Zsolt Törőcsik: Recently we’ve seen the launch of the long-awaited Ukrainian counteroffensive, a dam on the Dnieper has been blown up, and a former NATO secretary general has spoken about sending Western troops to Ukraine. In light of these events, last week Prime Minister Viktor Orbán called a meeting of the Defence Council because, as he said, the Government’s priority is Hungary’s security. I welcome Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the studio. Good afternoon.
This interview is being recorded on Thursday afternoon. From the point of view of Hungary’s security, what do we need to particularly focus on in these days and weeks? Because events on the battlefield seem to be moving towards escalation.
The war situation is getting increasingly serious. There are many unpredictable elements. In such a situation, the organisations and leaders responsible for Hungary’s security must be constantly on the alert and ready to take action, whatever happens. This is why at the Defence Council meeting we gave specific tasks to the Minister of Defence, the Chief of General Staff and the Interior Minister. I believe that we’ve done whatever could be done for the security of the country. We’re also strengthening our diplomatic work. On that score our prospects aren’t sky-high, given that Europe is suffering from war psychosis. The majority opinion is that this war can be concluded, decided and resolved on the battlefield. The Hungarian position is that this conflict cannot be resolved on the battlefield. We must take back control of events from the soldiers, let diplomacy resume, let the politicians negotiate, let there be a ceasefire, and in the meantime let peace negotiations begin. I think this is in the interest of the world, of Europe, and of Hungary. And let’s not forget that if there is peace, or at least a ceasefire, then inflation will return to normal – and perhaps even disappear. The gravity of the situation is best illustrated by the fact that the US president is now talking about how there’s nothing wrong with the United States providing Ukraine with ammunition containing uranium, while the Russian president is saying that what goes around comes around: two nuclear powers want to use ammunition containing uranium in a country neighbouring Hungary, a few hundred kilometres from the Hungarian border. So we can see that the situation is more serious than ever.
Yes, and a former NATO secretary general is talking about the allies even sending in troops. In fact, the current NATO secretary general has just said that support is making a difference on the battlefield, so he’s obviously saying that this should continue.
So far NATO has been cautious. In fact, NATO’s position and the position of Hungarian diplomacy have been congruent, because NATO has decided not to get involved in this military conflict. So NATO, as a military alliance, isn’t sending weapons to Ukraine and isn’t p planning any military action. What is happening – the supply of arms, the transfer of information, military support for the Ukrainians – is all the result of decisions taken by individual NATO member countries. So today the positions of Hungary and NATO actually overlap, and diverge from the position of all the other states supporting the war, who go far beyond the NATO position. At another time, perhaps in a more analytical discussion, we can reflect on whether the military strategy that the Europeans chose at the beginning of the war – despite opposition from Hungary – was a reasonable one. Because their choice – and here we’re talking about more than Europe, but about what we can call the West – showed that they thought that the Russians could be defeated militarily by Ukrainian soldiers fighting, without Western soldiers intervening, and by the West simply providing weapons, equipment and information. I’ve always doubted whether this type of warfare could be militarily successful. May I be proved wrong, may the pessimists not always be proved right, but I feel that what we see here is a strategy that’s been badly calibrated and badly assessed: a strategy that’s failed, resulting in the war continuing, deepening and widening. Every few days sees the deaths of thousands of soldiers, who have fathers, mothers, children and wives; there is terrible destruction, immeasurable loss, and – in my view – a flawed military concept. But the next few months will deliver a verdict on that.
In our last conversation you said that, yes, the elite take the position that we’ve been talking about, but that across societies you see a decline in the number of pro-war people and an increase in the number of pro-peace people. Does this make any difference? Meanwhile, for example, in his latest article George Soros has written about a glorious Ukrainian victory, about the reclaiming of Crimea and, in effect, continuation and expansion of the war.
When there’s a war there are always speculators. George Soros is a speculator – a war speculator who hopes to gain a financial advantage paid for in huge human losses. When judging this perhaps we don’t require open and direct turns of phrase; I think we all know what to think of such things. Now the truth is that I think that the pro-peace people will be proved right. So I think Hungary’s on the right side. When we voted for peace, not only did we do the right thing in identifying Hungary’s interests, and not only are we standing up for Hungary’s interests, but we also did the right thing from a moral point of view. And I’m sure that in the end – and this could happen openly and publicly even within a few months’ time – the opposition to the majority pro-war camp will be proved right: the minority pro-peace camp will be proved right, and their opinion will become the general – or at least the majority – opinion in the Western world. Everything is interconnected. This is why I don’t think it’s good news for the war, and I find it worrying, that in America the former president of the United States – President Donald Trump – is being prosecuted; because if there’s one person in the Western world today who can stop this war and bring peace, it’s the former president of the United States, Donald Trump. And it would be in Hungary’s interest to have a pro-peace person leading the United States, and a pro-peace politician leading that part of the world. We Hungarians shouldn’t believe that we’re the only ones who receive privileges, as the Americans also receive them: the pro-war camp, especially the American Soros empire – the American branch of the Soros empire – is attacking Donald Trump with all its might, and is doing everything it can to prevent him from being elected president.
You’ve mentioned that there are economic consequences of the war, and you’ve just said that if there were a ceasefire, inflation would immediately fall, and could even disappear in the long term. Since we last spoke the latest figures have come out. In May the inflation rate moderated to 21.5 per cent. This is better than analysts’ expectations, but it’s still above 20 per cent. Does this mean that the fight against inflation can now be reduced or, for example, that price freezes can be lifted? Or will we still have to wait for that?
We have to be cautious. The Government has made a clear commitment. We made this commitment in a very difficult situation. We all knew that if there was a war, and if in the war sanctions were imposed on Russian energy, as has happened, it would push the price of energy across Europe sky high – both electricity and gas. And since Hungary imports a large part of the energy it needs, both for households and businesses, we’ll be the ones who suffer the most. Perhaps no other country in Europe imports a greater proportion of the energy it consumes than Hungary does. This is why our inflation has risen higher than in the other countries; but the Government has nevertheless committed to the goal that inflation must be in single figures by the end of this year. But it’s no use simply begging for inflation to come down from on high: it has to be pulled down, broken down and crushed. So we have to fight inflation here, and we shall fight inflation, which is why we’ve introduced a number of measures with an anti-inflationary effect. Some of these measures still need to be maintained, others can be lifted, and new measures need to be introduced. The point is that ultimately Hungary must emerge from all of this at the end of the year with inflation not above 10 per cent – and indeed it must be appreciably below 10 per cent. Incidentally, this is the logic behind the budget, next year’s budget, which we’ve submitted to Parliament.
Yes, and this week Parliament has already started to debate it. It’s called the budget for defence. In such an uncertain environment, is it possible to plan so far in advance that we can see the whole of next year?
We must! I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s necessary. When things are unpredictable, you need as many stable points as possible. One of these stable points is the budget itself, but an even more stable point is the governmental will behind the budget. So I think that from the budget debate everyone whose work is affected by the budget – businesses, workers, investors – can see the direction in which the Government is heading in this situation. I hope that we’ll hit the target numbers. Indeed it’s not easy to fix figures five or six months in advance, but it’s not impossible either; after all, it’s not the economists with poor skills who one has in government, but rather the better ones, and they should be able to hit the mark and predict economic developments with sufficient accuracy. What’s certain is that in wartime – and we’re living in wartime – we need a budget for defence. In addition to guaranteeing the security of the country, we need a budget that protects what’s important. In such times there must be protection of the financial situation of families and pensioners, of the reductions in household utility bills in Hungary, because this is important for families; and jobs must be protected. That would be fine so far, the budget does that. But there’s something here that has called for immediate action, because in wartime it matters where people keep their savings. In wartime it helps the country if people keep their savings in the State Treasury, in treasury securities. And anyone who helps the country by being willing to keep their savings in treasury bills or government bonds will rightly benefit, as they will rightly get a higher interest rate than with bank savings. This is why we’ve now taken measures to persuade people to move their money from bank savings to government securities, and therefore we’re offering a high interest rate on these securities, and we’re not levying a tax on those savings, but on bank savings. But this is a temporary measure, we’re keeping it in place and intervening in the direction of savings or the shaping of the flow only as long as the war continues. This is a temporary measure, a wartime measure, and when the war is over, then of course we’ll phase it out. But what the country needs now is for people to keep their savings in government bonds or treasury bills rather than in bank savings, for good money, for good interest.
So in addition to the budget, the Government has also submitted tax legislation to Parliament, and this includes an increase in the excise duty on petrol. Why was this step necessary?
It wasn’t necessary. And if you ask me, we need it like a hole in the head. But since we’ve been a member of the European Union, there are certain economic issues and a range of economic measures – the scope of which I try to keep to a minimum in battles with Brussels – over which control isn’t exercised by us, but by Brussels, by the European Union, and by the Brussels bureaucrats. And there are rules that are going wrong. And, I repeat, we’re fighting against them, we’ve managed to get postponements, but we can’t prevent them from happening. And Brussels has already decided that Hungary must raise excise duties on petrol and diesel. In Brussels bureaucratese this is called “harmonisation”. Essentially it’s about green, environmental motivations for making fuel more expensive so that people will consume less of it. We’ve kept the price lower all along up until now. That grace period is over. We have no options: we’re being forced to implement the orders or decisions from Brussels. This isn’t only the case with fuel, but also with another group of products: packaging and bottles. These have to be registered, their movements have to be tracked; this involves all kinds of costs, and so the cost of processing the waste will also increase. I think that these are unnecessary, unrealistic and ill-timed regulations. It’s doubtful now whether they make sense in general; but at a time when we’re experiencing wartime inflation, economic difficulties and sanctions, it’s a very serious mistake to burden the budgets of nation states – of Member States – with bad economic decisions from Brussels, and we’re the ones bearing the brunt and paying the price. I’m always fighting to ensure that we don’t have to introduce them, that we postpone them, and that we get exemptions. I’m always trying to do something, but sometimes one comes up against a wall and there’s no way forward. We’ve been forced to transfer this Brussels decision into the Hungarian legal system. But what can we do? Since all this weakens the economy, and the war itself is weakening national economies and exhausting businesses, we’re trying to inject new dynamism, energy and momentum into the Hungarian economy. And the Government has also prepared an economic protection action plan to counteract the bad decisions forced on us by Brussels. We’ve drawn it up and are putting the finishing touches to it. As usual, Minister Gulyás will present it at next week’s government press briefing. These are measures to support the economy and to support people, with which we want to counteract the wrong instructions from Brussels.
There’s another Brussels decision, and we’ll see whether the Hungarian government will fight against it: at their meeting last week the interior ministers of the Member States adopted a draft mandatory migrant quota. This was on the same day, incidentally, that a Syrian migrant carried out a stabbing attack in France, after having arrived from Sweden. The decision states that if a Member State doesn’t want to take in migrants, it can avoid doing so by paying around 8 million forints for every migrant refused entry. Let’s first talk about the content of the decision: is it acceptable for Hungary to pay instead of accepting these people?
Of course it’s not acceptable, which is why Hungary and Poland have voted against the decision. There are differences in the characters of nations, and a “soft no” was said by Slovakia, Bulgaria, Malta, and perhaps Lithuania. So several countries have indicated that they don’t agree. I – and we – don’t want to implement it. In conclusion, we’re facing a very unpleasant turn of events here. In the last few years, step by step, I feel that we’ve managed to open up space for common sense and shift the attention of the decision-makers in Brussels away from the mandatory distribution quota for migrants, and towards border protection. Because the way to resolve this situation is not to distribute migrants, but to defend Europe’s external borders. And we’ve made progress in that direction. I had felt that we’d already won this battle, and now all of a sudden a decision comes along – rapidly and rather like an ambush – which says that any country that doesn’t allow in migrants will be coerced to do so by force. Now the next question is how many they’ll force onto us. They’ll decide that now. So they’re creating rules that give Brussels the right to say how many migrants it will distribute. It’s hard to imagine how this will happen. Let’s say that there are migrants in Germany, and then let’s say that of course they don’t want to come here. I’m doing everything I can to make sure that they don’t want to come here; but in any case they don’t want to come here, because they think that they might get more money in Germany. And then will they be rounded up in Germany and put into railway wagons? And then will they bring them over here, unload them here, and will we keep them here? So it’s extremely unrealistic to even think about this, and it runs counter to human nature and humanity. It violates our interests as humans, our rights, and those of the migrants. It’s a very bad solution, and there’s a good reason that we’ve been fighting against it for many years. The Left in this country has also denied that Brussels has any such intention; but then, sooner or later, the cloven hoof appears. This is what’s happening now. I think that this is connected with the fact that George Soros has recently handed control of his empire over to his son, who’s said that he wants to engage in politics in America and Europe in a much more direct way. And I think that here the Soros empire has launched a counteroffensive; I could even say that the Soros empire has struck back, and with an ambush-like lightning decision they’ve forced this mandatory migrant quota down the throats of the majority of Europeans. We have no intention of implementing this, and we’re looking for ways – and I’m looking for ways and consulting with other countries – to find a solution so that we don’t have to implement this rule.
Yes, because the EU Home Affairs Commissioner has said that after the regulation comes into force everyone will have to implement it – including those who didn’t vote for it in the Council. By the way, was it mentioned why border protection can’t be classified as a category in the Solidarity Fund? One reason I ask is that on Wednesday 79 people died in an accident off the Greek coast, when a boat carrying illegal immigrants capsized.
The defence of Europe’s external borders involves costs – in the case of Hungary, for example, we’ve already spent hundreds of billions of forints on building fences and defending our borders. Instead of the Brusseleers accepting this, taking on the burden and making things easier for us, they’re punishing us. In addition, I have to say that this Soros empire is a large, far-reaching, sprawling network. They’re also everywhere in this world of migrants, and they’re essentially organising and driving the whole migration process. And ever since this decision was taken, this Soros network has been spreading the word throughout the world of migrants that there’s a new situation, that Europe’s waiting for them, and illegal border crossers have been emboldened. What we’re seeing on our southern borders is that they’re becoming increasingly aggressive, taking all kinds of violent action and using dangerous means. There’s also an increase in the number of violent attempts to break through. So in the summer we have to be prepared for Soros to stir up the migrants, and over the course of the summer we’ll need to repel a major offensive.
Let’s also briefly talk about the background to the decision, because you’ve mentioned that it was an ambush-like decision; and Bence Rétvári, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Interior Ministry, who was present at the meeting, also said that the final draft was received half an hour before it was due to be voted on. Is it possible to make an informed decision in that amount of time? What was the reason for the speed with which they wanted to get this adopted?
There’s a new viceroy at the head of the Soros empire, and the Americans have put a lot of pressure on Europe. Europe hesitated for a long time. We’ve all seen that recently German migration policy has been a failure. “We’ll cope with this”, said the Chancellor [Angela Merkel]. And then, of course, they didn’t cope with it, and because they didn’t cope with it, now we’ll be the ones “coping with it” and taking in people that they want to distribute. It’s emerged that there’s a huge security risk involved in all this. Terrorist acts have increased, and in many countries law and order is on the verge of collapse – and if not in whole countries, then certainly one hears alarming reports from some cities and regions. In this debate we don’t want to be proved right. So we don’t want to say that the Hungarians are right, and the Germans aren’t. All we want to say is “let the Germans be right in Germany and let the Hungarians be right in Hungary”. So let the Germans have the migrant policy they want – it’s their country. They can experiment with it as they see fit. And this is our homeland, Hungary, the homeland of the Hungarians. We don’t want to experiment with this. We think that this experiment is risky. The kind of situation where large numbers of migrants arrive from a different culture – and arrive illegally – brings a host of problems in its wake. We don’t want to take that risk. That is our right. All we ask of the Brusseleers is that they shouldn’t try to tell us Hungarians who we should live alongside here in Hungary. They shouldn’t seek to tell us what our migration policy should be, because that’s an internal matter to be decided on by Hungary alone. Incidentally, thanks to the amendments made following our referendum on migration, our constitution is clear and unambiguous. These decisions by Brussels are not in line with Hungary’s legal order.
In the last half hour I’ve been asking Prime Minister Viktor Orbán about the Russo-Ukrainian war, the state of the Hungarian economy and the mandatory migrant quota.