in the election campaign, the fact is that we’ve already brought home a considerable amount of the money that Hungary’s owed by the European Union. To be more precise, it’s in Brussels, in the accounts; we just need to send out the invoices for Hungarian developments and investments. To understand what I’m talking about, let’s say that Hungary is entitled to 22 billion euros from the cohesion funds, from the current seven-year budget, out of which we’ve already obtained – I apologise if it sounds immodest, but I’ve already obtained – 12 billion euros, here and there, by making demands in all sorts of bloody fights and battles. So somehow I’ve managed to negotiate 12 billion euros. This is in our account. Now they’re saying, “Okay, they haven’t paid, we’ll deduct it from that.” Okay, fine, I understand – we’ll have an answer to that too.

What can we deduce from the fact that this decision’s been made public four days after the elections? Earlier we thought that perhaps this decision had already been taken, but it’s been made public now.

We knew that the decision had already been taken. Look, they’re Brusselites, so they’re sneaky. I don’t know what to say. For a Hungarian all this is difficult to grasp culturally, because Hungarians’ expectation of me, of politicians, is usually firstly to speak comprehensibly, clearly, and – if possible – to tell the truth. Hungarians accept that it’s not always possible to be accurate, because there are issues where it’s better to avoid giving an answer, and then come back to it later. So there’s some room for manoeuvre. But generally in Hungarian politics dishonesty, unclear speech and jargon are punishable – and the electorate punishes them. And in Brussels now this is the only way they talk. So over there those who say what they want directly and clearly are the exception. This is why there the Hungarians are usually the odd ones out and are seen as radicals, when all we’re doing is trying to say and make it clear to others what we think, and what’s in our interests. So what I can say is that there’s this sneakiness, this “I’m going to say something, but I don’t want it to be clear what I want”. So from a Hungarian point of view all this has a kind of sticky, glutinous, slimy, slug-like quality. What goes on over there isn’t part of our world. This is why there was a decision, everyone knew there was, but they denied it existed. And we had to wait until after the election, because obviously the Hungarian parties paid for by the Brusselites would have got a big kicking from the voters in Hungary – bigger than the one they got, and they’d have had no chance of winning the elections. They didn’t win, but in that event they’d have had no chance at all, because it would have opened the eyes of even more Hungarians to the fact that the opposition – or the Left – is in fact in the pay of the Brusselites. They always deny this, but this entire story underlines this again and again. So this is the situation. Anyway, it is what it is, we don’t shape the course of the world. Our values and interests have to be defended even in a milieu that’s culturally alien and hostile to us.

We’ll come back to the results of the elections, but since you’ve mentioned our own interests, there was another important event this week: on Wednesday the NATO Secretary General came here for talks. According to the parties, Hungary received guarantees on several issues linked to the Russo-Ukrainian war – such as not having to take part in military action outside NATO territory, and not having to contribute either money or personnel to the war. From a pro-peace position, what’s the significance of the guarantees given by Jens Stoltenberg?

Well, for us this is a very important and very good agreement. I won’t use the adjective “historic” because here in Hungarian politics that’s already a cliché. What was the Peace March about? It’s very important that the Peace March was the greatest expression of community will in Hungary in recent times, and it said something that was also symbolised in its choice of location: Hungary should remain an island of peace. This means two things: that nothing externally or internally should threaten our peaceful life. We reject migration because we see it disrupting the peace of societies in Western Europe. So, as the European experience of recent years clearly shows, if there are migrants there cannot be a peaceful life. So when we stand up for peace, we’re also standing up against migration, because we want to defend our peaceful, familiar, orderly lives. And the other threat to peace comes from outside the borders, when a war overturns peace. From this point of view, these talks were important. There’s a fundamental difference – I won’t say there’s a conflict, because Hungary’s in conflict with Brussels, but not with NATO. So we have many conflicts in Brussels, and we even have regular disputes with the American Democrats; but in NATO we’re one of the accepted, recognised, loyal, cooperative – indeed highly cooperative – countries. Currently 1,300 Hungarian soldiers are participating in NATO operations. Our defence spending exceeds 2 per cent of our gross domestic product, which is the NATO rule. Out of the thirty-two member countries, I believe that only eleven fulfil this obligation. The internal structure of our defence spending also conforms to NATO expectations. We conduct air policing tasks for Slovakia, Slovenia and sometimes the Baltic states, and we also liaise on behalf of NATO with some countries in Central Asia and Africa. So I have to say that, relative to our size, we make a significant contribution to the functioning of NATO. Of course this isn’t comparable to the contribution of the Turks or the United States, but taking account of our size it is. And this is respected, this is recognised. So NATO is our home. But there’s a problem here: thirty-one of the thirty-two NATO members want to defeat the Russians, and they say that the only way to end this war is for the Ukrainians to defeat the Russians. The Ukrainians cannot do that on their own, so they say that NATO should help the Ukrainians defeat the Russians. And they also think that the way to end the current war is for the Ukrainians to win. So this means that they think that the solution lies on the battlefield. The Hungarian position is that this is wrong – even if thirty-one others say it. We’re alone. We’re convinced that there’s no solution to this war on the battlefield, so we shouldn’t support one side or the other, but we should push them to enact an immediate ceasefire, stop the deaths from tomorrow morning, and start peace talks to resolve this situation – preferably permanently. We think that this is what should be promoted, not war. But while we’re on the side of peace, NATO is promoting war. Now NATO wants to take action to help Ukraine. The first package has been put together. NATO wants to help Ukraine by creating a so-called “NATO-Ukraine mission”. This means that NATO will coordinate the transfer of weapons to Ukraine: three large bases will be set up to transfer weapons to Ukraine, but here on the territory of NATO countries, in Poland, Slovakia and Romania. We’re not willing to take part in this. We believe that the locations where weapons are transferred will become military targets from the enemy’s point of view, and anything can happen there. And I don’t want to risk either Hungary’s peace or the peace of the Hungarian people by making any square centimetre of Hungary a Russian military target. I want to avoid that, that’s what I’m working on, and so far I’ve succeeded. So, from NATO’s point of view, the Ukrainian mission means setting up these weapons coordination transfer points, secondly it means NATO members throwing money together to support Ukraine’s military efforts, and thirdly it means training Ukrainian soldiers. There’s a debate about whether that will be on their own territory or on Ukraine’s territory, but the point is that they’ll be taking a direct role in training Ukrainian soldiers going to the front. Now Hungary doesn’t want to be involved in that. And this was the problem that had to be solved. Obviously huge pressure is being placed on us. Thirty-one member countries are pushing us to do what they’re doing, and switch from the side of peace to the side of war – or, to be more accurate, to the side that thinks that peace can be achieved by war and by winning the war. But we’re not willing to do that. This is what had to be resolved. We had very clear demands. We’re not giving money, not a penny – especially after a decision like this one from Brussels. Two: we aren’t making Hungarian territory available for the preparation of military operations. Three: we’re continuing our policy of not supplying weapons. And if there’s an operation outside NATO territory, we won’t participate in it. This is difficult, because if Hungary can do this, then others may be tempted to do the same; and so it’s difficult for NATO to accept such a stance, in case Hungary becomes a precedent. I understand that. But NATO’s considerations cannot take precedence over Hungary’s national interests and Hungarian peace. This had to be bargained for and negotiated. It was a difficult negotiation, it was a long negotiation, and in the end we reached an agreement and got everything we wanted. But in return I undertook that at the next NATO summit in Washington we wouldn’t prevent those who want to set up such a Ukrainian mission from doing so. But we will stay out of it.

But it’s an interesting point that no guarantee from the NATO Secretary General changes our geographical position: we’re still a neighbour to a country at war. From this perspective, how dangerous for Hungarian security are the plans of either NATO or EU politicians or countries?

There are two ways in which the countries in the region are reacting. The Poles and the Romanians: they’re going first. So they think that since they’re closest to the front line, they can give the most help to the Ukrainians, and they’re going into the war. The Slovaks are cautious, while the Hungarians are clear. We say that, precisely because we’re nearby, we have to be three times more careful than someone who’s relaxing on the French Atlantic coast or having a beer in a Bavarian forest. That’s not the same as living your life in the Nyíregyháza area. So we draw a different conclusion. We think that physical proximity increases the danger, and so we have to be careful. I use this as an argument. But this hasn’t been the most important argument – that was the elections. Because what the Secretary General – and everyone – says is that governments are there to make the decisions that have to be made. They’re not there to lark around or pass the buck: they’re the Government, they’re the leaders, they make the decisions. And in matters of war and peace, sometimes difficult decisions have to be made. That’s usually true, but three days after an election, things can be seen in a different light. In this election the whole country was voting on war or peace, and the Hungarian government got its biggest endorsement, which meant that three days later I could say I wasn’t just representing the Government’s position, but that we’d received a very clear mandate from the people. We had just received it. We won the European and local elections with a landslide on the question of whether Hungarian political parties should be on the side of war or peace; and those who were on the side of peace won. This allowed no room for manoeuvre. It was the decisive argument. Both in Washington and in Brussels it was understood in an instant that it was possible to try to persuade it, but from now on the Hungarian government won’t move from its position, because it’s received confirmation and a mandate from its own electorate. I went around the country for two months, going everywhere I could, asking people to understand that this was a question of war and peace. This was what they should vote for, this is what they should think about when they go to the polls, and their vote won’t just have general consequences, but here and now, in concrete terms. Three days after the election I was able to use this election result to keep Hungary out of NATO’s mission to Ukraine. 

As you’ve mentioned Germany and France, it’s worth taking a look at the election results there too. In Germany the three parties in the governing coalition won a total of 31 per cent of the vote, and in France, Macron’s party won just under 15 per cent. Can this change the position or attitude of Western countries towards the war? And if so, to what extent? Because from their point of view, from the point of view of the governing parties, these are disappointing results. 

When I met people during the election campaign, I was able to talk to them not only about Hungary’s position, about Hungarian interests, about Hungarian historical experiences, but I was also able to talk to them about the situation in Europe. I was able to talk about the fact that it’s an aim for Hungary to want to stay out, to pull the emergency cord and get off the train going towards war. This is the minimum objective. But we can be more ambitious than that: let’s try to stop the train, but not only so that we can get off, but so that others can get off too. And I said that there’s a chance of this: if the European Right – which is pro-peace – wins, then the whole of Europe can stay out of the war. This is important, because if European leaders are less pro-war, it will be easier for Hungary to stay out of it. I’m not saying that with this reasoning we’re just serving our own interests, that it would be good for the Hungarian situation if the Europeans were to move towards peace; but what we’re advocating is also in the interests of Europe as a whole, and what we’re advocating is also the right thing to do in a European context, and from a moral point of view. And everyone asked, “Okay, but how’s this going to happen?” My answer is, “Like this.” There are democracies in Europe, which are what they are, with all kinds of problems; but after all, in democracies you can’t neglect or ignore people’s opinions, and what happens is that if governments see that the consequence of a pro-war position is that they’ll fall, then they’ll be further motivated to start thinking about peace. I told the Secretary General that I understand how their calculation is that they’ll win against the Russians in Ukraine; but there’s a factor that should be taken into account, which is that now it’s clear that the European people don’t want this, they don’t want this war. And the more pro-war they force European governments to be, the more they’ll destabilise the political situation in these European countries. On election day two governments failed: the French and the Belgian. The German chancellor’s party came third in his own country. Unprecedented in Germany! So I’d argue that the will of the European people is a clear signal to European leaders that if you’re not on the side of peace, my friend, you’ll fail. Now, that may not be as clear and as loud as I’m interpreting it here, but I’m convinced that this process has begun. And therefore, although the European Parliament has little to do with the war, with this European election – which took place everywhere, including here in Hungary, in a national context – we’ve already slowed down the train that’s heading towards war. Europe has bought itself time. They’re going no further than what the Secretary General has now called the NATO–Ukraine mission, and the situation could be much worse. The US presidential election will be in November. If President Trump – who was the president of peace – returns, and we hope he will, then not only will we have gained time, but we’ll have transatlantic cooperation for peace: we’ll have a situation in Europe and we’ll have a situation in America, in which it will be possible to make peace. 

To digress, how have the stakes in the US election changed in this respect? Because yesterday you had a meeting with Donald Trump Jr.

It’s not easy to be an American, or to put oneself in their shoes. Let’s not forget that we’re talking about a country that was created – or is the result of the foundation of a state – with the protection of oceans on both sides. To the north, there’s a country that’s culturally identical to them: Canada. To the south there are also Christian countries, and although the migration we see there is causing problems, they don’t pose any military threat to the security of the United States. There’s no safer place in the world than the United States. Perhaps this is why it was created there. So this is why the Americans have no sense of danger – or if they do, it’s at most in the context of nuclear war, because they’re almost untouchable. Contrast this with Hungary, where you can see from Nyíregyháza and from Vásárosnamény to the other side of the border, which is now Ukraine. So the assessment of the situation is different. The Americans – I mean the Trumpists – think that there’s no realistic scenario anywhere on the table that convincingly proves that the aid they’re now giving to Ukraine will lead to victory. Therefore it’s money wasted, lives wasted, and energy wasted. They argue that this doesn’t make sense. This is different from our argument, but the conclusion is the same.

Let’s return to the European Parliament elections for one last question. You’ve referred to the fact that the European Right has been strengthened. But in order to have a greater capacity for lobbying, the fragmented groups would have to be united in some way. What are the chances of building a large right-wing party family? How do you see it, and what could be Fidesz’s place in it?

My hopes are moderate. The French presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen came streets ahead of her opponents in the French election. Well, in Hungary we sometimes win by such a margin, and this time there was 15 per cent between the first and second parties in Hungary; but that’s not common in Western Europe. Yet this is what’s happened there. So the gap between the President’s party and Le Pen’s party has become enormous. They have the largest parliamentary group in the European Parliament. The Right also won in Italy, and is also led by a lady. If the two of them can come to an agreement, and we in Fidesz join them, we could create the second largest grouping in the European Parliament. Moreover, I believe that we could even bring parties over from the People’s Party, and it could easily be that within six months we, the Right, would have the largest parliamentary group in Europe. This is what we dream of. But then we wake up and find that the two ladies cannot agree. So at the moment things are as they are, negotiations are taking place, but they’re moving very slowly towards each other. We’re trying to facilitate that process. Our options are limited because of the size of our country. It’s true that we’ve won eleven out of twenty-one seats. This is unparalleled, and nobody in Europe can do it. So winning more than half of the possible seats gives us a great deal of authority, but it doesn’t give us enough weight – because weight is measured in the number of seats. We have eleven. The Italian party president has twenty-something, maybe twenty-four, and the French party president has maybe between twenty-nine and thirty-one. But if we add our eleven to their cooperation, we have the rightward turn in Europe. This is what we’re waiting for, this is what we’re working for.

In the past half hour I’ve been asking Prime Minister Viktor Orbán questions about yesterday’s ruling from the European Court of Justice, the war between Russia and Ukraine, and the conclusions to be drawn from the results of the European Parliament elections.

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