Katalin Nagy: Ursula von der Leyen, the candidate for the post of President of the European Commission, is in continuous talks with various groups in the European Parliament, because soon they’ll be voting on her candidacy. I welcome Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the studio.
When you were last here four weeks ago, you said that the V4 has two lists: one for who shouldn’t be nominated, and one for who should be nominated. All you revealed was that the first two places on the “no” list were occupied by Mr. Weber and Mr. Timmermans, but you didn’t tell us any names from the “yes” list. We now know that Ursula von der Leyen has been nominated. Where was she on your list?
What has just happened in Brussels is that the Hungarian government has succeeded in enforcing the will of the Hungarian people, as expressed in the European Parliament election. This means that we should elect people as the heads of Europe’s institutions who respect Europe’s nations – including the Hungarians – and who are opposed to immigration. So under no circumstances should pro-immigration politicians be elected to leading positions, as over the past few years the majority of Europe’s woes have been the result of us having EU leaders who have clearly been pro-immigration. Initially they were proud of this, then later they began to deny it; but this doesn’t change the facts. It’s very important that we’ve seen the torpedoing of George Soros’s candidate. Mr. Timmermans has never concealed the fact that this is what he is: he’s an extreme pro-immigration, left-wing politician. Manfred Weber was also unable to become President, because had spoken disrespectfully about the citizens of several countries – including those of Hungary. So far so good. After we succeeded in fending off all this, we took out our positive list and the Western and Central European countries, let’s say, came to an agreement with one another. I feel it’s important that together the V4 represent 63 million people, and now the economic performance and political stability of the V4 is so obvious that we have sufficient influence to be able to represent the interests of 63 million people. Quite simply this cannot be ignored within the European Union. This is clearer when I add that there were difficult moments – after all we took part in a marathon, tortuous diplomatic “crime thriller” lasting several days and nights, which threw up difficult moments – when Central Europe was also able to count on Croatia and Romania. So this is how we succeeded in establishing an acceptable solution. However, I also feel it’s important that we don’t throw our hats in the air just yet, because many mistakes have been made in Brussels and the European Union over the past five years. These mistakes must be corrected. We’ll have reason to celebrate when we see the correction of these mistakes – including the issue of terrorism and public safety, including migration, and including the economic mistakes that have been made.
Returning for a moment to Mr. Timmermans, how were you able to convince President Macron to go back on the backdoor agreement made in Osaka, and to withdraw support for him? Because many German politicians have also said that you won: that Viktor Orbán and Macron won.
I’d ask that this remains my secret.
We shouldn’t talk about that?
Not about that, no.
All right. You said that for now we shouldn’t throw our hats in the air. Does this mean that we cannot be certain that Ursula von der Leyen is indeed an anti-immigration politician? Antal Rogán, however, has said that last weekend you had a telephone discussion with her, and Viktor Orbán was promised that the President of the Commission will take into account the opinion of the Central European countries, and will respect that opinion.
Knowing the Minister – because of course she is the German government’s Defence Minister – if you’ll allow me, I’d say that we’ve received a chance: Europe has received a chance and Central Europe has received a chance. We need a strong Europe; there’s no argument about that. But we in Central Europe want both a strong Europe and respect for our national interests. The German minister represents a chance for this to become reality: we’ll praise the day when it arrives, but there is a chance. In itself the fact that we’ve chosen a mother of seven clearly indicates that different winds will be blowing in Brussels.
Over the next five years, will we also be able to count on the V4 cooperation – occasionally supplemented with support from the Croatians and Romanians?
Slovakia’s newly elected President was a guest of Hungary yesterday. Slovakia is an important member of the V4 cooperation. The most important topic we discussed was what the President thinks about Hungarians and the V4 cooperation. I was pleased to see something that we can confirm: Slovakia’s new President likes, thinks highly of and respects Hungarians. Her tone was one of acknowledgement and respect for Hungarians, including Hungarians living in the territory of Slovakia. And she clearly understood the importance of the V4 cooperation and the need for it to continue in the future.
This is interesting, because I remember when before the election she was asked – perhaps by a reporter – whether she sees the V4 cooperation as important, she said that yes, it’s important, but the European Union comes before all else. Is it possible that her opinion has changed a little, or that now she sees the results of the fact that there’s a point to V4 cooperation?
She’s the one who could answer that question. What we Hungarians see clearly from the outside, however, it that Slovakia is in a special situation: it has given up several very important elements of its economic independence. This is something that the Czechs, the Poles and the Hungarians haven’t done. This happened with the Slovakians joining the eurozone: they no longer have their own currency, and they don’t determine the exchange rate of that currency. And the general deployment of financial measures in the interest of their economic policy is also not in their hands, but in those of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. So the nature of their embeddedness in the European structure is different from that of Poland, the Czech Republic or Hungary. For this reason, the Slovakians must always both support V4 cooperation and pay more attention to decisions made in Brussels and Frankfurt than is paid by the other three countries of the Visegrád Group.
The European Parliament will be voting. What is your view? Do you think it will elect your candidate?
Nobody can say for sure. In any case, we’ve concluded an agreement: the prime ministers – the twenty-eight prime ministers – have concluded an agreement. The agreement states that everyone everywhere will be supporting the people referred to in that agreement. In the European Parliament there are the parties from the countries of the prime ministers who have concluded this agreement. If the prime ministers have undertaken to support the German defence minister, then it’s their duty to also enforce this within their own parties in the Parliament. So the Spanish need to bring in the Spanish votes, and the Hungarians need to bring in the Hungarian votes – or if we’re unable to bring in all the votes, then at least a majority of the votes. I concluded this agreement with a clear conscience, because the result of the Hungarian parliamentary elections means that the majority of Hungary’s seats in the European Parliament are held by Fidesz and the Christian Democratic People’s Party, and I’ll be able to fulfil that agreement, because they’ll be supporting Ursula von der Leyen. Now we’ll see whether or not the other states will be able to achieve that. But what is certain is that they undertook to do this: they gave their word on this. We’ll see if they succeed.
In the European Parliament there are also unwritten rules on how officials are elected. In relation to the election of the two vice-presidents, we’ve seen that Lívia Járóka voted for Klára Dobrev, and was glad that the European Parliament has two Hungarian vice-presidents. Meanwhile Klára Dobrev made no secret of the fact that she didn’t vote for Lívia Járóka, and didn’t even congratulate her.
Each to their own. The customs of the Left and the Right are different from each other. After all, the Right is a national force, while the Left is internationalist. And for this reason our relationship with our homeland, representing its interests and standing up for it is a moral imperative for the Right; while for the Left it clearly isn’t. And the voting highlighted this very important difference. There are competing political forces in Hungary: parties of the Left and the Right, with KDNP and Fidesz on one side and DK and MSZP on the other. There is a decisive difference between us, which now – like an ocean in a drop of water – was shown by this vote. I’m not claiming that we’re fans of our opponents, and we can’t be accused of being in love with the Left. But there are limits. It is a rule of thumb on the Right that we must never hate our adversaries more than we love our homeland. This rule doesn’t exist on the Left. We believe that one must not turn against one’s country just to damage a rival party. On the Left the rule is that not even hurting Hungary is too high a price to pay for weakening us – weakening the Right. This is a big difference. It’s as well for the people of Hungary to know this. After forty-odd years of communism, those who remember that period will know this difference very well, and in the European Parliament vote we saw a modern manifestation of this.
It’s a shame that young people know little of this.
But we’re their parents, and we’ll explain it to them.
What do you expect from the European Union and from European Union institutions over the next five years? Will there be a continuation of the disputes that have characterised the last five years? Will there be a solution to the issue of migration or the protection of Christian values?
All I can say today on this issue is that we’ve been given a chance for this to become a reality. We have a long march ahead of us. European politics has a busy programme. Now we have to decide on individuals to fill leadership positions, and after that the Commission will have to be formed. In this process also Hungary must represent itself with a force which is appropriate and worthy of it. After that comes the final phase of negotiations on the European Union’s next seven-year multiannual financial framework. Negotiations are already ongoing, but the truly important – let’s say final – phase of the negotiations will occur over the next twelve to eighteen months. This could determine the economic success or failure of the European Union; and of course it will also have an effect on the opportunities available to individual Member States, including Hungary. Hungary is not dependent on European Union funding: We stand on our own two feet, our finances are in order, and our economy is growing. This means that we’re capable of pursuing successful economic policy even without European Union funding. But it’s easier to be successful if the European Union’s economic policy and budget also support Hungary’s goals. So achieving this will be the most important task of the upcoming eighteen months. And in the meantime, for many years – or possibly decades – we’ll have to live with a continuously growing pressure of migration towards Europe. This is a question of mathematics. Both Asia and Africa are experiencing such a high increase in population, and Europe such a rapid decrease, that together these two forces are resulting in continuous pressure on the borders of the European Union. Millions of migrants will come or want to come, and protecting Europe – and the security of Europeans – will remain on the agenda. It will be one of the most important issues over the coming ten or twenty years.
Do you think that the European Commission will finally reimburse us for some of the money we’ve spent so far on border defence?
This is also part of the great battle. Interestingly, the European Union has spent money on border defence, but not in the way it should have. In fact they’re spending money on border defence in a way that facilitates the entry of migrants. In reality they’re financing border entry, not border defence. What we needed was for them to support our border guards, police officers and soldiers, the fence and the technical operation of our border barrier, and to cover part of our expenses. Over the next year or two there will be a major debate on whether or not this can be done. Until now the European Union has been led by pro-immigration politicians, who were only prepared to fund border expenditure that tended to facilitate migration. In fact they were trying to legalise illegal immigration. They believe that immigration is a good thing, and they want it to happen. They believe that it is good for Europe and their own countries if migrants arrive from Asia and Africa. They have only one goal: to ensure that the people who come are not illegal migrants, but legal migrants. We say that Europe’s problem of declining population shouldn’t be solved through migration, but through support for families. We held a National Consultation about this in Hungary, in which around 1.3 million people voiced their opinions: 99 per cent of them said that we must overcome our problems through supporting families, and not through immigration. But today on this issue – and in this way of thinking and approach – Hungary is still in a minority. Our camp is growing, but we’re still not in the majority; and so in the years ahead there will be an open battle about border defence funding – on which there will be a separate column in the new, common budget – and what it should be spent on. This battle will be about whether it should be spent on enabling us to help migrants enter the territory of the European Union legally, or on enabling us to properly pay our soldiers and police, and to jointly pay the costs of border security. I’ll be happy to update you regularly on this issue in my upcoming visits here over the next year or two.
Can NGOs be forced out – or forced further out – of European decision-making?
What you’ve just mentioned is another major battle, or battlefield. The main supporting forces for pro-immigration politicians are what we could call civil society organisations – or fake civil society organisations: opaquely organised and financed networks which we call NGOs. In most countries the electorate doesn’t support European policies that assist immigration. So the truth is that these pro-immigration European politicians cannot rely on the support of European citizens, who don’t agree with them. But such politicians can rely on organised pro-immigration groups, that in relation to the entire population are a minority and which represent a minority opinion. And these groups sometimes create the false impression that people in Western European countries generally support immigration. But this is not the case: only a small, organised part of the population is pro-immigration. This minority, however, is extremely aggressive and violent; it is stuffed full of money, and there are international networks behind it, with George Soros being one of the emblematic figures in this. In an attempt to apply pressure on politicians, in Europe they want to create the impression that people in the western half of Europe are awaiting immigrants with open arms. Up to now what EU leaders and pro-immigration politicians have been doing is stuffing them full of money: shamelessly taking large amounts of money from the EU budget and giving it to these organisations which are acting against the will of the majority. We want to put an end to this. So in the upcoming period I’d like European institutions to clearly state that NGOs cannot be given money from the EU budget. If we want to fund civil society organisations, that should be a matter solely for each national government and Member State. It’s unacceptable for organisations operating in Hungary, Poland or France to receive funding from somewhere in Brussels: let the French, the Poles and the Hungarians decide whether they want to fund these organisations, and whether these organisations are useful to the French, Polish or Hungarian national interests. But I believe that it is out of the question for foreign powers to finance them opaquely from European Union money. This must be brought to an end. But this will be an issue over which we shall have to battle in the upcoming period.
After speaking about the EU budget, let’s move on to the Hungarian budget for 2020. Experts from the Hungarian National Bank are also stating that, if in the budget the reserves can be safeguarded, we can see the realisation of a deficit target at the historically low level of 1 per cent.
Well, I have higher ambitions; and I’d like the country to also be more ambitious, and view the current target as just an intermediate point. The National Bank is right: it will indeed be a major achievement if we’re able to achieve the targets included in the 2020 budget, which we’ll be adopting in Parliament this afternoon. But this is not the final goal. We’re now creating a budget that includes a budget deficit of 1 per cent; but a deficit is still a deficit – even if it’s only 1 per cent. So my goal is for Hungary to eventually be able to adopt budgets which do not incur a deficit, and be able to generate sufficient revenue to allow for the normal operation of the country without needing to generate a deficit, which needs to be made up for by taking on credit. So first I’d like us to achieve balance, and then to begin producing more: to achieve economic output that is higher than our spending. And this would mean the beginning of a new era in Hungary’s history, in which we progress from being recipients of credit to providers of credit. So not needing credit from abroad or from our own citizens is not enough: the goal we need to reach is to have so much money that we’re able to provide credit. This is an ambitious target, and perhaps it sounds a little strange to Hungarian ears, but there are many countries around the world that can in part attribute their strength to the fact that they manage their economy and finances well enough for them to lend money to others. And we know from our private lives that it is always better to lend money than to borrow money, because those who lend charge interest, while those who borrow pay interest. I’d like us to move over to the positive side of the ledger.
It has been a long time since that was the case in Hungary, that’s for sure. When he submitted the budget, the Minister of Finance said that it is a budget for families. Now we can see that families occupy a privileged place in the Hungarian budget, and that the Hungarian Defence Force is also receiving an unprecedented level of development funding. Is the goal to strengthen security from two ends at once?
These are indeed two important pillars in the security of Hungarian life: family and our defence capability. Overall, I think that over the past ten years Hungarians have worked extremely hard. I also think that we have done a better job than previous governments. Together these two factors have resulted in us “finding our groove”, as I put it. So now we’re doing what needs to be done. This doesn’t mean that everything is already as it should be, because in several areas around the country there are shortcomings, and these need to be made up. So we can’t sit back and relax. But we’re in the groove, and if we can stay in it, then we’ll achieve fine economic results and we’ll have enough money to support families, and enough money to take care of our own defence. School meals are free, and no children in Hungary are without food, because all those going to kindergarten or school – over 95 per cent of children – receive free food provided by the Hungarian state. From next year we will be making all school textbooks free, so a lack of suitable resources will not be an obstacle to children’s studies, as they’ll be receiving all their textbooks free of charge. Overall, I can state that since 2010 we’ve doubled the amount spent on supporting families, which is a major achievement for the Hungarian people. I also regard the army as important. The army and the issue of national defence has been unfairly pushed into the background. But if one is poor and a government has led the economy to collapse, as the previous socialist government led Hungary to the brink of collapse, then compared with healthcare, social spending, managing government debt and domestic security, external security is usually pushed to the background, and national defence pays the price. Now we’ve finally reached a situation in which we’re able to develop in a balanced way and to think in a balanced way, without needing to cut corners on the spending that creates Hungary’s military defence. If Hungary were to be attacked from two directions at once, we must have the military capacity, equipment, good soldiers and officers with the ability to halt and repel such an attack. So we have a clear strategy on military policy, we have a target, and the required resources have been assigned to it. We know how much we need of what. We know what kind of air force we want and what land forces. We know what kinds of officers we need, and we know what they need to be trained in. We know how many soldiers we need and in what geographical distribution and training structure they need to work in. We know what we want to do with our soldiers when they are past the age for military service. We know how we want to organise the reserve system. We also know how we want to make it clear in the minds of our children that defending one’s homeland is a task in which we must all take part, even though today Hungary has a professional army and not a conscripted one. Everyone needs to have the basic abilities – physical, intellectual and emotional abilities – to be ready to defend their homeland if the need arises. This is also an important factor in raising children, and their ability to assist in this will become one of the National Curriculum’s core elements and tasks. So I believe that our budget can withstand the strongest possible criticism in relation to families and national defence.
Four elements of the Family Protection Action Plan were launched twelve days ago. Reports indicate that there’s an extremely high level of interest in both the childbirth incentive allowance and the car purchase subsidy for large families. Interestingly, yesterday a property expert said that the property market was a little slow in June, because families were waiting for the new measures to be introduced on 1 July, but over the past ten days there has been a marked increase in interest. In light of this, is there any point in launching such an action plan?
Well, we’re Hungarians, and we have the mind for this kind of thing. We’re canny, and we know what to do and when we need to do it. If we need to wait, then we’ll wait. If we need to immediately spend or buy, then we’ll do it immediately. When it comes to economic common sense, Hungarians have their heads screwed on, and in such circumstances they use logic in managing their own actions and those of their families. Many people have indeed waited. Why wouldn’t they? If they’re able to acquire more money after a short wait than if they made a hasty decision, then of course people will tend to wait. We also knew that this would be the case, because it’s not only the people taking advantage of the allowances who are Hungarian, but us too: the ones who designed them. So we know each other quite well, and know exactly how this system works. I think we’ve created an attractive system. Those who join now will find that they’re dealing with people who are willing to help: the people the public need to deal with in government offices and the people in the state treasury who provide loans are people with good intentions. They see their work as a service, and they want to help families. In general, I can say that recent years have resulted in Hungary rediscovering its true spirit, as within Europe Hungary has always been an outstandingly family-centred country. Throughout our history – if one likes reading about such things – it is easy to see that family, homeland and nation have always been linked and have always been very important to Hungarians. It’s no accident that our budget had the highest proportion of family funding in Europe. This is not a political decision, but it stems from the natural Hungarian way of thinking and spirit. The most important things are children and family. This is how we are, and it is this characteristic of ours that is now reflected in the budget. A good economic system and a good budget isn’t one that people wear like a set of borrowed clothes, but one which people feel is their own, one that fits them like their own skin. I’m not claiming that our budget is already like that, but I’ll swear that it’s becoming less and less uncomfortable.
Thank you. You have been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.