Péter Molnár: Good evening, this is “Miskolc Journal”, and tonight’s guest is Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Good evening. Welcome to Miskolc.
Good evening. A very good evening to your viewers.
I read in an article the other day that this time the Government is not embarking on a campaign tour. Yet here you are in Miskolc.
We call this a “cold campaign”, because a prime minister should only take part in a campaign when we wish to draw attention to issues of national importance. This is not the situation now. Today we wish to draw the attention of the people, including the people of Miskolc, to the importance of their finding suitable candidates for posts on their local councils, and to elect suitable mayors. I can say little more than that, as local people know their candidates who live here among them, and they should base their decisions more on their personal and local experience than on, so to say, my politically-oriented comments. I might also say that I don’t need to tour the country.
Now that you’re here, I believe you’ve met Zoltán Alakszai…
Yes, I have.
… the Fidesz–KDNP candidate for mayor.
Despite that, it’s worth asking why I’m here. Miskolc is an important city. In truth, my presence here is a matter of honour. Of course I support your mayoral candidate, Mr. Alakszai, whom I know to be an excellent man, and whom I wholeheartedly endorse. I also worked together with his mother in Fidesz in the old days. And as I myself am a country boy, it matters a great deal to me that you have a candidate who has come back home: he left the city, completed his studies at university, and then decided to come back home. I myself have more faith in people who did not remain here out of necessity, but had a choice between a career in Budapest and life in Miskolc, and chose the latter. In addition to this, our candidate is dedicated, he’s full of energy, and he’s someone that one can work with. But in truth, this is not the real reason I’m here. The reason I’m here is that I owe a debt to the current mayor, Mr. Ákos Kriza – with whom I’ve worked for fifteen or sixteen years. I think that he’s done a fantastic job here in Miskolc. The hard work he has done will now start bearing fruit. He’s a great fighter, a brave man, but now he is in trouble. We all know this, and now I’m fighting to ensure that his legacy is not wrecked. We cannot allow this city to be turned into some kind of opposition citadel, and the hard work of previous years to be nullified by party battles. I’m here to ask the people of Miskolc to continue the work that we started with Mayor Kriza. They can be proud of him – he’s a fantastic man. Obviously the people of this city don’t know – or only a few know – that over the past eight years, whilst doing his job, he has had at least eight to ten operations. The city hasn’t seen this, and has known nothing about it. In fact he’s channelled enormous effort into launching developments which the people of Miskolc had previously only dreamt of. He has brought order to the city, boosted tourism, and there are great plans, great changes in store for transport; all in all, major results have been achieved. So what’s really brought me here to the Miskolc campaign is my commitment to him.
Speaking about the past few years, what do you think has been the greatest achievement here in Miskolc? What do you think has been the greatest achievement in this city over the past eight years?
Jobs are always the most important: to have jobs. If my memory serves me well, in 2010 unemployment here stood at around 18 per cent; and now it’s below 5 per cent. So the most important achievement is that investment has been brought here. Some of the credit for this is due to Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó: the Mayor, the Foreign Minister and I have cooperated to ensure that industries locating to Miskolc would be ones which create jobs; and in this we’ve been successful. After family, the most important thing in life is security. Miskolc did not have a reputation for being a safe place. Today both the data and conversations I’ve had with people allow me to say that the level of public security here has doubled; in other words, the number of crimes has fallen to half its previous level. Ákos has always been committed to pursuing this goal: through the use of surveillance cameras; increased orderliness; and a city law enforcement unit which can take action without needing to wait for the national police force to arrive. And the local people themselves have been encouraged to make their own contributions to the preservation of law and order in the city, through community wardens and through their love and strength. And so Miskolc has become a city in which there is a high level of public order. In my view, what is most important is that there are jobs and there is security. I hope that the city will also be beautiful, but that is for the next …
Perhaps it was in the campaign, at the latest party congress, that you said that Miskolc will finally start smiling.
Well, this is a steel city, isn’t it? I grew up thinking of this as a city of steel, with the songs of [hard rock band] P. Mobil, and with Diósgyőr football club: tough guys, feisty people here, who are rugged and hard. This is all well and good, because at the end of the day life is a struggle. But this is also a fantastic historic city: few people in this country know that it also has a cheerful face, with beautiful old historic buildings, and one of the country’s longest pedestrianised streets. The natural environment is superb, and historic Avas Hill is perhaps unique in the whole of Europe. Now we could pay more attention to beauty, and if the city elects a mayor I can cooperate with, we’ll definitely carry out the investments which will make the city not only safe, but also beautiful. Then the city will start to smile. It will have a cheerful face. I’d dearly like to bring this “Kriza legacy” to fruition, because he has already drafted the plans. These plans for what should be changed and how it should be changed show me the cost of the work: it won’t be an easy ride, but we have his plans, which we reviewed with Mr. Alakszai. He agreed to continue working on them. Anyway, I believe that over the next few years the image, the appearance and the atmosphere of Miskolc could improve significantly. In my opinion this is a great opportunity.
Now that you’ve mentioned it, could you tell us something about your meeting with Zoltán Alakszai focusing on the projects to be implemented during the period ahead? What can the people of Miskolc expect? What kinds of investment could be brought here?
First of all, let’s not beat about the bush. Miskolc now has a choice of two paths, and the people will decide which one the city should set out on. They can move in the direction proposed by the opposition. If the people choose that path, then Miskolc will establish itself as an opposition citadel, and will battle with the Government under the banner of the politics of [Ferenc] Gyurcsány and his Democratic Coalition party [DK]. They have the right to do that. If this is how a city wants to live its life in the next few years, and this is what the people living here decide, then so be it. But I suggest they consider the proposition that, instead of fighting one another, we should fight together for the city. And to do that, we need a mayor who will cooperate with the Government in the city’s best interests. I can only conclude that a DK mayor – an opposition mayor – will necessarily be an opponent of the Government, or an enemy. The way they’ve been speaking, they will be more of an enemy. They want everything to do with the election to be based not on local affairs, local developments and the interests of the people living here, but on fighting a great political battle. This is the reality. I advise against that. If we want to see development, if we want to see investment, if we want to see jobs, if we want to implement the plans which the city’s previous leaders have developed so beautifully, then we should cooperate. Let me put it this way: rather than supporting the opposition, Miskolc should try to stay on the winning side. And for my part, if there’s a leadership and a leader with whom it’s possible to cooperate, I’ll be ready and able to offer assistance in these great plans. For me what has happened here in Miskolc over the past ten years has been a constant source of pride. As prime minister I see many towns and cities, and I believe that I’ve managed to contribute to the development of very many of them. Győr, Szombathely and Fehérvár, for instance, are no easy task; but Ózd, Miskolc, Komló, Tatabánya or Dunaújváros are challenges on a completely different level. There are traditional old large industrial centres which have come a very long way in modernising Hungary as a country. It is a truly great achievement to achieve results in these cities: to reduce unemployment here, to reduce crime here, and to offer development opportunities here. So I am personally committed to the city of Miskolc, to the people living here and to the future mayor – provided that he doesn’t try to fight against me or stab me in the chest, but instead seeks to cooperate with me in the interest of the people of the city.
Government members from Miskolc stood up for Zoltán Alakszai, and now so have you …
Well, you’re lucky.
...and you say that if the people of Miskolc elect him, this will be the path of peaceful development. But let’s be honest, there’s something of a battlefield here: a major battle is under way, the opposition have closed ranks, there are five candidates for mayor, and a total of four organisations are engaged in the fray.
If there was no battle I wouldn’t be here. I’m here because there is a battle in progress. At the same time, the people of Miskolc are lucky in that there is a native of Miskolc in my cabinet. It’s not only true that the Kriza legacy fuels my commitment to cooperation with his successor as mayor, but there is also a lady in the Government – the Justice Minister – who hails from Miskolc. I’ve spoken at length with her about how her work in the Government could incorporate assistance to Miskolc. So the city is in a good starting position. But let me repeat: in this fierce struggle the decision lies with the people of Miskolc. And their future depends on the future they choose. In this situation it’s indeed no exaggeration to say that every single vote counts, and the future of their city is in the hands of the people of Miskolc.
On the other side there is Pál Veres, who claims to be independent. He claims, however, that at the beginning of the campaign every party contacted him – Fidesz included; and therefore he says that he’s also counting on support from Fidesz voters. Is he right in saying that you contacted him and asked him to be your candidate?
First of all, let me define my own position. I didn’t come here to say negative things about any of the candidates. The opposition has candidates, and obviously they’ve carefully considered what they would like and how to achieve it. I appreciate – and to some extent salute – the courage underlying a person’s decision to join battle and take part in an election campaign: DK’s candidate also deserves respect for that; and naturally I accord them that respect. It’s not fair to say something untrue, so I don’t want to deny them that. I’d like to see the day when I am – or Fidesz, the party led by me, is – in a position in which we’re compelled to ask Ferenc Gyurcsány to stand as a candidate. That sounds rather funny, doesn’t it? A person who could be a candidate of the Gyurcsány party will definitely never be a candidate of Fidesz. This sounds more like a joke. As regards cooperation, regardless of the mayoral candidate’s identity, he’s an opposition candidate, and the opposition has a programme; that’s all the information I have to go on. The opposition has said that they want to fight, and they want to occupy cities in order to fight the Government from there. It doesn’t matter what the mayoral candidate says, because in fact he’s the candidate of a party, and he’ll have to do what his political community tells him to do. Whether he wants to or not, he’ll drag the city into a conflict which – in my view – is not good for the people who live here. I seek cooperation, but this is subject to the fulfilment of certain conditions. Try as I might, cooperating with DK and Gyurcsány’s people would be extremely difficult, as they’re not willing to cooperate: they’ve clearly stated that they want to bring down the Government, and the Miskolc election and the people of Miskolc are merely a means to that end. To our minds, the meaning of the entire election process is to work to serve the best interests of the people of Miskolc. So I can hardly – if at all – envisage any cooperation with a “Gyurcsányista” mayor of Miskolc. On the other hand, I do know how, the very morning after the election, I could work with Ákos Kriza’s successor to serve the interest of the people of Miskolc. I can talk about that.
The question may seem banal, but what exactly is at stake in the upcoming election in Miskolc?
The next five years. You shouldn’t forget that, unlike parliamentary elections, local elections give mandates of five years, not four. So you will be deciding on the next five years in Miskolc. But we live in a democracy, there is freedom, and the people have the right to determine their future. If they want to turn themselves into an opposition stronghold, they have the right to do that. If they want to cooperate, to develop and build together with the Government, they also have the right to do that. But only the people of Miskolc can decide that. Let me just repeat what I’ve heard here, and what I believe describes the situation most accurately: I want Miskolc to stay on the winning side. And personally I will do all I can to ensure that.
Prime Minister, thank you very much. Thank you to our viewers for watching. Goodbye.
Photo credit: Index