Interview with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in the newspaper Passauer Neue Presse [full text in English]
October 20, 2016
Mr Prime Minister, the ceremony held in the Bavarian State Parliament on Monday caused an uproar. Your opponents in Germany call you „Europe’s worst autocrat” and „one of the destroyers of Europe”. In their view, you should not have been given a forum in the State Parliament because by having created this opportunity, those who stand up for freedom, democracy and human rights in Hungary are stabbed in the back.. Do you think you have been misunderstood?
The worst thing that can happen in politics is if someone is getting labeled. It is much better if we let facts speak for themselves. In 1956 the freedom fight in Hungary was fought for the utmost nobel cause. Hundreds of people sacrificed their lives for freedom. When we, Hungarians struggled with hardships, Bavaria extended a helping hand to us. It is only common decency to remember this. In this context, any reproach is petty. The framework the ceremony was held in was dignified. As regards the political side of things: the left is seeking to hunt me down. This reminds me of the times when we started engaging in politics in 1988-89. Europe’s left-wing parties do not forgive me for having beaten their great legend, Gyula Horn in the 1998 election struggle. During Gyula Horn’s regime, they had Hungary down as a left-wing country. Europe’s left wing wanted a left-wing Hungary, but did not get it. They hold me responsible for this, and try to label me as a dangerous person and to isolate me. And it does not matter where I turn up in Europe, they try to create a scandal.
You also have political friends in Germany, for instance, in Horst Seehofer’s CSU who takes the view that we should be grateful to you for securing Europe’s external border with the border fence. Do you expect gratitude?
Gratitude is not a political category. There is a saying in Hungary: if you want gratitude, keep a dog. We, Hungarians value the German style: Germans like rules, and if rules are not observed, that is the worst that can happen. It is worse than not having rules at all in the first place. Hungary, too, shares this view. International law, the Schengen Agreement and the Dublin Regulations are clear: Europe’s external borders must be protected by the respective countries. This is the basis of free movement within Europe. Hungary does nothing but observes the provisions of international and European law. We live in an absurd political world if those who fulfil their obligations are attacked, and those who fail to do so are excused. If the Greeks had protected their external borders, there would be no migrant crisis today. This is the truth – unpleasant, but true.
Berlin circles around Chancellor Angela Merkel believe that you should be grateful to Mrs Merkel because by virtue of the fact that she was prepared to take in the migrants coming from Hungary in Germany, she spared you a great many problems. Are you grateful to Chancellor Merkel for this?
This is not true. I presume that the original records still exist. I told the Chancellor: if she decides to take migrants from Hungary to Germany, we shall naturally thank her for doing so because this reduces the pressure on Hungary. I stressed, however, that I am not asking this, and Hungary is able to resolve the problem on its own. We accept help, but do not ask for it. I told her that she may rely on us protecting the borders of Hungary, and that not a single migrant will arrive in Austria from Hungary. I told her that this could only happen if she would ask for it.. And that is what happened.
What would you have done if Austria and Germany had turned back the refugees at the border?
There are refugee centres in Hungary, we would have transported the migrants there. The problem was that the people who arrived here considered themselves invitees of Germany. They had the impression that Germany is waiting for them, welcoming them.. They cited Angela Merkel, and kept showing her selfies taken with refugees. These people wanted to go to Germany, and did not understand why we, Hungarians are not letting them through. They called us heartless. It would have been pointless to try and explain to a Syrian refugee that there is a Schengen and Dublin regime in Europe. They did not understand the whole thing, and refused to cooperate with the Hungarian authorities. If Germany had not taken them in, we would have taken them to refugee centres with police escort. This would not have been a pleasant scene, we would not have liked it ourselves. We must not, however, give way to anarchy.
In Germany and in many parts of Europe, the prevalent opinion is that Hungary has problems with Muslims. Do we not appreciate the fact enough that your country was for centuries Europe’s front line against the Ottoman Empire?
Hungary has a healthy view about Muslims. We behold Islam as a civilisation. Where there is no civilisation, there is barbarism. Islam civilised a very difficult part of the world. This was a great achievement that is worthy of our respect. However, we also have another experience. The civilisation that stems from Christianity and the civilisation that stems from Islam are not compatible. They cannot mingle, but can only exist side by side. This is the situation in the Middle-East, and also in Europe. Our perceptions of the world are so different that they lead to parallel worlds. This is not a political issue, but the reality of life. And there is another consideration as well: the Muslims undertake to have many children, more than we, Europeans do. We, Europeans place ourselves before everything, including children sometimes. If we take in Muslims in large numbers, it is a simple mathematical question to estimate what the country will look like in 20 years’ time. The political problem lies in the fact that people always live in the present. The scope of political planning is being increasingly reduced to the four or five years of a government’s term. Politicians tend to feel responsible less and less for what will be in 15 to 20 years’ time. In places where Muslims arrive in large numbers, the world will change entirely in 20 years’ time. This change is not taking place instantly, but step by step every year. Do you know how to cook a frog?.
The water is being heated slowly, and at first the frog does not even realise what is happening, but all of a sudden, it is cooked. It is to be feared that we, European Christians will have the same fate – this is my concern. We must take into consideration the future consequences of our present decisions. Thus we have to face the following problem: there are countries in Europe which decided to become immigrant countries. They only see the positive, the socially romantic side of this – they want to become a United States where the many immigrants make a great country. It seems that Germany, too, wishes to be similar to the US, and wants artificially change the composition of its population. The German people see something great, something humanitarian behind this, as an effort to achieve something good. Germany has the right to do this. We, Hungarians, however, see ourselves in a completely different light. We are not a nation of immigrants, and we are not going to be one either. The question is: do we have the right to decide so? I believe that no one can force us to turn ourselves into an immigrant country. The Hungarians do not want this. After all, what matters is what the people want.
Your opponents say that Hungary is happy to take money from the EU, but observing the agreement– for instance, on the re-distribution of refugees – and observing the European values also form part of European solidarity.
First of all, this is a question of honour. If someone decides on a national level to let migrants into their country, the consequences of this decision cannot be distributed among other nations. Berlin is responsible for the consequences of its actions, and cannot delegate the consequences to others via Brussels. National decision, national consequences – international decision, international consequences. Secondly: blaming Hungary for only accepting the money from the EU, is very much hurting our self-esteem because this approach only shows one side of the coin. It is also part of the truth that the EU’s old, prosperous Member States make lots of money in Hungary and off the Hungarian people. Hungarian workers earn less than workers in Germany for the same performance. Forty years of communism meant an enormous competitive disadvantage for us, yet, we opened our markets. In order to be able to endure the burden of the huge capital influx from the other EU member countries we receive money from the EU’s Cohesion Fund so that at least a part of the money be recovered and we could develop our country.The cohesion policy is very reasonable. We are only in the middle of this process. In 10-15 years’ time, we shall be on the same level of advancement, and we shall have a genuine common market. Politically, however, I believe it is rather unfortunate that these funds are now called into question as instead of the common goals contradictions are put in the focus, and additionally, there is not one concluded agreement whereCohesion Funds and asylum policy would be interconttected. Thirdly, I have to be perfectly clear about this: Hungary spends a very large sum of money on the protection of the external European border, by Hungarian standards, at least as much as what Germany spends on refugees. This is a grave financial burden, to which the EU only contributed mere pennies as assistance. At the same time, what Hungary is manifesting is European solidarity, pure and simple, and you are kindly requested to see it in that light. There are countries in Europe which want to live off German money. In the event of problems arising in these countries, the first idea is always to draw on German funds. Hungary is different, we do not want to live off German money. Ee repaid both the IMF and the EU the loans they gave us before their maturity.
In what state do you see Europe? In your speech delivered in the State Parliament you said that Europe does not need reforms, but renewal. What exactly do you mean by this?
The world is changing fast, while Europe keeps navel gazing in perfect calm. We are overtaken by our competitors, for instance, as regards digitalisation. The Americans are miles ahead of us, and the Asians are coming up. The Atlantic era is a thing of the past; we are now on the verge of the Pacific era as four of the five largest national economies are emerging in the Pacific region, and the world trade of the future will be conducted in the Pacific region. Europe is doing too little to be competitive in the future.
What should Europe do?
We are overwhelmed with social problems. We have to reconsider our approach to social market economy, and must return to the views of Ludwig Erhard: the economy should be based again more intensively on work, the production of competitive products representing high technical level. The continued maintenance of the social market economy will lead to the intensified re-distribution of benefits. Europe will not have a future as a benefit-based society.
Do you envisage Hungary finding its future outside the EU?
Hungary’s EU membership is unshakeable. For centuries, we have been stuck amidst three worlds: Europe, the Russians and the Muslims. Hungary isa Christian country with a western mindset. For this reason, our natural place is in Europe, in the world’s most beautiful part. We talk a great deal about Europe’s problems, but Europe is a fantastic continent, with plenty of great things. It is good to belong to this community. Hungary accounts for 0.2% of the world’s population, we are a small country which will always need allies. And our allies are here. We, however, envisage a Europe which does not seclude itself, does not live in an open-air museum , but fosters intensive western and eastern relations.
How should we treat Russia?
We should pursue a policy with which we render the world’s great powers interested in Europe’s success. To this end, we need smart, carefully considered cooperation with Russia, and also Vladimir Putin. This mentality is in the minority in Europe today, I could also say that I am in the opposition in Europe at present. I, however, call this a reform oppostion: we keep arguing, and are confident that we can turn this minority into a majority.
Should we be afraid of Russia’s military power?
Some countries in Europe believe so, including friends of ours, such as Poland and the Baltic States. We must respect their point of view, and must help them to feel safe in a military sense. At the same time, in Hungary we do not feel that Russia poses a threat to our security. This would not make sense, anyway, while Russia does not have the potency to engage in a military conflict with NATO. This is one of the reasons why NATO is important.
What role does Chancellor Angela Merkel play as far as Europe is concerned? Would you welcome her re-election as Chancellor next year?
Your Chancellor has invaluable achievements. We have ten very difficult years behind us. Financial crisis, mass migration, economic decline of the southern countries, a stuck Euro, conflict with Russia in the Ukraine. This has been a very difficult period. Without the Chancellor, Europe would not have been able to give good answers, Europe would have been weaker without her. It does not matter what political dispute we are engaged in at present: this fact must be recognised. German Chancellors always play a key role in European unity. Hungary is lucky in this respect because we have found the common voice with every Chancellor. We respect Helmut Kohl as we respect our own parents, we greatly appreciated Gerhard Schröder, and Angela Merkel, too, enjoys a great deal of respect in Hungary. I wish the Chancellor good luck in the next elections. This is the case even if I would describe my party today – which joined the European People’s Party as the „Hungarian CDU” during Helmut Kohl’s administration – more like the Hungarian CSU.
Who is your candidate in the US elections? Trump or Clinton?
Luckily, the difficult dilemma of choosing between the two is not ours, but that of the citizens of the US. However, the outcome of the elections will have significant consequences for us. We must therefore ask the question; whose foreign policy would favour us more. The current US foreign policy is unfavourable for us for two reasons. First of all: America supports the global migration processes. Instead of working on helping everyone to stay in their own home country , they perceive global population movements as something positive, or at least natural. Therefore, they do not want to stop but manage this migration process. The Democrats and Hillary Clinton are the managers. Secondly: America believes in the exportation of democracy. This sounds good; however, wherever it has been tried, entire regions often became destabilised, the consequences of which are suffering, death and migration. Additionally, often anti-democratic, extremist forces rose to power as a result of the free elections. Believing inthe democracy export is arrogant because it fails to take the cultural structures of the given regions into consideration. But whether you like it or not, it is the culture that determines the political culture. Donald Trump openly states this, while Hillary Clinton defends the policy pursued to date.