Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s doorstep statement before the meeting of the European Council
December 15, 2016, Brussels
Good morning, Prime Minister. We more or less know the Hungarian position – we’ve heard it several times now. Do you think it’s possible to protect Hungarian interests? Everyone says that we can expect quite a fight.
We face two familiar battles. We’re doing well in one of them. This is about the need to protect the European Union’s external borders. Earlier this was taboo, because the council of prime ministers was only prepared to talk about the humanitarian conditions under which refugees could be let in. Since then this has changed. The Germans have also switched horses, and protection of the external borders is now widely acknowledged to be a shared task. So we’re doing fine in that department. It’s true that they aren’t giving us any money, but they’re letting us do our job, and in this world we should be content with that – as little as it is. On the other front, our troops are still fighting. This is because the Hungarians don’t want what the Germans want. Or perhaps I should put it like this: the Hungarians don’t want what the German Chancellor wants. It’s not the Germans who want to distribute migrants who were let in and systematically transported into the EU – most of whom are now obviously economic migrants. I would just add that the documents compiled for today’s meeting show that, if we take a closer look at the migrants who arrived in Italy this year, there are no wars in any of the ten largest countries of origin.
So clearly the focus of attention has shifted towards economic immigrants, or migrants. The Germans, and those who committed the error of letting in huge numbers of them, now want to distribute them among the other states, to give everyone a share of the problem. We don’t like this approach – and it’s not just a question of liking, as 3.3 million people have said that there can be no question of anyone having the power to decide who will live in Hungary, other than Hungary itself. This is the position I’m going to represent here; they can’t break through this wall, and we’ll protect it today, as always. Given that here unanimous decisions are needed – decisions which also require our consent – our strength is therefore greater than our size. And perhaps it’s even greater than our wits. Here we simply need to hold the line – there’s no need to be smart. We must hold the line, persevere, and put up with unpleasant glares and hostile statements – sometimes attacking us openly, and sometimes covertly, with some sort of ulterior motive. We’ve borne this well enough so far, and perhaps this time too we’ll be able to repel the arrows. So we’ll put up a fight here.
And there’s one other issue that’s currently creeping onto the agenda. At the moment no one knows whether there will be some serious exchange on this now, or if we’ll point our bayonets at each other only at some later time. This is their attempt to prohibit our policy of capping charges for household utilities. The European Union has decided not to accept the reduction of household utility charges. This applies not only to Hungary, but also to a handful of other countries which are trying to help their citizens in similar ways. The EU wants to create a rule which would prohibit countries from centrally fixing the energy prices for any group of consumers. This has a great effect on people – the poor more than the well-off. This is a matter of honour, we must persevere on this, and we’ll not yield an inch. We have no way of knowing whether this dispute will intensify; it may well be left for the spring. And there are, of course, our customary issues – such as Ukraine. The Hungarian position is that there must be visa-free travel for Ukrainians. The policy we are currently pursuing on this matter – that, while the Ukrainians have met all the conditions, we still won’t grant them visa-free travel – is morally untenable. And naturally we’ll also talk about the Hungarian proposal – which earlier was universally condemned – that those who are rescued from the sea should not, perhaps, be brought into the EU. They should be taken back to the other side of the sea – to the Libyan coast. In my view we could also make some progress on this issue which could point in the direction of common sense.
Prime Minister, will you exercise your veto on the issue of mandatory quotas – indeed, can you exercise this right? We’ve seen reports in the press that in this instance this right of veto isn’t in fact quite so clear-cut, if the European Union adopts a different approach.
In the council of prime ministers, which we call the European Council, only unanimous decisions can be adopted. And if there is a dissenting voice, and the decision is not unanimous, we can also call this a veto. Here in Brussels there is an overly polite atmosphere, which has little to do with the real world. Over here we’re not supposed to use tough words like “veto”, but we’re allowed to use phrases such as “a lack of unanimity”. I can contribute to a lack of unanimity, in “Brussels-speak”. The European Union, however, has a forum in which this is not the case. They might trick or disregard our council and push it aside. In other words, if – as we’ve seen before – they don’t give the nations the respect that is their due and they exclude them from decision-making, if they bypass us with legislative tricks, there is indeed a path on which I can’t exercise my right of veto.
Do you see any chance of refugee camps being set up outside the EU? How much of a debate do you expect on this?
Earlier this was seen as a proposal which could have come from the Devil himself. All manner of criticism was heaped on anyone who suggested that someone who has been rescued from the sea should be taken back and not brought here. When we said things like this and represented a position like this we were given reproachful looks, at least. Our position is slowly becoming the majority position. I’m not saying that it already is, but I believe that events are moving in this direction. But on this whole refugee issue – or migrant issue – the positions which were once condemned, despised, looked down upon and treated with contempt are becoming jointly-held positions. And people who stand up for these positions are today being welcomed as equal partners.