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Mar 03, 2019 - Zoltán Kovács

PM Orbán in Welt am Sonntag: ‘Immigration is the sole cause of the strain in relations’ within the EU

And “we insist on the right of nation states to defend themselves. Germans have a different philosophy,” Prime Minister Orbán added.

In an interview with German weekly Welt am Sonntag, Prime Minister Orbán touched upon a wide array of topics, including migration, relations between Hungary and Germany, the upcoming EP elections, Spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber, judicial reform, Fidesz’s place in the European People’s Party and – yes – illiberal democracy. Here’s a quick summary and some highlights.

In an interview published this morning in German weekly Welt am Sonntag, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán didn’t mince words on the issue of immigration and its divisiveness in the EU (read a complete English-language transcript of the interview here).

On the current state of play between Hungary and Germany, the prime minister said that relations between the two countries are “excellent: economic cooperation is excellent; cultural cooperation is excellent; tourism also; and empathy at a societal level is very strong.”

“The fracturing of political relations was solely due to immigration,” he added.

“We insist on the right of nation states to defend themselves. Germans have a different philosophy,” PM Orbán said.

According to Prime Minister Orbán, the EU needs a new mechanism to make it easier for us to live together with differing views. “Responsibility for the general issues raised by migration should therefore be taken away from the Commission and entrusted to a separate council formed by the interior ministers of the relevant countries,” he proposed. This way, the ministers of the Schengen Area could “decide on issues affecting the entire Schengen Area in a manner that is typical of specialists, rather than politicians.”

“We are in the EPP and we’re staying there. There is no Plan B,” PM Orbán said about the rumors around the potential exclusion of Fidesz from the European People’s Party. “Helmut Kohl invited us to join the EPP. We considered that an honour then, and we still do now. Our goal was to strengthen the party, and the same is true now,” Orbán said, adding that we’re witnessing the European Left’s attack on Fidesz, with the aim of destabilizing the whole EPP.

“And if Fidesz didn’t exist, they’d be attacking someone else; the Left always attacks someone – if not us, then the Italians, and then the Austrians will be next in line,” he said.

On the upcoming European Parliamentary elections Prime Minister Orbán said that while in Western Europe, the EPP’s main message is that Manfred Weber, the bloc’s nominee for the position of Commission President, will continue Jean-Claude Juncker’s work. But employing the same tactic in Central Europe, he said, is “political suicide.” Mr. Juncker commands hardly any respect here in the region, he added.

“If the EPP wants to win in Central Europe, you have to say: ‘Mr. Juncker is the past, but Mr. Weber is the future,’” the PM said.

Responding to a question about illiberal democracy, Prime Minister Orbán said that over the last few decades, liberals made the whole of Europe believe that a democracy can only be liberal. “When non-liberal parties win an election, the end of democracy is immediately announced,” PM Orbán said, adding that if we are unable to resist liberal expressions and concepts, it will put an end to Christian democracy, too.

When the Die Welt reporter raised concerns over Hungary’s new administrative court system and hinted that judicial freedom might be in danger, the prime minister reminded that the law is almost the word-by-word translation of the Austrian legislation. “This is why I think that the Hungarian judicial system is compliant with European standards,” he said.

Other highlights from the interview:

On Manfred Weber: "Our candidate is a great man, and I think that it will be good for Europe for a Bavarian to lead the Commission. Mr. Weber’s candidacy is one of the bravest political undertakings that I’ve ever seen. The presidents of the Commission have mostly been former government ministers in their own countries – and sometimes prime ministers. Mr. Weber would be the first exception to this rule, but in Europe that’s not enough to win an election."

On his relationship with EC President Jean-Claude Juncker: “Jean-Claude Juncker is an amiable person – so amiable that one can forgive even his silliest and most idiotic gestures. I am a street fighter, but there’s no personal animosity between Mr. Juncker and me."

“At the same time, I don’t like his views – and especially his closeness to socialist economic policies and his support for immigration. His attempt to expel us from the European People’s Party was a personal act of disloyalty.”

On anti-Semitism in Hungary and Europe: “In the past, anti-Semitism existed on the Christian right in Hungary also, but we have rolled it back. Nowadays anti-Semitism has a new character: hostility against Jews and Israel is now being brought into our societies by migration. This is why anti-Semitism in Western Europe is now on the rise, while in Central Europe it continues to decline. So far Europe has formulated no concept for how to combat this, although it should do so.”

On anti-Semitism and the campaign against Soros: “I can’t do anything about the fact that George Soros is a Hungarian of Jewish origin: that is solely a matter for the Good Lord. But in Hungary, it is Soros who embodies the worst face of globalism. On one side there is Hungary, represented by its elected leaders. On the other side there are the international civil society organisations, elected by no one and financed by George Soros: NGOs that want us to pursue a different kind of migration policy. From our point of view, what we’re doing is not a campaign, but normal behaviour."

On the place of Fidesz in the EPP: “We Hungarians see ourselves as the CSU [Christian Social Union in Bavaria] of the EPP.”

On the migration crisis that reached its peak in 2015: “Everything we have experienced since 2015 will happen again in an even stronger form.”

On the German chancellor: “At the moment the dominant feeling aroused by Mrs. Merkel’s departure is one of great loss."

Read a transcript of the entire interview here in English.