Katalin Nagy: It is Easter. Yet there was no calm and peace in Holy Week, in the days leading up to the holiday. All of a sudden major demonstrations were organised in Budapest, in which speakers criticised the Government, first in Hungarian and then in English, and called for its resignation. What happened? How does Prime Minister Viktor Orbán see the situation?
In Hungarian life it is customary for Holy Week to be quiet. In a Hungary slowly finding its way back to its old self from a political system following the fall of communism which was based entirely on material principles, year after year every Easter has been more beautiful. I have enough of a perspective to see things as they really are: when communism fell I was 27, and soon I’ll be 54; so over the course of 27 years I have seen how Easter has occupied or made ever more room for itself in people’s lives. And now that Good Friday has also been made a public holiday – we have finally got to this stage – I thought that there would be a Holy Week of peace and tranquillity. But this was not to be, and politics was thrown into turmoil. As far as I can see, everyone already has their eyes on next year’s election, in April 2018; our opponents thought that they would show their true colours and test their claws, and so they launched a dress rehearsal for the campaign. This is what is happening in Hungary today; this has disturbed the still waters, and filled Holy Week with pandemonium.
There was a proposed legislative amendment, then a law was passed, and this seemed to have been the trigger.
That is indeed how things seem to be. There is a university in Hungary – George Soros’s university – which enjoys utterly unwarranted privileges. Every five years the authorities review the operation of foreign universities in Hungary, and this is what happened recently. In Hungary we have 28 universities of varying sizes which qualify as foreign universities, and irregularities of one kind or another were uncovered in 27 of them. There is no doubt that the most serious irregularities were identified at George Soros’s university. The Government was therefore compelled to take action in order to introduce clear regulations and transparency in an area that the law had regulated in a haphazard manner or not at all, and to do away with privileges, so that the same rules can apply to every university in Hungary. We are also still not in a position to fully understand this whole conflict. I understand that George Soros has an extensive network, both international and Hungarian: he pays his people, hundreds of them, or perhaps even thousands – we have no way of knowing the precise numbers. This will be the subject of another law which Parliament will adopt soon; the Hungarian people have a right to know who is seeking to influence politics and public life in Hungary, while serving foreign interests and receiving funding from abroad. Rather than speaking up to ensure that their universities also gain the privileges enjoyed by the CEU, members of Hungarian academia, scholars, professors and teachers at Hungarian universities are instead arguing that George Soros should keep his privileges; we still don’t understand this, but there is obviously a reason, and the months ahead will give us the opportunity to see why this is the case. But the truth is that this is only a secondary battlefield in a broader conflict. The real conflict is one which is not only decisive for Hungary, but also for the whole of Europe. It can be summed up in the following question: “What will be the future composition of Europe’s population?” This is what we usually refer to as the migration crisis – or the crisis of mass population movement. In universities and international networks that call themselves civil society organisations – but which are, in fact, Hungarian branches of international “NGOs” –hundreds or thousands of paid activists envisage a Europe in which there is a partial restructuring of the population, and foreign ethnic populations are introduced from other parts of the world. They envisage the unfettered admission to Europe of those from elsewhere who covet European living standards, thereby exposing the continent to the risk of terrorism, the deterioration of public security, and the possibility of parallel Muslim and Christian societies emerging side by side in Europe. They believe, I think, that we shall mix well together, and that this will lead to the emergence of some new quality. So this network – this international network of George Soros’s – is angry with Hungary for disproving their thesis that the flow of migrants cannot be stopped. I distinctly remember Kofi Annan – who belongs to the world of George Soros – delivering a major speech in the European Parliament at some point in the mid-2000s. This was about why we Europeans need immigrants, why we need migrants. This, he said, is not something that we should protect ourselves against, but something that we should encourage, as it will benefit us. And some eleven years later the breakthrough took place, crashing through state borders on the Balkan route, pushing in and bringing to Europe – with the aid of George Soros – unvetted masses of Muslims organised in paramilitary style. Mr. Soros himself wrote that this is how it should be: we should let in one or two million migrants every year; and if we don’t have the money for this, he would be happy to lend us some. But we shouldn’t forget that we’re talking about a financial speculator who made his billions – which he now spends on migrants and uses for other purposes – by attacking the banking systems of various countries, and who has amassed a fortune through financial speculation. So here we can also see a classic example of fishing in troubled waters. Therefore we should not be surprised that other nations in Europe – Romanians, Macedonians and Albanians – are making moves and trying to rid themselves of these Soros-style international networks and their local branches. So this is the conflict that has now reached Hungary. And at the centre of it stands migration. The only remaining question is why it has come to a head now. The answer is that the European Union wants to close this debate by June, and wants to push through new immigration and migration regulations which will be binding on everyone. A few of us are resisting – mainly the Visegrád Four, but also the Romanians. There are always countries which want to preserve their Christian cultural identity, while others want to disregard this, a decisive battle is about to develop here. In the European Parliament at the end of April there will be a hearing on the subject of Hungary, to be followed by two summits for European heads of government in which our opponents will seek to bring the matter to a head and force migrants on us. This struggle will be the main focus of the next two or three months. I believe that this is why the situation has now begun to heat up in Hungary.
Demonstrators say that the Hungarian government is abusing nice old George Soros, and that Viktor Orbán is also personally ungrateful, as back in the day – 25 years ago – you yourself received a Soros scholarship and spent two and a half months in Oxford.
Perhaps even longer. George Soros can be linked to some positive aspects related to the fall of communism: aspects which benefited Hungary. I clearly remember that in Hungary the whole Soros system started at some point in the second half of the nineteen-eighties. Miklós Vásárhelyi – may he rest in peace – was Soros’s director or organiser in Hungary at the time, and they supported a great many anti-communists, young people who were opposed to the communist regime and Soviet occupation, youth movements, civil society organisations, samizdat publications, and the revival of freedom and democracy in Hungary in general. There was nothing wrong with that. Indeed, even after the nineties, we would have put up with what George Soros did then, trying his hand at some financial manipulations in Hungary: trying to pocket OTP bank and later speculating against the Hungarian forint – for which his system was served a large penalty. This sort of thing happens. And we could even live with the fact that there is a Soros university in Hungary preparing liberal activists for the political life of the Balkan and Central European regions – if it observed Hungary’s laws. The milk has curdled because the Soros empire set out to promote the cause of migrants and mass migration. This is now about the security of the Hungarian people, the security of Hungary, the protection of the borders, public security and terrorism. On this there can be no compromise. We must say this with appropriate restraint, but we must say it openly.
Do you think it is unnecessary or sophistry to say that in this case every cloud has a silver lining? The fact that in just two days the Rector of the CEU managed to mobilise liberal decision-makers and opinion leaders from Washington all the way to Brussels means that the university has not only demonstrated its strength, but has also became visible. It is now becoming perfectly clear that there is such a network, and no one can any longer say that it only exists in the minds of conspiracy theorists.
Security experts use the term “deconspire” to describe this phenomenon. So everyone who had so far been hidden has now come out into the open. Those who attack the Hungarian government are not telling the truth. No one wants to close down any university in Hungary; I do not want to offend those who say so, but that is a lie, pure and simple. The Közép-európai Egyetem – which is George Soros’s Hungarian university – is not even affected by the law, because it is a Hungarian university. In a democracy it is not acceptable for someone to have an international network, keep everyone in a state of fear and enjoy privileges in a country simply because he is a billionaire – and an American billionaire at that, or a Hungarian American billionaire. Hungary is not such a country, but there is no doubt that this whole affair has had the benefit of prompting our own civic camp to start thinking about what is actually going on here. In my view, the Government has shown the understanding that befits a democratic culture, which seeks to come to an agreement and to provide security, and which in no way strikes a hostile tone.
Now that you mention conflicts, we are recording this interview on Saturday afternoon. Before coming here, I read on the internet that among themselves a few well-known provocateurs have been discussing how the Easter procession by the Basilica in Budapest should be disrupted. At times like this, a peaceful member of the Reformed Church like myself feels their stomach tightening. How much further can this go?
Many people – even decent, peace-loving Christian people – are itching to respond. This is a test for all of us. I would like to reassure decent Hungarians that today Hungary has a national government which professes ideals and principles which form part of the best traditions of this community – our community. This is the political force which controls the security agencies and the police in Hungary. This guarantees public security. The rule of law in Hungary does not protect provocateurs, but honest, right-thinking Hungarians. This has not always been the case. The fact that you feel your stomach tighten is not entirely without cause, as in Hungary not so long ago – under the joint governance of the socialists and liberals – the police and law enforcement agencies did not side with victims, but instead sided with and found excuses for those who perpetrated crimes. Then one could indeed have some reason to feel insecure. We put an end to that world, and Hungary is a different country today.
One other thing. At one demonstration activists claimed that the Hungarian government wants to undermine their operations by requiring them to report annual total receipts from abroad which exceed of HUF 7.2 million. I don’t really understand why they say this, as I’ve read that in recent years the Hungarian government has increased funding to civil society organisations: from HUF 160 billion to HUF 200 billion. On what planet could increased funding be seen as a way of undermining someone’s operations?
First of all, I should perhaps mention that the world of the Hungarian people is a self-organising one. It is true that the Hungarians have a need for a firm political leadership that rests on clear principles and follows clear ideals. This has always been so, ever since the dawn of time, but they also insist on their own freedom: “My house is my castle, my community is my community”. Until the communists eliminated it, there was diverse civil society in Hungary, which equalled that in any more fortunate country – from Britain all the way to Germany. So we have an ability to organise ourselves, and there are things which civil society organisations can do better than any public body. This is why we give money to these organisations from the central budget. This is not for them to have a good time – while that is also a pleasant by-product – but to enable them to perform certain duties which are beneficial and meaningful for society. This is because they can do a better job in those areas than the Government or public authorities would be able to do.
Social services, health care?
Social services, health care, environmental protection, organisations paying attention to each other generally and organising social life and sports associations. This is a diverse world. These have nothing to do with those organisations which now call themselves participants in civil society, but for which we use the English abbreviation “NGOs”, or non-governmental organisations. In fact the latter are not independent organisations, but the Hungarian branches of international networks: they are not participants in civil society, but international lobbying organisations seeking to influence public authorities and political decisions. In America these organisations are called “agent” organisations, and so far Europe has not been required to face the question of how to regulate their activities. Now we have said that we could adopt the US model – but American legislation is too strict even for my liking. That won’t work for us. Here we have had a dictatorship or two in the past, and we don’t like things like that. So all we want – but this is something we have a right to – is for every Hungarian to be able to see and find out the identity and motives of those who fund organisations which voice their views on matters which are important in terms of public policy and the future of the community.
It is interesting that these demonstrators have been demanding democracy, whilst assaulting police officers and, for example, twisting the wrist of a journalist. Interestingly they do not demand an early election, which could be a legitimate democratic demand if they are unhappy with the Government’s actions. Instead they say that this Government must be removed, with, for example, an orange revolution like that in Ukraine. In a democracy?
First of all, it always makes one smile when one sees masses of people demonstrating because of a supposed lack of democracy. They chant dreadful things and make serious, defamatory, libellous accusations, partly at the country and partly at its leaders – all the while claiming that there is no democracy. This is rather funny. And our police officers – unlike those in most Western European countries – show the utmost patience. All they want is for these street demonstrations to pass without problems, and they don’t resort to response measures such as those regularly deployed on occasions like these in France or Germany – or Britain, for that matter. Our police officers deserve respect for this – not to mention those serving at the border. There is the phenomenon that you described as the orange revolution. This is a little unsettling in a Hungarian political context as, after all, we are the orange ones: orange has been the colour of Fidesz since its formation. To quote an old election slogan, “If you’re bored with the bananas, try the oranges”. But this is not about us wanting to create a revolution. In fact there have been a few political changes in the past decade or two which have been less than straightforward: the origins and causes of these are being researched to this day, and in more and more places international organisations are being found behind these movements. But one thing is certain: Hungary is a stable country. If six or seven years ago we had been attacked like this, if the migrant crisis had not emerged in 2015–16 but six or seven years earlier, say, when Hungary was still financially vulnerable, we may well have been buried by it or swept away. Today we have all the means at our disposal to enable us to resist foreign financial blackmail or pressure. Finally, there is also more money in the pockets of Hungarians. More and more Hungarian people are deciding to use some of their savings to buy government securities, and as a result the amount of foreign funding that used to be needed to run the country is decreasing day by day. Our budget, our financial situation is in order, government debt is falling, and this creates financial security. So whatever political agitation there is in Hungary, if you look at our international financial assessments, they are not deteriorating at all, because we are stronger. This Hungarian economy is a different economy from the one we had ten years ago, and it stands on its own two feet. I believe that we shall win these battles.
You have been listening to our Easter interview with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.