PM Orbán to Austrian daily: Europe should adopt the Austrian model, where the center-right allies with the right-wing

Prime Minister Orbán is due to meet Austrian Freedom Party Chairman Heinz-Christian Strache this afternoon in Budapest. Prior to the meeting, the PM discussed Hungary-Austria relations, liberalism, European politics and migration in an exclusive interview with Austrian daily Kleine Zeitung. Here are some of the highlights:

“We go way back. I knew his party before I knew him,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán began the interview, speaking about his connection to FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache. When former chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel decided to form a government with the FPÖ back in 2000, the PM continued, I was the only prime minister who stood up for Austria.

“I welcomed Chancellor Schüssel in Budapest while doors in Europe were shut,” Viktor Orbán said, identifying that moment as the one that sparked his interest in FPÖ. “[Strache] stands out on the European political landscape,” PM Orbán said, “he doesn’t speak the language of political correctness. He says what he thinks and even stands for it.”

Speaking about the center-right’s potential political alliances, Prime Minister Orbán said that if right-wing parties continue to team up with Socialists, then they will have to compromise and risk losing their identity and core values. “After all, Christian Democrats must remain Christian,” PM Orbán said.

“Europe should adopt the Austrian model. Here, the center-right allies with the right-wing,” Orbán said and added that “there are good things happening in Austria”, citing stability, tax relief and economic performance as examples.

Describing what he calls a “liberal network” in Europe, Prime Minister Orbán said that in contrast to many of his colleagues in western Europe, where “every word must be weighed,” he lives in the “luxury of political freedom.”

“I say what I think, because I receive strong legitimacy from the Hungarian people,” he said. “Brussels couldn’t make us fall, even though they really wanted to,” PM Orbán said.

When asked about illiberal democracy, Prime Minister Orbán listed three pillars that help define the term. “First,” he said, “there is the conviction that family is fundamental. The basis of the family is a man and a woman. And this has to be protected.”

“Secondly, regarding culture, we say that although the cultural lives of our countries are diverse, there is one leading cultural tradition everywhere,” the prime minister said, “And in Hungary, that’s the Christian culture.” The stance on the issue of migration makes up the third pillar. While liberals support immigration, illiberal democracy opposes it.

Through immigration, according to the PM, the political left is, in fact, importing future voters. “Those that come here as migrants will never vote for Christian Democratic parties. Sooner or later they will get citizenship, sooner or later they will also get voting rights,” Orbán said.

Responding to a question about the kind of Europe he aims to build, the Hungarian Prime Minister said that he’s dreaming about a Europe where both western and central Europeans can be happy, “while their lives don’t diverge but grow together.”

“We have defended the country from migration and avoided a cultural clash,” the prime minister said toward the end of the interview, summarizing Hungary’s contributions and achievements. “We play a stabilizing role in the region. We maintain neighborly relations with the Serbs, Slovaks and Romanians. We have almost full employment and our economic growth outperforms the EU average by at least 2 percent every year. We achieved all this as a member of the EU. This could be a European success story.”