Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Kossuth Radio’s “180 Minutes” programme
21 July 2017
Éva Kocsis: We have Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in the studio. Good morning.
Good morning to you and the listeners.
The Prime Minister of Israel has just been here in Hungary for some days. At the Mazsihisz event, he did not respond to the criticisms raised by the President of Mazsihisz [The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities]. After that everyone was keenly interested to know whether in his private meetings the Israeli prime minister would be as reticent as he was then on the situation in Hungary related to the posters and billboards about George Soros.
Everything that the Israeli Prime Minister wanted to say was said by him in public. He doesn’t need me to supplement what he has to say. A person says something when they respond to something, and they also say something when they don’t respond.
But was he as good-humoured throughout his time here as he was, say, at the Mazsihisz event?
Something of great significance has happened, so there’s no point in forcing the visit into the normal pigeonhole marked “getting on well with each other”. There is no denying that the relationship between Israel’s ruling party and us goes back a long time – more than ten years. I shall not go into all that right now, because it’s not the point here. The point here is that ever since the foundation of the State of Israel, a prime minister of the Jewish state had not made an official visit to Hungary. This was the first time ever. So I think that the meeting is worth looking at from this perspective, and therefore the overused term “historic” is for once not inappropriate here. It is also significant that, while it has been made clear that no anti-Semitic statement, policy or tendency anywhere in the world will be accepted by the State of Israel, and that Israel will always take action against such things, the Israeli prime minister did not come here for any reason such as that, but to discuss the future. He sought opportunities for cooperation with Hungary in the decades ahead which are based on mutual interests. The meeting focused on the future, and in that sense we found the key to the door.
We shall talk about specific agreements in a minute. You emphasised that the Hungarian state was guilty with regard to the deportation of Jews. Wasn’t this already obvious? Why did you emphasise it now? Was this said to satisfy diplomatic protocol?
I didn’t emphasise anything at all, because this is an obvious fact that we all know. Generally speaking, why did the meeting take place now? Because of the V4 [Visegrád Group]?
Without doubt The V4 summit was a good opportunity, but the first event in the visit was an official meeting between representatives of the states of Hungary and Israel. So I think that the meeting would have taken place regardless of the V4 summit. But it seems I should talk about the past, after all. I know the Prime Minister of Israel well. And although every categorisation is an oversimplification, it is not easy to precisely describe a complicated world – and so I ask you and the listeners to forgive me for the following. In the world today there are basically two types of leader: there are the globalists and the patriots. And it is beyond question that the current Prime Minister of the State of Israel is a member of the club of patriots. I have experienced this quite a few times over the long time we have known each other: he is a tough man, just as life in the State of Israel is not easy, and just as the country itself is tough. But we’re not ballet dancers either, so we speak the same language.
There was a joint business forum, a Hungarian-Israeli business forum. Were any specific agreements concluded?
I met a number of directors from Israeli companies operating in Hungary. Some of these companies are relatively unknown to us, but they are among the best in the world. For example, there is an Israeli hi-tech company in Hungary developing navigation systems and employing hundreds of development engineers, and its Israeli owners have the highest regard for the work of the Hungarian engineers and developers. In this IT sector, in this hi-tech industry, perhaps it’s an exaggeration to say that Hungary is seen as a gold mine, but it’s recognised as a country with a wealth of talent, its younger generations of engineers understand the modern world and can compete with anyone in the world. So specific agreements were made between businesspeople and not between heads of government. The Prime Minister – to whom I made several suggestions – said that he is someone who doesn’t really favour setting up such funds or other such bureaucratic mechanisms for the economy, because that leads to bureaucracy, rather than business. The essence of the economy is business. We talked about the need for a great deal of money in order to support specific programmes, cooperation, investment and development. This would not be for bureaucracy, however, but specifically to support programmes. He made a generous offer, which the other three Central European prime ministers and I accepted. This centres on the fact that we can regard Israel as a world power in the hi-tech industry, or at least among the best in this whole realm of startup businesses – a term which is becoming the norm in the Hungarian language. Anyway, we agreed on a cooperation scheme in this “start from scratch” area of enterprise, in which people say “let’s imagine new business areas”. Within this cooperation programme Israeli companies will receive Hungarian engineers, university students and developers who are planning to work in the industry. Through this programme these Hungarians will also gain access to cutting-edge Israeli technologies.
An anti-terrorist working group has been set up. We know that this has been agreed, but what is the goal, and who are its members? What will its tasks be?
Acts of terrorism are taking place in many parts of the world, and are an everyday occurrence in the Middle East. This is one of the major problems for the State of Israel. And now that we have let millions of migrants into Europe – or the leaders of certain states have transported them in – acts of terrorism are taking place in Europe. Fortunately these are not yet a daily phenomenon, but they are a recurring phenomenon. These terrorist acts – in the Middle East and in Europe – sometimes have organisational and personal links with each other. It is therefore reasonable for the Visegrád countries and the State of Israel – indeed the whole of Europe and the State of Israel – to develop cooperation in combatting terrorism. We have set up a working group for this purpose, and our intelligence services and counter-terrorism units will work together in the future.
Let’s consider what has happened in the past few months, the US president’s visit to Warsaw before going to Western Europe, and the increased importance of the Three Seas Initiative, which has grown in the public’s consciousness. Let’s consider the Egyptian president, the Turkish president, the V4 meetings, and now the V4’s talks with the Israeli prime minister. Considering all this, someone could justifiably ask whether this form of cooperation is a show of power intended to be seen by Western Europe.
It is not a show of power, it is power, and it is not for Western Europe, but for Central Europeans – Hungarian citizens included. The governments, the Hungarian government and the prime ministers have a job to do – and my job is to protect the Hungarian people. Since the threat comes from outside, Hungary needs partners to do this. I seek them, seek them out, and come to agreements with them. You’re right in saying that Hungary has been involved in three diplomatic initiatives linked to this logic; that is true, and so I took part in negotiations in all three situations. I had talks with the Turkish president in Ankara, and I had talks in Budapest with the Egyptian president and then with the Prime Minister of Israel. These are key countries for the European Union. If these countries cannot counter acts of terrorism in the Middle East which lead to illegal migration, if Turkey does not hold back the migrants, if the one hundred million people in Egypt for some reason suddenly decide to move because they no longer see any sense in staying in their homeland, and if Israel does not regularly use military force against the militant terrorist groups, then ever more migration waves will set off for Europe. And this will also affect Hungary and the Hungarian people. You could say that I have had talks with these people in order to build up Hungary’s external line of defence. I think I have concluded good agreements, and through diplomacy I have now added what can be added to the security of Hungary from the outside.
The V4 countries also wrote a letter to the Italians, in which they offered assistance. Do you seriously think that your ideas and plans will be taken on board by the Italians, after they have so heavily criticized the plans for managing the Hungarian migration situation?
The Italians have two options: either they accept help or they shut up shop. Not just help from us, but from everyone else. Italy is in serious trouble. If things continue like this, the whole country will be destabilised. They are unable or unwilling to contain illegal immigration, while the Austrians and the Germans have had enough of the situation. They will close their borders. Whatever the EU does, whatever the bureaucrats in Brussels think, they cannot override the will of the Austrian and the German peoples, who do not want illegal immigrants entering their countries. There is one way to ensure this, there is only one way for them to achieve this: to close the border with Italy. And if the Italians do not do something – for example, accept assistance from Central Europeans and other states – their northern borders will be closed and the migrants will stay there in Italy. This spells an uncertain future for Italy, full of problems, torment and suffering. We do not want to see Italy go through this, as it is one of the most important cradles of European culture, and we admire and respect it. At the same time, it is also a key country in the Mediterranean region. So we need an Italy that is strong and stable. It is a fact that there are still politicians in Italy who are pressing for the migrant redistribution quota scheme – which has clearly failed – and who want to reduce their problems by loading one or two sacks of them onto our backs and spreading the problems around Europe. This is a sign of blinkered thinking, and their intentions are not good at all. But this is not a solution to their situation, and they know it too: it looks good in newspaper headlines, but it doesn’t get us closer to reality and a solution to the problem. They must do something else. There is also another initiative in Italy, because there are also clear-headed politicians there. The German and Italian interior ministers – who are members of the People’s Party, the family of conservative parties – have repeatedly made the joint proposal that the migration flow should be stopped in Libya. Linked to this is the letter from the V4 countries, because in Italy and Germany there are debates about whether their interior ministers’ proposal is a good one, and the V4 countries have sought to engage in these current debates in Germany and Italy by expressing their intention to contribute to such a military and policing campaign with funding, personnel, technology and know-how. We Central Europeans have succeeded in stopping the flow of migrants – which everyone had previously said was unstoppable. We Hungarians, in particular, have proved that the flow can be stopped. We are ready to provide assistance and know-how to Italy and Germany, and together we should go to Libya to stop the migrant flow. This is what our letter is about, and this is a serious offer
The Italians want to solve the problem, but neither France, nor Spain – which favours migrant redistribution quotas – have allowed migrants to be transported to their territories. Meanwhile, once again we’re talking about helping to resolve the situation in Libya. What on earth is being done by Frontex: this new, reinforced and re-equipped border policing agency, deployed at who knows what cost, the strengthening of which has been declared by European politicians a thousand times over? Will they resolve this situation? Where are they?
They haven’t solved the problem so far. This is an interesting question, which future scholars will answer, but we haven’t got time for it now. We must stop the migrant flow now, tomorrow morning, not focus on who says what in Brussels, what bureaucratic, ivory-tower proposals they devise, what statements they make, or how well they play the role of being the most humanitarian of leaders. Meanwhile, however, their policies are leading to hundreds of people drowning, and incoming migrants bringing to Europe an increased threat of terrorism and increasing crime. There is a clear link between migration and deteriorating public security. Having spoken about the Israeli prime minister, we can see an obvious link between the transportation of migrants into Europe and the rise of anti-Semitism in our continent. Who could want all this? So we have no time to wait for Frontex, or for solutions from Europe. I can tell everyone about the Hungarian experience: when the migrant flow started in the Balkans, in Brussels at the summit of heads of government they said that there would be a European solution. So then the Hungarian government decided to wait three months, and see whether there would indeed be a European solution; and if there wasn’t, we would solve the problem ourselves. Because we would not accept sermons from Europe and Brussels about solutions, while here we were the ones suffering from the effects of migration. After three months there was no European solution of any kind, and so Hungary closed its borders, amended its legislation as necessary, built the border fence, and stopped the flow of migrants. This is the approach I recommend to everyone: they shouldn’t wait for Brussels – protecting the borders is a national task. A country which is unable to protect its borders is no country at all. A nation which is unable to protect its interests is no nation at all; and even if it still exists, it will in time disappear.
Is this an ultimatum?
No, it’s not an ultimatum. It’s reality.
I only ask because the people you’ve criticised, the ones whom we have no time to wait for, are the decision-makers in Europe, and…
They’re not the decision-makers because we are the decision-makers. Also in Hungary…
For instance, decision-makers in Italy don’t share this view.
Yes, but in Hungary we do. Every nation has the capacity to act. Those who wait for Brussels deserve their fate. Central Europe realises that there are things which we can solve well together in Brussels, and there are other things which we can’t. This is why we must develop a rational division of tasks between Brussels and the nation states. For instance, the migrant issue cannot be solved from Brussels. The flow can’t be stopped from Brussels, and it’s likewise impossible to pursue sound migrant policy from Brussels. That falls within the competence of the nation states: it always has done, and it must not be transferred to Brussels. We have no need of a common European refugee policy, and we have no need of a common European refugee agency, as that will only lead to chaos, trouble and suffering on Europe’s external borders. There would be chaos, trouble and suffering here, too, in Hungary. If I had waited for Brussels, Hungary would be in the same situation as Italy is in now.
Everyone keeps referring to Libya, and for some time have also spoken about Libya, and the need to solve the situation there. But so far no one’s been able to explain what this really means in practical terms. Libya is a fractured country, riven by tribal and ethnic conflict, terrorist attacks and internal strife. The people smugglers are very grateful for all this, they’re alive and well, but in this situation the European Union has managed to achieve next to nothing.
But it has succeeded in supporting organisations called NGOs, which collude, which collaborate, with the people smugglers. This...
I think you’re using the word “succeeded” in inverted commas.
And we should also add that one of Libya’s governments – because there’s more than one –wants nothing to do with assistance from the European Union. So what is the answer to this sixty-four thousand-dollar question?
I don’t want to go into details now, but military operations will need to be carried out there. And the essence of military operations is that they’re not discussed in radio interviews: they must be organised, and an action plan must be prepared and carried out.
Let’s talk a little about NGOs. Could there be a solution here? The Italian government would like to introduce rather stringent regulations. In effect, anyone who does not declare where their funding comes from, who does not install soldiers on their vessels and does not know who’s on board, will not take the migrants they’ve picked up to Italy. These are just a few conditions, but could the country’s ports be closed to these people?
The first thing we must do is what we’re also doing in Hungary. NGOs are transporting migrants into Europe against the will of the majority of the Hungarian people and the European people. They want to give the impression that they are the good guys – and indeed they see themselves as the good guys – while we, who want to stop migrants, are the bad guys. We must make it clear that this is not so. NGOs are mercenaries: they’re paid from outside, they receive their pay from abroad, they’re paid activists. This fact must be revealed to the public, so that the Hungarian people and the European people can see who’s on the good side of the issue – who it is that is following the will of the people and is a democrat – and who’s on the bad side of the issue. Those who want to loosen the fabric of European culture and want a mixed population are serving a bad cause, and are acting against the will of the majority of Europeans and Hungarians. As such, they are anti-democrats. NGOs are anti-democratic, endanger Hungary’s national security, and seek to harm the Hungarian people. This must be made clear. In every struggle the very first thing we must do is make clear who’s who. Hungary is doing just this through a law on screening and transparency.
We have recently seen the leaders of the Member States at each other’s throats. At times Austria attacks one country or another – sometimes Italy, sometimes Hungary – and then there are the external countries, such as Turkey. So in effect everyone has been at everyone else’s throats. In fact, what is the greater danger for Europe: migrants coming here, or the heads of state and government quarrelling with each other?
As far as Hungary’s concerned, we haven’t been at anyone’s throat, and as far as I can see…
But we have. How many infringement procedures and criticisms is Hungary being subjected to now?
Yes, but that’s not what you’re talking about – that’s revenge. The fact is that Hungary is doing its job, it’s protecting its borders, it’s protecting its citizens, and meanwhile Brussels bureaucrats want to take revenge on the country. They’re playing the tune composed by George Soros. There is a Soros plan – let’s talk about that, too. So there is a Soros plan, and he wrote it: it’s not something we’ve made up, we didn’t reach this conclusion through divination, but the architect of the plan published it himself. It contains a number of clear points. The plan says that a minimum of one million migrants must be brought into Europe every year. This is the first point in the Soros plan. The second point is that we should give every migrant some 4.5 million forints in their first year in Europe, simply for having arrived here – as a kind of reward. This is equal to the annual income of the average Hungarian. The plan then says that we should create a mandatory regulatory scheme designed to distribute migrants across Europe. And the fourth point – the fourth item in the Soros plan – says that we should set up a common European asylum agency that will manage this whole process in a just and fair manner. This is called the Soros plan. We must prevent this. Those countries which oppose this – such as us – are not frustrated. Therefore we’re not attacking anyone. Those, however, who are failing to protect their borders, and only talk about the problem, will experience frustration. And meanwhile the people – in Italy, but I could mention quite a few other countries also, all the way to Austria – can see that their leaders are failing to protect their borders and that what’s happening is bad for them. Frustration will lead to quarrelling and going for each other’s throats, as you put it. But there are some calm countries here. We’re not frustrated, and we’re not fighting each other. We are doing our job. We are fully aware of what is laid down in the Constitution: we must protect the security of Hungary and the Hungarian people. This is why we’re pursuing the international policy that we are. Meanwhile there’s a battlefront, there’s a struggle in Brussels in which Brussels bureaucrats want to raise the Soros plan to the level of European law. It is our job to prevent this, with calm and composure, just as such a campaign must be planned and conducted.
Anticipating this – or, as a straw in the wind, so to speak – you spoke at Tusnádfürdő about illiberal democracy. After that, all the news across half the world was about Hungary. From here this morning, you’ll be leaving for this year’s event at Tusnádfürdő. Tomorrow afternoon will the news again be about us?
One cannot always control the future, so one can never tell.
You will give a speech. I’m just interested to know whether there will be such ideas in it.
Yes, but I didn’t mean… Yes, there will be ideas in it, that’s the plan. And we’ll see what they are. But one could have predicted that the term “illiberal” would provoke such a barrage in the press, or heavens knows what, one could have predicted that such a liberal counterattack would unfold in response. I wouldn’t exaggerate the significance of this. Westerners must understand that over here “liberal” means that democracy ends when someone other than the liberals win an election. We cannot accept this, and we must reject it. We are supporters of the illiberal approach: democracy is democracy, and it doesn’t need a modifier. If I really must add something, I would say that in Hungary there is a government with a Christian democratic inspiration; but democracy is democracy, and the essence of democracy is that the people must be involved in decisions on important issues. National consultations are a way of doing this. Between elections also we must hear the people’s voices on important issues. And in elections we must accept the decision of the people, even if the liberals are sent packing. Here in Hungary I’ve lost elections myself more than once, and we accepted the election results. We worked in opposition for many years. I was in opposition for sixteen years, and I’ve been a governing party politician for a total of twelve years. We never thought that democracy was finished just because our political community didn’t get the majority of the people’s votes. We always thought that this wouldn’t be good for the country, we always thought that this would bring trouble, and we also always thought that sooner or later the socialists would once again destroy the economy. We thought that sooner or later they would bankrupt the country, but there was nothing we could do: if the people decided to place their trust in them, they would have to be given the consequent responsibilities and decision-making powers. You can’t behave the way the liberals in Central Europe – everywhere from Poland to Hungary – do whenever they’re defeated: to immediately and automatically announce that, from that point on, democracy in Central Europe has ceased to exist. That is ridiculous, it is insulting, offensive, and must be rejected.
I’m interested in your opinion on two questions related to the World Aquatics Champions. Firstly I’d like to know whether you’re satisfied with the organisation and results. Secondly, to what extent has such a prestigious event increased security risks in Hungary?
As regards organisation, we must thank the 3,500 volunteers: they’re fine boys and girls, men and women, who are doing a great job. This is the key to all such big events. There are also official organisers, but the question is how many volunteers are prepared to invest energy, attention and time in our joint success. And as I’ve said, while the professional organisers are also doing their job well, in Hungary we should now thank those 3,500 people. Every event poses security risks. These must be assessed in advance, we must identify the most important factors, and we must then neutralise these risks. So far we have succeeded in doing this – touch wood. Now, the results will be assessed by sports experts. What I can say is that our programme – and also my personal commitment – is focused on making Hungary a strong country, which is something I shall also talk about in Tusnádfürdő. The FINA World Aquatics Championships are relevant here in the sense that Hungary will be a strong country if Budapest, this fantastic city – which is a unique cultural creation, with nothing comparable to it anywhere between Vienna and Istanbul – is capable of organising and hosting any world event. Being fully aware of my responsibility, I’m telling you that there’s no world event – the International Eucharistic Congress, the World Aquatics Championships, athletic events – which the city of Budapest would be unable to host. I’ve always thought that we’re capable of this, but we needed the proof. The World Aquatics Championships are the proof that this is indeed the case. When the Puskás Stadium is finally completed, I will be able to say that this is true even for the world’s great rock concerts. There’s one event that Hungary still couldn’t host: a FIFA World Cup. We don’t have the facilities for that, and it wouldn’t be reasonable to build such facilities just for that event. But Budapest can confidently bid to host any other large-scale event that can be staged in the modern world, in the modern Western world. This is great strength and great knowledge, and is a justified source of pride.
You’ve been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.