Interview with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on the Transylvanian Hungarian Television programme “Taking Stock”
December 9, 2016, Szatmárnémeti (Satu Mare)
Good morning, Prime Minister. Allow me to welcome you to Szatmárnémeti.
Good morning, I’m pleased to be here.
A week ago, at the meeting of the Hungarian Standing Conference, you said that you see the unification of the nation as the greatest achievement of the past six years. How do you think Hungarians in Transylvania will be able to benefit from this?
I believe that Hungarians in the kin state and those living beyond the current borders are closer to each other than they were six years ago. They’re closer to each other in spirit, they’re closer to each other in culture, and they’re closer to each other in terms of economic relations. The natural fabric that once united the Hungarian communities in the Carpathian Basin, and who now live in the territories of different states, is coming into being once again. Soon we will be able to speak of a single Hungarian community in the Carpathian Basin, regardless of state borders, which has its own language, which has its own culture, its own economy and its own network of relations; a community in which the constituent individuals and families are aware of their belonging to the same community, and who see each other as compatriots. I think this is something which was vigorously blocked over the last forty or fifty years, particularly under communism, while in the liberal era of the nineteen-nineties it wasn’t considered a natural impulse. In 2010 a national turnaround occurred, an era of national governance began, and everything that I have just mentioned is the positive outcome of this.
In recent years we have seen the rights of Hungarians living in Transylvania being infringed, and Hungarian leaders being harassed through methods reminiscent of the communist dictatorship. For instance, Transylvania’s most successful community leaders have been prohibited from doing their jobs. What do you think is behind this, Prime Minister, and how do you think this problem could be resolved?
There is, of course, an underlying situation: part of the Hungarian nation lives in the successor states of the old Hungarian territories: in territories which now belong to successor states. Therefore the relationship linking this Hungarian community to the majority populations in the successor states is subject to fluctuation. There are periods when cooperation is good, when there are majority governments in office which see coexistence and cooperation with the Hungarians living in their territories as an opportunity and an asset; and there are other governments which tend to see this as more of a threat, and look upon the Hungarians as the enemy. This is something which is changeable – it has always been so, and most probably will always be so. What we can achieve is that majority governments motivated and inspired by a desire to cooperate should be able to cooperate well with the Hungarian communities over extended periods. But in an environment like this it is almost impossible to eliminate anti-Hungarian sentiment or the possibility of it, as history has programmed it into us, or into the situation. At the moment we see divergent tendencies, because there are successor states where the Hungarian communities living in their territories are enjoying the kinds of opportunities they’ve never had before. I don’t want to mention countries at the opposite end of the spectrum, but in Serbia, for instance, the situation of the Hungarians today is far easier than it has ever been, and their prospects for growth are wider and higher than they were ever allowed to be in the past. By contrast, in Transylvania we see a deterioration, we see a deterioration in Romania. And we find it hard to distinguish efforts in Romania aimed at the restoration of legality from political actions motivated by anti-Hungarian sentiment. This is not what we in Budapest are saying, as usually we only observe tendencies. This is what the Hungarians living here say. This word or statement and this thought is relevant because this is how the Hungarians living here are experiencing what is happening to them. In Budapest our duty is to see this the way it is seen by the Hungarians living here – and therefore we, too, are concerned about these phenomena.
The Csíksomlyó Pilgrimage is an act of worship for almost half a million Hungarians every year. You are certainly aware that the Romanian State Secretary for Culture prevented the pilgrimage from being added to the list of protected cultural world heritage sites. What is the position of the Hungarian government on this?
I think that lack of generosity is an ugly human quality. But when it comes to opposing a Christian tradition that teaches us to look upon each other in a fraternal manner, the fault is compounded.
Prime Minister, in relation to the general election on 11 December you said that we are on the threshold of a decisive vote. What do you think is at stake for the Hungarians in Transylvania in this election? What would be the right outcome?
There is a danger. The danger is that the Hungarians are left outside the Parliament in Bucharest. There have been major debates about this over the last twenty years, but never before has there been a majority for the position that the best interests of the Hungarians are served by having representation in Bucharest. I think that it would be a big mistake to be excluded from the Romanian legislature, as those who do not stand up for themselves will be ignored by the majority – if not trodden upon. I believe that if the Hungarians want a decent life here which is based on the respect they deserve, and if they expect the Romanians to give them what they deserve in terms of respect, appreciation and rights, they – that is, we Hungarians – must stand up for ourselves. If we don’t stand up for ourselves we’ll be ignored, and if we’re not present in the Parliament in Bucharest, the only message it will send to the Romanians here is that the Hungarians are no longer even standing up for themselves, and so there’s not even as much need to bother with them now as there was in the past. The worst policy imaginable would be to show weakness and to sink into insignificance. But the Hungarians will only be represented in the Bucharest legislature if the Hungarian people go out and vote, and give a mandate to the Hungarian political forces which have united to represent their interests and to make their voices heard. Therefore the stakes in the upcoming election could not be more closely linked to the survival of the Hungarians in Transylvania and the Partium.
Thank you for the interview Prime Minister.
Thank you for this opportunity.