Zsolt Bayer: Continuing the show, my guest in the studio tonight is Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary. Hello, Prime Minister.
Viktor Orbán: Hello, good evening.
For our viewers’ information, and also as a matter of etiquette, let me state that we’re talking now on 30 March, the thirtieth anniversary of the foundation of Fidesz. Thirty-seven of us were accomplices in that, so perhaps everyone will excuse us for addressing each other informally.
It would be funny if we started addressing each other formally now.
Yes, it would look interesting. Let me return to something that cropped up earlier in discussion on today’s “birthday”. First time around we couldn’t come to a satisfying conclusion, but perhaps this time we will. How is it that we are the party, we are thirty-seven people who have managed to stay together – a few departures excepted – and have managed to stay at the forefront of politics for thirty years, without devouring one another, and without ending up at one another’s throats? And not only is there no other such party in Hungary, it’s not only in Hungary that we’re the only ones who’ve managed to stay in frontline politics since the fall of communism: I see no others even in Central Europe. Not even Solidarity has managed this, despite the fact that they had to spend six years underground.
Well, there are also mysteries in politics. For the sake of younger viewers who don’t remember it, there’s one thing we can say for certain: when we formed the party in 1988, we formed it as an organisation with an age limit. Those over the age of 35 were not allowed to join Fidesz. We locked ourselves into this age-limit cage – and in the course of our struggles for freedom back then, so did others in Central Europe. Those other parties didn’t manage to push their cages over the parliamentary threshold, and they didn’t manage to become parliamentary forces. As a result, after the fall of the communist regimes in Romania, Poland and Czechoslovakia – there was still such a country at that time – they disappeared from public life, swept away by the momentum of the fall of communism. We, however, having become a parliamentary party, gained entry to the future. And I believe that here there is something special: no matter what political issues have emerged over the past thirty years, there have been two things that we have never compromised on. We can also call them Fidesz’s two guiding stars: freedom and national independence. And in my view, maintaining the commitment to great goals keeps communities together. Incidentally, in the history of Hungarian politics it is not unknown for one generation or another to be able to provide a framework for and shape Hungarian politics over a long period of time.
In every election campaign we hear the magic words that we’re facing a “watershed election”. And then we either find out that it meant something or nothing.
Well then, this brings us back to your first question, because there’s one other thing that we can see in campaigns. We have always struggled against rigidifying or ossifying into ladies and gentlemen arranging the great affairs of the state – viewers and voters will decide whether or not we’ve been successful in this. So we’ve always managed to retain a sense of humour, self-irony, and a sense of the absurd. And therefore our campaigns – even in our adulthood, even as we became grandparents – always contain this humour and self-irony. And so, while there are very many distasteful things in campaigns, for us a campaign is on the whole more of a great occasion and an opportunity: partly to preserve our high spirits; and partly to engage with the electorate – as we have done ever since 1988. These dynamic links prevent us from becoming stuffed shirts or bigwigs.
So let’s go back to the claim that we’re facing a “watershed election”. This is an obligatory part of campaign rhetoric. But about ten days before 8 April perhaps we really can say that we are facing a watershed election. And if we start examining why this is, perhaps we should start by saying that we are the political formation which has managed to be permanently present at the forefront of Hungarian politics – and now we can say at the forefront of European politics. So perhaps now, before a watershed election, we should be able to say who we are up against, and what we are up against.
Well, the word “watershed” is indeed a momentous one, which almost crushes you under its weight; but there is some truth in it. If we analyse the word, we see that a watershed event is one which determines one’s future. In my opinion, Hungary’s last watershed election was in 1990. In every election after that, even if the resulting government was a hapless one, the following election offered the chance of a new government which could correct its predecessor’s mistakes. For instance, there was the “Bokros Package” [of the then Socialist finance minister] between 1994 and 1998. In 1998 we won the election, and we corrected the mistakes and healed the wounds caused by the Bokros Package. Gyurcsány and his associates plunged the country into debt, and by 2010 they had ruined the country and driven it to the brink of bankruptcy. But in 2010 we got down to the job and managed to whip Hungary back into shape and put the country back on its feet. We now look like a respectable, decent, independent country. Therefore up to now we’ve had elections in which the Hungarian people could afford to make one decision or another and, whatever the outcome, we could reasonably hope that at least the mistakes could be corrected four years later. Now, however, there is a question at the centre of the election which, if we make the wrong decision, cannot be corrected. If we fail this exam there will be no chance to retake it, there will be no chance to put things right, because now the focal point of the election is immigration. And if the country takes a single step towards turning itself into an immigrant country, like Western European states, it will not be able to turn back. If we see the creation of a Hungary with a mixed population we won’t be able to separate them out, and a policy of migrant resettlement would mean that we couldn’t remove from Hungary those people flooding in as the dam wall breaks. Earlier many people hoped that the situation could be as it was in 2015, when they came in – which wasn’t good – and then left the country again across another border. But that hope is now dead, as both the Austrians and the Germans have reinstated border controls. Those who come in here will not be able to move on to other countries. So indeed our future will be decided in this election: either we will remain a Hungarian country, a country that we know and love and in which we feel at home; or others will come here, and a country with a mixed population will come into being – with different cultures, parallel societies, and all the related consequences that we can see in Western Europe. It is very rarely that we can say what we can say now: let us learn from the mistakes of others; let us not make the mistakes which have been made by Western European countries which are richer and more developed than us. The chance to learn from the mistakes of others is an enormous opportunity.
Despite all that, the opposition continually claim that this isn’t even an issue: it’s a pseudo-problem, which is used to hide the genuine issues and divert attention away from them. They say that in fact they’re the ones who are addressing the real issues…
…and that the Government is conducting a witch-hunt against, say, George Soros, and that this is without any foundation.
Fine, but this is nonsense: if we go back to the beginning of the immigration crisis, when this phenomenon spectacularly emerged in Europe, even back then they said that there was no such danger, there was no danger from immigration, and there were no migrants. When we had already seen at Budapest’s Keleti Railway Station…
There were thousands of them there.
...what this all means. Even then they kept repeating that in fact this is only a transient phenomenon. They kept repeating that there’s no connection between migrants and the threat of terrorism, and no connection between migrants and a deterioration in public security. Then they insisted that it isn’t true that the presence of migrants in several Western European countries means that women are in danger. So they think that there’s no connection between a deterioration in the situation and the masses of people causing a change in that situation – and in fact they’ve been saying that right up to the present. They’re part of a network which is working to censor news reports on migration and immigration. Back when Fidesz was founded thirty years ago, I would never have thought that the day would come when here, from Budapest, we would have to tell people that there’s censorship in Western Europe. News reports covering migration and immigration are regularly blocked, falsified or tampered with. Even in social media, on internet sites below the level of the official media, advertisements are regularly banned and news reports are censored. And Hungarian opposition parties are part of this Western European campaign. George Soros is not some invention: if I’m not mistaken, you yourself were personally involved in this, writing about how his network revealed its true colours. We heard them describing, in their own voices, how they’re working against the Hungarian government, and that they want to bring it down. They said that at least two thousand people paid by George Soros are working on bringing down the Hungarian government. So I don’t think they should cry foul when in fact it is they themselves that have revealed their true nature.
You’ve said that when three years ago it was already clear what the implications of migration pressure were, the opposition always claimed that this was a non-existent pseudo-problem. I’ll go back further than three years. “The Strange Death of Europe” by Douglas Murray is one of our favourite books, both yours and mine, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. It’s also quite an intellectual feat...
Reading is good, and reading a good book is especially good.
Yes, especially good. If we look at the first few chapters, it states in black and white – and this is perhaps what shocked me most – that in essence this has been going on in Western Europe since the fifties. It didn’t begin in 2015, but four or five decades ago. Moreover, it’s also shocking that when politicians raised their voices against this phenomenon in the sixties, already back then there was the same reaction: they were called fascists, exclusionary, Nazis, etc. And these labels haven’t changed one bit. A process has been taking place in Western Europe for four or five decades, and the peoples of Western Europe are still tolerating it, without any practical opposition? How could this be?
Well, sometimes they try. The people sometimes raise their heads and state their opinion, but somehow, up until the most recent spectacular, large-scale attacks, this was a slow process: dripping water wears away stone. The politicians who wanted to protect French, German or Italian national culture, Christian Europe and national identity were unable to harness these opinions, or they found themselves up against forces which could defeat them. At this point it’s worth considering who we actually find ourselves up against. Without dragging this programme towards the history of philosophy, the first thing we must openly state is that the character of the political Left is internationalist. The Left is internationalist, and therefore it continually attacks all topics and causes which can strengthen national identity. For instance, in terms of action against immigration, we should ask why we don’t want immigrants to come here. We don’t want them to come here because we have a life of our own which we Hungarians developed for ourselves in Hungary, or the Germans for themselves in Germany.We have a culture which we built ourselves, in which an extremely important role is played by national identity and self-awareness: awareness of who we are. The Left doesn’t see this as something positive: they’ve always seen it as negative, and they believe in internationalism transcending nations. We conservatives and Christian democrats believe that there are nations which must cooperate in the interest of peace and security. But the purpose of this cooperation is not to erase our national characters and our national interests. We believe in international cooperation. The Left is internationalist, and it attacks everything that strengthens the nation, while supporting – overtly or covertly – everything that weakens the nation. In my opinion this is what is at the root of things. And then there is also some calculation here. I don’t want to accuse anyone, but I know Western European left-wing parties which reckon that the immigrants they’ve brought in, let in, or transported in will sooner or later be given citizenship; and they will never vote, say, for Christian democratic parties, as they don’t come from a Christian culture. They will never vote for parties which protect a strong national identity, as they don’t belong to this national community – or at least they don’t belong to it yet. And so they will become left-wing voters. I believe that a great many left-wingers sacrifice the long-term interests of their own nations for such short-term gains. We shouldn’t allow this to happen in Hungary. This is why I say that in the upcoming election we have two alternatives. We have our candidates, who want Hungary to remain a Hungarian country, and want to maintain our national Christian culture, however one interprets it – it’s well worth conducting debates on the content of that culture, but the fact that we want it is certain. And on the other side there are George Soros’s candidates, who want to transcend all this, who want to leave Christian and national traditions behind, who want to set it aside like an inconvenient burden, and who want to dissolve Hungary in some great internationalism. Immigration is an excellent vehicle for achieving this. Therefore I’m certain that, if they had the chance, they would dismantle the fence and let immigrants in. And regrettably I have to say that Jobbik, too, has struck its own deal: I believe that there is a Vona-Gyurcsány pact. The moment Jobbik failed to vote for the constitutional amendment that was necessary to stop immigration and was essential for taking action against migrants, it joined the herd being rounded up and financed by George Soros.
For a moment let’s jump into domestic politics – into the morass of the election campaign. At first glance the political community on this side sees a rather divided left-liberal opposition, complemented by Jobbik: a party that started out as a national radical formation, but which today, in my view, has no identity of any kind. At first glance it simply seems that for months now, in order to stand a chance against the Fidesz-KDNP party alliance – which is fielding a single team – they’ve been trying to solve mathematical problems about who should unite with who and where. Sometimes I begin to worry that in fact this opponent can’t be so weak, and that we will be facing something else as well.
Well, if you judge things at first glance, you will indeed see quite a few confused people. On further inspection you’ll see individuals who don’t stand a chance. Furthermore, we can’t learn anything from the whole campaign other than that they hate me personally; and also I believe that they hate the Hungary based on Christian national concepts and pillars. They hate you as well as me, because you were also a founder of Fidesz. In summary, they hate everything associated with Christian, national and Hungarian traditions. Beyond this, all they can talk about is how, when and why they will unite with one another – or why they won’t.One gets the impression that the whole thing is a little amateurish. But in fact we mustn’t allow ourselves to be misled by this, because there are very strong powers and major forces behind them. They are not the ones we need to take seriously, but we should focus all our attention on those standing behind them, who finance them and who push them forward – all the way into parliament, and then into government, if we let them. The true threat to us is this force behind them. At times it’s difficult to know whether to laugh or cry. I believe that we shouldn’t laugh under any circumstances. And to prevent ourselves crying we must have our wits about us and be there at the election, so that we prevent these people from being pushed into decision-making positions by the forces behind them.
Prime Minister, a very simple question to finish off. There’s one week left. What do we need to do? What more can we do, and what can we do to help?
Well, in my view, the situation is indeed simple – or has become simple. Those who have followed the election campaign even a little can now see things clearly. On the one side there are our candidates: we speak straight, clearly and understandably: for us Hungary comes first. And on the other side there are George Soros’s candidates, who are running under the colours of different parties. Without wishing to cause offence, I can safely say that for them Hungary does not come first: something else does. And this is the choice we have: we can choose between these two alternatives. I can only say to everyone that those for whom Hungary comes first should under no circumstances stay at home. You may perhaps remember that in the first election, in 1990, there was a billboard – perhaps one of ours – which said that the communists will all go to vote; and so we should be there too. Now I can say that the Sorosists will all go to vote; and so we should be there too. And in order to encourage this, we’ll be holding our closing event for the national campaign on Friday afternoon in Székesfehérvár. It is a Hungarian closing event, and so rather than closing the campaign, it will open its final stage. According to the old proverb – you know it – an American leaves without saying goodbye, while a Hungarian says goodbye without leaving. We will close the campaign by calling upon people themselves to campaign in the remaining two days, to bring everyone along with them, to go and cast their votes, and take with them all the people they know for whom the future of Hungary is important. And then we’ll all be in God’s hands.
Thank you very much for being here.