Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Kossuth Radio’s “180 Minutes” programme
8 September 2017
Éva Kocsis: Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is in the studio. Good morning.
Viktor Orbán: Good morning to you and your listeners.
When we spoke about the quota system and the court decision four months ago, you said that on the migrant quota issue you were prepared to take it to the bitter end. Well, the Court – the European Court – has rejected the joint Hungarian-Slovak petition submitted in the case. Have we reached the bitter end?
We’re not there yet. A court ruling has been adopted, and, whatever the case in question, we must always adhere to the same basic principles: Hungary is a member of the European Union, and the Treaties govern the EU’s affairs and its internal hierarchy. The Treaties must be respected, and it follows from this that we must also acknowledge court rulings. The Hungarian language is a sophisticated one, full of nuances. The particular word we choose in a situation like this, in relation to a court ruling, makes a difference – especially as we are operating in a hostile environment. I use the word “acknowledge”, borrowing it from the statement by Prime Minister Fico, the Slovakian prime minister, whom I fully agree with, word for word. We must acknowledge the ruling, as we must not undermine the foundation of the European Union, and respect for the law constitutes the very foundation of the European Union. At the same time, this court ruling is no reason for us to change our immigration policy of rejecting migrants, and so we won’t change it.
So you acknowledge the ruling, but after all it was the Hungarians – the Hungarian government and the Slovak government – that turned to this court. So in fact it’s all well and good that we’ve acknowledged it – but do we then continue in the opposite direction to the one laid out by the Court in its decision?
We acknowledge it, we’ll live with it, and we’ll fight against the policy with which Brussels seeks to send any person to any Member State, regardless of the will of the nation states. This is an absurd situation. Let’s imagine its real-life consequences. We live here, in Hungary. These fine upstanding bureaucrats are in their offices in Brussels, and they believe that these three Yusufs shouldn’t live in Brussels, but in Greece – or in Budapest, for that matter. Bureaucrats over in Brussels say that these people will live in Budapest, no matter what, and we have to accept this.
But these Yusufs probably don’t even want to live in Budapest.
That is the other problem. But it’s unacceptable in principle for there to be anyone on this planet, here on our continent, who believes that any law or court ruling gives them the authority, there in Brussels, to decide who we Hungarians should live alongside. There can be no such person or institution on Earth. Hungary is a sovereign country, and we Hungarians alone shall decide who we wish to live alongside.
Now, as for alternative future scenarios, when all is said and done, was there any point in making a submission to the European Court?
Of course there was. We learned a lot from it. Let’s look at the origins of the case, and what the legal situation was. In September 2015 the European council of prime ministers and heads of state discussed the issue of the migrant quota, and there was an attempt to force some of us – including Hungary – to accept a decision which would approve a mandatory quota system. In other words, we would have been deprived of the right to decide who can enter Hungary; they sought to replace this right with a mandatory ruling from Brussels. I vetoed that proposal. In the European Council, decisions on questions of such importance need unanimity. I used my veto, and the other Central European countries agreed with this. In such circumstances, on individual issues debated at a Council meeting, we bring the matter to a close by issuing statements and a document specifically devoted to our conclusions. In this document we wrote that there is no mandatory migrant quota system, and if there ever is any kind of quota system it can only be voluntary. Following this the European Commission – in violation of the EU’s founding treaty, in my opinion, but not in the Court’s opinion, as we’ve seen – launched a legislative procedure, bypassing the European Council. In theory the Commission cannot do anything which runs counter to a joint decision by the European heads of government – in this instance on a voluntary quota system. Anyway, it nevertheless submitted a motion for the quota system to be mandatory, and launched a procedure in which we Hungarians could not exercise a veto. We could only have created an alliance known as a “blocking minority”. To halt the procedure this would have needed the votes of at least one third of Member States, but we didn’t have enough votes for this, because there aren’t enough of us Central Europeans to block the path of the Western states. So the procedure was launched, it was carried through as planned, and in the end a mandatory quota system was decided on. I think that this entire process has raised a very important question of principle, quite apart from the question of the quota system itself. The question is whether we are an alliance of free European nations, whose joint interest is represented by the Commission, or a European empire with Brussels as its centre issuing instructions – regardless even of the veto of Member States’ prime ministers. This is the question. This is the fundamental question. Migration is important, immigration is important, but here we have an even more important issue on the agenda: the issue of freedom and sovereignty. We therefore had to represent a position based on principle – we had no other choice. Hungarian freedom, our constitutional order and traditions did not permit any course other than to resort to court action to assert their legitimacy. It has now turned out, however, that the Court has not ruled in our favour. As I see it, in siding with the Commission the Court has in effect opened up a door through which the attempt will be made to turn Europe, its traditional European population and culture, into a continent with a mixed population and with mixed cultures. I could also say that they have opened the door to George Soros’s plan, and in the period ahead I expect to see the acceleration of that plan’s implementation. So the short answer to your question is that we had to go to court because issues of principle meant that we had no other option.
We’ll come back to freedom and sovereignty later. Let’s talk about the Commission’s viewpoint, which also states that in the situation, in the ruling, there is a principle involved: nothing less than the principle of community and solidarity. We repeatedly hear definitions of solidarity from both sides – from the Hungarian and Slovak governments and from politicians in Brussels. But these definitions don’t seem to overlap...
Because what they insist on in the name of solidarity, you similarly argue against in the name of solidarity.
Naturally these definitions don’t overlap, as in our view, there are no grounds whatsoever for the demands of solidarity extending to a country giving up its fundamental constitutional rules and its national cultural identity. And if a country believes that a given EU decision affects its national identity – and here we believe that this decision is also contrary to the Hungarian Constitution – it must resist that decision. Brussels, however, believes that solidarity is what it declares it to be. This is unacceptable, this is a diktat: a legalistic diktat, which we cannot accept.
Fine, but a club’s membership rules can also be seen as a diktat: if we’ve joined a club we must accept the terms and conditions, and we must pay the membership fees...
And there may be a situations in which, say, the club is flooded by rain, and everyone has to put on their rubber boots and get down to sorting things out. This is what Brussels sees as solidarity and shared responsibility.
Yes, but if your home is flooded and water is continuously pouring in, you shouldn’t start discussing how many buckets of water one should pour into each room. One must take action at the point where the water is pouring in. In other words, we must defend ourselves: we need border protection. And anyway, why should those who were wise enough to protect themselves, and who didn’t let their own countries be flooded, also have to receive a share of this trouble? The countries which have decided not to protect themselves, and have let migrants in, have made a mess of things: they’ve spoilt the soup, so they should be the ones who eat it. Why should we have to eat the soup which they have spoilt? No one asked them to let migrants in; not a single other Western European country asked them to, and we Central Europeans certainly didn’t. That was their own sovereign decision. They cannot possibly ask us to take part, on a mandatory basis, in the amendment of a decision that they took on a voluntary basis. We’re happy to help: we’re happy to help Germany remove from Europe those migrants who’ve already arrived in the continent. We’re happy to help in that, but not in transporting them by train here to Budapest. We’re happy to help transport them to Libya, say, or to any other protected and safe place, where I think they should be, instead of staying in Europe illegally. We’re happy to help with a great many things. For instance, we’ve built fences with Hungarian taxpayers’ money, we have border guards and thousands of police officers in active service, and we’re protecting Europe’s southern borders – as we have done several times over the past one thousand years. So we Hungarians are doing a great many things. One thing, however, is unacceptable: if we join a club with rules which say that the laws and operating procedures will be determined by the council of prime ministers, in which each member has the right of veto on fundamental issues, that right must not be taken away. It is not we Hungarians who are calling the club’s operating rules into question, but in fact those rules have been changed by the Commission in Brussels. This is unacceptable.
On the whole, what you said – that they should eat what they’ve cooked themselves – seems justified. But in the meantime you’ve asked those who spoilt the soup to give Hungary a small amount of money.
The fact is that Hungary is one of the few countries which have consistently observed the rules which apply to them: the rules known as the Schengen regulations. When we spent huge amounts of money, tens of billions of forints, we did so not only to protect Hungary, but also Europe. In this instance we believe that the proper interpretation of solidarity is that, given that we are protecting Western Europe just as much as ourselves, and given that we saved the Western countries a great deal of financial outlay by preventing migrants from getting through to them, I’ve suggested that we should split the costs we’ve incurred. There should be solidarity. We’re protecting Hungary, and this is why we Hungarians should cover half of the costs; but we’re also protecting Europe, and this is why others should pay their half of the bill. They’re not entirely opposed to this; they sense that the moral balance favours us, but they say that they won’t pay for the fence. This is unacceptable, because the European Union’s external borders cannot be defended without a fence. Where there is a fence, there is protection; where there is no fence, there’s no protection. Where there is a fence, people cannot come in; where there is no fence, people will come in. That’s the truth. So if someone’s opposed to the fence, they are in fact opposed to the policy of stopping migrants; they don’t say they are, but instead they pick a symbolic issue – this is the fence – and narrow the debate to focus on that, concealing their true position, which favours letting in migrants. Those who want a fence don’t want to let migrants in, while those who don’t want a fence are in fact arguing in favour of letting them in.
Now in essence the European Union says that they don’t support the construction of fences or they don’t provide funding for such purposes. But this means we’ll just have to forget about the fact that Brussels specifically funded the construction of fences around the Spanish enclaves in Morocco, on the Latvian-Russian border…
Well, this is the usual situation of double standards: in Brussels’ view, one country is allowed to do something which another one is not allowed to do. This is one reason we need a new Commission and a new mentality.
But let’s just clarify one thing; wouldn’t it have been simpler to designate this money in some other way? Wouldn’t it have been simpler to approach this whole quota issue by saying: “Send 1,200 people here”? They won’t do that anyway, the quotas don’t work – this is what we are seeing in the other countries.
Yes, but meanwhile the Commission has tabled another proposal. They’ve already issued it, and we know about it. This states that now the goal is not just to send 1,200 people here – that’s one thing – but there’s a plan for a permanent distribution mechanism to be put into place. This is one of the most important elements of the Soros plan – perhaps the very heart of it – and the Commission has adopted it. In other words, according to the proposal currently on the table, something which they want to enact on a one-off basis in response to an extraordinary situation – provided that everyone swallows and accepts it – will be turned into a permanent mechanism. This means that they will deprive nation states of the right to decide who their people live alongside. They want to force this current proposal on the Member States of the EU. So when we fight against the decision on the 1,200 individuals, we’re not just taking a stand on an issue concerning those people: we’re fighting against restrictions on the powers of the nation states, and the withdrawal by Brussels of our rights on the issues of asylum, the regulation of migrants and immigration. In the background there’s a much bigger issue, which, one can perhaps talk about on such a radio programme. I understand that the former colonial powers are the top dogs in the EU. There are a number of countries in the European Union which used to have colonies; I don’t want to pass judgement, as in those days that was the logic of history. When the era and world of colonialism came to an end, people who had collaborated with the regimes which had ruled their countries were forced to leave their homelands, and the former colonial powers had no choice but to let them in. This is how a number of countries in Europe have become immigrant countries; in the EU this term exists. These are immigrant countries: former colonial powers, into which people from outside the European Union have been continuously pouring ever since their colonies gained independence. Sometimes immigration has been the result of family reunification, while at other times legal loopholes have been exploited. What we’re talking about now is nothing less than former colonial powers – which have now become immigrant countries – seeking to force their own logic on us Central Europeans. But we have never had colonies, and so we have no moral or political obligations of this nature. And not only did we not have colonies, but we never even invited anyone here to live with us – either guest workers, or anyone else for any other reason. So we’re not an immigrant country, and Hungary doesn’t want to become an immigrant country; at least I as Prime Minister have been authorised by the Hungarian people to protect this country’s economic, cultural and spiritual identity, its traditions and interests. This is laid down in the Hungarian Constitution. I will never allow any great power – any top dog, any former colonial power or their Brussels supporters beholden to them – to turn us into an immigrant country. They will always find me among those resisting this. If possible I will resist as Prime Minister, and if not I will do so in some other capacity.
With regard to the Soros plan – in which the European Union would admit one million migrants, in line with George Soros’s conception – Frans Timmermans has said that the idea is so ridiculous that responding to it is almost embarrassing. And let’s look at another criticism, from Jean-Claude Juncker’s letter. This relates to talking about EU funds in the same breath as migration: in other words, the essence of his message was that “If you want our money, you, too, should take responsibility, you too should assume your share of our joint responsibility”.
First of all, having started our interview today talking about the law, we should note that the European Union’s rules don’t allow any connection to be made between various funds. There is no possibility that the issue of immigration can be used as a precondition for the award or distribution of any EU funds. Therefore the position which President Juncker represents is contrary to the existing treaties and laws – although in light of this latest court ruling we aren’t even able to rule out the possibility that he’ll also make that happen, once we find ourselves needing to launch legal proceedings on the matter. So there’s no such correlation. Firstly it’s unlawful, and secondly it’s also immoral: the rich Western European countries which are our fellow members of the EU actually profit from us. So they are not giving us money and the balance does not favour us, but them: they are the ones making money from us. The money that they give us is simply meagre compensation for the financial advantages that they receive from cooperating with us. First of all, in their factories in Hungary we do the same jobs for less money than workers do in, say, in Germany or France: here they pay us less money for the same work. Therefore, if I were German, I’d be ashamed of daring to bring up the issue of solidarity, when a German worker in a German factory earns four or five times as much as a Hungarian working in the same job for the same German company in one of its Hungarian factories. And they have the audacity to talk about solidarity! Meanwhile European leaders themselves admit that in fact a considerable proportion of the funds given to us lands back in their own countries, through their large corporations. What kind of solidarity are we talking about? How could the issue of our development funds be tied to any other issue? When considering the meaning of these funds, the EU would be wiser to accept that if over an extended period differences in levels of development between the Member States continue to exist, the European Union’s overall performance will decrease. That much is true. But these regional development funds are given to countries that had socialism inflicted on them – just as earlier they were given to the Spaniards and the Greeks who, for different reasons, also fell behind the mainstream of European development. This was so that our level of development should reach – or approximate to – that of the European Union’s older Member States, in order for the resultant boost to the Union’s overall economy to benefit all of us, both older and newer members. This is in their best interests, as well as ours. In the current situation, in which we’re just beginning to catch up, is simply immoral for them to mention solidarity, and to tie questions of money to any political issue. The champion warrior and grand inquisitor in this area is candidate Schulz. The shame of taking such a stance should burn so fiercely that it’s a wonder Martin Schulz – the Social Democrat’s candidate for the chancellorship, who dares as a German to talk about taking money from Hungary – has not seen his beard burst into flames. The situation is absurd.
What’s the next step? If we look at other infringement procedures on similar issues, the outcome is more or less predictable: Hungary will probably have to pay. What else can happen?
No, the real battle is only just beginning, if we return...
But what does this mean in practice?
So if we return from the issue of solidarity to the issue of the court ruling, we’ll see the following. The ruling doesn’t impose any obligation on us. This court case was to determine whether the decision in Brussels to enact a mandatory quota system was adopted under regular and lawful circumstances, or whether it is in contravention of some higher-level EU legislation. We said that it is in contravention, as I’ve also said just now, while they said that it isn’t. On this question the Court ruled in their favour. Now we have reached the question of the status of implementation of this whole quota system, and, as you’ve mentioned yourself, the situation is that it’s not being implemented. So we’re not the only country in the European Union that’s not implementing it: others are also ignoring it. But, after all this, there will be a debate about whether or not the Commission and the institutions of the European Union have adopted a decision that can in reality be implemented. In my view it can’t be implemented. In answer to your question on what follows now, I’d say this: up to now we’ve fought a legal battle, but now we must instead engage in a political battle; we must change this EU decision, and we must make the various organisations of the EU admit that the decision which they adopted earlier, even if it was lawful, was a bad decision – it can’t be implemented, the Member States don’t want to implement it and can’t implement it. Therefore we must ensure that they withdraw this decision on the mandatory quota system: they must change it, and we must prevent this one-off decision being turned into a permanent migrant distribution mechanism. In other words we must foil the plan of George Soros’s people in Brussels. Now there will be a political struggle, which may take a number of forms and in which we shall fight with all our strength.
Recently politicians in Brussels have said that when the Poles defied a court decision, they thereby effectively began preparations for their withdrawal from the EU. The domestic political situation in Hungary is only one step away from this. The opposition parties are already claiming that this is effectively the situation. If this fight, this struggle that you’re talking about continues, the communication narrative will head in the same direction as that related to the Poles: that you want to leave the European Union.
Communication is an interesting – and often very important – thing in politics, but it doesn’t override reality: reality takes priority. The Hungarian reality is that the Hungarian people decided in a referendum to join the European Union. We made the right decision. No political decision of any kind can override this. A referendum decided this question, and so no government has the authority to withdraw Hungary from the EU, because the Hungarian people decided that they want Hungary to be a member. And that’s how it should be.
Our time is up. In the past half an hour you have been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.