Gábor István Kiss: Yesterday a bill was submitted to Parliament which, if adopted, would enact the Government’s intention to make it possible for those organising illegal immigration in Hungary and who operate with foreign funding to be registered, for their foreign funding to be taxed, and for individual activists deemed to represent a national security risk to be excluded from border zones. This will be the main topic in our interview with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Good morning.
Good morning to you and your listeners.
Did those who drafted this bill make use of the results of the National Consultation?
The final text of legislation is always formulated by experts, but we are the ones who must indicate the goals and intentions. People elect leaders, Members of Parliament and of government to lead the country so that, acting with the fullest responsibility, they enact the necessary decisions, and declare and express the public will and the goal. This is also what we have done; and then the legal experts devised the exact form for it. Our goal is clear and apparent to all, and is linked to the National Consultation. We must repeatedly launch national consultations, because on difficult questions involving conflicts it is important that the country is united – or that the majority is united; and the best means to achieve this unity and create areas of agreement is the institution of the national consultation. So my answer is that we have a clear goal: we do not want Hungary to be an immigrant country; we do not want those who organise and fund migration to be able to prosper in Hungary; and we want to be able to keep away from the territory of Hungary all those who organise and fund migration, in spite of our appeals and demands to desist. This is our goal, and the three-point package expresses this intention.
The title of the legislative package is “Stop Soros”. I assume this is a reference to George. Is this a red light or a “no entry” sign for George Soros personally, or his activity?
George Soros openly and routinely says – indeed virtually boasts – that he spends a huge amount of money on funding migration. He has a plan: he has made it public, and he has called it a plan. Ever since it has become a focus for debate he has expressed himself more cautiously, but his intention has not changed. He has said that the solution for Europe’s future is migration, and that the problem is the fence. We say that migration is the problem, and the fence is the solution. And he gives enormous amounts of money to those who organise this migration. Now there will indeed be a new piece of legislation, which will create a new situation. Everyone will be able to decide – and George Soros will also be able to decide – what to do: to stop what they have been doing up to now, in which case the new law will not affect them; or to continue what they have been doing up to now, which will mean that the new law will affect them.
Yes, but it is not certain that he has sent funds to an area within eight kilometres of the border. So if, say, he personally is banned from this zone, he could still send money to his organisations.
Yes, but first of all the money must be declared publicly. We will need to separately register those civil society organisations. Perhaps we ought to them call pseudo-civil society organisations, as they are operated by paid activists, and that is not a typical feature of civil society: such organisations working with paid activists are more like political parties. So we shall register them separately; they will have to prepare separate financial returns; we shall put their financial affairs under the magnifying glass; and we shall impose a tax on sums which are used to fund migration. So we will take around 25 per cent of that money. They will not be able to approach a border zone personally, and if they are not Hungarian citizens they will not be able to enter Hungary. We shall keep them out of the country. They will not be able to approach the Schengen border – and of course the airport constitutes part of the Schengen border.
You use the first person plural to say that “we will put these sums under the magnifying glass”, and that “we will take 25 per cent”. But this is all based on self-assessment, and with the law on civil society organisations we’ve seen that the organisations in question couldn’t care less about their obligations in that regard.
Yes, but this is a question of detail. Hungarian law and the state authorities charged with its enforcement will deal with this aspect. We needed to express the intention, and the legal experts have sought the mechanisms to accomplish this. I think these are good mechanisms, but now there is a debate about this; and if somebody knows of a better mechanism, we will be glad to consider it.
What qualifies as a source of funding which will be deemed liable to the 25 per cent tax?
The basis will be the budgets of those organisations, the total budget, funding the support of migrants.
In this regard, why will EU funding be exempt – or will it be exempt? In the law on civil society it was exempt, wasn’t it? And we’ve seen that last November the European Parliament confirmed that those organisations which support and assist migration on the border must be provided with funding. So in this respect it’s not logical for EU funding to be exempt from taxation.
Indeed not. I think that it must be included in the accounting procedure. From a Hungarian viewpoint – from the viewpoint of the interest of Hungarians – it makes no difference whether the source of funding is George Soros personally, the European Union or anyone else. The point is that they are providing money for an objective which runs counter to the interests, the intentions and the will of Hungarians. Therefore I think that this regulation must cover all such moneys. But there will be debates about this, as now we’ve drafted legislative proposals, we’ve presented them to Parliament where they will be debated, and then we will reach decisions on them. But my personal opinion is that it isn’t logical to make a distinction between the original sources of the money: if it is spent on something bad, if it is used for purposes that are contrary to the interests of Hungarians, it must be taxed.
Can you perhaps give an example of the individuals or occupations that would be affected by restraining orders?
No: we want to keep away from Hungary anyone seeking to do something which is fundamentally contrary to the interests of Hungarians. This is not one of those subjects which are up for debate. Naturally Hungary is a free country, and one can debate every issue: if someone follows politics, they will see that we debate almost everything. Social media – or whatever one calls the internet sphere – even brings such debate into people’s houses. So Hungary is a modern democracy, where debate is a part of everyday life. This is all to the good. But we have agreed on what is in the interest of Hungarians; and now we’re talking about the most important question for the coming decade, because I think that the path taken by the future will be one in which, over the coming decade, migration will remain the most important question for Europe and Hungary. Therefore if the Hungarian people has declared its will on such a matter, from that point on there is no further debate – only implementation.
Has Hungary’s policy on migration changed? Many people have come to this conclusion, because Hungary has provided protection to 1,300 people. Where are these people, who are they, and are they in Hungary on the basis of a quota?
Hungary rejects the migrant quotas, and Hungary’s migration policy remains unchanged. When we look at Hungary and at the other three V4 countries – Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – we still see that they are not immigrant countries. So there is a bloc of countries in Europe which has made it clear that they don’t want to become immigrant countries. If we take a closer look at countries to the west of us, then we can say that we are indeed talking about immigrant countries. This is partly because a huge number of migrants have arrived there – including recently; and many were received in earlier decades. Secondly, those countries to the west of us want to solve their demographic problems – or the fact that too few children are being born – by admitting immigrants. The Central European bloc is not such a group of countries. We do not want to become immigrant countries. We also have demographic problems, but we don’t want to solve them with immigrants. We want to solve them through family policy: through there being more Hungarian, Polish, Czech and Slovak children. This is what we see as a solution. It won’t be easy to achieve this goal, but perhaps that’s another discussion. So Hungary’s policy remains unchanged: we shall not accept immigrants, we shall not admit migrants, and we shall not resettle anyone in Hungary.
Isn’t all of that contradicted by these 1,300 decisions – these decisions about the 1,300 people?
On the contrary, it’s reinforced by them. It’s reinforced, because that is a separate issue. That is about people who are in need of protection, who are in need of protection under international law: people who differ from migrants in the sense that, first of all, they knocked on our door. The migrants, you see, left a trail of destruction on our country’s border and they entered the territory of Hungary illegally; and not only did they fail to obey Hungary’s laws, but they declared that they would not obey our laws. The people we are talking about now – these 1,300 people – politely waited at the border, they knocked on our door, they went to the official border crossing-points, and they told us that they needed protection. Most of them, by the way, are women and unaccompanied minors. The Hungarian authorities said that they would examine their applications; and incidentally the legal basis for this is formed by the international asylum conventions, which the Hungarian parliament earlier incorporated into our legal system. We have never accepted EU regulations on migrant quotas, and we shall never adopt them. So here in Hungary nobody can claim any rights based on those regulations. So we’ve assessed these people, we’ve seen that they truly are in need of protection, and we’ve granted them this on a temporary basis. This is an important point, because from the moment that they no longer need protection they must immediately return to where they came from.
So they won’t become Hungarian citizens?
They never will be. In Brussels we are condemned, and organisations operating in Hungary which support immigration condemn us, because we only grant protection which is temporary, and we don’t offer the opportunity of permanent residence. Incidentally the figures on exactly how many such people are present in Hungary are regularly released by the Immigration Office.
Yes, they’re on its website.
This information is public. I can tell you that in the Cabinet meeting the day before yesterday I asked the Minister of Interior about this, and he said that at present – and this is the official phraseology – a total of 491 people are accommodated in guarded and unguarded centres on the territory of Hungary.
So all in all, in the quota lawsuit, and possibly in the infringement proceedings before the European Court, Warsaw and others who are in the same boat can expect exactly the same message from Hungary as several weeks ago.
Indeed, after the National Consultation Hungary’s standpoint is even more determined and firm. I’ve spoken on the telephone with the Polish prime minister about this issue, I’ve asked about their standpoint, and we’ve concurred on this. At the beginning of the year we did so in person, and then later on the telephone; and both Poland and Hungary stand by their earlier migration policies. This means that we don’t want to become immigrant countries and we shall not submit to the migrant quotas. And we don’t want a European system which overrules our own systems and tells us – indeed forces us – to accept its decisions on who can reside within the borders of our countries. So Poland and Hungary continue to be full allies – not only on the issue of migrants, but on that of the European proceedings launched against Poland. And I confirmed to the Prime Minister that he can count on Hungary, and in Europe we shall not allow principled Member States to be subjected to proceedings on the basis of unjustified, unwarranted, groundless accusations. So Hungary stands by Poland.
To sum up, returning for a few more moments to the bill before Parliament, to the three legislative proposals, what do you expect from the public debate? Will you urge, for example, for legislation on this to be created in the spring – in February, in those few days of parliamentary sittings? Or will it perhaps be held over until the next parliamentary term?
That is something for Members of Parliament to decide. We have presented the legislative proposals. I see this as a matter of honour: if we launch a national consultation and we ask people their opinions, then some form of action must follow from that. The people have expressed their opinions, and they have made it clear that they reject the Soros Plan. And now we have an obligation – and we’re doing all that we can to fulfil it – to block implementation of the Soros Plan. Today this is the dividing line, the distinguishing factor, between the opposition and governing parties. The governing parties launched the National Consultation, and they are enacting the will of the people as expressed in that consultation. In contrast to this, the opposition support the dismantling of the border fence; and the opposition want us to accept a diktat from Brussels, whereby it would decide who can reside in Hungary, using binding force to compel us to accept the migrant quota. By and large this is the standpoint represented by the opposition. There are those who do this openly, and others who do so more insidiously: they don’t openly declare it, but they reject amendment of the Constitution when this could be used to defend the country. As I see it, the opposition stands united on the side of immigration and migrants, while the governing parties – together, I think, with the overwhelming majority of Hungarian voters – have taken up the fight against the Soros Plan and migrant quotas.
As we spoke about the Poles a few moments ago, what sort of partner will the new Polish prime minister be? After having been in office for only a few weeks, his first foreign trip was to Budapest. You had the opportunity to ask him then. And he was immediately followed by the Irish prime minister. So in the first weeks of the year we’ve seen major diplomatic activity.
Well it really was a strong start. We greeted the arrival of the Polish prime minister, who is an outstanding man. Our acquaintance is not a new one. I’ve spoken about this on other occasions, so perhaps I don’t need to repeat it now, but the Polish anti-communist resistance in the 1980s was different in nature and character from that of its Hungarian counterpart. The Hungarian version was intellectual in nature: it manifested itself in intellectual resistance, and it tended to be the domain of the intelligentsia and university students such as us. In the 1980s the Polish resistance wasn’t like that. It was a true resistance: over there people were imprisoned, and people were forced underground and into hiding. Travelling on foot from one parish or farm to the next they tried to recruit people for the Polish people’s resistance against communism and the Soviet occupation. I knew – and still know – the Prime Minister’s father, who was the leader of Fighting Solidarity, which carried out physical acts of resistance against the communists. So I can say that in terms of anti-communism one can find no fault or inconsistency there – and that commands our respect. Previously the Prime Minister dealt with economic and developmental issues, and in the past also I have received many ideas and thoughts from him. We are now working on the joint establishment of a Central European development bank, and within the V4 he has made a commitment to prepare economic proposals for the strengthening of the region’s economic cooperation. So in terms of the economic strengthening of the V4 countries he is a great new asset.
He was an accomplished finance minister. Will we call this the Visegrád Bank? The press has put it like this: the Visegrád Bank.
Yes, that’s right.
Is there a date for when its financing activities can start, and exactly what will it finance?
The four prime ministers will meet each other again here in Budapest on 26th January, and then we shall decide on dates.
You were a key speaker at a very important economic forum in Bavaria, where in part you also spoke about matters related to this. What you said ran something like this: “If the European Union doesn’t supply us with funding, then we shall turn to China”. Please expand on this a little. Does this statement also relate to the Visegrád Bank?
It does also, but my statement was not as blunt as that: in those circles one must speak in a more refined and nuanced manner. After all, at that speech the audience was the entire high command of Germany’s large-scale industry: the leaders of all the major companies that we’re familiar with. Every year they hold this exclusive conference in Berlin, and every time they invite a foreign speaker. In essence this is an event for Germans only, but every year they invite a foreign speaker. Last year perhaps the French president was there. This year they invited us – or rather me. I said that China is not a threat: China is an opportunity. From the point of view of the Hungarian economy and the entire European economy, China – which is developing, growing, and becoming the world’s strongest economy – offers us opportunities. For example, we export huge amounts of Hungarian products to China. Furthermore, the Chinese are no longer poor: their country is a rich, strong world power with funds which are seeking investment opportunities across the world. If we take a look at our world – the world of Central Europe – we see that economically it is Europe’s fastest growing region. We need to realise developments here. We need to connect electrical grids, build gas pipelines, and form North-South transport routes: today we cannot travel by motorway from Warsaw to Budapest; and, for example, there is no high-speed rail link between Krakow and Budapest – although there is a demand for it, because the region is developing. The question is where we could raise the funds to make the most of this growth. The first potential sources of funding are the European Union’s regional and cohesion funds, which were specifically set up for this purpose. These funds are limited, however: there isn’t sufficient money there. Another option is that loans could be provided by European financial institutions: the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, or private banks. If those loans are expensive, insufficient or come with unfavourable terms, the third option is to raise funds for Central Europe from outside Europe. This is where China comes into the picture; and China is prepared to finance development programmes in Central Europe under better financial terms and conditions than those offered by European institutions.
So there was that speech in Berlin that we’ve just spoken about, but earlier you also visited Bavaria. The Hungarian economy is dependent upon good German-Hungarian relations. What was your experience during your talks in Germany?
First of all, we’re looking for allies, and I personally devote a considerable amount of my work to finding allies for Hungary. I’m convinced that Europe is on the threshold of a major transformation, and this transformation offers at least as much in terms of opportunities as it does in terms of threats. We have seen the start of global migration – or mass population movement, as we call it. The United Nations is clearly about to adopt programmes and documents which support this worldwide mass population movement, and this is another threat which we’ll have to deal with. Next week Hungary’s National Security Cabinet will discuss the UN’s plans on this – all of which run counter to Hungary’s interests. It is no accident that the United States has withdrawn from the UN negotiations, because in its view decisions that are detrimental to its interests – and which it will be unable to block – may be adopted there. I share its concerns. This is something that we ourselves shall have to consider. But we must make a level-headed decision, and this is expected to take place next week. So I believe that there are threats which the whole of Europe is facing; and we need allies if we want to defend ourselves, and if we want to make the most of the Hungarian and Central European growth opportunities for which we’ve toiled so hard for so many years. Who is an ally? Someone who sees the world as we do – and the Bavarians see the world as we do. In Bavaria in recent months a political transformation has taken place, which is based on very strong Christian, conservative cultural foundations, and which seeks to protect Bavarian-German national interests. Therefore Bavaria, which is a traditional ally of Hungary, is now renewing its alliance with Hungary. In fact the Bavarian minister-president has agreed to put forward a Central European initiative, and to table a proposal on Austrian-Hungarian-Bavarian cooperation. There may be a chance to realise this in the coming months.
Even in the coming weeks – as Mr. Kurz is coming to Hungary, of course.
I’ll be visiting him.
You’re going to Vienna, then. Then this is something you’ll be able to discuss with him.
Yes, what I’d like to say is that there’s a common voice shared by quite a few of us now, and there’s a shared spiritual sphere within which we can think about the future of Europe together. We’re all pro-European: the question is not whether or not we’re pro-European, but what kind of Europe we want. And we are all opposed to mass population movement and migration. We don’t want to see an empire directed from Brussels, or parliaments and governments that execute orders handed down from Brussels. We believe in an alliance of free nations: that is the future of Europe.
As one year has ended, and logic dictates that another one has started, perhaps we should also touch upon the performance of the Hungarian economy. If I’ve understood correctly, in the most recent Cabinet meeting the Minister for National Economy reported on our opportunities: VAT on certain products and services has been reduced, while from 1 January wages, family benefits and pensions have been increased. What opportunities could the economy’s expected performance offer in the near future?
I know that this is the kind of interview and form of discussion which concentrates more on topical issues. Nevertheless I’d like to draw attention to the fact that after 2010 – when we had to pull the country back from the edge of the precipice and rescue it from complete financial disaster – we not only treated the symptoms of a crisis, but also built an economic and social system. This is something which – with a little vanity – we could call “the Hungarian model”, and which we believe offers the Hungarian people the most opportunities and the best opportunities. It rests on four pillars: the first is policy promoting competitiveness; the second is policy serving to create a workfare economy; the third is policy supporting families, a policy that is demographically-oriented; and the fourth is policy which seeks to strengthen our identity. It is always from this perspective that we look at the future, and any decision in connection with any one pillar must also strengthen the other three pillars. This is the logic on which we base decisions. It is therefore important that everyone in Hungary who wants to work should be able to work. It is a very long time since we’ve had such a situation in Hungary, but now it is well within reach. Since the fall of communism this has been a dream: that everyone can have a job. And now we’re close to making this dream come true. Our second goal is to make work worthwhile, and to ensure that wages and the value of work also increase. The minimum wage will increase, or has already increased from 1 January, and so has the minimum wage for skilled workers. I should take this opportunity to thank trade unions and employers, as we managed to come to an agreement with them on a six-year programme for reducing taxes and contributions, and increasing wages. Everyone is adhering to this agreement: trade unions, employers and the Government. This, I believe, is a basic precondition for Hungary’s success: this national cooperation, which is also manifest in the agreement. Accordingly, maternity benefits and the child support allowance for parents with degrees will increase; and we are able to reduce VAT, including on restaurant services, on fish and on internet services – because Hungary is a country of the future, and the future lies in digitalisation. We can proudly state that in Hungary the rate of VAT on internet services is the lowest in Europe.
I’ve been talking to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Thank you for being on our programme today.