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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on the Kossuth Radio programme “Good Morning Hungary”

Katalin Nagy: A few days ago the Government announced that next year it will increase pensions by 5 per cent, not 3 per cent. I welcome Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the studio. Does this mean that the budget will have to be amended? Did you have this much in reserve? Can this be accommodated?

Good morning to your listeners. It’s had to be amended, because the National Bank – quite rightly, I think – has brought forward its inflation forecast for next year. In Hungary the Central Bank has many important tasks. One is to assess the expected development of the value of money, as a guide for government decisions. As for pensions, next year starts in January, so we have to set them and adjust them to the economic conditions prevailing next year. Sometime around July, when Parliament adopts the budget for the following year, the Government assesses the situation over that period; and then at the end of the year the Central Bank makes its own estimate. If there’s a discrepancy between the two, the Central Bank’s estimate takes precedence. And indeed, if the exact rate of inflation for next year isn’t exactly as forecast – let’s say prices rise more than we’d thought at the beginning of the year – then we always make up for it in November; accurate accounting, long-lasting friendship. Pensioners keep track of every penny, so their money has to be accounted for accurately. And I think that their experience of life means that they’re right to demand accurate accounting from the Government, because they’ve seen governments that have taken rather than given. And if we see that inflation will be higher next year, if we see that the value of money drops by 5 per cent next year, then what we have to do is raise the pension by 5 per cent – even if earlier we’d decided to raise it by, say, 3 per cent. If I’m not mistaken, the decree on this, which was signed earlier, will be published today in the Hungarian Official Gazette. As there’s a state of danger because of the health situation, we can do this by decree instead of going back to Parliament to amend a section of the Budget Act. We’ve drafted this decree, it will appear in the Official Gazette today, and all pensioners can be sure that from January their pensions will increase by 5 per cent. But what’s perhaps even more important – and fewer people think about this – is that the value of the thirteenth month’s pension, which will be fully refunded next year, will also increase by 5 per cent. So this doesn’t just affect the current pension, but also the thirteenth month. This is good news for all of us in general. When there’s money to give, people are happy to give it; and the economy has done well in the past year, and hopefully will do well in the year ahead.

Many social groups will see their wages rise next year. The minimum wage is going up. There will be a 20 per cent increase in the wages of workers in the cultural sector and the social sector. It’s been announced that the wages of military and law enforcement personnel will rise by 10 per cent, and there will also be a 10 per cent pay rise for teachers. Is there money for this? Aren’t the economists saying that this is a huge wage bill?

There will be money for it if the economy produces it. And the economy isn’t an abstract concept: it is all of us, because it’s our work that makes the economy function. Of course we need a bit of luck for things to go well in the global economy; but if we work well and if employers – businesspeople – organise our work well and we work well, then the economy as a whole will work successfully, and then we can talk about what to do with the extra money generated. This much I can say in advance: it will never be enough; there’s always more demand than the economy can generate. There are two reasons for this. On the one hand, because of the difficulties of communism and ridding ourselves of it, many people’s lives are indeed very hard. Even those who are seen as members of the middle class have to count their salaries and monthly expenses to keep the family budget in order. Human nature also leads us to take what we’ve already achieved for granted, giving us confidence about the future and the desire to move forward: we don’t work to keep what we have, what we’ve already achieved, but we tend to think that we’re working in order to move forward. This is natural, and this is why there’s constant pressure on the budget and on the Government to give us more. Our task is to raise wages, but we mustn’t forget that we must also produce. And then we can distribute what we’ve produced. If you give money away, distribute money that you haven’t produced, sooner or later you’ll go bankrupt. The responsibility of the Government and the Finance Minister is to ensure that this doesn’t happen in Hungary.

Can the vaccination of children between the ages of 5 and 11 start next week?

We can start from 15 December. When there’s a problem, you think first of your children and then of your parents. The situation is that for a long time there’s been uncertainty in the medical community about whether or not minors should be vaccinated. First the international medical community, the community of scientists, answered the question of whether vaccination of those under 18 should be allowed, and now they’ve come to the point at which they’ve said that vaccination of children under 12 can be allowed. So vaccination is permissible for children over the age of 5. We can now take this as a reliable, internationally verified conclusion, confirmed by the most authoritative minds in the world. So we won’t be harming our children by administering this vaccine. On the contrary, we’ll be protecting them, because we can see that the virus is now spreading in waves, and those who are most active in spreading it in waves are those who haven’t been vaccinated yet. So those who haven’t been vaccinated are not only harming themselves, but harming all of us. It isn’t children’s fault that they’re not vaccinated. It’s different for adults, but it isn’t children’s fault, because their parents decide for them, and up until now there hasn’t been a safe vaccine for the age group of 5 years and above. Now there is. The vaccine is arriving in phases, with the first tranche being 69,000–70,000 doses. Registration in the usual way is open from Wednesday, and we’ll start vaccinating from 15 December. We’ve designated the vaccination points, and the vaccine will also be available from paediatricians.

It’s proving very difficult to get over this wave, this fourth wave. Although we can see that the number of people in hospital isn’t so high and the number of people on ventilators hasn’t increased significantly, a lot of people are still being infected every day. For example, there are institutions caring for the elderly where visits have been suspended this week and next week, because they say that they believe this will make it safe to allow visits over the Christmas period. Shouldn’t we also be a little more careful in this period up until Christmas?

Everyone in their own way. I have the latest early morning reports here. The Operational Group is continuing its work, and early every morning I get the reports on the latest developments. Here I see that the number of new infections is down, at 6,884. It’s still high, but lower than earlier. And here I also see that the number of people being treated in hospital is also down: 6,939 as of today. The number of people on ventilators is also down. And, of course, there are losses again: we’ve lost 166 souls, 166 people have died. I extend my condolences to their families. So there are losses every day, but overall the situation is improving; nobody knows exactly, but the general view among our experts at the moment is that we’re at the peak of this wave – and that perhaps we’re heading downwards. I want to reiterate that the only solution is vaccination: that will allow us to flatten the curve of the next waves, to reduce the number of infections in the next wave and, if we’re vaccinated, to bring this wave to an end as soon as possible. There is no remedy other than vaccination. Here the good news is that, according to this morning’s report, yesterday a total of 51,660 vaccinations were administered, of which 42,453 were the third vaccination. This is important. It’s important in general, but it’s especially important at Christmas, because we’re preparing for Christmas and everyone is apprehensive about what kind of Christmas we’ll have. If we’re not vaccinated, we’ll have a “small Christmas”; but if we’re vaccinated, we’ll have a “big Christmas”. If we want to sit around the family table on Christmas Eve with a feeling of safety instead of fear, then children must be vaccinated as well as parents and grandparents; otherwise we won’t have a warm, uplifting, inspiring big Christmas, but we’ll be left with a little Christmas spent in a state of fear.

When you left the studio last Friday you said that you were going to Warsaw; and we saw on the news that there you were in talks with leading conservative politicians for two days. What progress did you make?

We had a tough weekend. We’d been conspiring for many months, if I can put it like that. We’re talking about European parties who don’t want immigration, but who think that families are important, and that helping them is important. And these parties – including the Hungarian governing party – see that Brussels is doing the opposite. In other words, it supports and even finances immigration, and doesn’t help families. These parties want us to change Brussels, and instead of the misguided approach of the Brussels bureaucrats, they want to see the realisation of our approach: supporting families and blocking immigration. In such a negotiation, of course, there are a lot of organisational issues related to methods, how many parliamentary groups there are, and so forth. These need to be sorted out step by step. We are only human, we have our own personal ambitions, there are countries in which there are rival parties, and it’s more difficult for them to enter into such a broad cooperation. But we’re taking this step by step, and the next meeting of this kind will be in Spain at the beginning of next year.

Is it therefore conceivable that this group could be formed in the European Parliament next year? What are you counting on?

What happens next year is important, but the most important thing is to have a large, stable anti-immigration, pro-family European community of parties in the longer term. After all, politics in the modern world is run by parties – whether we like it or not. This has both advantages and disadvantages. One of the advantages is stability. So these are big organisations. And if they start to work and they have a programme and they want to implement it, then something usually comes of it. European politics must be organised not only within the framework of nation states, but also in a European context and on a European scale; and there are European institutions in which aims must be asserted and national interests represented. Therefore at European level it’s also important what kind of parties sit in the European Parliament. Today we’re in a minority. So the majority of the parties in the European Parliament support immigration and don’t support families. What we want in the long term – not just for next year, but also, if necessary, for decades to come – is for the people of Europe to finally have a voice. We want them to have a voice which is powerful enough to influence decisions. Whether they’re French, German or Hungarian, they don’t want Europe to become a continent of immigrants and they don’t want to turn their own countries into countries of immigrants, but they want families to be supported so that they can raise as many children as possible. So the goal isn’t next year, but to create a long-term, large, strong, anti-immigration, family-friendly European party alliance which says that instead of bringing the problems over here, we should be taking the help for those problems over there, to where many thousands – or even millions – of people may find themselves in distress, as has happened in Syria or Afghanistan.

So then this parliamentary group can be an alternative.

Sorry, we don’t want to be an alternative: we want to be the winners. So we want to influence and even determine what Brussels’ policy should be. Our aim is for this to be the largest political force in Europe.

As you’ve mentioned, Brussels has a very different approach on migration, and there these plans for the period between 2021 and 2027 have become clear. Among them are that they want to provide new arrivals with housing, and even with a fast-track route to citizenship. In Hungary the Constitutional Court will soon decide on whether the EU rules on immigration take precedence over Hungarian law. What do you expect from this?

First of all, it’s perhaps worth saying that this is a debate that’s taking place in every European country, and that everywhere there’s a confrontation between those who are pro-immigration and those who are against immigration. In the whole European context Hungary is a special country, because we’re the only one in which the people have decided what to do: we had a referendum on immigration. If you follow events, you’ll see that this is the most important issue in the run-up to next April’s French presidential election. And over there, everyone who doesn’t support immigration is demanding that there should be a referendum on immigration, so that people can decide how their government deals with this issue. But so far this has only happened in Hungary. I think it’s true that in Hungary, even before the referendum, the Government’s policy was in line with the majority of people’s ideas and expectations – or perhaps I should say their strong feelings. But right up until the referendum that was an assumption. Then what Hungarians wanted became clear, in black and white. Now what Hungarians want is something that goes against the European Union’s current rules. The European Union’s rules on immigration were drawn up in times of relative calm, when we were not yet being subjected to this huge invasion. And before the great migrant invasion there was a debate in Europe about how to think about immigration. And over there the governments – I don’t know what the people think, because there were no referendums, but the governments, the elites, or the elites in power – think that immigration is a good thing. And so they let in huge numbers of immigrants, thinking that something good would come of it. Since it cannot be scientifically – or rather empirically – proven in advance whether or not it will be good, I think that this is a supposition, or an experiment. So the Western Europeans have embarked on a great experiment to see if something good will come from mixing huge masses of Muslims with indigenous Christians. They’re also helping those who want to come to Europe in search of better lives than they can have at home. They’re doing those people a good turn, but they think that they’re also doing themselves a good turn, because they see this as resulting in a better France, a better Germany, a better Netherlands, or a better Belgium. I’ve never believed in this experiment. First of all, I don’t like experimenting on people. Human experimentation is dangerous. Secondly, you have to listen to your instincts – not only your own, but also other people’s. Whether or not a country’s ordinary citizens can judge a complex issue is always a matter of debate, there’s always a debate about that; but it’s absolutely certain that they can judge the most important issues in life. We must let them tell us what to do, and we must listen to them. That is why we had a referendum. So Hungarians think that embarking on such an experiment is life-threatening. And they’re right, because if the experiment goes wrong, it cannot be reversed. So if you start from the wrong premise, you’ll get a result that you didn’t want. Let’s say that terrorist attacks happen in your country and public safety deteriorates. Or maybe the people coming in don’t want to work, and you have to commit to huge social spending programmes. You don’t know in what direction the world economy is going; there could be a period of unemployment, and your job could be at risk because there are more of you in the country. So there are a lot of issues that are very difficult to foresee, and it’s best to listen to common sense and the natural human instincts possessed by every human being. So I’m glad that this issue has been decided in Hungary. The question is this: if this conflicts with the Brussels rules, and the situation now is that our Hungarian rules – our rules which don’t allow immigration and migration – are in conflict with the decisions of the Brussels bureaucrats and the courts, then what should be done? This is what the Constitutional Court will decide on today. For weeks we’ve been anticipating what the Constitutional Court will say: for us the Hungarian constitutional order means that what the Constitutional Court says is definitive, because our oaths are to the Hungarian constitution, not to Brussels bureaucrats or some abstract concepts from Brussels. All of us sitting in the Hungarian parliament took an oath to serve the Hungarian people and to the Hungarian constitution. And in any given situation, say in the case of a dispute with Brussels, the interpretation of the Hungarian constitution is a matter for the Constitutional Court to decide. That is the final authority. This will happen today, and therefore we will have to abide by the decision of the Constitutional Court of Hungary.

What will the EU implications of this be? After all, we saw that when the Constitutional Court in Poland handed down a ruling, Poland was also attacked from Brussels. It’s another matter that there wasn’t such an outcry in Brussels when the Constitutional Court of Germany ruled on the primacy of German law in certain matters.

But it wasn’t insignificant. There are seven or eight countries that have already faced this type of problem, and there the constitutional courts have ruled against the Brussels bureaucrats. Germany stands out, because Germany always stands out on account of its size. It’s punched a big hole in Europe’s wall of comfort and habit, and has whipped up some big waves. But every country has a different culture and talks about politics in a different way. When the Germans saw that there was a conflict on this, they rounded off what they had to say by advising that we should have further discussions on the way forward. But Hungarians aren’t like that. Hungarians sense that in Brussels an obstacle has been placed in front of what they want; and when discussion on what to do about it is tabled, Hungarians don’t lower their voices, but instead raise them and seek to clear the air. The Poles are similar, and it’s no coincidence that we’re brothers with the Poles, and that there are many similarities in behaviour between the two countries. What will happen here is that the Hungarian government will need to tell Brussels that immigration rules in Brussels must be changed. The Latvian president, for example, was here just a day or two ago, and after our meetings he also said that the immigration rules in Brussels must be changed – and he used to be a European judge. So it’s important that there’s a growing voice, a growing demand, making it clear that it isn’t the nation states that need to adapt to Brussels’ rules which are now removed from reality, but that Brussels’ rules need to be adapted to conform with the real world. The reality of immigration isn’t in Brussels: it’s at the Hungarian border, at the Polish border, and in Italian ports. The reality is that we have to deal with the problems that have arisen, and we have to change the rules. If it continues the direction signalled by the referendum, today’s decision by the Constitutional Court could mean that – in addition to the physical border barrier – it will also erect a very strong legal border barrier: a legal fence.

But is it possible to change the rules, the EU rules, now that Germany has a new government – and a strongly left-wing government at that?

There’s always a chance, and anyone who thinks that there isn’t should give up their mandate and find a more tranquil occupation outside politics. The essence of our profession, of government work, is that we must always stand up for Hungary’s interests. We are a national government, and for us Hungary comes first. It’s undoubtedly true that now the situation is more difficult than earlier. Because although we had many disputes with the German Christian Democrats, who until recently provided the Chancellor in Germany, they – the German Christian Democrats – were still a political community with a Christian foundation and an approach that was similar to the Hungarian way of thinking. That was despite the fierceness of our debates on immigration. They’ve now been replaced by a left-wing government in Germany, which has written into its programme that Germany is an immigrant country. It has also written into its programme that immigration should be supported. So there’s no doubt that you’re right to say that standing up for the interests of the Hungarian people, representing Hungary’s interests and putting Hungary first in Brussels will be more difficult in the future than it has been so far. But when was it ever easy? Never! This is the job, and one must do it.

Thank you. You’ve been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.