Interview given by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to Hungarian Television after special meetings of the European Council
2 July 2019, Brussels
Eszter Baraczka: Good afternoon. It’s good that it’s over, isn’t it?
There are some things which are best when they’re finished.
We agree on that. And now we should mainly look to the future, shouldn’t we?
We can talk about anything, and then we’ll see.
Of course we can certainly allow ourselves to say a few words about what happened.
After all that – and this is extremely exciting – we don’t really know what happened, because we’ve been on the outside.
And a good thing too!
I don’t know – it wasn’t too good for us either. Prime Minister, we’ve come to the end of this three-day summit – which I think it’s no exaggeration to describe as a marathon. Talks went on all night, there were several suspensions to the talks, and there were bilateral and multilateral discussions in small groups: “confessions” as they’re called here. But finally we have a result. As very little information from the conference room reached the press, can you tell us what all this was like inside? What was the atmosphere like? Was it very tense?
It was tense, because the stakes were high. After all, we needed to decide something which is important for every Member State: who would lead the institutions of the European Union for the next few years; who these leaders would be, and who would be at the head of our institutions. This will decide a great many things. For instance – looking at this from a Hungarian point of view – the question was whether positions would be given to people who like Hungary, who respect Hungary, who know the history of Central Europe, and who have positive memories of Central Europe. It was about whether they would be people who view migration in the same way that we do – as a danger – and who appreciate the importance of cultural identity and Christian culture. So in taking these decisions on the leaders of the EU, we were also taking a stance on important questions of content. From a Hungarian point of view, we were able to stay true to our initial intention and what we committed to: that the EU’s institutions should be led by people who will pursue policies which are good from Hungary’s point of view – or that there would at least be a good chance of them pursuing good policies. This will not be easy, however. We’re not at the end of this process, but at the beginning: these leaders are only just starting out in their jobs. There are also some voting procedures which still need to be conducted, and we hope that the nominees will survive those; but after that the work will begin. This work is not inconsiderable and it’s not easy, because grave errors have been made over the past few years, and those errors must be corrected. There have been errors in economic policy, in migration policy, and in the level of respect due to nations. Every one of these errors must be corrected, one by one. So we have a nice long list of tasks ahead of us, but today the chances of solving these problems are much better than they were three days ago.
Could you tell us how the name of Ursula von der Leyen – the German defence minister – came up? How much support did she have?
A series of negotiations such as this has tactical elements: what one should say and when; whose name should be mentioned when; and what proposals one should make. There were two candidates who would clearly have been more than bad for Hungary, as they had proved that they don’t respect Hungary, and that they don’t respect the Hungarian people. We succeeded in blocking their nomination. This is good news. And we’ve elected a German mother of seven as head of the Commission. This in itself says much about the fact that change can be expected in Europe.
I don’t know whether you read or heard the words spoken about Ursula von der Leyen’s nomination by Martin Schulz: the former President of the European Parliament, who in that capacity was one of the harshest critics of you and the Fidesz government. He said that this is Viktor Orbán’s victory. What do you have to say about that?
Earlier Martin Schulz wanted to be President of the Commission, but he failed; and so now this is an example of sour grapes.
There were some crisis points during the talks, and many people said that the Visegrád countries’ very tough resolve played a part in the fall of the former candidates and their elimination from the contest. There were quite a lot of news reports about the Visegrád countries, and it was surprising how for each candidate the press reported on the Visegrád countries’ opinion of them. What do you think about that? What’s the secret of the V4? And is their role really as important as it seemed to be to outsiders?
Collectively the Visegrád Four represent over 62 or 63 million people. Their combined volume of trade with the German economy is higher than that of the French or the Italians. The Visegrád Four have the highest rate of economic growth in the European Union. Across the whole of Europe in recent years, the countries with the highest economic growth and the greatest falls in unemployment have all been in the V4. So, even leaving aside these most recent events, the Central European region – the close alliance of the V4 countries – is attracting a great deal of attention, and is seen as a success story. Furthermore, this group of countries is the one with the closest cooperation in the EU. There are other groups which cooperate, but none of them display as much solidarity with one another, and they cannot develop bonds as strong as those which the V4 have created in recent years. And now, when it came to issues of leadership, with a great many divergent interests, we managed to keep the V4 alliance together – even on such difficult issues, and from the beginning right to the end. Credit for this is due to the Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš, who this year is president of the V4.
What kind of future can we expect from the current set of leaders that you’ve nominated and elected? We know that there’s a master agenda, a timetable that you all adopted at the last summit. This features items that from a Hungarian point of view are questionable – or at least one would suppose that they’re questionable. It says, for instance, that there must be reform of the Dublin Regulation. In a previous incarnation this was the “refugee quota”, wasn’t it? So are there more struggles ahead, or are you looking forward to a quieter period?
There will be struggles, there will be differences of opinion, and there will also be disputes; but today the chances of succeeding in these struggles are far better than they were earlier. We’ve scored an important victory; but international politics never ends, it cannot just come to a halt, and so new issues and new disputes are emerging all the time. We Hungarians and Central Europeans have definite and clear interests, and now we also have the strength to assert them. Therefore in the period ahead we will stand up for our interests. What has changed is that today we have a better chance of succeeding than we’ve had at any time up until now.
Thank you very much.
Photo credit: origo.hu