Katalin Nagy: in Hungary sixty to seventy thousand doses of vaccine against the coronavirus are being administered every day, but most of these are second, booster vaccinations; so the country’s rate of vaccination coverage is clearly slowing down. I welcome Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the studio. What’s the situation on the vaccination of 12–15-year-olds? Some countries are starting to vaccinate people of this age.
Good morning. If I may, I’d first like to briefly expand on your first comment. For example, yesterday we vaccinated 11,585 people for the first time and 81,942 for the second time. This shows that things have changed. In the past, you know, the emphasis was on increasing the number of first vaccinations as much as possible, because even the first vaccination gives a high level of immunity. This is why both the number of deaths and the number of infections has decreased, have started to fall. According to this morning’s report, we lost 26 lives yesterday, and there were 269 new infections. The number of our fellow citizens who are sick – who are infected – is also falling sharply, with 64,000 people now unable to work or battling the virus-borne disease and fighting for their lives. This is how we look. The number of first vaccinations is this low because people are no longer rushing to us – or to GPs and vaccination centres. We’re the only country in the European Union with an excess rather than a shortage of vaccines. So we have more vaccines than people coming forward for them. This is why we’re now able to help others. Not only will this be true for the rest of this year, but the proportions will shift even more in this direction. If I just look at the vaccines coming from the West, because we still have orders from there until the end of the year, we’ll have more than 16.6 million doses of vaccine by the end of the year; so they’re in the bag, they’re ordered, they’ll be delivered, and this means that we’re safe in terms of vaccine supply. So no one in Hungary has to worry about whether or not there will be another wave – which today, by the way, scientists aren’t expecting; they’re not ruling it out, but they don’t think it’s likely. And Hungarians don’t need to worry if it turns out that the vaccines administered don’t provide protection for a year or nine months, because today we don’t know how long that is; if it turns out that people lose their immunity sooner, we could still vaccinate everyone who registers not once, but twice. So Hungary is safe as far as vaccines are concerned. Fifty-four per cent of the total Hungarian population have received the first dose of the vaccine and 38 per cent of the Hungarian population have received their second dose. So far, so good; but the question is, what about the rest? There are 2.5 million people here who haven’t asked for vaccination, who haven’t registered, who don’t want it. Therefore it’s not rational to maintain the vaccination system that we have now, which is extremely burdensome for doctors and hospitals; and so we’ll switch from a mass vaccination system to standby vaccination. We’ll decide on that in the next few days. We’ll maintain some vaccination centres; they’re being designated, and anyone who wants to be vaccinated will have to go there for it. We will no longer have the convenient situation in which you can go to your general practitioner or to the hospital and apply for vaccination in this way or that. Perhaps “come to an end” isn’t the best phrase for it: vaccination will be on a standby basis. I urge everyone who thinks they’d like to be vaccinated but who doesn’t want to do so in the more complicated vaccination system we’ll have in the future to do so now – in the next few days – rather than postpone it. There are a couple of hundred thousand people who have already had the infection, have immunity and think that they’ll go for the vaccine when that immunity wears off. We’d all be better off – they’d be better off, doctors would be better off, GPs would be better off and the government administrators who organise vaccination would be better off – if they went for vaccination now. As far as children are concerned, one tries to follow the debates on this, which are as long as War and Peace. Both in a Hungarian context and internationally, the internet is full of studies, opinions and comments on this subject, and it’s difficult to navigate. It’s difficult to see the whole virus situation in a scientifically clear way, because for any science, for any scientific finding, for a valid finding, you need a suitable timeframe; and that’s what we don’t have. So in the modern world humanity can collect data from all over the globe, so we’re spatially well-oriented, but if not enough time has passed since the beginning of a phenomenon – such as a pandemic – it’s very difficult to make valid statements; because what seems valid in the first year may lose its power, its claim to validity, its truth in the second or third year. So that’s where we are with young people. I’m one of the more cautious ones, as we’re talking about children, and we really have a sense of responsibility towards them. At the same time, we don’t want to deny parents the opportunity to have their children vaccinated if they’re very concerned for them. In addition, as I’ve said, we have plenty of vaccines and there is a choice, so in Hungary there’s vaccine freedom, because we’re not in a “take it or leave it” situation, in which there’s no choice; here people can say which vaccine they want to receive. So we don’t want to deprive parents of this opportunity either. At the same time, however, at present we don’t want to launch a vaccination campaign. The opinion of the Hungarian scientific community is decisive in this matter, because although the ultimate responsibility is ours, this isn’t a political decision, and the criteria forming the basis of a decision aren’t political but healthcare-related and scientific. And I don’t see this debate within the Hungarian scientific community coming to a conclusion any sooner than towards the end of the summer. And then we can decide whether we want to have a vaccination campaign, or whether we want to maintain the situation in which every parent can take full responsibility for vaccinating their own children at their own risk – because we don’t want to exclude them from that. So on this I’d like to ask for patience. Now it’s possible for minors to be taken anywhere, provided they’re accompanied by adults. So the vaccination certificate that we have allows us to take our younger children – even if they’re not vaccinated – to sporting events, so that they can be fully part of family life. I think that it makes sense to maintain the present situation – the present regulatory framework – until the end of the summer.
At the Government’s weekly briefing, it was said that the vaccination certificate, the Hungarian vaccination certificate, will be compatible with the EU card. Hungary already has bilateral agreements with eleven countries to make travel easier. Will these bilateral agreements be continued?
They’ll be necessary, because we don’t know whether or not the European vaccination card – which at the last prime ministerial summit we decided would come into effect on 1 July – will work. So now we have a vaccination certificate, an immunity certificate – which is outstanding in terms of quality, by the way. When I meet my colleagues, I usually do so with hidden pride. One must act with modesty, especially when one has something to be proud of. I show them that we already have such a certificate. We’re ahead of the others. Decision-makers, like us, are by nature ahead of people who don’t care about politics, because we need to know what the situation will really be in a week or two or three weeks, or a month or two months. The reason we’re kept in jobs is to analyse the situation, analyse the data, and we can say what’s expected, and make our decisions in light of expectations. Most people only need to think like that in their own lives, not in the life of their country. What’s more, ordinary people are always a few weeks behind the decision-makers. When you ask me questions here, I have to weigh my words carefully, because in my thinking I’m ahead of the game, I know the data and the analysis not known by people not in this profession, who are living their daily lives. Right now Westerners are lagging behind Hungarians, because over there they still have curfews and mask mandates. When we talk about the situation in Europe, neither our political leaders nor the people should make the mistake of believing that other countries have reached the point that we have, because they haven’t. So if we want to think about the Hungarian situation in a European context, we shouldn’t assume the Hungarian situation to be the norm. We can’t understand the situation in Europe based on the Hungarian situation, because in those other countries there are curfews, there are masks, you can’t travel, you can’t enter their countries, from time to time there are lockdown restrictions, and so on. So they’re in a different situation. And from there, from that other position behind where we are, they want to get to a situation in which there’s free movement, but they don’t even have immunity cards. I’m in favour of a common immunity card, and having it together in the future; but until that’s definite, let’s take care of our own immunity and our own freedom of travel on a national basis. This is why we have a national card. We’re making it capable of becoming part of the European system. And when the European card comes in, hopefully successfully, it won’t mean that a central European card is issued somewhere in Brussels, but that it will be up to national authorities and Member States to issue a European card to their own citizens, which will be equivalent to cards issued elsewhere in different countries. This is why, for example, a major development is currently underway, with a deadline of 15 June. By that date the Ministry of Interior must have completed the uploading of data to the Hungarian card: not to the plastic version, which is fine as it is, but to the electronic version, the digital version, which doesn’t currently have the data on it. For example, this will show whether the second vaccination was given and when, and what type of vaccine was used; and then the data on the Hungarian electronic or digital card will be synchronised with the data on the European cards created by other countries.
You’ve said that we’re ahead of the other countries. It’s been said that in Hungary we’ve managed to reopen at least a month and a half earlier, because the vaccination coverage has been so good. What will we be able to do with this month and a half?
We don’t know how much further ahead we are, because we’ve reached this point and they haven’t. Will they get to the finish line? We don’t know. It’s the same in people’s lives: older people have reached a certain age and we hope young people will also reach that age, but we don’t know for sure. When we say to someone who’s only 30, “when you’re 70”, they’ll either live to be 70 or they won’t. So it’s the same with countries: either they’ll get to where we are or they won’t. It’s logical to think that they’ll get there. And then the question will be what this advantage – more likely two or two and a half months – will mean for Hungarians. People’s memories fade so quickly! Now that there’s freedom, no curfew and you can go anywhere you want as long as you’re vaccinated, we’re gradually losing the memory of what it was like when we couldn’t. The human mind so quickly frees itself from the former prison-like restrictions that it almost erases those memories. But I travel the world as part of my job, and over there I see depression. I travel to Western European countries where, because of masks and for many other reasons, people are still under the same pressure – the same depressive strain – as we were, say, two or three months ago. We’re continuously lifting restrictions: the state of danger is still in place, because we have to be careful for a while, but we’re continuously lifting the restrictions. Now, for example, today we’ll have to decide when local governments will start returning to normal, as mayors are demanding that they do. I think they’re right, because if there are no restrictions on everyday life, why are there any restrictions on the functioning of local councils? That’s a good point. So we’re going to change the emergency rules, and this afternoon we’ll decide on a date – hopefully as soon as possible – when they can restart life as normal. So I just want to say that the first answer to your question is that we’ve won freedom – we’re already free, while others aren’t yet. That’s my first answer to your question about what one gains by being ahead of others. The second thing is that we’ve promised, we’ve undertaken, to create as many jobs as the virus destroys. This is very difficult while imposing restrictions. So jobs can only be created when there’s economic freedom, when businesses are up and running, when there’s an entrepreneurial spirit, when profits are being made and reinvested – in other words, when the economy has returned to normal. And ours is slowly returning to normal. There’s an economic conference next week, when we’re going to talk about the issues of relaunching, about economic relaunch. Up until now we’ve had protection of the economy, but now we’re going to start relaunching the economy. And we’ll gain several months of economic performance, because people will be working, businesses will start up sooner, and so our economic performance can be better than that of others. I don’t wish anyone ill, but of course I wish ourselves well – in the sense that I want us to be ahead of them in economic recovery. Well, by having a vaccination programme that has worked well, we’re gaining time, we’re gaining freedom and we’re gaining money. I have two points to make here. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who organised the vaccinations, to the government administrators, to the logistics experts, to the drivers and pilots who delivered the vaccine, to the warehouse workers, and then on the one hand to the doctors and nurses, and on the other hand to the people who were willing to be vaccinated in such high numbers: 5.2 to 5.3 million people. From this point on, it’s a question of individual responsibility. So whatever we do now, or whatever I personally do – encouraging government administrators, giving more support to doctors or giving more logistical support to suppliers – isn’t going to increase the number of vaccinations. Only people’s individual decisions can increase the number of vaccinations. So far, I think it’s been the responsibility of the state to make sure that the vaccination programme is successful. It’s been our responsibility to organise it, to have the vaccine, and to get it to the public. We’ve fulfilled that responsibility. From now on there’s an individual responsibility – because it’s up to you or the listeners to be vaccinated or not, and we can’t be responsible for the consequences. Of course we’ll cure everyone, everyone who’s been struck by the deadly disease, we’ll fight for their lives. I don’t think that recently anyone has died through any shortcoming on the part of our doctors. We’ve saved every life that could have been saved, we’ve treated every patient, and not only has the Hungarian health system not collapsed, but it has performed outstandingly in comparison with anywhere in Europe. It would be good if we could also speak about the performance of our doctors and nurses with pride in our voices rather than constantly denigrating the health service – which, after all, mainly comprises doctors and nurses. So I think that we’ve done everything that had to be done and that could be done in the name of communal responsibility. But we can’t assume the individual responsibility that citizens themselves have to bear: whether or not they have themselves vaccinated. If they don’t, I repeat: we will provide care, but now this is their responsibility.
Fidesz has submitted a package of anti-paedophile laws to Parliament. The law on this was tightened earlier. Why does it need to be tightened again?
We’ve been debating this for more than a year. A working group has been formed within the governing parties to deal with this. I think that perhaps we could have come to a decision more quickly, but we’re walking on very thin ice or treading a narrow path; because while we don’t want to interfere in anyone’s life, we also don’t want our children to see and experience things that are harmful and dangerous to their development, to their healthy development. This is why we need to create a very sophisticated legal regulation on this, while of course – and I’ll express myself in brutal terms – one would want to beat to death anyone who even lays a finger on one’s child. The emotions and feelings are clear, we need strict regulation, but we need to proceed sensibly if we don’t want to make rules with consequences that we’ll later regret. So this is why this work has taken us several months, but now we’ve completed it. I think this is inevitable. Now it’s not just that we all have children and we can feel what it means when someone abuses the trust of our children. Because, after all, children turn to adults for trust, and to abuse that trust – especially for sexual reasons – is the most repulsive thing we can imagine, the worst of all. But in this respect the internet has opened up a new battlefield that calls for regulation. Currently most paedophile crimes don’t even happen in physical reality, although of course those are the most serious; most occur in the virtual world of cyberspace, which our children not only have access to, but immerse themselves in – because that’s what they like, that’s the modern world. Compared to them, we’re from the Stone Age, we’re streets behind our young children in the way they use these modern devices. And flowing into these interfaces, into this virtual space, there are not only good things, but also bad things. Regulating, punishing, penalising and blocking this is a difficult job, but we shall do it. Our parliamentary group leader Máté Kocsis is submitting this proposal. We need to be very clear: we don’t want to subject our young children to any kind of sexual influence. And we’re not only trying to prevent this, and this isn’t simply a pious wish, but we want to punish those who break this rule and cross this line.
Today is 4 June. In the Grand Trianon palace exactly 101 years ago there was the signing of a peace diktat which resulted in the annexation of two thirds of Hungary’s territory. This tragedy cannot be remedied, it cannot be undone. Yet in 2010 an agreement was reached on striving to use this reality so that its end result and meaning would be national cohesion. Have we managed to achieve this over the past 11 years?
We’re better off than we were 11 years ago. In Széchenyi I once read the instructive idea that if stones are thrown in your path – or even thrown directly at you – you should collect them and use them to build a stairway, with which you can ascend. Now this is 100 per cent true of Hungarian history. For this reason, 11 years ago the Hungarian parliament decided to try to turn the day on which a country was lost – because Trianon was the day on which a country was lost – into a day of national cohesion. In other words, we want to say that of course we suffered the loss of a country, and we shall never forget it, not for many generations; but at the same time the Hungarian nation has remained intact, and those who in their physical reality were torn away from us have always remained with us in spirit. There is a great nation that extends far beyond the borders of the country, and – after a century as difficult as the one we have lived through – the preservation of this spiritual community has been achieved. So the idea and the feeling of national belonging is strong – perhaps stronger than it has ever been in previous decades. And this is a great thing. Moreover, if we’re going to climb stairs, stairs built from stones hurled at us, it is also important to know that while we don’t want to and won’t forget all that has happened, we also don’t want to live our lives looking on ourselves as a people doomed to eternal defeat. This is partly because we want to be strong, partly because we want to be successful – and partly because we are. I think we have a fantastic culture that nobody else has. We’re also a talented people, so why condemn ourselves in thought and spirit until the end of time, or until the end of the present conditions? Why condemn ourselves to a sense of defeat? We want to escape from this. The Day of Cohesion is an attempt to do this. And look, we are successful. And it turns out that our neighbours – with whom, because of Trianon, we can and do have many disputes regarding the rights of the Hungarians living there – also respect strength and success. We’ve managed to become stronger in the past ten years, and since we’ve become strong we’ve also improved relations with our neighbours; because nobody wants to be friends with the weak, and generally they don’t take them seriously, and when they think about their own future they don’t include those other peoples into account. But today, no nation in the Carpathian Basin can think ahead without taking us Hungarians into account. And so our relations with the Serbs or the Slovenes have never been as good and balanced as they are now. With the Croats it’s simple, because we’ve lived together as partner nations for more than 820 years. We’re also improving our relations with the Slovaks. I’m not saying that we’re successful with all our neighbours, but the trend is clear: we’re enjoying ever improving relations with ever more of our neighbours. And our policy is also based on the idea that we’re not gathering opponents, but friends. Of course this takes us a little away from Trianon. But it’s not so easy to gather friends either, because in international politics perhaps the most important news of the week was the revelation that the Americans – with the help of the Danes – have been wiretapping the Germans, and goodness knows who else. We’re also looking at how we’re positioned in this situation, and the National Security Cabinet has been given the task of finding out. Because, regardless of alliances, others are crawling under our skin and into our heads, keeping us under surveillance and getting into our ears. So we don’t know exactly what the situation is with Hungary, but it’s obvious that even within the Western alliance system it’s difficult to make friends – or even if you do manage to make friends, it’s more a case of coinciding interests, and that’s why we’re friends. And lo and behold, the big players – who have the means and the power to gather information about us illegally, and to find out what we want – don’t respect even the most basic aspects of national sovereignty. So in this whole modern, complex international system, we mustn’t strive for Hungary to be on the side of one power or another, but we must strive to go our own way, to pursue our own interests, to have as many friends as possible in as many parts of the world as possible, and to convert these friendships into economic cooperation. Of course in principle we should be safe: if you have a lot of friends you’re safe. But let’s shift towards the economy, let’s shift towards economic cooperation, let’s create opportunities for Hungarian businesspeople to sell their products to our friends and thus create jobs in Hungary. So for me this is the one hundred years of solitude that Trianon symbolises. I grew up being taught that I was the son of a great nation. You would read [the epic poem] Toldi, and you’d immediately realise that the current size of the country doesn’t matter: we are one great nation, in spirit and in history, in culture and in will. So we are a great nation which cannot see the advantage – indeed only the disadvantage – of being isolated or isolating itself. We have to go out into the world, we have to be open to the world, we have to cooperate with the world. And if we think that we’re talented and hard-working, and I don’t think we’re far wrong in that, then participation in the world, openness to the world and participation in the world economy can bring Hungarians, Hungarian people, a great many advantages; and it does so every day, as far as I see from the economic data.
We don’t have much time left, but here’s another brief question. We’re gathering friends, but from next week we’ll have three tough opponents on the football field. How are you preparing for the Euros?
Right now I’m not very happy. At last a Hungarian star has appeared in the sky, the sky of world football. For many months I’ve been looking forward to seeing him live, and now it turns out that he’s had to go back to Germany or I don’t know where. He’s not in the Hungarian squad, the national coach has decided not to include him – but may do so in the autumn. So I’m in a rather morose or grumpy state of mind. I usually look forward to such matches, but it casts a different light on everything now that Szoboszlai isn’t playing – and I wish him a speedy recovery, by the way. Sometime around 2006 I founded the Puskás Academy, and of course I pay special attention to the players who came out of there and go on to play for the national team; but I’m rooting not only for them, but for all the players! Today, on the day of Trianon, in Hungarian we say that we win and we lose. The state was founded by Saint Stephen and by us, the Turks were defeated by Hunyadi and by us, Vienna’s proud fortress groaned under the onslaught of King Mátyás’s sombre army, and of our army. What I’m saying is that Hungarians are community-minded, seeing their lives as being mysteriously interwoven with the lives of the many generations that have gone before them, woven into a common destiny. Everything happened to us, and everything that happens on the pitch is done by us. Of course there will be eleven players, but we will be the ones scoring goals; and if a fluke is scored by the other side, it’s been scored against us. From that point of view, I’m expecting a great summer, or a great Euro championship – even if from here we can only send Dominik Szoboszlai our best wishes and hopes for a speedy recovery.
Thank you. You’ve been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.