Highlights of PM Orbán’s year-end Q&A with international press

In his usual year-end Q&A session, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán addressed various critical issues, providing straightforward responses to questions from different media outlets. Below are some of the highlights.

“How does the government define the year 2023,” Prime Minister Orbán posed the question kicking off his international press conference earlier today. “It was a year of great struggles, with war, migration, the threat of terrorism, inflation, and Brussels,” he said, adding that the government’s objectives were clear: to keep Hungary out of the war, to keep the threat of terror away from Hungary, to contain migration, to bring inflation down, and to reach an agreement with Brussels.

“The value of pensions has been fully protected, and wages have been protected to a greater extent than it seemed possible in the middle of the year,” PM Orbán said. In his view, the goal for the year 2024 is to put families back at the heart of politics, rather than the big political issues.

In 2023, the country has worked to keep what it has achieved in the past; in 2024, we will work to move forward. “The government has announced a new housing program, an additional subsidy for tens of thousands of families; we have announced a minimum wage increase of 10 to 15 percent; and we will guarantee the value of pensions,” the prime minister said.

“I have come to believe that the bureaucrats in Brussels are living in a bubble and that Brussels is blind and can't see the real problems,” PM Orbán said, adding that the purpose of the 2024 elections is to open Brussels' eyes and to be able to correct the mistakes it has made this year.

“2023 was a year of struggles; 2024 will be a year of planning, and we will try to make a change in the EP,” PM Orbán concluded before turning to questions.

In response to MTVA's question about the new migration pact proposed by Brussels, PM Orbán expressed his concerns: "The basis of this package is flawed (...) The only way to stop migration is to make the decision that anyone who wants to enter the EU must stay outside the EU until the relevant decision is made."

When asked about the management changes in Polish public media, PM Orbán stated his position on non-interference: "We do not want to interfere in Polish affairs; we are friends to all Poles (...) If all this were happening in Hungary, NATO troops might well have been deployed by now."

Addressing Reuters' inquiry about his expectations for the EU summit and Ukraine, PM Orbán said that "the Hungarian position is that if we want to give money, let us not give it for five years (...) We Hungarians do not want to take out loans with anyone else."

In response to the Financial Times’ question regarding the risk of Article 7 being activated against Hungary, PM Orbán clarified his stance: "We are under an Article 7 procedure (...) There is no reason to launch one (...) We do not want to link Ukrainian money to any Hungarian money."

Responding to Origo's question about allegations of the EU Commission blackmailing Hungary, PM Orbán clarified: "Blackmail is a publicly known method. Hungary being blackmailed in Brussels is a fact that is admitted in Brussels."

In a conversation with the reporter from Bloomberg about Ukraine's EU accession, PM Orbán expressed skepticism: "I spent eight hours trying to convince them that they were making a mistake (...) Now everyone is against the Hungarians, but you will see that we are right."

When FAZ asked about Hungary's stance on NATO's expansion, PM Orbán said: "The first fact is that there is no Turkish-Hungarian agreement (...) When we approved the Finnish accession, the Finnish government sued Hungary on another issue on the following day."

Addressing Heti TV's concerns about EU funding potentially aiding terrorist organizations, PM Orbán reassured those present: "Sending money from the EU budget to a registered terrorist organization is a capital offense. So far, we have no knowledge of such a thing happening."

Discussing the future of the Visegrád Group, PM Orbán highlighted its strategic importance by saying that "V4 is an attempt to make Central European cooperation a reality (...) In terms of the economy, demographics and now military capabilities, we are on par with the French and the Germans."

On the topic of media freedom and the Sovereignty Protection Act raised by AP, PM Orbán downplayed concerns: "Nothing has happened yet (...) In the last election, millions of dollars of foreign funding appeared for the purpose of influencing the election. We thought that the Hungarian legal system would protect the country from this, but there were loopholes through which this happened. We are working to close those loopholes."

Addressing questions from Index on the Child Protection Act and teacher salaries, Orbán stated his government's plan: "We can't fight two battles at the same time (...) We plan to launch a three-year wage improvement program. We will implement a 32.2% wage increase from January 1, 2024, a smaller one the following year, and so on, but a significant one. The average teacher's salary will be somewhere around 800,000 forints by the beginning of 2026.”

In a response to Mandiner about the Budapest airport purchase, PM Orbán noted that there is a huge competition for tourism, a major economic force in the European economy. “Air transport is a key issue in this,” he said, adding that Hungary has been at a significant disadvantage in recent decades. “If the state does not participate in this competition, development will not take place. If we want to keep up with the others, we have to develop,” he said.

Responding to news that Donald Trump has been disqualified from the primaries in Colorado, Prime Minister Orbán said that “it's none of our business who the judges are in the U.S. and how they decide on certain issues, we only ask them to stop lecturing us.”

PM Orbán confirmed that he had accepted Ukrainian President Volodomir Zelensky's invitation to a bilateral meeting, which the foreign ministers of the two countries would have to prepare.

Speaking to ATV about the upcoming Budapest mayoral election, PM Orbán clarified his party's approach: "The government is not nominating anyone, but as the president of Fidesz, I can say that we will name a candidate by March at the latest."

Replying to HírTV's inquiry on Ukraine’s ethnic minority law, PM Orbán emphasized the importance of actual practice matching the rules. ”We are interested in what the legislation is and what the practice is. We proposed a different solution: They took a law away from Hungarians in 2015. It was coupled with a practice that was good for the Hungarians. Why not give back the law that was taken away in 2015 with the practice that was there?” he asked.

In a discussion with ARD about Fidesz's potential alignment with the Identity and Democracy Party Group in the EP, PM Orbán indicated ongoing negotiations with the European Conservatives and Reformists Group. He added that “nothing extraordinary should be expected” during Hungary’s term holding the EU Presidency. “It is a mediating, arranging, and resolving role for Hungary,” the prime minister said.

When Telex asked about Russia's perception of the ongoing conflict, PM Orbán clarified: "I said in all seriousness that Russia doesn't think it's a war; if it were a war, there would be mass conscription, and there is no conscription yet, so there is no war from the Russian point of view.”