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Interview with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on ECHO Television – his first interview after the Fidesz-KDNP election victory

Anett Szabó: We are honoured to welcome in the studio Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary for the fourth time. Congratulations on the Fidesz–KDNP party alliance’s victory.

Viktor Orbán: Thank you very much.

Zsolt Bayer: I second my colleague’s comments.

Thank you, too, Zsolt.

A. Sz.: Prime Minister, in the square outside the Bálna events centre a few minutes ago you led the crowd in singing “Long live Hungarian freedom! Long live the country”. But if we turn back the clock a little – to around seven thirty this morning, when you held a press conference after you and your wife cast your votes – you said that today the Hungarians were not only choosing parties, not only a government and not only a prime minister, but they were also choosing a future for themselves.

This is what we asked them to do. During the campaign we tried to make it clear that they should not allow this election to be a simple one-off decision on a single occasion, but that instead we should somehow collectively grasp the significance of the notion that now Hungary’s fate is being decided – perhaps for decades. We are a national party, we love our own people, and I confirm the high opinion we have of them. I was convinced that when the moment of truth comes, when there is trouble or danger ahead, this nation would pull itself together, vote in large numbers and show the world its unified will – provided we acquit ourselves well: if we speak clearly and to the point, if we don’t back down or allow ourselves to be side-tracked, and if we are able to get our message across to the people. The world, Hungary and I personally have been shown this high turnout and unified will. This is an enormous responsibility. Of course today everyone is happy, and I don’t want to be left out of that, but in truth the final result is so resounding that it also places a heavy weight on my shoulders.

Zs. B.: Having mentioned that heavy weight, Prime Minister, you and a number of leaders and media outlets in the European Union have said several times that the Hungarian election has a significance far beyond Hungary’s borders: it is of Europe-wide significance. How do you see this?

Here we must speak with due modesty, because everyone is convinced that their own job is an important one; and I believe this is true for every occupation – from bricklayers to journalists, from stonemasons to politicians. In politics this brings with it the danger of attributing too much significance to what you do and the course of action you follow. Hungary must acknowledge the size of our gross domestic product, of our army, of our territory and of our population, and the weight of our vote in the European Union. So I want us to keep our feet on the ground, and acknowledge reality. But at the same time Europe is living through an era similar to one which we – those of us who founded Fidesz – have seen before. Europe is living through an era in which it suffers from a lack of honesty. And when a continent, a world, a group of many peoples suffers from a collective lack of honesty, if it’s unable – or not allowed – to express or to put into words what torments it, what it fears and what it sees as important for the future, then what matters is not so much the size of one’s army, gross national product or territory, but clarity and directness of thought and speech. And in this respect the crucial distinction is not between large nations and small nations; there are brave nations and brave people. Hungary is a country of brave people who today have made it clear – not only for ourselves, but for the whole of Europe – that things cannot continue like this. Therefore we want honest, clear and straight talk, and we want to describe what is tormenting this continent. This is our continent, this is our homeland – our wider homeland – and we love it. We want its future to be just as bright as its past few successful decades. We are not against Europe or the European Union: we want Europe, we want the European Union, and we want a successful and strong European Union. But in order to achieve that, we must first state frankly what is afflicting us. In this respect the Hungarians have great strength. Obviously our language also helps, and our political traditions are built on the premise that a good politician is one who dares to say what everyone is already thinking. I believe that over the past few years this role has suited Hungary well. We say politely, but clearly – giving everyone the respect due to them – what is right and what isn’t. Hungary does not want to make the mistakes which more powerful, richer and larger countries have made, and neither do we want Europe to be a prisoner of those mistakes. We want to correct them. In the interests of this Hungary is ready – and after today’s election it is fully ready – to take part in a joint European effort.

A. Sz.: Hungary is ready, and it seems that you as prime minister have also received authorisation from the Hungarian people to engage in this work. It’s a fact that it’s still uncertain whether or not this lack of honesty in Europe – in the European Union – will eventually  turn into honesty. Earlier, during the campaign, you said that today’s election was a watershed, and that the stakes in a parliamentary election in Hungary haven’t been this high since 1990.

We had to defend important…

A. Sz.: And indeed the stakes are not only the need to defend Hungary, but also Europe – as today we not only decided about Hungary, but also about Europe. Will Europe hear the message that the Hungarian people have sent today?

We’ll see. Today we decided important matters, and we stated that we want to defend important things. First of all, we want Hungary to remain a Hungarian country. We have a culture: regardless of one’s attitude to God, we have a culture which we describe as Christian culture, which has grown out of a very strong, thousand-year-old tradition of the Christian state, of Christian statehood. This is what we live our lives in, this is our world, this is our culture, our way of life, and these are the guiding principles of our lives. We want to defend these, and we don’t want anyone from outside to change them, or to be told from outside that we must change them. We also had to protect our achievements. As I said out there – I think it was a clear message – that today Hungary is not yet where it should be, where it would like to be, or where it is capable of being; but it has set out on a path. We are following the path of a Hungarian model, which in many respects is different from the economic, social and cultural policies of other countries; but this Hungarian model is a European policy approach which can be upheld, and which serves human freedom. This has given rise to low unemployment, this has enabled us to help pensioners, and this has given Hungary the most extensive family support system in the whole of Europe. We have a path of our own, which we believe in and which we want to follow, and today we had to defend our right to continue following this path. Many have sought to divert us from that path, but today the Hungarian people united and defended their right to a future.

Zs. B.: A near two-thirds victory with a turnout of 70 per cent. So today has seen the emergence of moral and political amends.

Yes, but now let’s sleep on that.

Zs. B.: But I must ask this of someone who is on the threshold of his fourth term. I remember your speech in Vörösmarty tér on the election victory night in 2010, when you said “I know I’m facing the most difficult task of my life”. What’s changed since then?

This was our most difficult campaign. We should perhaps talk about this at length some other time, but a lot of good wishes and good will were received from our side, and we were also subjected to a great deal of ill will. This not only came from Hungary: many of the world’s less than glorious powers joined forces to stop us. But neither do I want to mythologise this campaign, or the Hungarian decision: now we should simply be happy about it. I just want to say that in my opinion not even we ourselves are able – and not even I am able – to precisely judge the significance of this decision. We all feel, however, that this was a great and important decision.

A. Sz.: I really don’t want to tire you with economic analyses, as…

And indeed I’d be grateful if you didn’t!

A. Sz.: …the recent period has been less than relaxing for you. But just to give a slightly positive character to that international tailwind – which was more of a headwind – during the campaign over the past weeks and months, I’d like to cite one source: a Bloomberg analysis. I believe you had time to look at, Prime Minister, so you’re obviously more familiar with it than I am. Foreign investors were counting on a major Fidesz victory because they also judged that this would secure economic stability. So there common sense prevailed.

Yes, this is also interesting. But what is most important is that this is also what Hungarians in the countryside, in cities and many in Budapest expected. Bloomberg and foreign investors are important: they are very important, and they’re also part of our lives. But what is most important is that today the Hungarian people made a decision, and for what they believed was right. I think it’s important that we also surpassed expectations in Budapest, and as someone from a village, it’s very important that in terms of voter turnout provincial Hungary has caught up with the cities and with Budapest. The Hungarian people are wise: when they sense that there is trouble, even people in the country’s remotest corners realise that they have to act. Then they take action, and this is the result.

Zs. B.: Prime Minister, we’ll let you go…

Thank you.

Zs. B.:…and I think that we’ll have a glass of wine as well. Congratulations once more.

Go for it Hungary, go for it Hungarians!

Zs. B.: All the very best.

A. Sz.: Thank you very much for speaking to us.