Piotr Witwicki: Recently there have been a lot of meetings, remotely and in person, both in Hungary and in Poland. Today are you able to tell us that now we are closer to the agreement, to a joint position for Poland and Hungary?
So thank you for the invitation and having that conversation with me, first. Second, yes sir, you are right that in the recent days and weeks between Poland and Hungary we have had a very intense relationship, negotiating on many issues and making some agreements. And at the same time, of course, there were some negotiations at the level of the experts behind the scenes on how to create a kind of European unity on certain matters. So first, if I have a comment on Polish-Hungarian negotiations, what I have to say is that it was easy: we reached not a compromise, but we reached agreement with you on all major issues. For several reasons. The first is the vital interests of Poland and Hungary are rather coincident. The second is that, you know, Mr Kaczyński is a legend in Hungary and we respect him very much, and we are happy to follow the line he just explained to us. Third, the V4 is led by Mateusz Morawiecki, who is our leader now as the V4. And we know each other very well, and he’s a good fighter and he was able to find the proper manoeuvres to reach certain moments and positions where we are now. So the V4, Hungary, Poland, is the future of the European Union. Now Poland and Hungary have totally coinciding positions on vital national interests. So we have to defend the Treaty of the European Union, we have to defend our national interests and we have to defend the money: the financial sources which belong to our countries. So we agreed on how to do it. We said that rule of law issues which have nothing to do with financial issues must be separated from budgetary issues. Those rule of law issues which have some budgetary meaning probably could be part of this new regulation, but clearly we would not like to see a situation when, let’s say, gender or migration is considered as a rule of law issue, and if we don’t follow the European line, the West European line – which we do not like anyway – we could be punished financially. So that kind of clarification was necessary. And some others also. I would not like to go into details, but now we Polish and Hungarians on the one side, and the German presidency on the other side and other prime ministers, now we are closer to each other than we were several weeks or days ago. So now we have a good chance for victory anyway – from a Hungarian and Polish point of view – if things are going well in the forthcoming two days. That’s my nutshell summarising of the situation.
Does the Prime Minister think that there is a realistic chance of victory, or – as many analysts say today – is this summit just the beginning of a battle, and will we actually be dealing with this budget for many months to come?
So first of all may I answer that we Polish and Hungarians together are strong enough to defend our financial interest. So even if we have a veto or anything like that, don’t worry: we will not lose a single penny, because we are strong enough to defend our financial interest. On the other side, to have a conflict, to have a veto and a long, a lengthy conflict situation for months – or even half a year or a quarter of a year – that would not be good for Europe. Your prime minister just today published an excellent article, which was published even in Hungary; and I totally agree with his argument that a veto is not good for Europe and a veto is not in the interest either of Poland or Hungary. Our interest is to make an agreement which is a victory for all of us. It’s not impossible, but in the forthcoming two days we have to do a lot in favour of that.
That is precisely the point, Prime Minister, this is what I wanted to ask: you say that this is good information for Europe, but will it be good for Poland and Hungary?
I think the best thing would be to reach an agreement which fulfils all of our major requirements. It’s possible, and we are close to that. If we are not able to do so, at this week’s summit – council meeting of the prime ministers – we’ll not negotiate on that issue either, and we’ll have to continue to negotiate after this summit for who knows how long. We can reach an agreement even by the end of this year. If we cannot, we have to continue into next year. But these scenarios are far from being perfect. The good scenario is to find our – or to manage to have our – vital national interests, and to have an agreement even this week. That would be the best scenario.
Prime Minister, there may be long negotiations ahead of us, but these negotiations will also force us to take stock – to take stock of our countries’ membership of the European Union. How does all this look to you? Poles are definitely curious about how this seems from your point of view. The European Union is not just about money, but what is the most important thing for you in the European community today?
Money is always important, as in our personal life everywhere, but it is not the priority. Money is not the most important thing – even in our private life, family life or national life, you know. Money is a precondition, but it’s not a target. It’s an instrument, you know. So it’s good to have, but we cannot have any major ambition – as a nation, as a family, as a person – just because of money, you know. But money is important; I would not like to underestimate that. But this dispute is not about the financial sources – that’s just a secondary consequence. What we are fighting for is national sovereignty. What does it mean, national sovereignty now in Europe? And this is our priority. First, to create how we would like to live. So, thank you very much for any advice coming from the West – being more liberal, being more open, and so on – but in Hungary our ideal in society is not the open society. What we need is a safe society. That’s what we are fighting for. So we would not like to get hundreds and thousands of migrants in Hungary, anyway. So migration – to avoid migration – is one of the highest-level national ambitions of Hungary. Second, strengthening families. This is very important. We reject the gender approach 100 per cent. And instead of gender blah blah and a complicated artificial understanding of life, we would like to take life as it is in a natural Christian way, you know. So family is the second ambition. The third one is the so-called labour-based society, workfare society and full employment, to give a chance to all the Hungarians to get a job. If the European Union brings us closer to that target, which they have done anyway up to now, being a member of the European Union is fine. So I think culturally, historically, religiously, our place as Hungary, and probably the same in Poland, our place is in the European Union. So we would like to be good members of the European Union as good Polish and good Hungarians. So we would not like to give up our national identity and national sovereignty. That’s what brings us together, the Polish and the Hungarians. So the only way to be a good European is if you are a good Hungarian. That’s our approach. So that’s the Hungarian ambition related to the European Union.
Prime Minister, migration is perhaps not the most burning issue in Europe today, but at the same time history is really very important, because that is what we build on, that is our shared foundation. On the other hand, I think that one of the most fundamental questions in Europe today is how we will prosper economically after this crisis caused by the global pandemic that we find ourselves in now. The question is whether these funds from the EU would be useful for both Poland and Hungary in this difficult situation, and frankly how important the Reconstruction Fund is to you today.
So, not really. So in our understanding in Hungary, the Hungarian economy is strong enough to create its own sources to launch a good positive period for the Hungarian economy after the COVID crisis. So we don’t live and we don’t depend on the money coming from the European Union. So we are strong enough. And don’t forget that the COVID financial fund is basically a loan. So it’s not a gift, it’s not coming from, you know “Ded Moroz” [“Grandfather Frost” or Santa Claus] as we say, as a Christmas present, you know. It’s a loan. And we have to stand by each other when we pay it back. So it has some risk. So I would not like to hide the fact that that kind of financial management to help difficult economically-situated countries out of their need, this is not a perfect solution at all. So for Hungary it’s good to be in, and good to not be in also. So it’s not a vital instrument for us. What is vital for us is national sovereignty. Probably you live in Poland which means it’s more Nordic than Hungary. But we are living at the southern border of the European Union: the South. And the migration pressure is very, very strong: increasing daily. And we are living in a very difficult situation: if the migrants are coming from the Mediterranean region quickly, we have a very strong and difficult situation at the borderline, how to defend ourselves. So we have to arrest hundreds of people daily who would like to get into the territory of the European Union, and the pressure from the Soros network and the European Union liberal parties is very strong to let them in. So in Hungary the number one issue of course now is COVID, because health is the most important thing; but we are able to manage it even financially. And historically the most important thing is migration and keeping the sovereignty of Hungary. The difference between the Polish understanding and the Hungarian understanding is because of the geographical position, and we are living closer to the edge than you are.
Prime Minister, I would also like to ask about the letter from the municipalities, their letter to the European Commission. Polish and Hungarian local government officials have written and have said that there should be some sort of agreement which bypasses the Polish government. They are simply criticising the Polish government. How do you feel about this?
I realise that that letter was signed not only by Hungarians, but also by Poles. And speaking honestly, I always thought that on a national dimension you are in better shape than we Hungarians are. And I thought that it’s impossible to imagine that any Polish elected local leader is ready to shoot at the back of his government when he’s negotiating for defending the interest of the nation. I thought it could happen in Hungary, but to happen in Poland, that surprised me. But I know how the Hungarian Left is doing the job, so I’m not surprised in relation to Hungary. But my estimation morally is very simple: when your nation, the leaders of your nation, are negotiating in a very difficult situation for the interest of the nation, you cannot shoot at their back: you cannot attack them from the back. It’s just something for me as a national leader, you know, and a person with a national attitude, you know, it’s simply difficult to understand. Secondly, if we put aside the moral approach, let’s be pragmatic you know. The local governments in Hungary and in Poland and everywhere in Europe still have a chance also – the chance is open – to go to Brussels and to get direct financial sources. But up to now they were not successful at all. So what they should do, instead of criticising their governments, they should perform far better in the already open channels, using them to acquire direct money from Brussels. But they are not successful – at least in Hungary. So, instead of criticising the Government, they should perform better as local leaders and governments and get more financial sources directly. Because not all the money from the European Union is coming to the national budget: there are some funds which are available directly for the local governments, but they have to fight and compete with other local governments from other countries. And unfortunately they were not able to stand that fight up to now successfully. But I wish them good luck, anyway.
Prime Minister, at the end of our conversation I would also like to ask what can be expected in the next few days. Do you have some kind of negotiating trump card? Do you expect the matter to be resolved this week? Simply put, how do you see the next few days panning out?
I think we have a good chance to close this whole issue this week, during the summit on Thursday. So I think we have a good chance; it’s not guaranteed, but we have a good chance, we are just one inch from that. So if we keep our unity – the Polish Hungarian one – and we negotiate successfully in the forthcoming 48 hours, we can reach an agreement which would be a great, great success for our countries. So that’s my priority. I believe it is possible. I think on the other side the other European countries would like to avoid having a long-lasting dispute and confrontation, so now the chances are really good to reach an agreement which is good for Poland, Hungary – Polish, Hungarian people – and for the whole European Union. The chance is that close now.
Prime Minister, if I may ask you about this, you are talking about this one inch. But listening to European diplomats, the impression we get is that what is still separating us from agreement are not inches, but kilometres.
You know, difficulties are always on the road, but these poor Westerners do not know the meaning of difficulties in reality, you know. All the freedom, democracy, rule of law they have, they have inherited. But not for the Polish and not for the Hungarian people. We never inherited any democracy, any rule of law, any higher living standards. Everything which you have created here and in Hungary is just because we were ready to create it for ourselves and fight for it. It was our merit. Invested energy, you know? We fought for the rule of law; they have never. We fought for democracy; they have never. To make available a higher living standard, we created it with our own efforts. They inherited it. So, when they say something is difficult, don’t take it too seriously: they don’t understand what it means for something to be difficult, you know. So I still have good hope.
Thank you very much for this conversation. Our guest was Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary, who came here immediately after meeting representatives from the Polish government. Thank you very much for contributing to this discussion, Prime Minister.
Thank you sir. Do zobaczenia!