The constitutional amendment is a national cause, and cannot be linked to party political debates
28. 10. 2016.
On Kossuth Radio’s “180 Minutes” programme, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that “The Seventh Amendment to the Fundamental Law of Hungary is an issue of national interest and cannot be linked to any party political debate or economic issue”.

“The new unity for Hungary is a political will which has taken the opinions of over 3 million people and shaped them into a constitutional amendment, and it cannot be linked to any other issue”, the Prime Minister said. He indicated that the Government cannot accept a request from the opposition party Jobbik, which has so far made its support for the constitutional amendment conditional on the abolition of the residency bond programme.

In reply to a question on whether the Prime Minister envisaged adoption of the constitutional amendment with the support of Jobbik, Mr. Orbán said: “This is not what I’m expecting. Jobbik has stated that if we do not do something that they would like, then there will be no constitutional amendment”.

“But it must be accepted that 3.3 million people cannot be ordered around”; this many people will not “skip to the sound of Jobbik’s whistle”, the Prime Minister said. In reply to a question on the expected scenario for the constitutional amendment, the Prime Minister said: “We shall lay it before Parliament, and it will be up to every individual’s conscience how they decide”.

In the interview the Prime Minister also confirmed that the Government is working on a response to the fact that the country’s financial situation has changed, as two of the world’s largest credit rating agencies have upgraded Hungary’s credit rating, and the third will hopefully follow suit in the near future.

“The question now is how to finance Hungary’s financial requirements. Before the end of the year Minister for National Economy Mihály Varga will put his proposal for this before the Cabinet, and one of the elements of that proposal will refer to residency bonds”, Mr. Orbán said.

On the subject of residency bonds, the Prime Minister said that “In 2012 Hungary did not have access to markets, and in fact at the time ‘the groups ranged against us’ succeeded in making it extremely difficult for Hungary to access financial resources”.

Photo: Szilárd Koszticsák
Photo: Szilárd Koszticsák

This, he said, is why the residency bond construction was devised, which “was a very successful solution”.

On the subject of last week’s European Union summit, the Prime Minister said that “A deadlock developed during negotiations, because the quota system is still on the table, but we continually veto it. By December the current Slovakian presidency of the EU must prepare a proposal on how to resolve the deadlock”.

If, based on this, Hungary succeeds in seeing off mandatory quotas, then the result will be a good one, he explained, but it is possible that the impasse will continue, and the large Member States will seek to “force the mandatory relocation quota down our throats”.

If that happens, then Hungary will resist, it will not implement the decision and it will take the European Commission to court. “It will be a major battle, for which we will need the Constitution”, he explained.

The Prime Minister also noted that, during debates in Brussels on migration, he always speaks to the point, because “I am, after all, the ‘heretic’ who launched a new politics which is at odds with what was – or seemed to be – the consensus position”.

The Prime Minister was asked about a statement by Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, who has said that he is prepared to veto the EU budget if the states of Central Europe do not assist by admitting migrants. Mr. Orbán said that Italian politics is a difficult terrain, Italy is experiencing financial difficulties and “is getting saddled with all these migrants”, so the Italian prime minister “has good reason to be upset”.

But, he continued, “deep understanding and compassion do not change the fact” that it is supposed to be Italy’s obligation to uphold the Schengen Agreement. Italy it is not doing this, Mr. Orbán added, despite the fact that the task, although difficult, is not impossible.

He also noted, however, that the European Union is not providing Italy with sufficient support.

In reply to a question concerning the work of Frontex, the European Union’s border protection agency, the Prime Minister said that Frontex officials “are not involved in border protection, they are immigration agents”. He said that the European Union is not sending them to Greece and Italy to stop immigration, but to facilitate the fastest possible legal immigration into the EU.

“This highlights the fact that there is no agreement between the countries of Europe on political goals”, he continued. “Hungary and the new unity that came about in the quota referendum believes that migration policy must concentrate on stopping illegal immigration”, he said. He added that, in contrast to this, Brussels and the leaders of other states – including Italy – want to “manage, regulate and make acceptable” the whole migration process.

Commenting on news that temporary internal EU border controls will remain in place, Mr. Orbán said: “This is unfavourable for Hungary; it is a decision which goes against Hungary’s interests”. He added that “what would be in Hungary’s interests would be for the Italians and Greeks to protect the EU’s external borders”.

One of the effects of such border controls within the Schengen Area, he pointed out, are that people who regularly travel between Austria and Hungary for work “are facing unnecessary obstacles, because of the Austrians”.

The Prime Minister also said that the migration issue is a “true economic burden”. This is one reason for Hungary deciding that migrants must be treated in the same way as Hungarians in terms of their daily allowances, “because it is untenable for the ‘natives’ of a given community to receive less from their own state than foreigners who arrive there”, he argued.

Mr. Orbán also said that Hungary has so far spent 150 billion forints (EUR 700 million) on border protection. “This is why we will no longer tolerate Hungary being described as a country which shows no solidarity. Such an attitude is unfair and discriminatory. Hungary is showing solidarity, because our border protection expenditure goes towards protecting the security of the countries which are behind us, away from the EU’s borders”, he explained.