László Mészáros: Prime Minister, this is the first time you had talks with Ursula von der Leyen since she was elected. What is your impression of your meeting?
We had a successful meeting with a good atmosphere. It is indeed true that this was the first time I held negotiations in person with the Commission’s new President, who was formerly Germany’s Minister of Family Affairs, and later Minister of Defence. We have had to consult on the telephone previously, but this was our first meeting and discussion in person. Looking at a German lady with a Hungarian head and through Hungarian eyes, I can tell members of the Hungarian public that the new President of the European Commission is a lady of substance. We have a commission president who has extensive experience and a bold mentality; someone who understands what is happening in Central Europe, what we say, and who also understands what is important for the Hungarian people. This is particularly true with relation to families. She thinks about family as we Central Europeans or Hungarians do: family is important, it is perhaps the most important, children are our number one priority – we’re talking about a mother of seven – and we must organise the world in which we are living in a way that enables our children to grow up in safety. So the starting point, the starting point of the next five-year cooperation, is promising. Additionally, we’re talking about a Commission President who is personally and passionately convinced that the European Union must survive. Therefore, she instinctively rejects all affairs that distance EU Member States from one another, say North from the South, or Central Europe from the West, and who is looking for ways to bring the different parts of Europe together. This is also in Hungary’s best interests; we too would like to bring the European Union’s various countries together in such a way that meanwhile, every country may remain what it is; so that for instance Hungary may remain a Hungarian country. I believe that here, too, we have a common starting point. Regarding specific topics, it is of course more difficult; these are stormy waters as it is very difficult to create understanding among 28 Member States on climate issues, or with relation to energy policy, economic policy or migration, for that matter. But my impression is that, in general, we can also expect a pragmatic approach in the case of every difficult and delicate issue. So it was no exaggeration to say that we managed to keep the ideological guerrillas away from the important positions, and to help pragmatic peoplewho aspire to cooperate into those positions. This is the Hungarian concept, the V4 concept, and as far as I can see it is successful and promising with relation to the future.
Prime Minister, you mentioned security from the perspective of families. In this area, what is the President’s position with relation to migration?
She understands the difference; she understands that Western Europeans are concerned with the integration of migrants, while Hungarians and Central Europe are concerned with the fact that they do not wish to create a multicultural society. At the same time, she believes that this is not the debate we should pursue; instead, it makes sense to give priority to debates that we expect to result in a positive outcome. For instance, we agree that border protection is important, so we should talk about that. We agree that the legal procedures related to migrants must be conducted in such a way and at such a time that migrants are still outside Europe’s territory. She agrees that they cannot be allowed to roam free on the continent during the relevant investigations, and instead we must find a solution that guarantees the security of our citizens, but that is nonetheless humane. And she also agrees that people who did not arrive in a regular manner, but in violation of our laws, must be sent back somehow from Europe; naturally, primarily from Western Europe. So on these issues Western Europe and Central Europe agree; we agree and so do the pro-immigration forces , meaning that it is worth focusing our efforts on these issues. Therefore, I expect debates on migration to become more reasonable in future.
Debates within the European Union have recently ignited in connection with climate targets. What is the President’s position regarding that area? How can her concept be reconciled with that of Hungary?
The President of the Commission is a woman who – having also been Minister of Family Affairs in Germany – also sees the future through the eyes of children. So climate is important to her. This is good for us, too, because the Hungarian Government itself is fundamentally comprised of people with extensive families, and when we make decisions and think about Hungary’s future, our thoughts do not end at the biological conclusion of our own lives or its expected date, but extend far beyond. Our thoughts are also concerned with what will happen to the Hungary that we will hand down to our children and which they will live in. This approach, too, is similar. Therefore, also as regards climate policy, there is common ground: we appreciate that we have a shared responsibility for the future. At the same time, it is clear that rich countries can easily afford to make weighty statements. A country of Hungary’s size and economic strength must actually mean what it says. This is also true with relation to climate. At this point in time, we say that by 2030 we will reach a reduction in our carbon dioxide emissions. We have a specific target, and we have a plan to achieve that; we know exactly how we will reach that target. It won’t be easy because this will also require the transformation of the Hungarian economy and it involves expenditure, but we can precisely envisage that by 2030. And we can say with a clear conscience that by 2030 in Hungary we will gain 90 percent of our energy from sources that have no CO2 content. Here, they want to take a step further, and there is pressure on us to pledge that by 2050 Hungary will be a country entirely without CO2 emissions. I will be ready to make that pledge at some point, but I see no scope whatsoever for making that pledge now because there is a target, but there is no plan for it. Therefore, we must draw up a plan on how to get there, if indeed we want a carbon dioxide-neutral energy system in Europe or in Hungary by 2050. Today I see no signs of that, and so any talk about this would be irresponsible. I believe that my duty as Prime Minister of Hungary is to lend our voice some weight, and that weight for the people’s voice and the country’s voice comes from responsibility. So today Hungary is working – and we are also urging our partners to follow suit – on exploring how to achieve that by 2050 the Hungarian energy system should be CO2 emission-free. It is possible, but to that end we must switch to new industrial technologies. That costs a lot of money, and so when I talk about plans, I’m also talking about money, because they must be financed, for instance, within the European Union’s next seven-year budget. If we seriously mean that by 2050 there should be zero CO2 emissions in Hungary, we must finance the necessary technological transition at least partially from European Union funding; not only in Hungary, but also elsewhere. But we haven’t yet seen any plan regarding this, and therefore, at this point in time, I am positively opposed to identifying targets with relation to which we do not yet see the path that leads there. So 2030 is fine, by 2030 our energy system will be 90 percent CO2 emission-free, and how we will rid ourselves of the remaining part is something that will take place between 2030 and 2050. But in order to agree to that, we will need a plan, we will need a financial plan as well.
Prime Minister, in order for Ursula von der Leyen to become an effective European Commission President, she will also need a good Commission. Was the name of the Hungarian commissioner mentioned at your meeting?
Only in passing, given that we did not come together to negotiate, but in order to acquaint ourselves with the President’s concepts for the next five years. That was more important than any issue relating to personnel. Naturally, I found an opportunity to tell her that in Hungary Professor Trócsányi – who was our justice minister – led the list of Fidesz and the Christian Democratic People’s Party for a reason. He led this list because we told the people that if they vote for us, then he will be Hungary’s commissioner in the Commission, and therefore we will nominate him. I naturally told the President that.
In summary, let me ask you, Prime Minister, based on your first impressions of your meeting with the President: was voting for Ursula von der Leyen a good decision for the V4 and Hungary?
One thing is certain, that keeping the ideological guerrillas away was a good decision. It was also a good decision that we elected leaders with pragmatic survival instincts. It was likewise a good decision that we elected a person whose thoughts about the future hover around the same issues as ours: the future of our children, our families, our nation, and security. This is a former defence minister who also places a good deal of emphasis – and on this our intentions very much coincide – on the development of a common European defence force or defence industry. So it was also a good decision that we elected a person who is interested in topics of this kind. It is important that she should be someone who also has a sensitive approach to delicate issues, that for instance she should also be able to approach the issue of migration from the Central Europeans’ point of view. All in all, I can say that we made a good decision, but as we say in Hungary with historical experiences behind us: so far. As to what will happen later, we will see. But I can tell you for certain that today we have a much better chance to find and to reach reasonable solutions than previously, or than we would have had in the case of any other leader.
Thank you very much.