Katalin Nagy: The Government has decided to initiate a five-question referendum on child protection. I welcome Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the studio. Why is there a need for a referendum on child protection, when the national consultation also features a question about the subject? Good morning.
Good morning. We need to hold a referendum – which I encourage everyone to take part in – because Brussels has attacked Hungary. I’m holding in my hand the 54-page document which the European Commission has sent us, and throughout these 54 pages they demand that we change the Hungarian child protection regulations, our child protection legislation. Normally when there’s a problem like this – when questions concerning child protection emerge – the procedure would be that the Hungarian Parliament would debate it and create legislation, as the Treaties of the European Union state that both family law and laws relating to the rights of children fall within national competence. As we elect representatives in order to create good laws and protect our children, we’d then adopt a law; and with that law the matter would be closed. But we’ve been attacked by Brussels. There would be no referendum if Brussels hadn’t attacked us. They’ve put us under enormous pressure: they’re blackmailing us, they’re threatening us, they’re launching an infringement procedure, and they’re delaying payment of the funds we’re entitled to. Under such circumstances we have two options: either we give in or we don’t. As this is about our children, and the future of our children is at stake, we cannot surrender. If we don’t surrender, we must fight. The Hungarian government won’t be strong enough in this fight on its own. We can look forward to some difficult months ahead. We’ll need everyone, the support of every single Hungarian, otherwise we won’t be able to win this battle. If we have the people’s support, however, then we can win. We’ve already seen this before, and so I’m not only saying this out of a sense of optimism, but also because it’s confirmed by my experience. We faced the same situation in relation to mandatory migrant resettlement quotas : Brussels demanded that we take in migrants. The Government wouldn’t have been able to resist that on its own; and we started to oppose their plans, to resist and to defend Hungarians’ interests. But if we hadn’t held a fantastic referendum, then from Brussels they’d probably have forced the mandatory distribution of migrants on the whole of Europe. So those who voted in the Hungarian referendum defended the whole of Europe against the mandatory distribution of migrants.
This is astonishing. What were they able to write about for 54 pages on a matter of national competence?
First of all they wrote that we must allow propaganda aimed at sexual education into our schools. They dispute parents’ right to decide when and how to introduce their children to the subject of sexuality, how to introduce their children to the extremely difficult and complex issue of sexuality at a sensitive age – I’m talking about children in their teens – and how to help them. According to the Commission, in school or public education there are rights which take priority over the rights of parents. We don’t accept this. They want us to allow LGBTQ activists into our schools. They say this because according to their conception – and we must try to understand them – this whole issue isn’t about the education of children, but about spreading the European ideal of freedom. So their historical perspective is that there was a condition of servitude, which included slavery; and from that point the world has been progressing towards ever greater freedom. And now we’ve got to the stage at which true freedom means that one can even free oneself of one’s sex. Hungarians don’t share this view, because we Hungarians say that there are adults and there are children. Adults are free to do what they want; and, within limits defined by the law, they’re also free to do what they want with one another. For us this isn’t an issue of freedom, but of lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle issue: if anyone wants to live with another person of the same sex, then that’s a matter for them. But children are a different matter: they don’t belong to that category, and with them we’re not talking about the freedom that adults have. Adults can’t just do anything they want with children, who have parents in order to protect them. Parents protect their children and concern themselves with their healthy development. And the state exists to help parents in this. So for us this isn’t an issue of freedom, but of child protection. This is why we call this referendum a child protection referendum. Do people want the unrestricted display of content including homosexual themes, in the form of commercial or public information broadcasts, on television and in advertisements? Do people want us to introduce very young children to the possibility of “sex reassignment”? There’s a theory that not everyone is born into the body that they should be in, and in order to rectify this, they should be given the right to change their sex. In some countries such surgery is even financed publicly, from people’s healthcare contributions. Now they’re saying that children should be introduced to this possibility at a young age. Meanwhile we say that it’s the parents who must decide when to introduce their children to this civilisational problem, under what circumstances, and at what age. So they want to deprive us of our rights over the upbringing of our children, because this is already how it is in Western Europe. To be honest with you, I don’t care how the Germans raise their children, and it’s their business whether or not they allow LGBTQ activists among their children. I know the curricula, I know the books they give children in the lower grades of elementary school – or even in nursery school: stories in which there’s a prince or a knight who doesn’t rescue a princess, but another prince, and then they get married and live happily ever after. All this is being given to children of four or five! I don’t want this. This might be good for the Germans, but as a Hungarian parent I demand that the state guarantees my right to decide when and how to explain to my children that in life there aren’t only princesses, but also princes who in their lives have orientations that aren’t straight. I acknowledge how things are going in Western Europe, and that over there this is now standard practice. And I’m not even suggesting that we interfere : that’s not a matter for the Hungarian people. But we must stand up for the principle that the education of Hungarian children is a matter for the Hungarian people alone.
So this is also a cultural conflict: the West lives in one way, the East in another. Why can’t they accept that in Central Europe, in Eastern Europe, traditions are different, customs are different and morals are different? Even though we’re talking about the European Union, why can’t they accept this? They’ve never been all the same as one another, have they?
Because the Brussels bureaucrats believe that in every instance – regardless of which people, which country or which culture we’re talking about – human history progresses in a single direction. They believe that this is how it should be, and that – just like the communists – it’s their duty to ensure that we fulfil the development and destiny of world history.
The history of class struggles.
Exactly! This is what we learnt at school – except that now this is being expressed in the language of liberalism. There was a time when liberalism was about the fulfilment of freedom, and It achieved fantastic results. By contrast, today – and I can see it clearly here – liberalism is restricting my parental freedom. The liberals have become the enemies of freedom. But in Brussels they’re in the majority, and we must defend our freedom. This is why I say that now, in the fight against the liberals and the Brussels bureaucrats, we anti-communists are on the side of the freedom fighters – just as we were in the 80s and the early 90s. Let me repeat : we must all acknowledge that the world is made up of nations, and nations must be respected; nations are made up of people who have culture and history, and these must be respected, together with the peoples themselves. You can’t respect a people if you don’t respect its culture and history. We are a European people, and we demand respect. It’s completely unacceptable for them to blackmail us financially – especially by abusing their power, as this is clearly an abuse of power. Justice for Hungary!
The talks on the recovery fund appeared to be making good progress right up until the adoption of the child protection legislation. Did the European Commission raise new questions? Is the essence of this ideological, or did they suddenly find some of the development goals objectionable?
No, we were in complete agreement. What’s more, in terms of economic policy content the recovery programme’s most important characteristic is that it’s rapid. We created it rapidly, at a pace that’s quite unusual in the European Union, so that every country could utilise these funds as soon as possible. Delaying them – and as far as I can see, the European Union will ask for a two-month postponement in order to negotiate – calls into question the very essence of the recovery fund. What can the Hungarian government do? Naturally this is our money, and we’re entitled to it. There’s not much dispute about that. They can delay it, but they can’t refuse to give it to us. Let me repeat : this money isn’t a gift, but something we’re entitled to, as we contribute to the EU budget, and we’ve agreed to implement the EU’s long-term economic policy. Therefore we’re entitled to this sum. Time is important, however, and so the Government has decided to set up a recovery fund within the economy protection fund. This will be a Hungarian recovery fund, and we’ll implement the same programmes – some of which have already been approved by Brussels. Today the Finance Minister will be coming to me in order to discuss the details. We’ll launch these programmes, and – whether or not the money comes from Brussels – we’ll finance them from the Hungarian budget. Money will come from Brussels when it comes, but it may well be that it will be delayed, due to a prolonged ideological war. They also frequently mention the argument of corruption; but we were close to an agreement, and then suddenly we became very corrupt after the adoption of the child protection law. Corruption is clearly a pretext, an excuse; the heart of the matter is the child protection law. This is a major battle, which I could call a battle between worlds. I don’t like Hungary finding itself in the middle of this battle of worlds, and it’s not our intention to get ground up by it. What we want is for every Hungarian parent to be able to advance our own way of life and our own conception of how our children should be raised. We will win this battle, just as we won our seemingly hopeless battle on immigration and migration – not only for ourselves, but also for the whole of Europe.
A lot of international attention has been focused on the Hungarian child protection legislation and the associated referendum called by the Government. Those opposing the referendum say that it’s simply a way for the Government to distract people’s attention from something else.
I don’t think it’s right to look down on Hungarians like that. It’s rather insulting to think that Hungarians can only focus on one issue at a time; we’re able to focus on two, three or more issues simultaneously. Hungarian politics has never been about a single issue, but always about several issues – although I’ve no doubt that this could be the most important. I hope that this autumn Parliament will approve holding the referendum, and that we’ll be able to have it before the elections, in January or February.
Some people – several Hungarian opposition parties – are calling for a boycott. It’s an interesting idea for politicians who like to present themselves as the defenders of democracy to call on people to boycott a referendum.
Well, we can’t object to that, because everyone advises their own followers as they think is right. I’d rather concentrate on what I need to do. I’d advise everyone to think carefully about this whole issue, to inform themselves, to read the demands of the European Union, and to look at what’s happening in Western Europe. There will be a referendum campaign, which is obviously about presenting the background to this issue, to the issue of child protection. So I ask everyone to pay attention, to inform themselves, to form their own opinions, and to take part in the referendum. To my mind, those who stay away – who boycott the referendum – will be leaving the decision to others. This time the key issue won’t be whether or not the referendum is valid and binding on Parliament’s legislative process, as we already have a law. So we’re not using the referendum to achieve the adoption of legislation, but to protect an already existing law. In this case, a boycott makes no sense; boycotting the referendum means leaving the decision to those who do vote. It was the same for the migration issue. Despite the Opposition boycotting the referendum, despite them calling on their supporters to stay away, more than 3 million people, around 3.5 million voted; and the percentage of “yes” votes was more than 90 per cent. With this the Hungarian people took a political stance which supported the Government, and with this support I was able to successfully fight the battle in Brussels. So now the goal isn’t to force Parliament to create legislation; that can also be the goal of a referendum, but that’s not what this is about. It’s about them wanting to force us to change our laws, and about a power that’s larger than us – the army of Brussels bureaucrats – seeking to force us to do this. And in order to fight successfully, we need a clear expression of the people’s will. Those who stay at home will be leaving it to the others.
There are reports in foreign media outlets about the monitoring of people’s telephone conversations in Europe and other parts of the world, possibly including Hungary. Could we see this as another way of exerting pressure on us?
One can speculate like that, but I don’t like overly complicated speculation. I tend to believe more straightforward things. The Interior Minister has already said everything that could be said on that issue.
Let’s talk about the pandemic, as that’s also a very important issue. It’s unfortunate to see that experts in an increasing number of countries in Europe now say that the fourth wave of the pandemic has started. What tasks does this impose on the Hungarian government? If my information is correct, in Hungary 23 people have been diagnosed with the Delta variant of the virus, this highly infectious variant.
Yes, we have 23 Delta variant infections. And also two Gamma variant infections; I don’t yet know quite what that means, but it’s another variant, and healthcare experts are now working hard to thoroughly assess the situation. The situation in Hungary is that around 55 per cent of the population have received both doses of the vaccine. This is higher than in the United States, the United Kingdom or Germany, so we can safely say that from an epidemiological point of view today Hungary is one of the safest countries – or perhaps the safest – in Europe. The second thing is that the fourth wave has started in Western Europe: rather than seeing sporadic signs, we now have information confirming that this is the fourth wave of the pandemic. It’s started in Western Europe, and if it’s started in Western Europe the pandemic will be brought into Hungary, because we can’t seal the borders completely. We’ve already identified the new variant in 23 people, and so we can now confidently state that this Delta variant is here among us; this means that Hungary will also be part of the fourth wave. The good news is that the vaccines that people have received protect us from severe illness. Some will be protected from illness completely, while others will experience only mild symptoms from the virus, rather than potentially fatal ones. Naturally, experts all over the world have begun to assess what percentage of protection against the Delta variant is given by the vaccines available to date. This is in the news this morning; I began the day by looking at the latest data from Israel, which is ahead of everyone else in terms of the rate of vaccination. Over there they don’t use the Chinese and Russian vaccines: they only use Pfizer. And over there, too, they’re struggling with the debate about the percentage of protection which two doses of Pfizer provide against the Delta variant. Estimates over there are somewhere between 40 and 60 per cent. So, as we have enough doses of vaccine, because we procured them in good time and from a variety of sources, I believe that our Operational Group made the right decision when they said that from 1 August any Hungarian citizen can ask for a third dose. And in consultation with their local doctor they can decide on what type of vaccine they receive as their third dose. This is the first thing, and we’ll make this possible for everyone. I think that in this we’re the first in Europe – particularly as other countries haven’t even been able to administer second doses. The second thing that our Operational Group ordered is that we must focus on the elderly again. Again they are the ones who are most at risk, and we should focus primarily on our parents and grandparents. We’ll be contacting the 15 per cent of elderly people who haven’t had themselves vaccinated. Eighty-five per cent of them have been vaccinated; but 15 per cent – and that’s a lot, 15 out of a hundred – haven’t. We’ll contact them in person, we’ll talk to them, and we’ll try to convince them to have themselves vaccinated. If we succeed we’ll vaccinate them, and if we don’t we’ll accept that they’ve decided that they’re not willing to have themselves vaccinated and that they’re even prepared to take the greatest risk of all: the risk of losing their lives. I’d like to talk them out of that, but this is a free country, and they can decide as they see fit. The third thing is that in the few days before the start of the school year we’ll launch a general vaccination campaign for children over the age of 12. So for the first couple of days at the start of the school year we’ll be vaccinating children over the age of 12. Our Operational Group has also decided to enter into cooperation with businesses. Earlier we only liaised with large companies, but now we’ll also be contacting small and medium-sized enterprises, and it will be possible for people to have themselves vaccinated at their place of work. The most controversial issue, the one that the Government has spent the most time thinking about, is whether it’s right to make vaccination compulsory for healthcare workers. I also frowned at this, as to be honest I don’t like such approaches; but Minister Kásler and the Operational Group convincingly argued that we’re in a situation in which it’s morally acceptable to make vaccination compulsory for people working in institutions that come into contact with patients and where they’re cared for. And another factor that convinced me is that today there are already other vaccines that are compulsory for healthcare workers. People cannot work in that sector unless they’ve received those vaccines, and now we’re extending that list to include the vaccine against the coronavirus.
Of course we’re now in the peak season for holidays. Many people are happy that they’re now free to travel around. But doesn’t the rise in the number of infections raise the possibility of the introduction of some restrictions? Or will this depend on the situation?
They’re a possibility, but we don’t want them to become reality. However, we mustn’t make overconfident statements about what will happen tomorrow or the day after tomorrow in the kind of dangerous and complex times that we now live in, with every kind of challenge: as you can see, migration is increasing, as is the number of infections, the fourth wave is here, and we’re under attack from Brussels. There’s one thing I can promise every Hungarian citizen : the Government is at the helm, the Operational Group is working, and continuously analysing the situation. The best minds, leading healthcare experts, are working around the clock; and when we agree that a decision needs to be made, the Government will take the necessary decisions with focus, speed and determination.
The official opening of the Tokyo Olympic Games will take place at 1.00 p.m. this afternoon, Hungarian time. These games won’t be like they normally are. Will we nevertheless continue to count the medals?
I’ll get up every morning in the early hours, just as I’ve always done when the Olympics are held on a distant continent. On this occasion I won’t be there: if people are barred from the Olympics, I don’t think it would be right for their elected leaders to attend. I believe that we must also share in difficulties and in restrictions on new experiences. This is painful, because we’re not used to an Olympiad without spectators, without supporters, without an atmosphere of excitement. This isn’t the first strange Olympiad: let’s not forget that in 1980 and 1984, for political reasons the Olympic Games didn’t involve every country. And now we have a postponed Olympiad, and one being held behind closed doors. At times like this everyone thinks of Hungary, as did I myself: if Hungary were hosting this Olympiad, there would be no obstacle whatsoever to holding it under normal conditions and openly. Now it’s hard to imagine – a year ago it was easy, but now it’s hard to imagine – what it’s like when a country’s in lockdown. But as in Hungary the vaccination campaign was conducted successfully, today Hungary is an open country. Japan is a closed country, and because of the high number of infections, they can’t and they mustn’t hold an Olympics amidst normal conditions. I’m sorry that it’s not Hungary hosting this Olympics. But we should get up early in the morning, and there will be 15 million Hungarians with our swimmers, athletes and every Hungarian Olympic athlete. Even though we can’t support them there at the venues, they can rest assured that 15 million Hungarians will want to see them show their mettle, and we’ll be looking forward to the Hungarian national flag being raised in honour of our best athletes. I’m optimistic.
Thank you. You’ve been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.