Elmondta az amerikai műsorvezető: ezt gondolja Orbán (VIDEÓ)
„Szeretem a népemet, szeretem az országomat” – mesélte el neki a magyar miniszterelnök.
"We’re caught in the crossfire between major geopolitical players." We asked Viktor Orbán about Hungarian geopolitical interests, questions of war and peace, his relations with Russian president Vladimir Putin and Angelar Merkel, the 3 April election and the doctrine of liberal democracy. Interview with the Hungarian prime minister!
The original interview in Hungarian was published in the Hungarian weekly Mandiner, the printed version of the online magazine.
An interview by Zoltán Szalai and Gergő Kereki
You’ve just returned to Budapest from the Hungarian-Ukrainian border. Our neighbour Ukraine is at war with Russia. Seen from the Hungarian prime minister’s office, how did we get to this point?
PM Orbán: How did the war come about?
NATO has been expanding eastwards, and Russia has become less and less comfortable with that. The Russians made two demands: that Ukraine declare its neutrality, and that NATO would not admit Ukraine. These security guarantees weren’t given to the Russians, so they decided to take them by force of arms. This is the geopolitical significance of this war. The Russians are redrawing the security map of the continent. Russia’s security policy vision is that, in order to feel safe, they must be surrounded by a neutral zone. Hitherto they’ve seen Ukraine as an intermediate zone and, having failed to make it neutral by diplomatic means, they now want to make it neutral by military force. At the same time, Hungary must make it clear that war is not an acceptable path to any goal, and Hungary unequivocally condemns those who choose that path.
Hungarian foreign minister Péter Szijjártó invited his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and the Ukrainian leadership to Budapest, with the aim of starting peace talks. Is there any prospect of peace?
There is. The Russians are demanding the same things as they have done up to now. As Russia has military superiority, it was only a matter of time before the talks started. Hungary is pro-peace. It’s in our interest to stay out of the war, for the parties to reach an agreement as soon as possible, and for there to be peace.
We condemn the Russian attack, because they have launched a war against Ukraine. We must get back to the negotiating table as soon as possible, which is why we’ve offered to host peace talks in Budapest. But the important thing is that they should start. Now the whole of Europe should be working for peace.
You’ve been in regular working contact with Putin since you were elected. What kind of person and negotiator have you found the Russian president to be?
I’d been in contact with President Putin and the Chinese leadership in 2009, in the run-up to our election victory. I thought that when we came to power we’d have to face up to the realities of world politics that had emerged after the 2008 financial crisis. I expected the financial crisis to shake the Western world, especially the European Union, but not the Chinese – and that therefore there would be an acceleration of the process whereby China assumed the leading role in the world economy. Hungary needed to prepare for this new world order. Following our election victory in 2010, we were thus able to start intergovernmental negotiations with the Chinese and the Russians in a spirit of partnership. As far as the Russian president is concerned, he’s always honoured everything that I’ve agreed with him so far, and so have we. Until very recently relations between Hungary and Russia were balanced and fair.
The EU has imposed sanctions on Russia. Our country also voted in favour of those sanctions. How will the Russian invasion affect Hungarian-Russian bilateral relations? Will the events have an impact on the Paks II nuclear reactor project’s permissions procedure and the long-term gas contract with Russia?
The start of the war has also created a new situation for Hungary.
As regards sanctions, we won’t veto or prevent the EU from imposing sanctions on Russia. EU unity is the most important thing now. As far as post-war bilateral relations are concerned, one thing is certain: after the war Russia will continue to exist. And after the war Hungary and the European Union will have interests. There’s no good argument for ending our energy cooperation with Russia. EU leaders have also made it clear that sanctions will not affect energy supplies from Russia, as this would destroy the European economy. This is also the case with the Paks project. Without Paks, we would have to buy more Russian gas – and at an even higher price. If we were to end energy cooperation with Russia, the energy bills of every Hungarian family would triple in a single month. Therefore I don’t support such a move. The price of the war should not be paid by Hungarian families.
The Hungarian left’s candidate for prime minister has already said that he’d send Hungarian soldiers and weapons to Ukraine if necessary. What’s your opinion on this?
International politics is a difficult business. I’ve plied this trade for over thirty years, and this is my third war: the third war in our neighbourhood while I’ve been Prime Minister. NATO intervened in the war in Kosovo in 1999, the day after our entry into the organisation. In 2014 there was the Crimean crisis, and now I’m facing a second Ukrainian-Russian war. The advantage of experience in government is that I know the meaning of strategic calm: to speak sparingly, but then to speak precisely and responsibly. At such times, campaign concerns cannot be allowed to take precedence over national interests.
In a war, words are halfway towards deeds. The Opposition wants to send weapons which would be used against the Russians, or send soldiers to fight the Russians. This shows that they’ve no experience, no knowledge and no sense of responsibility. With their irresponsible statements they’re pouring gasoline on the fire, and that runs counter to Hungary’s interests. Instead of political adventurism, we need responsible politics, security and stability.
How are we helping Ukraine?
We’re happy to help the Ukrainians in their negotiations with Russia. We’ll even provide a venue for peace talks. We’re also offering Ukraine humanitarian aid, delivering vehicle fuel, food and basic supplies. And thirdly, we welcome anyone who comes here from Ukraine.
In the 1990s it seemed that the United States was the only remaining world power with real global influence, and that it was succeeding in integrating Russia and China into the world order that it led. Looking at developments over the last two decades, what point do you see in talking about a unipolar, US-dominated world order? How do you assess the balance of US-China rivalry so far?
A change of position is taking place among the world’s top countries. As things stand today, China will soon be the world’s strongest economic and military power. America is in decline, while China is growing stronger. With its ten million inhabitants,
We’re in alliance with the West, but we also want to develop a beneficial relationship with the emerging new superpower. For policy makers this is a complex task, bordering on the realms of art.
How will this change affect the question of sovereignty?
We know what the world is like under Anglo-Saxon dominance. But we don’t yet know what the world will be like when there’s Chinese dominance. One thing is for sure: the Anglo-Saxons want the world to recognise their position as morally right. For them it’s not enough to accept the reality of power; they also need you to accept the things that they think are right. The Chinese have no such need. This will definitely be a major change in the coming decades.
The German parliamentary election has come and gone, and Angela Merkel has left the stage of German and European politics. What do you think of the Chancellor’s record over the last sixteen years?
First of all, being Chancellor of Germany is never an easy job.
with its different body parts developing disproportionately: in the economy it has huge biceps; in culture it has well-developed muscles; but in security policy it has thin calves. It has no military power of any substance and, because of World War II, it cannot aspire to such power. So it’s not worth expecting Germany to provide what it’s unable to in its passive post-world-war condition. The assessment of Chancellor Merkel will be strongly influenced by what comes next in Germany. Whether the Merkel era was good or bad depends on what it stands in comparison with. Compared with what we would have liked, it was not very encouraging; but compared with what is in prospect with the new left-wing German government, it may well prove to have been very good. But then again, she was the one who let in the migrants. She also surrendered the cornerstone of German family policy that supported the traditional family model, and she set Germany on an energy path of dubious viability. These are three important strategic issues. The historic development of recent days was that Germany announced a paradigm shift in its military and security policy: Germany has decided to start rearming itself. This will also create a new situation in Europe.
What kind of person was the Merkel you knew?
I respect her, and I liked working with her – even when we had a falling out in the autumn of 2015. That has put a strain on German-Hungarian relations to this day, and it’s also greatly contributed to the attacks we’re subjected to in Brussels. The reason for this falling out was our migration policy. The Chancellor unambiguously called on me to abandon a migration policy that blocks the admission of migrants, and to refrain from blocking a common European migration policy that would distribute immigrants among the Member States. I rejected these demands – although one remembers what it’s like having a German boot on one’s chest, and it’s better to avoid such things.
– even though I knew that we’d be subjected to fierce attack for years to come. Since they seek to make the whole of Europe a continent of immigrants, and Hungary is a stick in the spokes of their wheel, they want to eliminate the current Hungarian government. In this April’s election the Brusseleers will also do all they can to ensure the success of the Hungarian left. On 3 April we must also say “no” to these attempts by Brussels to interfere in our affairs.
We know the outcome of the German election: the Left, the Greens and the Liberals formed a government. How might these developments affect German-Hungarian bilateral relations?
Reading the programme of the new German government, we have many questions. They’ve declared Germany to be an immigrant country, they deny that society is divided into only men and women, they’re legalising “soft” drugs, they’re hollowing out the concept of nation, and they want a federal Europe. We don’t know whether this programme will actually be implemented, or whether they’ll try to extend it to the whole of Europe. We’d like to conclude a “tolerance agreement” with them, so that on these issues we can go our own way.
Even before the election, the conservative newspaper Die Welt warned that with Angela Merkel’s departure the southern Member States could remove all obstacles to the EU’s debt spiral. What could Merkel’s departure mean for Europe? Is the EU really in danger from a monumental burden of debt?
Some European countries have a debt-to-GDP ratio well above 100 per cent. We don’t see any economic policy that could eliminate such a level of debt or make it bearable in the longer term at Member State level. One idea from the debt-stricken states is to collectivise their state debt at European level. Merkel always rejected this, but the position of the new German government is as yet unknown. It’s not a good sign that the President of the German Federal Bank has left, as on the debt issue he agreed with Merkel. There’s a well-founded fear, based on our historical experience, that the European left would lead the EU into a debt trap. As Margaret Thatcher said, the problem with socialists is that sooner or later they run out of other people’s money. But we have another problem: with the outbreak of the war between Russia and Ukraine, it’s become clear that European military and security policy needs to be built on new foundations.
We cannot afford to rely solely on the Americans. This challenge will involve much higher military expenditure. In other words, while we’re trying to reduce budget deficits and state debt, we must make an exception in the area of military policy. We need to spend a lot of money on the military industry in order to make up for the lost investment of recent decades. The Hungarian position supports strict fiscal policy, and the Maastricht criteria are necessary; but let’s exclude security expenditure from the jointly agreed budget deficit levels.
How would the European Union army relate to NATO and to the armies of nation states? Who would finance it, and who would control it?
NATO is a great asset. It must be maintained, and there’s no point in building an army outside it. At the same time, the European and American wings of the alliance are out of balance, with the Americans contributing much more to it than we are. This must change: we need to ensure that we’re able to guarantee Europe’s security through maintaining the American alliance, but also through our own efforts. Today’s European leaders lack the political will to do this, not wanting to devote part of their economic strength to military expenditure. Let’s face it: over the last three or four decades it’s been convenient to spend much less on security than the Americans, because this has left more money for other purposes. This has been the European strategy. The American strategy, however, has been based on the understanding that if you organise your military policy well, then military investments and developments will lead to economic development, and they can be transferred to the civilian economy; and if a feedback loop is created between the military industry and other segments of the economy, then ultimately this will mean economic and technological progress for everyone. This works well in America, where in the longer term military expenditure will also be economic in nature rather than purely military.
Europe is a technologically advanced continent, and we could create the same circular effect if we had a joint concept for a European defence industry. Hungary would be happy to participate in such an initiative. I’ve already discussed this issue with President Macron and Central European leaders, and I believe that military policy cooperation between France and Central Europe could be established. The war between Russia and Ukraine could push the parties even further in this direction.
What impact could the Russian-Ukrainian war have on V4 cooperation? Is the Russia question dividing the Visegrád Group?
So far we’ve kept V4 cooperation separate from questions of military policy, because we know that there are differences of opinion among us. Now that the Russians have attacked Ukraine, however, this is the most important issue and we can no longer keep it off the table. We want to keep the Russians away from us, but among us there’s a significant tactical difference. The Poles want to push the border of the Western world up to the border of the Russian world. They feel safe if this is achieved and NATO – including Poland – can deploy sufficient forces on the western side of this border. This is why they vigorously support Ukraine’s membership of NATO. But the essence of Hungarian tactical thinking is that
This geopolitical difference is not important when one has to fight Brussels on the issues of household utility bills, gender or defence against migration; but now that there’s a war it’s become more important. The point is that the Poles know that they can count on the Hungarians, and we know that we can count on the Poles.
You often talk about the rise of the V4. What do you see as the signs of it strengthening?
In the facts. When we started to accelerate V4 cooperation in the early 2010s, our trade flows with Germany were average. Then came the moment when V4 trade with Germany matched that between Germany and France, later we reached a point at which the V4-German trade volume was twice that of Franco-German trade volume, and now we’re above that.
Today one can not only see the Central European economies’ inability to function without the German economy, but also the German economy’s inability to function without Central Europe. This is creating a whole new relationship: a more balanced relationship.
Hungary is a strong supporter of the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Balkans. What are the prospects for this policy?
In Western Europe there’s a strong feeling that it would have been better if the enlargements that have taken place so far had never happened. When they look at the weakening of the Western European middle classes, high levels of debt and lack of economic competitiveness,
after they had arranged for the enlargement of the EU. Therefore many people instinctively resist any further enlargement, because they believe that it will render their situation even more difficult. Of course their elegant term for this is simply “enlargement fatigue”, which enables them to avoid admitting that morally their position is difficult to maintain, and that they’re on the wrong side of history.
Why is the EU membership of Serbia and Macedonia so important to our country?
It’s important for security and trade reasons. The Russia-Ukraine war makes it clear that there must no longer be a security black hole or vacuum in the Balkans. For a long time we’ve been arguing that the area between Greece and Hungary must not be a geopolitical wasteland outside the European Union, used as a playground for US, European, Russian and Turkish interests. The current war only strengthens our argument. Moreover, there are already NATO members in the Balkans.
and we need to integrate this whole region into the Western world – both in military and economic terms. We also have a commercial interest in the Balkans joining the EU, for us the region can be a zone of economic support, and financially we can benefit from one another.
Domestic policy: the family tax refund, extension of the debt moratorium, income tax exemption for the under-25s, the pension premium, the thirteenth month’s pension, the minimum wage of 200,000 forints. The Opposition sees these measures as pre-election handouts. How sustainable are these measures in the longer term?
These measures are not new-borns. Already last year we gave back the first week of the thirteenth month’s pension, and we’ve been offering work-related allowances to families since 2010. Tax reduction is also a policy stretching back over the last twelve years, and our 7 per cent growth figure has not only allowed us to cut taxes, but also to give back the tax paid last year by those with families – because they were the ones most affected by the pandemic. These measures aren’t linked to the fact that there will be an election, and they don’t represent a departure from the principles that we’ve been advocating: political stability; financial stability; transparent and coherent economic policy, the declared aim of which is a demographic policy based on linking work and family.
What’s the plan for the coming years?
Our demographically focused policy will be complemented by a higher level of security policy. The war between Russia and Ukraine means that we cannot continue with the military policy that we’ve been pursuing so far. This will also involve financial reinforcement. We need to make up for many years of neglect, because by 2010 the Left in our country had run down the army. Since then their attitude to national defence hasn’t changed. For example, one of Gyurcsány’s lieutenants has attacked the current development of the defence forces by saying that the campaign for building up the army is the new stadium-building campaign. Bearing in mind the current situation, imagine the state we’d be in if they were in government.
and we know very well that in an era of mass migrations, pandemics and wars, the only way to protect the security of Hungarians is through a strong army. The next decade will be about security.
What further family support measures would you like to enact?
Family policy has been put together like a mosaic, with us introducing new elements as the country’s economy has grown stronger. But there are still some missing pieces.
Here too, we must go forward, not back.
What specific steps are you going to take?
The ultimate goal is to create a situation in which having children is more economically favourable than not having children. Today, even with all the family allowances, if someone plans a life without children, then at the age of 45, say, their life is economically easier – definitely in the short term – than if they have two or three children. This means that we need to increase the level of support for the elements that are already there. But there are some measures that we need to streamline. For example, we’ve introduced income tax exemption for under-25s; but this can lead to an effective pay cut at the age of 25, when a young person crosses over from being exempt to paying tax. Here a transition phase is needed for those starting a family. But we should also bear in mind that the tax exemption for under-25s may push many people into working rather than starting a family before the age of 25, as in this way they can save a lot of money. Teams of high-level experts are at work on this, and
The Government’s decision to hold a referendum on four child protection questions is also linked to family policy. Why is this referendum necessary?
I never thought that it would come to this. If, a few years ago, someone had said to me that one day I’d be proposing that we write into the Constitution that a father is a man and a mother is a woman, I’d certainly have smiled. I’d have said that the purpose of the Constitution is not the confirmation of self-evident biological facts. And now I’m the one who’s initiated this. We can see how quickly even social views that were thought to be stable can change when concerted action is taken by political and economic actors. If we don’t deal with these issues in good time, we’ll wake up one day to find that we’ve been tricked – as was the case with liberal democracy. If we remain silent, if we shrug our shoulders, we’ll be creating a climate in society in which we’ll be the ones attracting strange looks.
Things must not come to that. We must mount the defence in good time. The advocates of the “open society” attack the nation and the family, and then weaken our identity with mass migration. Now they want to make our children unsure of themselves. We must not let this happen! Hungary is a free country, and all adults can live as they wish. But our children must be protected from gender propaganda, and the best way to do this is through a referendum.
On 3 April there will also be a parliamentary election. The Left’s candidate for prime minister is Péter Márki-Zay, but in your annual “State of the Nation” speech your focus was mostly on the potential return of [former prime ministers] Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai. After twelve years of conservative governance, is this a real danger for Hungary?
Your communist is a tough character. It’s a painful fact that, thirty-two years after the fall of communism, we still see a parliamentary election as a matter of life and death.
but we see it as an existential question for the nation; because there’s the danger that another generation of communists will come back. My hopes for this election are higher than simply victory: I hope that their fourth defeat will be one that the communists do not survive. If we can win for a fourth time, it will kill two birds with one stone. Firstly, we can avert the immediate social and economic dangers of a return to the Gyurcsány-Bajnai era, we can get on with our work, and we can move forward, not back. Secondly, with another victory we can force the Opposition into a radical transformation, and thus see the start of a new chapter in Hungarian domestic politics. So if someone wants real change in Hungarian domestic politics, he or she must not now replace the Government, but transform the Opposition. That is what will bring real change. And only the voters can do that.
Is a final victory possible? Fidesz has always seen international backing behind the Hungarian opposition. If this really exists, it’s unlikely to allow a new opposition policy to emerge that’s completely different from its own.
There are definitely Hungarian patriots who disagree with our governance, who want to criticise us on the basis of the national interest, and who can organise an opposition that isn’t funded by George Soros and Brussels. They’re not on the current party list of the Left, but I look forward to finally having to debate with them on the basis of the national interest.
Is there an international dimension to what’s at stake in this election?
We shouldn’t overestimate our own importance.
The conservative, Christian democratic approach will be battling against a headwind until the moment when at least one of the EU’s founding Member States steps onto the same path as us. Until then, the intellectual and strategic confrontation between the Left and the Right will be presented as if it were merely a dispute between the Western Member States and “new” ones in the East – which missed out on Western development and are unreconstructed hayseeds. This narrative can be dismembered by getting the first founding Member State on our side. Being good border fortress warriors, we can hold out for a long time, but this will only result in a real victory if we find partners.
Looking back over the past twelve years, what has been the biggest challenge for your administration?
The most difficult moments have always been crises. If you look back at our period in government since 2010, we’ve had everything: the financial crisis, the red mud disaster, floods, the Crimean war, the migration crisis, coronavirus, the Russian-Ukrainian war. This has been our past twelve years. If there were degrees in crisis management, by now we Hungarians would have four or five.
Meanwhile we’ve built a good family support system and have got the economy back on its feet. But that’s just been the icing on the cake, because most of our energies have been focused on managing crises.
The consensus among analysts is that the last twelve years will enter the history books as the Orbán era. Earlier you’ve called your policies “illiberal”, but you’ve also talked about Christian liberty, and now you use the term “conservative renaissance”. If you had to characterise the last twelve years ideologically, what term would you use?
It’s no accident that this lexicon is so variegated. People like us lost the language wars in the early 1990s, and since then we’ve not only failed to find our bearings, but also our language. In the first third of the 20th century, European democrats clearly identified the common enemies to be fascism and communism. Thus the two otherwise competing democratic tendencies – liberal and conservative – joined forces against the common enemy: the fascists and the communists. We cast aside our intellectual differences and joined forces to fight totalitarian ideas. And in 1990 we won. The liberals woke up first, realising that once the common opponent had been eliminated, the old competitive order would be restored: liberals on one side, conservative Christian democrats on the other. In order to gain a competitive advantage, they’ve created their doctrine: democracy can only be liberal. Since then the conservative side has been fighting a rearguard action, and its lost momentum has allowed the doctrine of liberal democracy to become the dominant view. Since then we’ve been trying to come up with a competitive counter-narrative: Trump said “America First”, and I talk about illiberalism; but really
What’s wrong with the doctrine of liberal democracy?
It’s a trick. Democracy is a standalone concept: the rule of the people. This concept cannot be appropriated ideologically. From democracy there can grow liberal administrations, conservative administrations, Christian democratic administrations – or, indeed, social democratic administrations. Earlier, democracy itself was never subjected to labelling by anyone, because democracy is the soil from which the governmental policies of different ideologies grow and then compete with one another. In the early 1990s, however,
The liberals concluded that the object was not to win the debate over who could democratically enact better policies, but to seize democracy itself. Now we need to say that not all democracies are liberal, and just because something isn’t liberal doesn’t mean that it can’t be a democracy. It’s difficult to assert this – although in the meantime the liberals have walked into a trap.
What kind of trap are you thinking about?
By usurping the concept of democracy and challenging the democratic character of conservative Christian democrats, they abandoned a relationship based on mutual recognition. This was a big mistake on their part, because liberals have always been vulnerable to Marxism. For a long time they compensated for this vulnerability by maintaining an acceptable intellectual relationship with conservatives. But once the liberals decoupled from us, they were left alone with the Marxists.
We see this in America, but the same process is happening in Europe. There are fundamental intellectual reasons for this process. For when liberals focus exclusively on equality based on freedom and remove tradition from their reasoning, they then become vulnerable to those who raise ever more issues on which to march for equality. They’ll no longer have anything with which to defend themselves when faced with these questions. First comes the question of whether or not same-sex unions can be legally recognised. Then there’s the question of whether this should be accepted as equal to marriage between a man and a woman. Later they’ll arrive at the question of why this relationship should be limited to two people, as other combinations are possible. There will always be people in society who are real or perceived victims in societal interrelationships, and who demand a change in the social system as a remedy for their own problems. The most absurd demands will appear on the left wing of the liberals, and, after we on the right have failed to counter them by arguing on grounds of tradition, they’ll gradually but systematically penetrate the political camp of the liberals and occupy the centre ground. In the end, they Marxise the entire liberal camp. Today this is what is happening before our eyes. This is the trap the liberals find themselves in. We could call this “woke”. Sooner or later we’ll have to face up to the fact that, opposing the Christian democratic camp, we’re no longer dealing with a group espousing liberal ideology, but with a group that’s essentially Marxist with liberal remnants. This is what we have in America today. For the time being the conservative side is at a disadvantage in relation to the Marxist, liberal camp. But in this duel we must pick up the gauntlet.
Recently Mandiner alone has interviewed conservative big guns such as Rod Dreher, Yoram Hazony and Niall Ferguson. In the past, there was no such interest in Hungary, yet today they’re coming here, researching and intellectualising, and they’re open to Hungarian conservatism.
Hungarian air sets you free. And freedom is a great attraction. They’ve experienced first-hand that at home they cannot say what they think. The Western liberal hegemony – which is gradually becoming Marxist – at best tolerates ideas that differ from its own – and in certain places doesn’t even tolerate those. This phenomenon is very strong in the Western academic world, and you can also read specific examples of it in Mandiner. I should note that Gáspár Miklós Tamás wrote about this ten years ago. The point is that over there you find hegemony,
Hegemony always threatens freedom, especially intellectual freedom. Pluralism, on the other hand, always opens up space for freedom, because it finds pleasure in the fact that we can discuss serious issues with one another, even from very different points of view. In pluralism we see this as beautiful and we enjoy it. Hegemony sees this as a threat, persecutes it and makes life increasingly bleak and grey. So freedom and the diversity that comes with it are a great attraction. And today there are very few countries where conservative Christian democrats can express their opinions as freely as they do in Hungary, surrounded by interested members of the younger generation. So to those unfortunate intellectuals I could say that Hungary remains for them.
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