I think that if we stay at a distance from each other I may take off my mask, so that I can be understood better.
It is my honour to welcome Mr. Mateusz Morawiecki, Prime Minister of Poland, to Budapest. In both good times and bad times, meeting Polish people is a wonderful thing, so we thank you for visiting us. Right now we are somewhere between good times and bad. We spoke about great things, as we were able to talk about our two countries’ independence and sovereignty: how the Polish and Hungarian peoples can preserve their national values and maintain their sovereignty, while adding their strength to the common strength of the European Union. This is a great topic, and a good cause.
Meanwhile some clouds have gathered in the sky, however: there is a very serious dispute between our two countries on the one side, and the European Parliament, the Commission and most governments of the European Union on the other side. We all remember the summit of the European Union held in July. It was a weekend that resulted in some of the longest and most intense debates in the history of the EU. While we failed to resolve the disputed questions, we gave ourselves and the German presidency the chance to try to harmonise, by the end of this year, Member States’ different approaches to crisis management, the budget for the next seven years and the draft legislation seeking to protect the EU’s financial interests. We have been forced to conclude – and during today’s talks I was forced to conclude – that this attempt at harmonisation was unsuccessful.
The proposal seeking to link the urgent financial issue of crisis management to the debate about the rule of law – which is no longer a legal debate, but clearly a political one – is still on the agenda. Hungary cannot accept the content of the proposal on the table today, which seeks to handle the economic crisis and the EU’s financial interests at the same time as issues related to the rule of law. I was given a detailed account of the Polish position, and based on this we have been able to issue a joint communication, which we have both signed and which will be available on the internet almost immediately. Without a lengthy explanation, I’d simply like to draw your attention to the last sentence of this statement, which I signed not only with authorisation from my government, but with full authorisation from the largest governing party and the majority of the Hungarian parliament. This sentence runs as follows: “In this dispute we shall combine our arguments and our forces, and Hungary shall not accept any proposal that would be unacceptable to Poland.” So through the next few months we will again fight together – which is something not unknown in our history.
I would now like to briefly share two observations with you. I see that the states – and their media outlets – that are seeking to put pressure on us want to create the impression that the Hungarian veto is something improper. I’ll let the Poles speak about the Polish veto, but I would like to point out that the veto is a lawful instrument, and a right which is granted to us by the Treaties of the EU. When we use our veto, we are exercising a right which is provided to us in the European Treaties. This right can be exercised when a country feels that the adoption of a decision would harm its vital, fundamental and essential interests. This opportunity is made available for this eventually. And for me this is not only an opportunity, an opportunity provided by European law, but quite simply my patriotic duty: if I believe that a decision harms, undermines or runs counter to the interests of the Hungarian people, I must block it – and that is what l shall do. What is on the table right now as a debate about the rule of law would not promote the rule of law, but the rule of the majority. We have disputes with other EU Member States about a number of fundamental issues – primarily about the issues of migration and national sovereignty, but also about gender issues. Therefore we – and I – must not allow there to be any risk of someone using a simple majority to force upon Hungary positions which Hungarians are unable to accept. I must not allow this possibility, and therefore I must exercise my right of veto.
My second observation relates to money. A section of the international press sees this whole dispute as a question of money. I’d like to make it clear that any journalist, lawyer or politician who believes that this is a financial issue is mistaken. This dispute cannot be resolved with money – especially because the EU wants to use credit to provide the funds needed to manage the crisis in Europe caused by the pandemic. So the EU won’t be giving us money, but involving us in a shared loan. Moreover, as part of this we must accept the additional risk of some other Member State – and there are candidates, we’ve seen things like this in history – being unable to repay its debt, in which case we Hungarians would have to pay back the part of that debt apportioned to us. So we wouldn’t receive a penny, we’d be shouldering someone else’s risk, and meanwhile the money following into Hungary would be raised through borrowing. Therefore, if the European crisis management fund doesn’t come into being, Hungary wouldn’t incur any financial loss as a result. The need for this fund is not primarily on account of Hungary, but those countries whose national debt is over 100 per cent of gross domestic product. Ours, by contrast, is well below that level.
What is the solution? The Hungarian position is clear: these two things – the political debate about the rule of law and the urgent economic question of crisis management – cannot be connected to each other. Anyone who links these two issues is being irresponsible, because in a crisis there is a need for rapid economic decisions. Linking these two things together – connecting a political debate to the issue of crisis management – isn’t wise; indeed it’s a bad, approach a very bad approach. And to clarify the legal situation, I’d like to make one more observation. Creating legal rules related to the rule of law is not necessary for the management of the crisis. The only reason this approach appeared on the agenda was because some states and the European Parliament decided that they wanted to settle these two issues simultaneously. In a legal sense, however, at present there is no need whatsoever to adopt a decision on the issue of the rule of law. By contrast, in order for the budget to pass, our votes – from Hungary and Poland – are legally essential and indispensable. In the period ahead we will be negotiating with this in mind.