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

Katalin Nagy: The vaccination of children aged between 12 and 15 began this week. Young people are being given Pfizer, while adults can continue to choose the vaccine they want. The situation in Europe is rather interesting. In Germany people in their forties are still queuing up, because they say that there aren’t enough vaccines. To the East, in Romania, it seems that they’ll be selling the vaccines they have, because very few people are registering for vaccination. I welcome Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the studio. So are we well placed in the middle? Are we doing well?

Good morning, and good morning to your listeners. As regards vaccinations, compared with all other countries in the European Union we have an advantage of six to eight weeks, because we procured vaccines sooner, and therefore vaccinated people faster. In relaunching life, too, I think we’re among the first – or at least somewhere at the very top of the rankings. Therefore everyone in Hungary now feels that they can breathe a sigh of relief. I think I’m the only exception to that, because I’m very concerned that there are 3 million people who still haven’t gone to be vaccinated. And if we look at it from this point of view, we’re indeed somewhere between the Germans and the Romanians – as is also true geographically. In Germany people are more inclined to have themselves vaccinated. I’ve spoken to Chancellor Merkel about this, and she’s very hopeful that – unlike Hungary and a few other countries – vaccination fatigue won’t set in at around 50 to 55 per cent. They think that as Germans they’re more disciplined, and so they’ll be able to go above the vaccination level seen in Hungary. In Romania the situation is what it is. Perhaps there’s no need for any comment on that – it’s another world. At the same time, we Hungarians are what we are. As soon as the direct threat recedes, we Hungarians believe that we’ve already seen it off, regardless of my telling them – as I tell them now – that the virus will seek out those who haven’t been vaccinated. The figures – including those for deaths – are looking good now; and while the loss of even a single person is extremely painful, at present far fewer people are dying, the number of new infections is low, and we’re no longer seeing pressure on our hospitals. Yet this is the sort of virus that won’t go away: it will stay with us, it will circulate, and it will seek out those who aren’t vaccinated. This means that in Hungary we have 3 million healthy people who are potential future patients. They think they can’t possibly be infected with this virus, as the pandemic is over; but in fact they’re people waiting for potential infection, and I think that the virus will eventually seek them out. I ask everyone not to be deceived by this beautiful summer atmosphere and the good numbers. Those who haven’t been vaccinated should register and go to be vaccinated.

If we take a look at Britain, we see that indeed the danger hasn’t yet gone away, because while there’s a very high vaccination rate over there, a new variant – the Indian, or Delta variant – has emerged, which is more infectious than the earlier mutations were. They say that they need to be very cautious.

Those who have been vaccinated…

…aren’t in danger.

For them it’s great: they can go on their summer holidays, to football matches, and their lives are full of bliss. According to the information we have at present, those who have been vaccinated are also immune to the other virus variants identified so far. At the moment we’re not expecting – and our experts aren’t predicting – the appearance on the horizon of a variant against which the vaccines used so far provide no protection. So this is the good news. The problem is that there will be ever more variants: mutations which will target the shrinking number of potential patients that we see now in England, where the number of infections is increasing, despite the high vaccination rate. But I could also mention other countries as examples. Listening to this morning’s news, for instance, if I’m not mistaken there’s one country where a lockdown was imposed in the region of the capital city. So I ask everyone to come to terms with the idea that only the vaccine provides protection against the virus. Those who have been vaccinated are immune, but – let me repeat – those who aren’t vaccinated are potential candidates for serious illness.

Parliament has held its final vote in the current session. The anti-paedophile legislation was voted for not only by MPs from government parties, but also by Jobbik and a few independent MPs. By contrast, the majority of the Opposition claimed that this law is anti-gay. And it seems that just one day after the law was passed, the President of the European Commission also voiced concerns about this legislation, claiming that it has turned out to be an anti-gay law. Is it anti-gay?

First of all, let’s concede that on that question it’s the opinion of gays that matters the most. To us it doesn’t appear to be anti-gay, but for some reason they believe it is. I think they should read the law itself; and if they do, the first thing they’ll see is that it doesn’t apply to people over the age of 18. This is a law about the protection of our children. This law doesn’t apply to people who are over 18, and we have no intention of adopting such a law applying to them. There are legal rules in effect which everyone must observe, but this is a free country, and everyone is free to live how they want to. Their orientation, their lifestyle choices and how they see life are their business alone. They are adults. But there must be protection for those who aren’t adults, who are still children, our children – not just in general, but everyone is someone’s child. And this law is about how to protect them. If members of the gay community continue to read through the law, they’ll also see that its starting point is that the sexual education of children – we must prepare our children for adulthood somehow, and every parent knows that we must also educate them in that respect – is to be determined by the parents alone. This right cannot be taken away or taken over by any institution. In Hungary we cannot have a situation in which parents have a certain idea about the correct sexual education of their own children, and suddenly they find that in school their children are being told something else, or something else is happening. This is out of the question. They are their parents’ children, not the school’s, and not the state’s. And while the state and the government of the day have an obligation to protect children, ultimately they are their father’s and mother’s. So they are the ones who decide on their child’s education. This is what the law is based on: it lays down that parents must be given the opportunity to have a real say in these things. The boundaries of sexual education in schools must be drawn very clearly, the rights of parents must be guaranteed, and minors must be protected from accessing content on any platform which is contrary to the educational principles according to which their parents want to raise them. Later they will become adults. I myself could hardly wait. From the age of 17 or 18, who didn’t want to rid themselves of their parents’ ideas on their upbringing? But we had to wait until we reached adulthood. I can only tell young people that they have to wait until the age when they become adults. What’s more, we don’t become adults overnight when we reach the age of 18 – we’ve just reached that age. Of course, at the age of 18 you think that you’ve been an adult for a long time. When I think back to how I was then, I don’t see that at all, but that’s another matter. You must wait until you’re 18, and then these children – by then our adult children – are free to decide what they want to do and how they want to do it. But until then, everyone must respect parental responsibility. Naturally, respecting children doesn’t hurt either, and that’s for the family to decide; but schools and the state must respect the rights of parents.

But obviously Brussels will find a point which gives them the opportunity to launch an infringement procedure against Hungary.

I don’t think they’ll be able to. The debate about the future of the European Union is about to start. A very important question in that debate will be who is to decide on the education of children in the European Union. Hungary is insistent that parents must be the ones to decide on the education of their children.

There was also a final vote on the budget. Parliament has adopted the law on the 2022 budget. Another very important question concerns how we’ll be able to relaunch the economy. But Finance Minister Mihály Varga referred to another crucial aspect: the international competitiveness list. In the past year Hungary has moved up five places. This seems to be a fine achievement, but isn’t the improvement in our competitiveness threatened by Brussels’ goal of introducing a minimum rate of tax across the whole of Europe?

In general, all aspirations that limit or reduce the economy’s flexibility are unsound, and harm competitiveness. Competitiveness is an abstract term, but the following is what it really means. There are countries such as Hungary, with a population of ten million within its present state borders. If in Hungary we only manufactured products – from foodstuffs to industrial products – for ten million people, living standards would be much lower than they are now. Today Hungary generates a large part of its income from being capable of producing foodstuffs and industrial products not only for its ten million Hungarians, but also for others – at a lower price and sometimes higher quality than our competitors. These include the wheat needed for bread, and also vehicles. As a result we’re able to sell these products and make a profit. This is what’s called an export-oriented country. We make a living from the fact that, compared with other competing countries of origin around the world, we’re able to manufacture products of higher quality more cheaply, faster, on schedule and more reliably. And everything that reduces our ability in this – for example, the high taxes that Brussels now wants to impose on us and which we oppose – compromises our competitiveness. We won’t be able to sell our products, because they’ll become more expensive. If we can’t sell our products, we’ll have less money and our living standards will fall. This is fairly logical and simple. Therefore it’s in Hungary’s national interest to reject tax regulations forced on us from outside. My second point is that the starting point of our current economic growth, of the promising future that lies ahead of us, is the tax system that makes Hungary competitive. Any change in this tax system, any increase in taxes, would lead to a fall in living standards in Hungary – either immediately or indirectly in the medium term. For the Hungarian economic system tax increases are a poison.

Won’t it be a problem that both this year and next year the budget deficit will be higher than 3 per cent?

Naturally it’s a problem, because it would be best if we could raise so much money that – despite our low taxes – budget revenue was higher than spending, and there was a surplus rather than a deficit. In that case we’d have to decide on how to spend that surplus and, instead of borrowing, we could lend money to others and collect interest on it – because interest is good when one’s collecting it rather than paying it. It would be good, because then we could be lenders. At the moment Hungary still isn’t quite there yet – the past decade hasn’t been enough for that. But my goal remains the same: I’d like to help Hungary reach the point at which we’re not borrowers, but lenders. Therefore it would be nice if the deficit was zero – or if we had a budget surplus – and national debt could also be somewhere near zero. But this isn’t realistic in the next year or two. Furthermore, we’ve also been struck by a global pandemic, which has taken its toll on our people: on individuals, on families, on businesses, on rural and urban communities. At present we’re in the difficult position of needing to restore the buoyant, promising and prosperous character of our earlier lives. This hasn’t been characteristic of the past sixteen months. Therefore in Hungary at present a big debate is in progress: on one side are liberal economists and the left-wing opposition, while on the other side are conservative economists and the governing parties. Liberal economists say that this is the moment when the national debt must be rapidly reduced and reserves must be built up for more difficult times ahead. There’s some logic to that. Nevertheless I don’t share that view, because I believe that we must use the coming year – I’m also talking about 2022 – to strengthen both the country and families. Now is not the time to accumulate reserves; now is the time to give back the next weekly instalment – the second weekly instalment – of the thirteenth month’s pension. Now is the time to introduce tax exemption for young working people. Now – if economic growth reaches 5.5 per cent, if we manage to raise our growth to that level – is the time to give back taxes which have been paid, and so on. Now is the time to come to an agreement with businesses about the conditions under which they’d be able to pay a minimum wage of 200,000 forints. In my opinion, now isn’t the time to build up reserves; it’s a period of recovery. It’s true that meanwhile the national debt must be reduced to some extent, that we must return it to a downward path, but this isn’t the time for a drastic reduction in it. The budget that we’ve adopted embodies the thinking of conservative economists and the governing parties, not that of liberal economists and the left-wing opposition. I believe that it offers the right solution, and so I voted for it myself.

The consultation will also include the questions you’ve just mentioned, won’t it? For a long time Fidesz, the Fidesz government, has said that it’s not enough to seek points of understanding with the electorate every four years, but from time to time these points of understanding must be redefined. Is there any new issue or source of threat that makes this particularly topical?

In general it’s true, and I agree with what you’ve said, that in a cohesive society – and Hungarian society is a cohesive society – we must seek opportunities to involve people in debating and deciding on as many issues as possible. This is true in general. In addition to this, we’re now in an unusual situation, because there appears to be a general belief – naturally, the consultation will reveal whether or not this is the case, but at any rate I believe it’s in the air – that life won’t return to how it was before simply because the pandemic has ended. It’s true that we’ve conquered the virus, the country performed fantastically, we’ve curbed the third wave, and the prospects of a fourth wave have been drastically reduced. All of this is true, but it doesn’t therefore follow that everything will continue the way it was before the crisis. There will undoubtedly be change, because this pandemic shook the world, it created a sense of danger and forced people to look into the future for the potential emergence of further similar shocks. Well, if we must think about a future which is different from how we lived before the pandemic, important changes will have to take place; for instance, security will have to be given higher priority, new challenges will emerge, and we’ll have to strengthen the country. If a community is in such a situation, then it’s especially important to collectively identify some basic issues and common goals for this new or changed life after the pandemic. So this national consultation will be especially important, because we must agree on the goals, and we must come to an agreement on what supporting pillars will enable us to structure our lives after the pandemic. This applies to migration, this applies to our defence operation against the pandemic, and this applies to our economic system. It will be an exciting consultation.

Another danger is emerging. We could say that migration hasn’t changed much over the past five or six years, but the proposal for introduction of mandatory quotas in the European Union has been tabled again in Brussels. Was the issue of migration on the agenda at the NATO summit? Was there discussion of the fact that it would be important to stop people without identity papers arriving at the external borders of the European Union in the hope of a better life?

First let me answer your question about migration, and then the one about NATO. Next week in Brussels there will be another summit of prime ministers. Two main issues will be on the agenda, one of which has been tabled by the Southern states. Migration pressure has increased dramatically. We ourselves are experiencing this on land, but the pressure is much greater at sea. Therefore there emerged the idea that the migrants let in by the Southern states should be resettled in the other countries. So far Hungary has been rock solid in its opposition to this form of “welcoming culture”, as part of which people pretend to be happy about migration. No: migration is bad ; the basic precept of migration is bad. Your programme isn’t about philosophy, but let me just briefly say that it was not without reason that God put us where we were born, and conferred on us the duty of trying to make a life for ourselves in the place where we were born, live at that point in the world and try to make it liveable, happy and carefree. And if for any reason we must leave that place, that in itself isn’t something good, but something bad. So migration is by definition something bad, because it’s about being unable to make a life for oneself in the place where one was born. For this reason, we’ve never looked on migration as some sort of blessing. There are some who believe that it’s splendid for people to migrate here and there, all over the world. Our view is that this isn’t the way for people to live safe and carefree lives in conditions suited to their culture. Therefore as a matter of principle we do not support migration. It’s true that when people are being killed, when cities are in flames, when famine breaks out or people are subject to oppression, they are forced to flee that place. These things happen, and migration cannot be eradicated. But even in such situations, the goal is not to bring them here to Europe and give them new lives: the goal is to enable them to return as soon as possible, and to bring an end to the strife in their countries as soon as possible. The European Union must play a role in this. We must go to the places where there is strife and, when we have military forces – which today we don’t have – restore order. We must consolidate the situation and help people to rebuild their settlements so that economic life can restart and everyone can return to where they were born, because that’s where they can live truly full lives. This is how we see things. The European Union is committed to different ideas. So there will be a major debate about this next week. The other major debate will be about the costs of climate protection, as there’s a proposal on the table which says that we should impose a tax on car owners and homeowners: it says we should impose a climate tax on them, and from that we should somehow reduce the extent of damage to the environment. We think that the costs of climate protection should not be paid by Hungarian families, but by those who are destroying our climate. As regards NATO, we’ve adopted a joint strategy up to 2030. In that document the key phrase is the enhancement of national resilience capabilities. This is what we’ll have to achieve. This has a military pillar and an anti-migration pillar. Now the two will merge. If we look at this from Hungary’s point of view, we see that we have four lines of defence against migration. There are four points at which we’re able to stop migration. One is to the East, in Afghanistan; and another is to the South, in Mali. Those are the places where large masses arrive, masses that should first be stopped there. Therefore it’s not good for us if there’s chaos in Afghanistan or if there are conditions like those we see in Mali at present; because then migrants will rush through these countries. Migrants come from there and also migrate through these countries, and then arrive at the next line of defence, which is the Mediterranean and Turkey. This is defence line number two. If they get past that, we have a third defence line at the southern borders of Serbia. This is why we must forge a strategic alliance with the Serbs and jointly stop migration heading for the interior of Europe as soon as it has reached Serbia’s southern borders. And we also have a fourth line of defence: the Serbian-Hungarian border, where we must halt the masses of migrants with our fence.

These are the four lines of defence, this is how it’s staked out.

The reason we agreed to play a part in Afghanistan as part of an international military mission is that we wanted to defend ourselves. It wasn’t just that we were taking part in a joint NATO mission, but that we were also protecting our own interests. The Czechs, Poles and other Central Europeans have a military presence in Mali – not because they don’t have anything better to do, but because they know precisely that migration heading north from the interior of Africa must be stopped somewhere; and the French, who are strong enough, have designated Mali for that purpose. Central European countries were free to join that mission. We’re not yet participating in it. Right now the whole place is in chaos and we don’t even know what the future of that line of defence will be; but we’re continuously exploring the possibility of military involvement, because there we’d be defending Hungary. For us this isn’t just some foreign adventure, and we don’t just turn up in remote parts of the world without authorisation. Instead we’re protecting our Hungarian national interests, which is especially understandable from the viewpoint of migration.

Thank you. You’ve been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.