A panel of journalists recently conducted an interview with the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Many thanks to CrossWare for translating this article from Hungarian news portal 888.hu.
Interview with Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary
Viktor Orbán: The Fidesz story is truly a self-made one. The Fidesz [the PM’s political party] story is about how ten to twenty young kids came from somewhere; they revolted because they had enough of the world around them, pulled up their collars and made their own story. We not only in a political sense, but also geographically, were nobodies who came from the middle of nowhere. As for me, I may have been the first person in the family who was told that if there is a chore in the farm and also have a lesson, the lesson comes first. In 1982 I went to college. We lived in a dorm in Budaörs, and I only dared to travel by bus #40, so much did security mean to me. Then of course I realized that everything can be learned. If the classmates were pompous, you have to read the ten, twenty or thirty books or see the movies — you were behind and catch up with them. These problems are not real, everything can be learned. Character is the one thing that can not be learned. And there are some strong characters who joined the Fidesz and added to the community. People who can only count on themselves and each other. That is why the Fidesz is still more modern than any existing rival party. When we start to freeze into our positions, we are able to shake ourselves up, to look around to see what is in the world, to read, to study, to show an interest in new things. This allows us to maintain a certain intellectual excitement, but it is more come from character than the level of education. And this is where we feel the kinship with the newly elected US President, Donald J. Trump. You can also feel the self-made man mentality about him.
GFG: This type of sympathy was picked up by Trump; is that why he called?
Viktor Orbán: He sensed it. (Laughs)
GFG: How should we imagine what was like to have a telephone conversation with Trump?
Viktor Orbán: I have spoken with a real American. Trump does not complicate things like a politician, who would even have a problem with how to start a conversation. There was a common sound. It is rare in politics, especially with the president of a great power. After all, there is not a man-made thing in the world that cannot be changed. You can change Hungary; it is possible to change Europe and the United States. To change a country can only done by a person who does not have adequacy constraints, who can talk straight and say what he thinks, and if he says something, it has a meaning. To change the United States is gigantic task even from the position of the president — most people would not even try it — but maybe now he will succeed.
I’ll press into my thirty years in the [political] industry; I have seen a wide range of political characters. Trump and his team did not look as if they wanted show up for the beginner classes. Self-made characters are coming, people who themselves are successful, who do not begin a sentence with “I heard about those things,” but say, “I’ve done that.” And they have largely done that. I think the lukewarm sheep-pen world of the socialist/liberals is finished, where you often hear the plural than the singular first-person phrase. Now you will more often hear first-person statements: ”I think”, “I learned,” “My experience”, “I’m doing this.” The time of character-based and cooler politics is coming.
Gábor Fűrész: It is interesting that Trump is receiving the same treatment, like the Hungarian government. The same accusations, the same criticism.
Viktor Orbán: There was the status quo, which started around the end of the eighties, and everybody thought that is impossible to change. It is believed to rest on such immovable pillars that democracy could be only liberal. Russia can only be an enemy; the international organizations are always right against nations; the market is always right against the state; and the politicians must listen to ideologies, and not the people. Now what is happening is these seemingly immovable pillars are cracking, barely holding up the structure. The elite who are standing on those pillars see Trump the same way that we do, but because USA is bigger than us, Trump us more dangerous for them. But viewed from where they are looking at the world, apart from the size of a lot of similarities.
Gábor Fűrész: America was an enemy?
Viktor Orbán: With the American people we are in generally good friends, and have had some good collaboration with the American economic actors, but some US politicians were really hostile. Not only towards us, but all of Central Europe. Rabidly hostile! And if we had taken it upon ourselves, we would have felt humiliated. They handed us a scrap of paper, and they expected us to accept every condition as it was written. Their starting point was that a Central European leader must be one of two types: one is corrupt, the other is Putin’s man, or more likely both, so they are supposed to sideline these leaders. So the behavioral norm for a sovereign diplomatic relations was put on the back burner, and they decided on direct interventions. They wanted to set up complete yes-man types; they were expecting as they came submit their conditions that here there would only be leaders who can say, “Yes, sir!”
This was part of the personal hostility between us, but there is an ideology behind what they called with noble simplicity: soft power. However, this was not just a theory, but also a subtle action plan. With the use of NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations), foundations, media organizations, they enforced their own interests; This was the goal and they used George Soros to establish it. Look, the Romanian election has happened and there was no anti-Hungarian voice — apart from a couple of silly incidents. The explanation: the Hungarians were not the main threat, but George Soros. The winners were campaigning against Soros’ interests, they said; the real opponent is not the small parties, but the Soros NGOs and foundations.
GFG: Politico says the next year will be the year of Soros.
Viktor Orbán: It will not be his year, but it will be about him — the two are not the same. What is the logical response to the present situation? Every country will work to displace Soros’ influence. This can already be detected in Europe. They will investigate where the money is coming from, what kind of secret relationships there are behind the scenes, what interests the NGOs are representing. Next year will be about Soros and the powers represented by him; the removal of their influence and power will happen. In a sense the prediction of Politico is appropriate.
GFG: Merkel is going for the title of Chancellor for the fourth time. From here this looks kind of funny. Does Angela Merkel have a sense of humor?
Viktor Orbán: It’s hard to say when a German is joking and when she is serious. One thing is certain: Merkel did not build her career on humor. She is a real forceful politician. Cleverly and consciously using her power. This is to be seen, regardless of whether her asylum policies scared the s*** out of us. It is no coincidence that she has been in power the longest in Europe. Let us also add that the Germans were already very strong. They are just everywhere. Therefore, when any conflict of interest arises, a small country must maneuver cleverly against the Germans, so they still get more meat than soup, so they do not force them to assert their dominance. Let’s not forget that five years ago the major part of the Hungarian media was German-owned. When a German conflict presented itself, the day after the German-owned Hungarian press were up in arms immediately. This situation has now changed. It’s a different world.
GFG: And when we going to have our own “Volkswagen”?
Viktor Orbán: The fact that we do not have world brands depends on our internal market size. In a market of ten million it is inherently difficult to build a brand. I would not set it as goal, either. While it’s great if some young people are trying to think in these dimensions, and maybe something will come out of it, I tend to think of regional power centers. We already have some: MOL (energy company), OTP (bank) and Richter (pharmaceutical company). We would need four or five more like these , and if we were to have eight to ten regional-oriented companies, or even beyond the region of Hungary, that would be seriously cool. We looked at, for example, what the North Italians did or the Bavarians. When we recalculated the strengths to the Hungarian sizes, we found if we want a Bavarian type of economic structure and stability, then we should have twelve thousand small and medium-sized enterprises. We’ve started with around two thousand, and we estimate that we have around six thousand now. This is more promising than build a spectacular world brand.
Dalma Tóth: Let’s stay with Merkel a bit. Now she wants to ban the burqa; would you?
Viktor Orbán: A snob would say that we are facing a real paradox. The snake is biting its own tail. The liberal approach turns to rebut itself, and I watch it, gaping. To say that you can come into my country and I tell you what you can or cannot wear, it’s difficult to conceive of with common sense. A more honest thing to say would be: I am not happy to see you, stay outside, because I foresee that we will have problems. However, if someone is allowed in — not en masse, but as a guest — I cannot restrict him, but I will say that as a free man, you can do whatever you want if you follow the laws. If you want to walk fully covered when you are my guest, you are free to do so. But to let them in en masse then get scared is not a good policy. I think what we see here is a desperate attempt to try to correct a serious error in judgment. Too little, too late.
Ketipisz Sztavrosz: What is your opinion about the fact that Virginia banned Huckleberry Finn? (In Virginia a few days ago two world literary masterpieces were banned from the school curriculum because they often contain the word “nigger” — in Hungarian called Negro. The issue, which was argued about for a long time in the United States, is that such words needed to be replaced in novels. — Editor)
Viktor Orbán: But this book is famous for its anti-racist stance! That’s what I call liberal aberration.
GFG: Is it over now, or will it be over, or will we never see the end of the liberal aberration?
Viktor Orbán: Nothing ever completely disappears. Various forms and waves all come back sooner or later. The level of liberalism is the responsibility of the people who are alive now. The level of liberal aberrations always depends on how much it resonates with the present population. Everything depends on us. All will return, if that is what we want, and not if we do not want it. It is mostly our decision.
GFG: As if the “we have the right to our own decisions controversy” is what we fight with Brussels. Brussels wants a say in our energy prices, applies a double standard, starts infringement proceedings against us.
Viktor Orbán: In Brussels, the status quo and essential positions are under the control of a globalist-liberal political force. They know each other, each knows the way the other thinks. Brussels is dominated by such network of persons. Christians like us do not have a say there. Their goals are against Hungarian interests. In their heads the goal is a United States of Europe, organized to serve their interests. We have something very different in mind. Thus in Brussels we have many rivals, opponents in powerful positions, visible or invisible. Not so much personal but structural difference between us. This is the crucial difference; all the others are the projection of this intrinsic conflict of interests. Let me bring up an example: Brussels wants a say in our energy pricing methods. They want to forbid the energy price cap [The previous Socialist government sold strategic energy resources to multinational companies and stole the income. The companies given monopoly positions started gouging their customers, causing serious problems. Orbán’s government introduced price regulations to stop such abuse. While the energy companies are still raking in record profits, there are limits to set decent profit levels — translator].
We will not let them to do this! The world is not going in a way that would let Brussels dictate to the member states. They are still sitting backwards on the horse, and they can’t see that one after another leader loses power who goes against the will of the people. European people want to remain nations; they are proud of them, and want their nations to be independent.
Gábor Fűrész: Does it look like there is a revolt breaking out against this status quo?
Viktor Orbán: Yes it does! I believe the 2017 will be the year of revolt. Whether they can put down this rebellion or not; that’s another story. Next year there will be elections in Germany, France and Holland. Many things could happen. Looking at the basic issues, there are two insurrections happening the same time. The first one is the revolt of the middle class. This has economic roots. I think in the US we have seen the revolt of the middle class; that is why the Clinton Clan lost. The Brexit had the same reason. The latest analysis shows something similar is happening in France too: the lost, the left-behind, the vulnerable are looking for a way out, and that is turning into political votes. There is also a nationalistic revolt happening. The believers in the United States of Europe are secretly stealing the sovereignty of the nations — right now with under the pretense of refugee crisis — by slyly redirecting the authorities’ power against the nations. The nations are revolting against this. This is a real fight for one’s sovereignty. And all of this is surrounded by the intellectual fight against political correctness, isolation and stigmatization. This revolution started in 2016 but next year it will expand, so 2017 will be the year of revolts!
GFG: How can one as a government revolt? isn’t that a contradiction?
Viktor Orbán: The government does not rebel, but the people, and we represent what the people want. This is our policy genome. We are the nation of Freedom Fighters. There are many who try to misuse power, plenty of candidates for repression here. Here are the big corporations who want extra profit, and it does not necessarily coincide with the interests of the Hungarian people. Here are the European institutions, who want to divert powers. They have these free-trade agreements, which could be good for us, but they are bad in the details. We do not mind the anti-elitist sentiment, indeed! It is natural that we go against any big players. And if we do not solidify in our chairs in the government, then we will always find a common language with the people.
GFG: Is it possible that the victories and power will go to the head of Fidesz?
Viktor Orbán: Fidesz is a large people’s party with thousands of heads in it. I can’t see into every one of them. Success is like alcohol; there are some who get real drunk from it; with others has less effect. Anyone who denies this is lying. Every politician must be able to handle this, otherwise the result will be the same as with booze. Then comes the rough sobering-up, hangover and headaches, and he can easily find his stuff out on the sidewalk.
GFG: Is there corruption?
Viktor Orbán: The tendency to do bad has been part of mankind since the beginning, and so has corruption. Just like we fight against other crimes, we fight against corruption, too. This never gets taken off the schedule. One tries to choose colleagues one can trust, who can successfully resist temptations. Proving corruption is hard, but to accuse someone is easy. To prove that the accusation is false, that there was no corruption, is practically impossible. In the absence of evidence, to accuse anyone is slander, which just as much a crime as corruption. Hungary had forty years of dictatorship; being cunning, finding loopholes, always searching for tricks, dealing under the counter was part of life. The other ugly legacy of that era is envy. The mentality is that if someone is successful, he must be suspected of foul play. This attitude can push us down, can bring down the entire country. We should be happy about the success of others; that is the road upward.
József György Horváth: What is your motivation, what is driving you?
Viktor Orbán: When a man feels most empty? I’ll tell you: the day after victory. This is where the realization is born that victory is not an end in itself. In the twelfth round of the fight everything is blurred, but the next day you know it was not the goal to win; it’s just a tool. If someone is born a Hungarian, you will sooner or later realize that he received a task and mission as well. To translate this into politics is easy. I grew into it; to be a Hungarian is a mission, task and work. A thousand-year-old great civilization, built on the Hungarian language with Hungarian thinking. My task is to keep this up, preserve it for future generations. That is my task and that is what keep me going. Do it by taking it easy, without cramps and pathos, cheerfully and lovingly.
GFG: Who was the hardest enemy?
Viktor Orbán: Always yourself. One always must fight one’s own dark side. Sometimes it feels so good to stay in bed and be lazy. This is what I figured out so far in my life. (laughs) Winning over yourself is the hardest thing to do, because you always have more left to give, which gets you to continue to try to be better.
József György Horváth: Who was the hardest political opponent?
Viktor Orbán: Horn. [Gyula Horn — Socialist PM, lead the last post-communist government before its fall] He was the hardest. God forgive him and may he rest in peace! He represented the old socialist world that outlived itself. He represented everything we wanted triumph over, everything we wanted to leave behind. Horn was a serious opponent, and despite that I was able to win against him. This was such a feat, like when Krisztina Egerszegi at age 14 was able to win against two giant East German swimmers fed with steroids.
GFG: What will happen with the country ten years from now?
Viktor Orbán: We will be stronger and richer. But we do not need to over-complicate this. This all depends on us. Us Hungarians, nobody else. First of all, it depends on how we see ourselves. Will we believe in Hungary and the strengths of the Hungarians? Will we believe in each other? Will we be happy for each other’s successes, or will we envy each other scheme against each other?
If we believe in Hungary, the Hungarian people, in one another, then we are facing a bright future. A cohesive, powerful nation should be one that stands up for itself, does not kowtow to anyone, and will go down the road on which we started. Much also depends on what is passed to the next generation. A country always ends up the way its educates its own children. If a good example given to them that they must grow up not to seek shortcuts, but to follow their own way even when it seems difficult, then the country can be great again. What is America’s message for us? Let’s make Hungary great again!