We must procure as many vaccines as possible, as quickly as possible
24. 02. 2021.
We must procure as many vaccines against the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) as possible, as quickly as possible, and it does not matter whether a vaccine is Eastern or Western, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stated in an interview published on Monday on the German news portal Focus Online in connection with the use of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V in Hungary.

The Prime Minister stated that amidst a pandemic, it is the duty of politicians to protect the health of citizens, in line with the trust vested in them and accepting their responsibility. Therefore, as many vaccines should be procured as possible, within the shortest possible time as those who gain time gain lives, and regain freedom.

He stressed that there is no such thing as an Eastern vaccine or a Western vaccine; there are only good vaccines and bad vaccines, and when the Hungarian authorities ascertain that a preparation is safe and effective, they issue a licence for use.

“From that moment on, [the authorised vaccine] is a Hungarian vaccine with which I can protect the lives of Hungarian people,” Mr Orbán said.

The Prime Minister answered the question of whether the procurement of the Russian vaccine can be separated from the current tense relations between the EU and Russia in the affirmative, stressing that the protection of human lives and health is above political considerations, including geopolitical ones. He said it is irresponsible to turn the issue of vaccines into a political issue, and to let people die and to restrict their freedom just because there are reservations about the country of the manufacturer.

He added that one can “objectively” observe that during communism, in the Eastern part of Europe “a vaccination culture” developed, which allowed us to conquer the poliovirus causing poliomyelitis much earlier than in the West where, for ideological reasons, use of “the Russian vaccine” was rejected.

Regarding the centralised procurement of vaccines in the European Union by the European Commission, he said “it is now evident that it was a bad decision”. Canada, Britain, Israel and even Serbia “are way ahead of us members of the EU,” but there is no use crying over spilt milk.

The European Commission “should do what they have to do, we won’t hinder their efforts; we’ll support them wherever we can. But we will exercise our national powers, and take care of ourselves,” the Prime Minister said.

In answer to the question as to why he does not regard the EU decision on procurements as binding, he said “Brussels follows its own logic,” they do not sufficiently appreciate the significance of speed, they are slow in issuing licences, and have no power over suppliers.

At the same time, the rules do not exclude the possibility of Member State-level action, “national action” and the Hungarian government is resorting to that possibility, he added.

“I don’t know exactly what’s happening in Brussels, or in the heads of Brussels bureaucrats. But I do know that every deceased person was someone’s father, mother, brother, sister or child. This dimension is higher than the dimension of European politics. The health and freedom of our citizens are an absolute priority,” Mr Orbán said in response to the suggestion that, according to some, the EU is also driven by ideological motivations in the procurement of vaccines.

Regarding the idea that with the common procurement of vaccines Brussels wants to relay the message that the community of the EU is stronger than its members one by one, and is viable as a centralised state, the Prime Minister said every strategy is worth as much as its success or failure, and wherever common action brings about success, we must take action together, and wherever the “national path” brings about success, it must be followed.

“We wanted to do something together that we could have taken care of more successfully one by one, just take a look at Britain or Serbia,” Mr Orbán observed.

In response to the suggestion that, according to a number of governments, we can only compete against the United States, Russia or China successfully if we combine forces, he stressed that he does not support those who want to bring the Cold War back, and believes that Russia or China is much more “a great opportunity for Europe,” and we must therefore “seek forms of cooperation that serve our interests”.

About Europe’s economic situation, he said, while “in Central Europe we’re making good progress,” our economic figures are “excellent,” state finances are “in maximum order,” “our work-centred policy has resulted in almost full employment” and “we’re making good progress with digitisation,” in the West “there is an overabundance of economic policies reminiscent of socialism,” with tax increases, and complicated regulations hindering investments and businesses.

“The EU should make much more robust efforts to improve its competitiveness, but regrettably, its share in the global economy’s output is decreasing and this gives rise to concern,” Mr Orbán said.

Regarding the issue of migration, the Prime Minister said, among others, that the EU’s policy is based on “a flawed concept,” “creates false illusions in people living in war-stricken countries,” and has in consequence “turned the Mediterranean into a vast cemetery”.

He said Hungary intends to cope with the challenges of demography “with robust family policy measures,” “not by inviting immigrants in”.

He stressed that “the Germans want to force their own Willkommen policy on us, to which I have to say no”.

He said, naturally, the Hungarian people respect the German people’s approach to country and nation, and to the relationship between these notions and Christian values. However, they want the same in return: mutual respect for Hungary’s own self-identity.