Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s interview in the German daily Passauer Neue Presse
26 October 2017

PNP: Prime Minister, there is a ruling of the European Court regarding the distribution of refugees that Hungary does not want to accept. With this, aren’t you destroying the functioning of Europe under the rule of law – and therefore Europe itself?

Viktor Orbán: Not so. We acknowledge the judgement. It is also true, however, that – with perhaps one exception – no Member State has implemented the EU decision on the distribution of migrants. In light of this, it is not fair to single Hungary out for criticism. If a decision is not being implemented by the majority, perhaps the decision itself is flawed.

What’s so wrong about this ruling?

This ruling says nothing about whether the European Commission has any right to send people to Hungary against the will of the Hungarian government. This, however, is the crucial question. In our view, the territory and population of a country form part of its constitutional identity, and in this respect no European body may impose obligations of any kind.

So you wouldn’t do anything that would endanger Europe’s constitutional order?

We would not. We are a member of the European Union. The EU stands on the foundations of the Treaties, and therefore that is what we ourselves must also do. And that is exactly what we are doing.

Do you see new allies in the winners of the Austrian and Czech elections?

We have always maintained close relations – I could say family relations – with Austria. The situation is different with the Czech Republic: it does not border Hungary, but it is, however, part of the alliance which we call the Visegrád Group. With all due modesty, I have to say that this is the most successful alliance and the most successful region in Europe. Therefore in the future we shall seek to maintain strategic cooperation with the Czechs. I know the winner of the election over there. There is the possibility of excellent cooperation with him. Leaders like him suit us Hungarians: he is a businessman, he is straight-talking, he doesn’t like to waste time, and if we agree on something with him, he will stick to the agreement. So we are pleased with his victory.

Meanwhile the Hungarian economy is doing very well. What’s the key to this economic success?

We have built a workfare society. Due to its communist past, Hungary had insufficient capital. Consequently we were forced to build a market economy by placing emphasis on labour rather than capital. And since 2010 we have created a system that is based on full employment – and this goal is now well within reach. Another key to our success is that we want to stand on our own two feet. We don’t want to rehabilitate the Hungarian economy using German money. This is why we paid back to both the IMF and the EU all the debt we had used to manage the crisis. All we want is to trade and do business, and we want our citizens to be allowed to work. At the end of the day, those who live off the money of others are servants. This doesn’t suit the Hungarian character.

Does this also mean that receiving orders from Germany doesn’t suit the Hungarian character? Isn’t Hungary bothered by German dominance?

Germany is bigger, richer and stronger than Hungary. Even though we’re smaller, Germany must treat Hungary with respect. This is not always the case, but most of the time it is. We have no reason to complain.

Despite this, have relations between the two countries cooled – or is that impression deceptive?

German-Hungarian relations are indeed special and mystical: even extending somewhat beyond rational considerations, they also have a spiritual quality. We haven’t been at war with each other for centuries. We have supported each other whenever it was necessary and possible. We have often entered into alliances – for better or worse. Now we are uniting our efforts in a good cause: we want to build Europe together. There are differences in our views, but this in no way alters the fact that we are allies.

What role do you think Germany should play in Europe?

Germany’s situation is not easy. It is not always easy to be large, strong and rich – even though in that position one is widely envied. Many want to rise higher by climbing on Germany’s back, and to solve their problems with German money. The Germans, however, cannot take all of this upon themselves. The Chancellor’s job is to find her own role, which it’s much more difficult than mine…

And now her job will be even more difficult, because she will have to forge a complicated alliance, and in the Bundestag AfD is the third largest party. Do you see AfD as a party that’s more inclined to support your policy?

We maintain “family relations” with the CDU and CSU. We are loyal by nature, and we shall remain so; we are not looking for new allies.

You’re emphasising loyalty towards the CSU. Horst Seehofer has always been an advocate of yours in Bavaria and Germany. Will you now have to become Horst Seehofer’s advocate?

Horst Seehofer is not the kind of man who needs help. When I last spoke to him, after the election, he said: “I’m standing and fighting”. The CSU is a cause close to our hearts, and the most committed anti-communists belonged to them. And within the European People’s Party they are the ones who most robustly represent a Christian approach. The CSU are preserving Christian values which are needed in Europe, and also in Hungary. So I can only wish his party the very best – but they must deal with their internal affairs themselves.

Another common factor between Bavaria and Hungary is that next year elections will be held in both places. In a possible new term in office, what European goals will you set out with?

Europe faces a great new dilemma. The old differences in the European Union have lost their meaning. The main difference now is not whether we are old Member States or new Member States, whether we’re Southerners or Northerners, Westerners or Easterners. Instead of these a new fault line has appeared: between immigrant countries and non-immigrant countries. Some countries have decided that they want mixed populations, while others want to remain the way they are. For us this is also an issue of internal security, and no one must be allowed to impose their will on anyone else. The great European question is how, in the circumstances, we will live together in the future. At the moment more heat than light is being generated on this issue: the focus is more on differences than on how the situation could be resolved. And this is despite the fact that Europe’s future depends on how we answer this question. Personally I want to remain in the political ring, and I want my party to remain a major force and a firm pillar within the alliance of non-immigrant countries.

You’re talking about emotions: as part of your visit to Passau, you also paid a visit to the tomb of Blessed Gizella. What thoughts went through your head there?

That everything has relevance, and nothing happens without consequences. With her large retinue, a Bavarian woman went to meet a Hungarian man and became his wife, and this led to Christianity in Hungary. That is what we are protecting now.