Katalin Nagy: Restrictions were in force in Hungary for ninety-eight days. Now the state of danger has been terminated, and the special legal order has ended. I welcome Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the studio.
Now, when everyone is happy that almost all restrictions have been lifted, we ought to be feeling good. But now we’re seeing an increase in the number of infections in some of our neighbours, in Ukraine and Romania. Moreover, Slovenia is looking again at the possibility of tightening up certain rules. Isn’t it too early for us to bring this situation to an end?
This was also what they decided in Slovenia. Yesterday I had a long discussion with the Prime Minister of Slovenia – who, incidentally, has produced a fantastic performance there after a change of government. Slovenia is one of the most successful countries in defending itself. The Prime Minister said that entry restrictions would be reintroduced for those coming from at least three countries, for three Balkan countries; so anyone coming to Slovenia from Kosovo, Bosnia – and maybe Serbia – will have to be quarantined for fourteen days. This is an important warning – and it’s not happening far away from us, but here, next door. You have to be on the ball, if I may put it so simply. But let’s not dampen our spirits: let’s be happy that we won the first battle. Let’s not only be happy that we managed to save the lives of tens of thousands of people, because after all that’s what we’re talking about: in black and white, successful defence means that we’ve saved the lives of many tens of thousands of people – especially the lives of our elderly compatriots. So let’s not devalue this, let’s continue to see this as a great accomplishment. Because what, after all, could be more important than saving the lives of one’s endangered fellow citizens or compatriots? One could hardly do anything bigger than that. But let’s not forget that in the end the precondition for this success has been discipline and unity. So if it emerges again, if there’s a second wave, say, let’s not forget two things: to continue exercising discipline; and to unite, just as we did during the first wave. So I wouldn’t say we need to be afraid now, but let’s be happy that we succeeded. Moreover, in Hungary we can now say things that one never thought one would hear in one’s lifetime – for example, that in dealing with the epidemic the Hungarian healthcare system performed better than healthcare systems in Western Europe. Gratitude and thanks are due to our doctors and nurses – and, of course, the Operational Group! So I think we mustn’t be discouraged. Let’s celebrate and rejoice that we have freedom and finally we can live our lives. Meanwhile, until there’s a vaccine the virus is here among us and can re-emerge, so let’s be prepared; and if it returns let’s not hesitate to take the necessary decisions. I am prepared for this, and yesterday my meeting with my Slovenian counterpart strengthened my resolve in this. So if there are signs that a second wave is coming, we shall not hesitate to take the necessary legal and economic steps; because, just as over the past months, in the future the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarians may be in danger and must be saved.
Obviously the whole government or the Operational Group is calmer, because we see that the Hungarian healthcare system is equipped to carry out this task. Fortunately there is now so much equipment that there will be enough if there’s a second wave. We saw how much arrived. Does disease control preparedness really mean that you have to continuously keep an eye on everything?
It means several things: the Operational Group remains up and running; the powers of the Chief Medical Officer have been strengthened; the equipment needed for care during a pandemic is in storage; its level of readiness is appropriate for a pandemic, so we’d be able to provide for tens of thousands of people tomorrow morning. Let’s not forget that this all started with us turning on our TVs and seeing people in Western Europe dying because there weren’t enough ventilators, because there wasn’t hospital provision, because there weren’t enough beds, and so on. After that – and in good time – bells started ringing in our heads. In essence we prepared ourselves for mass infection with practical measures built on a logic one could describe as military in nature. We managed to avoid mass infection, but preparations for it were carried out. So if tomorrow the disease breaks out with greater force than earlier, Sándor Pintér and I know exactly which dossier to take down from which shelf, and Miklós Kásler knows exactly which dossier to take down and open. This is because the country has gone through the military exercise of how to make thirty thousand beds simultaneously available to people in the event of a mass infection, how to immediately install eight thousand ventilators, and which doctors and nurses need to go where: where they’ll be deployed, where they’ll sleep, who will feed them, where they’ll work, and who will be in charge of them if a mass infection occurs during a second wave. So I don’t want us to have to test this capability in real life, but we have this capability, it’s a huge asset, and we’ll have it for ten or twenty years.
You said that Hungarian health care performed better than in very many Western European countries – in Italy, France or Spain. Yet criticism is coming from there, from the West; for example in connection with Hungary’s special legal order, which has already come to an end – even though in many places equivalent measures are still in place.
This is the same old story. It’s the international political strategy aimed at weakening and eliminating national governments and nations, and pressing them into an imperial order. Nowadays this is often pursued not only by states, but also by supranational, global, international organisations and the people who maintain them, live off them and finance them. They are run by businesspeople and financiers who feel that they are above nations. If you look at the map of Europe, you see something utterly shocking. I am a prime minister who took part in the foundation of Fidesz in 1988, and I well remember that when the words “the West” were spoken, the images and associations in one’s mind were exclusively positive. But the Soviet propaganda of the time was this: “of course in America blacks are beaten, and in the West young people are raving in a Coca-Cola-induced stupor”. We had a good laugh at this, as it was all the criticism that socialism could level at the West. So no one here thought that Hungary’s leadership would have a difficult task after the collapse of the communists and the departure of the Soviets: just copy what’s over there, because everything’s fine over there. Well, now, thirty years later, I look at a map of Western Europe and I see people dying because they can’t be cared for. I see that we need to save three of the four largest European economies, because they’re hurtling towards financial insolvency. I see that the economic performance of several Western European economies will decline by at least 10 per cent this year: minus 10 per cent growth! Their debt, their public debt, is rising to 120 per cent, and it’s already in unmanageable territory. I also see law enforcement and the police out on the streets and a wave of violence sweeping all before it, with statues being torn down, deplorable situations, with gang warfare being waged on the streets of beautiful small towns in civilised Western European countries. So I look at the countries of those who are telling people here the right way to live, and the right way to govern and run a democracy. And I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Do you include among these the European Court of Justice, which has again condemned Hungary for its law on the transparency of civil society organisations, or non-governmental organisations?
Well, in Western Europe what we see is undoubtedly – and here I’ll use a strong term – liberal imperialism. America’s Democratic Party and the American Left are also part of this. They take their worldview, their system of values, their conceptions, including their views on the family, their views on migration, their views on work – or rather on unemployment – and try to force them on countries that think differently about the family, migration, order, and so on. International courts are often undoubtedly part of this network. I don’t like the simplistic approach of imagining a conspiracy behind every complex international phenomenon, but all the same conspiracies do exist, and no doubt in the background there is manoeuvring for power which bypasses formal structures. This is clearly illustrated by some court rulings. And after seeing the identities of the Hungarians who are also involved in such international rulings, especially those on human rights issues, we can very easily find a link with Soros’s international network – which forms the Western European headquarters for this liberal imperialism. Now, as far as the ruling is concerned, although we haven’t yet read it and we’ve only seen the initial reports, it sounds like the European Court of Justice has not accepted this law, which we passed in the interest of the transparency of foreign-funded organisations. But I was amused to read the news about the ruling, because it was stated – and I hope this is in the verdict itself – that transparency is something which a parliament or government is right to aim for. So the Hungarian people made a good decision, as this law was preceded by a national consultation, with 90 per cent in favour of transparency. So the Hungarian people made a good decision. Even though I only have partial knowledge of the text or ruling issued by the global judges, I can say that they made a good decision. This is because in Luxembourg – in the European Court of Justice – they didn’t dare to say that the transparency of NGOs isn’t a high priority; they simply said that fewer restrictions should be placed on them when ensuring this transparency. This can be done. So it won’t be difficult to comply with this judgment. But what is certain is that in Hungary we must ensure 100 per cent transparency. I will never accept any weakening of the rules governing organisations – such as parties – engaged in Hungary’s political life, or any deviation from the general regulations on transparency. Put another way, whoever is involved in political life wants to influence people’s thinking, openly wants people to take a stand on certain issues, and wants to collectively achieve certain goals in the sphere of politics. Well, such organisations must be subject to the same rules of transparency. The rules for the transparency of political parties with responsibilities in Parliament must not be stricter than those for the transparency of organisations that are also involved in political activities, but which don’t seek parliamentary representation. The latter must be just as transparent. I’d like to make it clear to the Hungarian electorate that every Hungarian person will know about every forint that has come here from abroad and has been sent here for political purposes, because they have the right to know this information. I cannot accept counterarguments from NGOs on this, because those who are not slow to accept money from abroad shouldn’t be ashamed to admit it. If you’re not ashamed to accept the money, don’t be ashamed to state it publicly. If you’re ashamed of one of these, of course you’ll be ashamed of the other. So, as befits a democracy, in Hungary I’d like the Hungarian people to know exactly who is putting how much money into political life, with the aim of influencing their decisions, the people’s decisions.
You referred to the consultation, the national consultation. I remember when the news emerged of the first infections in the epidemic, of the Iranian students. A politician from [the opposition party] Momentum said that it was unbelievable that Viktor Orbán had such luck. Could it be that your government isn’t based on luck?
Well, first of all, let’s say this openly: there are political actors in Hungary who want to diminish Hungary’s sovereignty, who want to reduce our country’s national independence. And they fiercely attack the Hungarian government, because we’re a national government, we’re a government that – resulting from people’s decisions – puts national sovereignty first. They want us to somehow transfer as many rights as possible from the Hungarian people to Brussels. They sometimes describe this as a United States of Europe, sometimes as the strengthening of European institutions, or as the strengthening of European bodies guaranteeing European values. But these are all instruments of the same liberal imperialism. So there are political organisations in Hungary that are striving to erode the independence of their own country. Suddenly they’re not on the side of the Hungarians, but are always found on the side of foreigners, outsiders, centres of power, when it turns out that this sovereignty and independence in Hungary is in danger – because foreign students, say, are unwilling to obey the rules, and when they spread infection here. For it is also a matter of sovereignty when one has to take action against foreigners. This is how it is in Hungarian politics. This isn’t something new, and a listener is mistaken if they think that this only started yesterday. Well poisoning has been going on for a long time, and stretching back at least 150 years there are frequent examples of Hungarian politicians working against their country in the international arena. In the First World War, when we were fighting for our lives to retain historical Hungary, there was even a leftist – and this has been historically documented – who joined the Italian army in order to personally contribute to the destruction of historical Hungary. Such things are not new, there have always been such people. But one mustn’t be misled into thinking that this is something decisive, influential, strong or a majority attitude. In Hungary the overwhelming majority of people are decent, they love their homeland, they don’t want to hand over the powers that determine our shared life to someone else, but they want those powers to remain here. And they want those whom they entrust with running the country to honourably respect these rules and run the country well. So after all in Hungary we still form the overwhelming majority.
So can consultation, dialogue with people, somehow counteract this process of well poisoning?
The national consultation is the most important thing. World politics is evolving, and policy must be shaped according to rules that are known as democracy. This has not always been the case. Internationally the public perception is that democracy is something virtuous and good – and I share this perception. In a democracy certain rules always need to be kept in sight and obeyed. In a democracy there is only one indisputable opinion: the will of the people embodied in election results. Well, now this happens every four years. At the same time, it’s clear that if we have a government that stands up for national independence, that stands up for the country, with people who stand up for Hungary, then there isn’t simply a battle every four years: one must engage in a continuous struggle in the international arena. And the struggle is also against internal agents. As I’ve said earlier, these people aren’t even secret agents, because it’s stamped on their foreheads that they’re paid by George Soros, that they want to transform Hungary, that they want to bring down the Government, et cetera, et cetera. In such circumstances it’s not enough for a community to take a shared stance once every four years: there are issues and there are times when it’s very important to create points of agreement demonstrating to ourselves and the outside world that on some issues Hungarians share a viewpoint – if not unanimously, then by a large majority. Now, for example, we’ve launched a consultation on defence against a possible second wave of the virus and the relaunch of the economy; so there should be ten or twelve points that can’t be disputed, as they’ve been confirmed by a national consultation. These can be relied on as a great help to the Government; but I also think these will be a great help to people here in Hungary.
Does Hungary need economic assistance from the EU, or can it relaunch the economy without it?
After I leave the studio I will attend a video conference of the 27 European prime ministers. The first round of this conference was held yesterday, when the EU’s eastern policy was on the agenda. Today the topic will be the relaunch of the economy: the relaunch of the European economy. I know the numbers, because I’ve looked at the other countries. I’ve seen that in some countries there will be reductions in GDP of more than 10 per cent, and public debt as a proportion of gross domestic product has been run up to such high levels as 120, 130 or 160 per cent. This doesn’t seem to be such a big problem, because there’s a lot of cheap money on the market now. But this won’t always be the case, because we know the cyclical nature of economic history. We know from history that cheap money suddenly disappears and only expensive money becomes available on the market: interest rates start to rise, and a country struggling with government debt of 90–100 per cent, or 120–130 per cent, finds it very difficult to stay afloat without external help – if at all. And then the usurers come, they lay their hands on the whole country, and it’s game over. We’ve seen this in Europe in just the past twenty years. So we’re justified in getting together today. The countries in trouble say that we urgently need to take out a very large joint loan. I’ve already told you that the logic of Hungarians is different, our life instincts are different: we only like to spend money that we’ve already earned. And if, despite this, we still take out a loan because we want to spend it first and only later work for it, then every family, individual or country should do so at their own risk; because this is extremely risky, and if you make a wrong decision you shouldn’t drag your neighbour, family member, another family or another country down with you. Now, however, many European Union countries are in such a wretched financial situation that we can hardly avoid approving Hungary’s contribution to taking out such a large joint loan. This is both a threat and an opportunity. It’s a threat, because if we spend it badly we’ve failed; but it’s also an opportunity, because if we do it right we can grow stronger. Now at last week’s Cabinet meeting we set up a working group, led by Minister Palkovics. If this new European economic relaunch plan is implemented, the task of this working group will be to assess the resources available to Hungary and to ensure that we have programmes which will be financed in this way. In this regard Hungary has long-standing deficits. For example, our electricity grid is inadequate, partly in terms of sustainability: we will have to make large investments if we want to connect small solar parks to large networks. So this is required by the greening of the system. And for years professionals have rightly stated that the entire Hungarian water management system gets less money than it needs, and that here there’s also a backlog of renewal and development that we could implement. The complete renewal of the Hungarian water network alone would require thousands of billions of forints. So we have a number of programmes that we could activate at a moment’s notice. We wouldn’t be throwing money around, but meaningfully focusing on a few tasks, such as recapitalising our universities. So we could use the money on such tasks at a moment’s notice. So the existence of such shovel-ready programmes means that spending a large sum from the European Union on strengthening the national economy wouldn’t be a problem for us. So while of course the threat level isn’t zero and you can never be too careful, I feel that for Hungary this is much more of an opportunity than a threat, because in recent years others have not managed their resources as efficiently as Hungary has.
At the end of our last conversation I asked about the Chain Bridge. One can’t understand why nothing is happening. Although I know that this isn’t part of the Government’s remit, but that of Budapest City Council, people are starting to think that when crossing to Buda maybe they should play safe and avoid the Chain Bridge.
Well, there are things that are beyond our comprehension. In such situations I usually don’t see bad faith, but incompetence. So for the past nine months – or however many months – those who should be making decisions have been flapping and dithering around the matter. I’ve always said that one needs to find a good practical professional. There’s no shame in having a lot of theoretical specialists in a body – in a local government, say. That can also be useful. But then you have to find the few practical people you can trust to handle matters. But I think it’s pathetic that they’re constantly citing a lack of money. Right now, as we’re planning the budget, I see that the capital city has over 100 billion forints in its account – maybe 180 billion forints. So they’re flush with money, and they only need to use it sensibly. But now after the elections in the capital, there’s only one thing we can do: root for their success.
Thank you. You’ve been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.