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Interview with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on the Kossuth Radio programme “Good Morning, Hungary”

Katalin Nagy: – Almost one million four hundred thousand people returned completed questionnaires in the family consultation. The point which received the most support was the question on the security of children. The issue of security – whether physical or financial – imposes obligations not only on parents, but also on the state. I welcome Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the studio. In relation to this issue, the security of children, what tasks does and could the state have?

Viktor Orbán: – Well first of all, let’s talk about the National Consultation, because the question concerning the state’s obligation to ensure the security of children did indeed receive the most support. But in itself the fact that 1.38 million people returned completed questionnaires is such a high figure that we cannot let it pass without comment. So the consultation itself deserves our attention. Because, after all, 1.38 million people sat down with their families at the kitchen table, got out the questionnaire that the Government had sent them on this issue, were prepared to read it and perhaps even talk about it. Then on certain questions they came to their conclusions, made their decision, and wrote down their opinions. We are easily inclined to disregard this aspect of National Consultations, but the institution of the National Consultation is a particularly Hungarian invention. There are very few peoples in the world for which such a high percentage of the adult population would be prepared to reply to questions sent to them by the state in questionnaire form. We think about ourselves in a critical light, because of course we always think critically – we are Hungarians, after all. So there are always jeremiads when we think critically about Hungarian democracy and how fully people feel that they are a part of public life – and perhaps not without cause. But let’s not overlook positive examples. Because if we’re indeed talking about an important issue, if people are spoken to with suitable respect, if we turn to people and these issues truly are important to them, then Hungarian society will be willing to respond in such numbers as these. And then we will truly see the emergence of what I base all my policies and the Government’s policies on: points which can be called points of agreement within Hungarian society. Because good policy can be pursued in various forms; but a characteristic of truly good policy is that it seeks issues on which the opinions of the vast majority of people coincide, and the Government then tries to build its decisions on these points of agreement. This is what leads us to solidarity, to national unity, to working together and to cooperation. Thus policy can add further energy to that which is already present in the country: the energy of ten million people. If I add this in a simple way, it comes to as much as it comes to. But if I add it skilfully, then it comes to far more, and much more can be achieved from it. This is also when we see the economic results that have typified Hungary in recent years. So returning to the content of the National Consultation, the issue of child protection is indeed the most important, and it is an issue that is very close to our hearts. The Consultation included questions for the head, but also questions for the heart. So the results of the Consultation perfectly reflect the fact that the Hungarian people love children and see their security as paramount, and it is no accident that Hungarian society reserves its strongest condemnation for people who abuse children. At present the Hungarian legal system provides for child protection in a legally fragmented manner: regulations are here, there and wherever. I have now tasked the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office with drawing up a concept which seeks to provide a unified framework for the most important contemporary challenges of child protection and the possible government responses to them.

– Just a quick comparison of numbers. There are ten million people in Hungary, roughly ten million, and 1.38 million people returned completed National Consultation questionnaires. We’ve heard that recently the European Commission also attempted to hold a consultation – on the future of Europe – and apparently only seventy thousand people returned questionnaires.

– That’s true.

– So just seventy thousand people out of a European population of five hundred million; they have plenty of catching up to do.

– This is a difficult matter. Because the people of Europe, including the Hungarians, have been used to holding elections once every four years. By doing so, they entrust the more important decisions to their elected representatives, they form the Government, and four years later they state their opinion on that government. As long as things are going well – and in Western Europe things went well for a long time – the people feel that this system works. The 2008 global economic crisis taught me that we are entering a period in which things will not go so well – or if they do go well, it will be on a rough and bumpy road. At such times it is not enough to engage with the electorate once every four years. This is why we came up with the idea of the National Consultation – in 2011 if my memory serves me well. But I spent over a year with an excellent team of specialists working out how people could be included in political decision-making in addition to the regular four-yearly decisions – and not just being asked to say “yes” or “no”, but in a way that also enables them to voice their opinion. And it is perhaps not an exaggeration to say that the whole format of the National Consultation is the result of around one year of intellectual effort in order to reach decisions on when, how, on what topics and in what manner this should be carried out. But the European Union decided to take a shot at this, thinking it would create its own success. So consultations do not work without a well-designed methodology.

– Here in the studio yesterday morning we had the head of the National Association of Large Families, who said that it would be very good to include the family protection measures in legislation requiring a two-thirds majority to amend, because in terms of assisting families that would truly enable us to think in the long term.

– That’s a very difficult question. The Consultation also showed that people agree with what the head of the Association of Large Families said here in the studio. And I’m inclined to agree that there are certain elements of family policy that should be laid down at constitutional level. But I wouldn’t go too deeply, and I certainly wouldn’t include too many details, because we’re all different, other governments can come along, and if another government is supported by the people in seeking another direction and in wanting to use other methods, then it is not good if the Constitution offers them too little room for manoeuvre. So I think it is worth setting down fundamental things to guarantee national unity in the long term, but I would be cautious with regard to the extent. For instance, it’s undoubtedly an important idea – in my opinion the National Consultation’s determining decision, and, if you like, a historic decision – for the people to have said that if there are demographic problems – and there are – then they shouldn’t be solved through migration or immigration. So Hungarians have said that if we need people, because our numbers are decreasing – there aren’t enough of us, and there are more funerals than christenings – then family policy must be used to ensure that young people have more children, and this problem shouldn’t be solved through immigration. This is a very strong statement, and such strong statements are almost unheard of anywhere in Western Europe. Over there society is divided on this issue, and politicians are pursuing pro-immigration policy. They have not have asked their peoples in the way that we have done, but for some reason they have nevertheless come to the conclusion that their societies will accept this, or possibly even support it; and so they are solving their demographic problems through immigration. Meanwhile the Hungarian people have stated extremely clearly that there can be no question of our solving our difficulties through immigration. This is a fundamental principle, that is the starting point for all family policy, and so I’m glad that in this regard we have cleared the air.

– You’ve mentioned that there will be a major change in the area of child protection – or at least it seems that the regulations will be incorporated into a single system. Very many people replied positively to the question on helping young people start out in life, for instance. When can we expect a specific measure or proposal on this issue?

– Following the constitutional revolution of 2010 – if I may call it that – we’ve doubled the amount of people’s tax forints that the state spends on family support. One of the reasons for having a constitutional revolution in Hungary was to finally support families. And although we’ve doubled the funding provided, we can clearly see that this is still not enough. On the one hand the number of children being born is lower than that required for natural biological replacement of the population; and on the other hand, the people also think that more needs to be done. They give top priority to support for young married couples. We discussed this issue at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, at which we evaluated the results of responses to the consultation questionnaire. I tasked the Minister of Finance with performing the necessary calculations. Based on the Consultation, Minister of State for Family and Youth Affairs Katalin Novák has drawn up a specific package of government proposals: a kind of family protection action plan. The Minister of State has drawn up a long and very costly action plan. This can only be realised gradually, but based on the cabinet decision we have given top priority to government measures aimed at helping young families with children. The cost analysis of this is now under way. On around 10 February I’d very much like to be able to talk about the new and powerfully effective support system we will be able to introduce for young families with children. It won’t be cheap, it must be well considered, but it isn’t impossible. The introduction within the Hungarian family support system of a hitherto unknown powerful new element to support young families with children is not impossible; in fact today I would say that this is something we will successfully realise. But we will only be able to talk about this in February.

– You’ve said that the Hungarian people and Hungarian families believe in family policy, but Brussels continues to support immigration. One by-product or consequence of this is the fact that in the European Parliament next week there will be another debate in which “the situation in Hungary” will once again be on the agenda. Judith Sargentini managed to achieve this. At this week’s “Government Info” press conference, however, we heard that on this occasion the Hungarian government will not be represented at the debate. Why not? On previous occasions our government has always been there: either you or Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó has always represented the Hungarian government.

– I can honestly say that I always go wherever Hungarian national interests or the honour of the Hungarian people need to be fought for. After all, this is part of a Prime Minister’s job, and I’m not afraid of my own shadow. More than once I’ve had three or four hundred pro-immigration MEPs trying to shout me down at the top of their voices. In the course of Hungarian history we’ve faced worse odds when we’ve needed to fight. One accepts that if one is Hungarian, this is one’s fate. So in future I’ll be glad to go there again and again if necessary – although it would be best if the country wasn’t under attack and I didn’t need to make such visits to the European Parliament. But on this occasion the upcoming debate is a campaign event. When there’s no point in arguing, there’s no need to argue. When nothing is at stake in a debate, there’s no need to participate. This one will be a séance summoning up the spirit of Soros, a kind of election rally, at which MEPs will come together for a straightforward witch trial, in which they will roundly condemn a country that they don’t like: in this case Hungary. The wording of their verdict will be in alignment with the Soros-style “open society”. There’s no point taking part in this debate now, for two reasons: because it is a campaign event; and secondly because in five months’ time these people will be gone. This model is going out of production, and a new parliament is on its way in. I shall not assist in staging a campaign event. I believe that if I were to go there, I would be doing more to help the election campaign of the pro-immigration MEPs. And that would be contrary to Hungary’s interests.

– Meanwhile, yesterday the news came that the infringement proceedings against Hungary related to the “Stop Soros” legislative package have been moved into a new phase by European Commission.

– Well, George Soros is very strongly represented in the European Parliament. The most telling evidence of this is that the lead candidate of the Left – which is the main force supporting immigration in both the European Parliament and the Commission – is a Dutchman called Frans Timmermans. There’s no point beating around the bush: he is George Soros’s man. The Left has decided that this man must be placed at the head of the European Commission, which is perhaps the most important European body. So it’s obvious that George Soros is now openly seeking to capture Europe’s institutions. Up to now he has already had a huge level of influence, with hundreds of MEPs on his list of supporters and several commissioners on the European Commission who are also clearly his people. But Mr. Timmermans is clearly George Soros’s man: this is – how should I put it – such a widely known fact that it needs no proof, just regular repetition. The fact that he has become the Left’s lead candidate – their candidate for the post of President of the Commission – means that George Soros has declared his open intention to capture and rule the European institutions. From this perspective, we see that this is the Commission that has decided to move the infringement proceedings against Hungary into their next phase, and the Vice-President of this Commission is the man who wants to become its overall leader. So with regard to the advancement of the infringement proceedings against Hungary, we must recognise that George Soros has a huge level of influence. This is a problem in itself, but an even bigger problem is that he wants to gain even more influence. Furthermore, he wants to do this openly and use the European elections to legally confirm it. This is what we must prevent at all costs at the European Parliament elections, because we want the pro-immigration MEPs to be reduced to a minority in the European Parliament – and MEPs who, like us, are against immigration to be in the majority.

– As you’ve said, this European Parliament is a model that is going out of production. But nevertheless it is making decisions and issuing directives. Don’t we need to take these seriously either then? I’m thinking about a proposal and decision that during the upcoming seven-year financial framework between 2021 and 2027, Member States should be paid their share of funding only on condition that they comply with certain requirements related to the rule of law. As yet we have no idea who will decide what those requirements should be and whether Member States have met them.

– Indeed, MEPs have made two important decisions during the past two days, even though they already have one foot out of the door. Fidesz opposed these, but the Hungarian opposition supported them, which I see as a serious problem. MEPs from the Hungarian opposition working in Brussels regularly vote in favour of decisions that run counter to Hungary’s interests. This is also the case here, and two decisions have been made. One decision was to enable Soros NGOs to receive three times as much funding as they have received up until now. If you remember, when three or four years ago George Soros went public with the Soros Plan, which he himself released, it was a six-point action plan with the open intention of bringing as many migrants as possible into Europe. His programme was “how to reshape Europe through immigration”: it comprised six points; it was written by George Soros himself; the sixth point was that NGOs must be involved in this task, they must be given much more money and immigration into Europe must be supported through these NGOs. So this recent decision by the European Parliament is nothing less than a decision that serves and implements Point 6 of George Soros’s plan. And there was another decision which stated that in future regulations must be drawn up to create a body on which there would also be representation for all kinds of invited NGOs, who would regularly assess the situation related to the rule of law in each EU Member State. If this body was to conclude that the rule of law was not being adequately upheld in a particular country, then money would be taken from that country. This is a fairly simple-minded proposal, and fortunately legislation in Brussels doesn’t work like it does in Budapest: here Parliament adopts it and then it becomes law; but over there every nation state has to approve it, and it has to go through the Commission. It is a more complicated process. So this is an initiative that the European Parliament has launched, but which will not become reality – mostly because it contradicts the European Union’s current regulations. According to current EU regulations, budgets can only be adopted if they are unanimously approved by the Member States. So, for instance, the regulation on the reduction of budget funding can only be adopted if everyone accepts it. And we shall never accept this regulation as long as I am Prime Minister of Hungary.

– The World Economic Forum began in Davos this week and is still in progress. On the very first day it was stated that the European economy is in danger. At the same time, the Hungarian government is talking about the possibility and necessity of maintaining the Hungarian economy’s growth of four per cent. And the situation is so good that, for instance, we must strive to reduce the budget deficit to 1.2 per cent by 2021 – it was around 2 per cent in 2018 – and cut government debt significantly, from around 70 per cent to 62.7 per cent.

– Perhaps it’s worth selecting a suitable starting point. For me, the starting point is that Hungary began very far from its goals and from a very low point. It is now 2019, and few of us remember how things were in 2008 and 2009, and from 2010 to 2012 how much effort and sweat was needed in order to clean up and create order from the shambles and economic crisis that we inherited. But we succeeded. The Hungarians made huge sacrifices which would use up all of our programme time if we were to list them, so I won’t; but if we listed them then we would see that the Hungarians took risks and committed to fundamental changes. And in 2010 we began to construct a totally new economic and social system, which was no easy ride: it was a difficult thing. We had to work hard to realise it. Not only did politicians have to work hard – we also did, of course, but that’s natural – but the people themselves had to switch to a work-based economy: previously we lived in a kind of benefits-based society, and from that we had to move to a work-based economy. This was painful and difficult, but the Hungarians undertook it and we did it. We can talk about who is ranked where among the economies of Europe or the world, but what I see as most important is where investors place each country. And in terms of investment, today Hungary is among the world’s ten best countries. Investment means that when someone builds a plant or a factory somewhere, it will operate there for years. So an investment isn’t a childish whim, it isn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision made on an emotional basis, but a well-considered business and economic judgement. And today, when investors want to establish a plant or factory somewhere and are looking for a location, then Hungary is among the ten best possibilities. This isn’t a claim made by scientists or politicians, but by economic life – which is what actually drives the economies of nation states. My second observation is that of course, just as any other economy in the world, the economy of Hungary doesn’t grow all by itself: it needs economic policy which stimulates growth. If a country pursues bad economic policy, there will be no growth. Many things are needed for growth: workers, labourers, investors and good economic policy. But even if all the other conditions are present, without good economic policy there will be no growth. Hungary has an economic policy that stimulates growth, and this is what we have to thank for our achievements. Now let’s look at the question of what targets we should set ourselves. Although we’re talking about economic growth of roughly around four per cent, I’d rather say that we should strive to ensure that every year Hungarian economic growth remains at least two per cent higher than the overall economic growth measured, registered and experienced in the European Union. If we exceed the European average by two per cent, it means that we are developing more rapidly than the other countries, and Hungary’s competitive advantage – and the resulting opportunity for prosperity, a better standard of living and a happier life – are also increasing. So this is the target that I set for the Cabinet. Since economic growth in Europe is usually around one to one-and-a-half – or perhaps two – per cent, we may set as our goal four per cent. But what’s important isn’t this, but that it should be two per cent higher than the EU average.

– And under the influence of this kind of economic policy, government debt will eventually exhaust itself and fade away.

– Well, when I listen to the experts this is my greatest dilemma. Because we have excellent economic experts, a fantastic Central Bank Governor, and our Minister of Finance is the embodiment of dependability. Policy related to state assets is led by an outstanding economic professional, and Mr. Palkovics came to the Cabinet from a company that is one of the world leaders in innovation. So we have outstanding people. Of course everyone has different viewpoints, so in the end I am the one who needs to bring these all together, and it’s my responsibility to coordinate these somehow. And this is the greatest dilemma. Today the Hungarian economy would be capable of realising a dramatic and rapid reduction in government debt: we could reduce it from the current level of 71 per cent down to below 50 per cent within one or two years. But in those circumstances there would be less money in the budget to spend on economic development. But if we only spent money on economic development, then the debt would not fall – and in fact it would rise. In this situation I need to find a balance that enables the reduction of government debt – and rapidly, if possible – while at the same time ensuring that the resources needed for economic development also remain available. So a major part of the budget should be a chapter with spending aimed at economic development. The continuous measuring, registering and maintenance of this balance is one of the greatest challenges facing a government. This is fine work, by the way, and an intellectually stimulating task. For the moment we’ve been able to develop the blend that you see now: we have economic growth of four per cent – in fact it reached almost five per cent last year – and we are able to reduce government debt by one or two per cent every year. This could be structured differently, but in our opinion this is the combination that is the most favourable for the country.

– One more minute before the end of our conversation. Andy Vajna has passed away. As soon as the news broke, world-famous stars who had worked with him released statements. Then a day or two later the Hungarian film world also declared what a wonderful man Andy Vajna was, and how he had put the Hungarian film industry on the map. What came to my mind was that eight years ago, when you appointed Andy Vajna as Film Commissioner, many of these film people here in Hungary protested against him and began collecting signatures. And they even talked some people from the European film industry into signing their petition against his appointment. And what came to mind was that following his death nobody thought of apologising and acknowledging that, after all, Andy Vajna knew what he was doing. What is your opinion about these film people?

– I won’t express an opinion about people in the Hungarian film industry; I’d rather talk about ourselves, the Hungarians. We are a difficult people, and it’s not easy to be successful in Hungary: one not only has to grapple with the fact that success demands high performance, but also with the general environment. Unfortunately, in Hungary the environment rarely inspires us to success and outstanding performance. It says a lot about us that Hungary’s most popular card game is Ulti, in which you want to do something, but you have to fight against two other people who are working together against you to prevent you from succeeding in what you want to achieve. In Hungary it is very difficult to create something, but there have always been – and always will be – people who make the commitment to do that. Andy Vajna was such a man. Incidentally, Andy Vajna couldn’t have cared less about politics. Andy Vajna loved his country very much. He was a Hungarian from a family that suffered much. Party politics only interested him to the extent that it provided the conditions for him to be creative. It says a lot about him that one of his creations – which touched the hearts not only of film-lovers, but of all Hungarians – was perhaps the most poignant film ever made about 1956: Szabadság, szerelem [“Children of Glory”]. So he was a wonderful man, and his passing is a serious loss. We have lost a man who loved Hungary passionately, and who succeeded in fighting his way to achieve world fame within a field that in the modern age is an extremely sensitive one: the field of film. The question of who acted positively or negatively will be decided by everyone upon self-examination; I don’t think that is the job of the Prime Minister.

– Thank you. You have been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.