Katalin Nagy: – Amnesty International has called Wednesday a historic day, after the European Parliament voted to adopt the Sargentini Report. In contrast with this, one CDU politician said that adopting the report and voting against Hungary was the biggest mistake the European Parliament has made in its entire history. I welcome Prime Minister Orbán to the studio. How do you see things? What is your assessment?
Viktor Orbán: – Good Morning. Well, I am biased, because I was present, and so, unlike outside observers, I’ve had personal experience of how things are. I have plenty to say about this affair, and perhaps we can begin from where you started the conversation: with my overall assessment. Looking at it from a distance, I can say that what the people of Hungary saw on Tuesday and Wednesday represents the past: with all due respect, this is a particular European Parliament that must simply be regarded as a discontinued line. Its days are numbered, its members will be leaving next May, and the people will be electing new Members of the European Parliament in the European Parliament elections in May. Everything that is happening is to be seen in this context. If I move a step closer to the events, then what I can say is that there is a clear pro-immigration majority in today’s European Parliament, who regard it as their historic mission to change the composition of Europe and implement population replacement, because they believe that it is a good and desirable thing. This – transforming Europe into an immigrant continent – is how they want to respond to Europe’s troubles, which undoubtedly exist. And they hate those people who not only state that they do not agree, but who stand opposed to this plan and are trying to organise a resistance; and since I was the only one of those people there, then who else could they focus their hatred on, except me? So the truth is that I did not seek out this role; but since our homeland stands directly on the migration route, and as throughout history migrants flowing up from the South have always only being able to reach Europe through Hungary, we were the ones who had to stop them, we were the ones who had to construct a fence, and we were the ones who had to say “no”. I think that the naive Western Europeans, who totally misunderstand reality, must also stop what has been happening. They have said that it is a good thing for immigrants to enter Europe. We have stopped this, and from that moment on Hungary has become a symbol of resistance against illegal immigration. And since they would like to retain a pro-immigration majority within the European Parliament after the May elections, because they want to continue doing what they’re doing now, they must attack the symbol of resistance; and that symbol is Hungary, which at the moment I happen to be leading. This is how the situation has fallen in into place. If we move yet another step closer, the question is whether what happened represents any kind of problem or danger for Hungary. And, without a complicated legal analysis, this can perhaps be most easily explained by stating that something like this has already happened: it was called the Tavares Report – around 2013, perhaps. That was launched because at that time Hungary had sent the IMF home, we had taxed the banks and the multinationals, and had introduced cuts in household utility charges. They were similarly irritated by that, and although the two are different topics, it affected them just as sensitively as the issue of immigration. The Tavares Report was also adopted by the European Parliament – and nothing happened. The situation is the same now. This represents absolutely no danger at all to Hungary. But then the question arises: why are they doing this?
– Yes – why?
– If we look for the cat that must come out of the bag to enable us to answer this question, then yesterday we saw that cat. Following her meeting last week with French president Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel issued Europe an ultimatum. The debate on the Sargentini Report drew attention away from this. Chancellor Merkel said that countries like Hungary, on the periphery of Europe and on the external borders of the Schengen Area, must transfer part of their border security responsibilities to Brussels. So the plan is that if Hungary cannot be forced to allow in the migrants, then it must be stripped of its right to defend its borders. This is what is happening. The plan is that Hungary must be stigmatised and Hungarian resistance must be weakened, because the name of the next battle to be fought will be how to take away the right of intransigent countries – of countries that are resisting immigration – to defend their borders. So what they want is nothing less than this: that – instead of our Hungarian sons, police officers and military personnel who have donned their uniform, sworn an oath, and for whom their homeland is important – they will send mercenaries here from Brussels, from where they will be told how the Hungarian border should be protected. We should be under no illusions: if they control Hungarian border defences, they will let in the migrants. So the name of the next battle – and this will already be on the table in Brussels next week – is whether or not a Member State can be stripped of its right to defend its own borders.
– But isn’t this a question of sovereignty?
– Of course it is, but this is what is at stake. What we saw on Tuesday and Wednesday is a report on Hungary conducted as part of a procedure that in the end will have absolutely no sanctions, meaning it represents no danger. But all the same they conducted it, in order to weaken Hungary’s position before the next battle, so that by stigmatising us they can say that our opinion and our voice matters less. They will ask what kind of country we are, being subject to a rule of law procedure. This is the battle that is under way.
– In a statement following the vote, Judith Sargentini said that she had done a good job, because the European Parliament had not really heard any arguments against the report, and the Hungarian government had been unable to refute her claims. The question is this: did anyone read the 108-page document that the Hungarian government produced in response?
– I am certain that some MEPs read it, but perhaps others didn’t. It is, after all, a long document: over a hundred pages, which is indeed long. In the document, experts from the Hungarian government provided detailed, point-by-point responses to every single claim. I can tell you that we categorised those claims, and I can tell you the result of that. We listed the responses to the claims in the report, and the result was the following ratios. There are perhaps nineteen issues that are subject to ongoing debate between the European Union and Hungary – meaning that they are in no way concluded. Nothing can yet be said about them. There were a little over ten claims – perhaps thirteen – that were made in relation to issues that have already been concluded, but which they have now objected to again – despite the fact that we have already come to an agreement on them. And the report includes thirty-seven point that are obvious factual errors. This is the situation.
– More and more European politicians are speaking up and saying that Hungary has been singled out by the European Parliament, and many are suggesting that perhaps we are seeing an operation – a military operation – launched by the core countries against the periphery. Because following Poland it is now the turn of Hungary – and in October Romania could be next.
– It’s possible, let’s not discount this, but I’m assessing the situation from the perspective of immigration. So I believe that the historic battle – the battle that will determine the future of us all of, including our children and grandchildren – is the battle on immigration, because this is what will decide the future of Europe. I think that all the important events in Europe today can be understood from this perspective: from the fact that there are those in favour of immigration and those opposed to it. In this debate it was extremely clear that in the European Parliament those in favour of immigration currently enjoy a large majority. There are exactly as many as are shown by the ratio of votes. The whole of the Left is pro-immigration – including the Hungarian MEPs sitting there, the left-wing Hungarian MEPs. On the Right the situation is divided, and 115 MEPs from the European People’s Party voted against us: they are the pro-immigration MEPs, and I also know them personally. And 85 of them were not willing to vote against us: 85 voted with us. Generally speaking, they are anti-immigration. And on the Right there is also the Conservative parliamentary group, which broke away from our party group, from the European People’s Party, and who are unanimously anti-immigration. And then there are the radical right-wingers, who are also all anti-immigration. These are the groups and the people who voted for Hungary, and who obviously also have a certain empathy for us; because the vote wasn’t about a sack of potatoes, but about a people of ten million and about human beings. Yet I don’t think that this was the deciding motivation: I think that in fact they were voting on their own fates, about their own European future. And with their vote they were supporting a Hungary which is anti-immigration.
– On the subject of the votes, the situation is quite interesting, because there were “yes” votes and “no” votes, and – if I remember correctly – there were 48 abstentions, which the European Parliament did not take into account.
– I think you’ve brought up an extremely important issue. Because what happened? Let’s try and look at things from an unbiased perspective. It isn’t easy. A body was convened, which we call the European Parliament, and which has rules: rules on how votes must be conducted; rules on how votes must be counted; and general rules on how to speak in debates. For instance, the Prime Minister wasn’t given five minutes: I got five minutes, with two minutes to respond to other people’s contributions; this made seven in all. So there are rules. And this body was convened and it came to a decision, stating that a country is not adhering to the rules. This is called a rule of law issue: a country isn’t conforming to legal regulations. Then it turned out that they can only denounce that country by breaking the rules which apply to them when counting the votes. And they break those rules without any qualms or inhibitions. European regulations literally state that in order to launch a procedure, two thirds of the votes must be cast against the country. An abstention is a vote that has been cast; people who have not attended the parliamentary session cannot vote, but all votes that are cast should count towards the result. So we have votes in abstention, votes for and votes against; two thirds of all these votes needed to be cast against the Hungarian government, or against Hungary, but this two-thirds majority was not achieved. So there was a proposal, there was a vote on that proposal, and the proposal did not receive the required level of support in that vote. So the decision has been made, and that decision means that the procedure cannot be launched against Hungary, because the proposal did not receive the required two-thirds majority of the votes cast. This is being challenged now, and there will be a major legal dispute. But I do not regard this as simply a legal issue: I feel that the European Parliament is consuming the last crumbs of its moral standing. A country has been denounced for its record on the rule of law by a body which has clearly and openly disregarded its own regulations on the rule of law. This is where we stand now. This is why I say that this is a discontinued line, and this represents the past: we need a different European Parliament and a different future.
– An outsider will say that this whole affair has been going on in the European Parliament for one and a half years now. So how is it that they only came up with the question of there perhaps being no need to include the abstentions just a few days before the vote?
– They looked at the arithmetic. I knew and they knew, because we can count. We’ve known each other for a long time – and even though I don’t know every single MEP personally, I know a great many of them. Within a very small margin of error we knew how the vote would turn out, and they knew that they wouldn’t win their two-thirds majority. So they quickly had to declare that abstentions would not count towards the result. This is – as we say in Hungarian – justizmord, or judicial murder: such an obvious violation of the law that the Hungarian government must take action. On Monday we will be holding a cabinet meeting related to EU affairs, at which the Minister of Justice and the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office – Gergely Gulyás – will be putting forward a proposal on what legal action Hungary should take.
I would also like to state something else, if you will allow me, about why – in addition to immigration – there will be so much at stake in the upcoming elections to the European Parliament. Perhaps we haven’t spoken about this yet in this studio. When preparing for the debate in the European Parliament, I asked to see the EU budget statistics, because I know very well that the various fake civil society organisations and Soros-backed organisations have been very actively lobbying against Hungary, contacting MEPs and asking them to vote against Hungary. So I requested the relevant sections of the EU budget to see who – including in Hungary – is being funded by the European Union from taxpayers’ money. The European Union is providing hundreds of millions of euros in funding to Soros’s civil society organisations. This means that when we have a new European Commission – and we will have a new one – and we have a new Parliament with a different political composition, then it will be game over for those hundreds of millions of euros: kaput. There will be no more. So they’re also fighting for their money. Incidentally, the worst thing I found was that the European Commission is giving money to those fake civil society organisations that are in essence conducting anti-Semitic campaigns in Israel against Israel itself. So the fact of the matter is that today the centre of modern anti-Semitism – from which the anti-Israeli forces that are taking action against Prime Minister Netanyahu are being organised – is in Brussels. And it is clear that this cannot go on – at least not if we can help it. And we will be changing this in May. So, in addition to immigration, a good many financial, material interests and considerations are also linked to this battle, which will be at the centre of the European parliamentary elections in May. This is why I am telling the Hungarian voters well in advance that there has never been such an important election to the European Parliament in our lifetime – and perhaps there never will be again.
– From the media we know that Judith Sargentini’s activities also include attacking Israel, so it is absolutely clear that when she states that there is anti-Semitism in Hungary and includes it in her report, she is being a hypocrite and a liar.
– Notice that in my response – for which I was given just two munities – I devoted a few sentences to this issue, since Hungary’s role in the Second World War, the Holocaust and other events means that to us anti-Semitism is a matter of honour and a matter of humanity. But it is also a matter of national honour: we must not fall short on this issue, and we must take an extremely clear moral stance. And in fact Hungary has declared a policy of zero tolerance on anti-Semitism, and we also monitor this at an international level. So we are being accused of anti-Semitism by a woman who is a representative of modern anti-Semitism – which is called an anti-Israeli stance. Incidentally, this is also what it has been called by the French president, and for once I am quoting President Macron in support of my point. So in the sense defined by the French president, Sargentini is a representative of modern anti-Semitism. This is the truth.
– We’ve already mentioned the votes cast by Hungarian MEPs, but it’s perhaps worth speaking a little more about the fact that Hungarian opposition MEPs have again voted against Hungary, and every person who didn’t vote and didn’t bother attending the debate also effectively helped to add one more vote to those condemning Hungary.
– There are things that people like me will definitely never understand. I accept that the opposition is exasperated at having lost three consecutive parliamentary elections – although I might add that we also lost twice in a row, and that isn’t such a tragedy. In my speech at my inauguration as Prime Minister I tried to explain that no victory is final, and no defeat is fatal. The question is whether one truly believes in what one represents; and then, one way or another, God will either help one to victory, or find one to be unworthy of it. So one should never give up. But I understand why opposition MPs are not throwing their hats in the air to celebrate the fact that they will have to remain in opposition for another four years – or who knows how long, because to me they don’t seem to be in particularly good condition. And I also understand that in such a struggle – which is characteristic of politics and which is sometimes a rugged one in which bones are broken and ligaments torn – there is also anger and emotion. This is natural, as we are all human beings. But it is shocking that, when we are talking about our homeland, our Hungarian domestic political opponents are unable to put the fate of their own homeland before the hatred they feel for their political opponents, and that their homeland is not more important to them than hating us and damaging us. So I had no choice but to state there that in my opinion this is the communist style, the modern-day definition of the communists, and that there is a problem with someone who hates their domestic political opponents more than they love their own homeland. And it seems to me that the Hungarian opposition MEPs who voted against Hungary – the people sitting there in the European Parliament – are people of this nature and spirit. There was another dispute over whether it was Hungary or the Hungarian government that was being denounced. In this regard I suggested that everyone read the title of the report. The title details exactly what the report is about. It is in English, but it isn’t all that difficult to understand. It says against “Hungary”, in view of its problems relating to the rule of law. It does not say “the Hungarian government”: it says “Hungary”. So it is obvious that that the report names Hungary as being at fault and the target of the attack, and not the Hungarian government. They could have written “Hungarian government”, but that is not what they wrote. So here there is nothing to argue about: it is a question of facts. This attack is aimed at Hungary, and the title of the report clearly states this.
– The opposition – those who were happy with this result, and that this result came about in the European Parliament – smiled as they said, “Well, well, even its People’s Party friends voted against Fidesz.” Many people have said that the positive side of all this might be that at least everything is now out in the open, and now Fidesz, the governing party, knows exactly who shares the Hungarian government’s view on migration, and who doesn’t.
– We already knew this. I could have told you in advance, MEP by MEP, what the votes would look like within the European People’s Party. I could exactly predict that the majority of MEPs in the European People’s Party parliamentary group – 115 to 85 – are pro-immigration. These are mostly Germans and those in the German sphere of influence. This is something we are fully aware of, and so there is nothing surprising about this. What is a political curiosity – but this is something that is perhaps not so interesting for your listeners – is that all the Germans voted against us, except for the Bavarians. There are five Bavarian MEPs, four of whom voted in support of Hungary: they were not prepared to vote against Hungary. After all, we were the ones who made it possible – or opened up the possibility – for Germany to be reunified. And so in light of this, from a moral point of view it is not easy for the Germans to vote against us. Four out of Bavaria’s five MEPs were not prepared to vote against Hungary; and the only one of them who did vote against us was their leader – who wants to be the next President of the European Commission under the banner of our People’s Party. This is interesting.
– The statement issued by Sebastian Kurz was a disappointment, wasn’t it?
– I am more understanding about that. He’s a young man, and this is a very difficult battle. We’re talking about a young man in his early thirties, who finds himself in this confusing and complicated debate with all sorts of interrelationships. It’s not easy. In addition, those Austrian People’s Party representatives within the European People’s Party received their mandates well before Chancellor Kurz became their party’s leader. I don’t know about the internal relations within the Austrian People’s Party, and the relationship between the Chancellor and MEPs, but I do know that they are divided in terms of time. Nevertheless, although inter-family relationships are the most complicated and we aren’t blood relations, I must say that the Austrian approach could perhaps have been a little more courageous. But the fact is that all Austrian MEPs from the Austrian People’s Party – who in theory are on our side – voted against us. So on this issue the Austrians voted against us, they voted against Hungary. But it is also very important to note – and Hungarians should keep their radar equipment switched on – that the majority of Romanian MEPs voted in support of us. Historically we have a stormy relationship with Romania, but despite this, when the time comes and the situation is serious, there are Romanian patriots who I think we can count on. This is a great lesson for us on the limits and context within which we should think about our neighbours.
– Prime Minister, will the coming nine months be like this all the time, until we get to the European Parliament elections? With there be this much tension and so many battles?
– This will now be off the agenda or recede into the background, because although of course it’s important to us, its importance within the context of European politics is now declining day by day, and new issues are coming to the fore. I’ll repeat: speaking before the entire European public, Angela Merkel has stated that the plan is for countries on the periphery, such as Hungary – countries lying on the European Union’s external borders – to transfer some of their border protection responsibilities to Brussels. The name of the next battle will be this: who will defend Hungary’s borders? Up until now we have always stated that we – and only we – shall decide who we want to live alongside. So far we have been winning this battle. Now the name of the battle is this: who will decide on whom we should allow onto the territory of Hungary? They simply want to deprive us of the keys to the gate. This is the next battle that we must fight.
– You have been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.