During the interview, Prime Minister Orbán acknowledged the importance of showing appreciation for pensioners, emphasizing that the government's primary concern is the well-being of the Hungarian people, irrespective of age or social status. However, he also discussed the daunting challenges posed by the country's budget deficit.
"A first glance might lead one to believe that we cannot afford such expenditures. When we look at the Hungarian budget, we always plan for a deficit. Hungary consistently spends more than it generates in revenue," Prime Minister Orbán explained. "This budget deficit is a burden that has persisted since the communist era, and we continue to carry it forward. Therefore, any expense appears absurd from an economic standpoint, but our duty is to provide for our citizens, especially those who have worked tirelessly for decades and contributed to the nation's development."
He went on to address the importance of honoring the government's commitment to retirees. "We have a covenant with pensioners dating back to 2010 when they supported us," Prime Minister Orbán stated. "The majority of retirees have consistently supported the national government, and we pledged to preserve the value of their pensions. We even reinstated the 13th-month pension that was taken away during the Gyurcsány era."
Despite facing external challenges such as the war and the Covid-19 pandemic, the Hungarian government has continued to fulfill its promises to pensioners. "Even during times of war and crises, we did not withhold anything that rightfully belonged to pensioners," he added.
Prime Minister Orbán emphasized that the pension increase would be integrated into future pension calculations, ensuring that it becomes a sustainable part of retirees' income. He also attributed the need for this increase to the high inflation rate, which the government has been actively combating. "Our goal is to achieve a budget surplus, where Hungary generates more revenue than it spends. That's when we'll be a strong, stable, and prosperous nation," he explained.
When discussing the inflation challenge, Prime Minister Orbán reflected on the evolving economic strategies employed by the government. He acknowledged the conventional approach of relying on the central bank to manage inflation but highlighted its limitations. "The central bank's tools, such as interest rates and exchange rates, proved inadequate in the face of rampant inflation," he noted. "Inflation had grown like a tree, and the central bank's pocketknife was no longer sufficient. A more substantial tool was needed."
As a result, the government took a more proactive role in combating inflation by implementing measures like price caps, interest rate freezes, mandatory competitive bidding, and an online price monitoring system. These interventions aimed to curb price increases, especially by multinational corporations, and stabilize the economy.
Prime Minister Orbán recognized that the world may view such interventions with skepticism, as most countries expect central banks to manage inflation. However, he stressed the need for decisive action given Hungary's unique vulnerability to energy price hikes and its proximity to the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
In the context of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Prime Minister Orbán discussed the challenges posed by differing international perspectives. Hungary maintained that the Ukraine-Russia war was a Slavic fratricidal conflict, and as outsiders, we refrained from direct involvement. In contrast, Western countries advocated for a broader approach, interpreting the conflict as a global concern that required international intervention.
"Engaging in a war without clear objectives and without a realistic strategy for achieving those objectives is not a decision to be taken lightly," Prime Minister Orbán emphasized. "It is essential to consider whether the sacrifices, including human lives, are justified and whether the chosen means are realistic. Unfortunately, in the case of this war, I still have my reservations."
He expressed concern over the stagnant frontlines and the continued loss of lives in Ukraine, emphasizing the need for clear objectives and viable strategies in any conflict. The prime minister also noted the evolving landscape of threats, with the potential for increasingly sophisticated weaponry to impact not only combatants but also those seeking peace.
Turning to Ukraine's aspirations to join the European Union, Prime Minister Orbán said that this decision would ultimately require the approval of EU member states. He emphasized the complexity of this process, which hinges on Ukraine's ability to implement necessary reforms and meet EU accession criteria.
He also cautioned against overly ambitious timetables for Ukraine's EU membership, highlighting the challenges associated with a country at war. "I see a long and difficult road ahead before we can even begin negotiations about Ukraine's EU membership," Prime Minister Orbán said in closing.
Regarding the EU's delay in disbursing funds, PM Orbán said that the EU owed Hungary over EUR 3 billion, a significant sum considering Hungary's economic scale. He criticized Brussels for withholding these funds and suggested that political motivations might be at play. Orbán noted that the EU appeared to be waiting for the outcome of the upcoming Polish elections, hoping for a shift in power that would be more favorable to Brussels.
Moving on to the topic of migration, PM Orbán characterized the EU's approach as a step backward. He argued that the migration issue posed one of the most significant challenges to Europe's future. Orbán explained that Europe faced a continuous demographic imbalance between the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean, that is, between Europe and Africa, leading to migration pressures. He criticized the EU for treating migration as an everyday human rights issue rather than a long-term demographic challenge.
Orbán firmly asserted that the only way to stop migration was to prevent migrants from entering the country in the first place, emphasizing the need for a robust border policy. He said that handling migrants after allowing them in was not a viable solution, as this leads to crime, violence, and social conflicts.