The following interview with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was published by a major Austrian outlet. It’s not clear what language it was conducted in, but it was released in German.
Many thanks to MissPiggy for translating this article from oe24.at (Österreich):
Orbán Interview: ‘We are now the Bad Boys …’
Austria’s government gives Orbán a good report. Criticism hailed at the EU leadership.
Österreich: How do you see the Austrian EU Council Presidency under Chancellor Sebastian Kurz?
Viktor Orbán: The Austrians are lucky. You have a young, yet experienced Chancellor. Sebastian Kurz has already done an excellent job as Foreign Minister. Likewise, the EU Presidency was meticulously organized. I see the EU Council Presidency conducted in the expected manner by the Austrians: with diplomatic elegance and a lot of courage.
Österreich: Two fronts are emerging in the migration issue: on the one hand Merkel-Macron, on the other hand the Austrian Federal government and the Hungarian government. Is this statement correct?
Orbán: The Austrian position and the Hungarian position are similar: we need to bring aid to Africa and not bring the problems to Europe. Some say that the solution is to get migrants to Europe because they think it will be good for their country. The Hungarian position is that we do not want that. There is an ideological difference. That is neither a solution for Africa nor for Europe. In this case, our culture, which we have been cultivating here in Europe for 2000 years, would perish. We say that we want to help the Africans like the Austrians do: we are happy to support the development of Africa. So that Africa can provide its own population with a decent life. For example, Hungary provides 900 scholarships for African students from state funds.
Österreich: Austria, like Hungary, has withdrawn from the migration pact …
Orbán: Some international documents reach the decision-makers just before signing. When I heard that the U.S. had dropped out of the negotiations, I read it myself, noting that this document could cause major problems, particularly concerning national security. I consulted with our government and we decided to leave immediately. After that, many countries dropped out. Austria as well. We’re the bad boys again … now the bad boys of global politics.
Österreich: You were the first to oppose the “welcoming culture” in 2015. How do you look back on this time today?
Orbán: Since there was no border fence between Hungary and Serbia, we could not prevent the migrants from coming to Hungary illegally. It was like an invasion. The migrants occupied the Budapest East Station. They did not want to go to refugee shelters where they would get food and meals; they also did not allow us to take them there. Instead, they demanded to be allowed to move on because they are “expected in Germany”. I ordered that no one be permitted to leave the country. Hungary is a member of the Schengen Agreement, and wanted to comply with these rules.
Österreich: That caused a great deal of criticism …
Orbán: Hungary adheres to its constitution and international agreements and treaties. You cannot enter Hungary without a passport check, which also means you can not travel from Hungary to Austria. Hungary’s trustworthiness and respect for the rule of law were at stake here. We wanted to show our Western allies that we can protect the border. The crowd got bigger, the situation more difficult, but I held my position by not allowing anyone to cross the border. I understand those whose first reaction was to appear “good”. Our reaction was responsibility. One must not allow something to occur that is irreversible. Even if that seemed to be humane at the time. It’s not “do-gooders” that are needed in order to defend a country, but responsible people. Believe me, I do not have a heart of stone, but you cannot protect borders with teddy bears and little flowers. On the other hand, the migrants stormed the border, threw objects at the border guards and attacked the police. You have to fight back. Of course, this is not a feel-good job, but it is necessary for the security of the country. Anyone who wants to lead a country, must make difficult decisions. I want to be a person whose decisions support and respect the Hungarians. If I happen to be a good person while doing that, then that’s fine; but first and foremost I’m responsible for Hungary.
Österreich: During that time did you talk to the then Austrian Federal Chancellor?
Orbán: Yes, because we had received information that human rights activists wanted to illegally transport migrants across the borders into Austria. I told him, that’s human smuggling. If that happens in Hungary, then we will arrest and convict the perpetrators. Then he asked me to open the border to Austria to allow the migrants to enter. The next day Chancellor Merkel called me; I said: We have everything under control and we will only let the migrants in as long as Austria expressly wishes. In the meantime, we had already built the border fence.
I thought it was a very fortunate circumstance that Sebastian Kurz was then Foreign Minister, because he also understood immediately that there is only one way to solve this crisis: Through the closure of the Balkan route. We always supported each other. At the border we set up a Visegrad 4 border guard so that we can clearly show that our decision is final: that’s how we jointly protected Europe. I think that was a nice moment for us and for Central Europe.
Österreich: Your campaign against Soros in Hungary has often been criticized. There’s even an accusation of anti-Semitism.
Orbán: In our opinion, Soros György is Hungarian and a talented compatriot. He and I have no good opinion of each other (laughs), but we belong to the same nation and we in Hungary do not discriminate against anyone because of their religion. Hungary is a free country. By the way: unlike other Western European capitals, every Jew on the street in Budapest wearing a kippa is absolutely safe. One may speak freely and one may also criticize the government and demonstrate against it. Soros has a big network. He finances many NGOs. The EU also finances several Soros organizations. These NGOs are involved in the political arena, and that is fine too. Politically, however, Soros must understand two points as well as everyone who lives in Hungary. First, we want transparency. Like every country, we want to know who these people are and where the money comes from. Second, there are limits when it comes to national security. Migration is a national security issue. We had peaceful discussions with Soros until the point where his organizations started to fund the migrants, encouraging them to cross the Hungarian border illegally. This is not acceptable in Hungary. We have created laws accordingly in which such behavior is deemed a danger to national security. Our conflict is: He wants to get the migrants to Hungary and Europe, and I will not let that happen.
Österreich: Now the CEU [Soros’ Central European University] is coming to Vienna. What do you think?
Orbán: Politics and science should be separate. We neither sent the CEU away nor chased it away. The CEU only has to fulfill all legal requirements, like all other universities in Hungary. Incidentally, I am surprised by the international press, which writes that he is leaving Hungary. Apparently they don’t know Soros very well. He never leaves any country. He stays. Everywhere. You will see that courses at his university in Budapest will continue and they will continue to give out diplomas there. I know Soros. He’ not the kind of man who would just leave Budapest like that.
Österreich: On the economy: casino capitalism versus social economy. How do you feel about this?
Orbán: Soros György is a talented and dangerous man: he is a speculator who makes money by ruining others. He even speculates with the currency of a country, so that a country is ruined and millions of people lose their savings. He embodies the ugly side of capitalism. We do not want that in Hungary. But I am deeply convinced that the market economy is good when combined with social responsibility. In Hungary, in economic terms, we strive for social added value for all — in all areas. For employees, for employers and for the state.
Österreich: What has happened in Hungary since 2010?
Orbán: In 2010 Hungary was in a bad situation, financially and emotionally. The socialist government had failed. At that time I promised the Hungarians that if they supported me, we would regain our self-confidence and self-esteem, and we would also be economically successful. But we had to renew Hungary for that. We did that in four steps. First, we had to strengthen the Christian identity of the nation with a new constitution. Second, we have been successfully pursuing full employment since 2010. Third, “re-industrialization” with the help of foreign companies, so that the strengthening of Hungarian small and medium-sized enterprises does not fade into the background. And fourth: building and strengthening Central Europe, we wanted to breathe new life into the Visegrad countries, and we’ve also done very well so far.
Österreich: BMW recently announced that it is building a large factory in Hungary…
Orbán: The EU we joined was Helmut Kohl’s Europe. Helmut Kohl respected Central Europe and his assessment was excellent. He did not want to let Brussels become an “empire” that intervenes in the domestic politics of the member states. Instead, he focused on common interests. When we joined the EU, we felt we were still free. Since then, the EU has taken a different approach. I think that’s the wrong direction. By the way, Jean-Claude Juncker announced this direction when he stated that the European Commission should be a “political commission”. In my view, it is not the job of the European Commission to lead the EU. That is the role of the Heads of State and Government in the European Council. The last five years have been a disappointment. Therefore I hope that we will return to the “Europe of Kohl”. With mutual respect. Then we will be successful.
Österreich: What do you think about Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer [successor to Angela Merkel as leader of the CDU]?
Orbán: New leadership is always a new opportunity. Germany has a very important role in European politics. After the European elections, we have to make important decisions, and Germany’s voice will be very important. Therefore I have already contacted the new head of the CDU and written her a letter in which I propose that our parties, which are both in the European People’s Party [in the European Parliament], enter into a dialogue to resolve the conflicts and differences of opinion from the past. The Hungarians are basically optimistic people. We therefore believe that something new is always appealing.
Österreich: European elections in 2019; you say they will be crucial. Why?
Orbán: The old dream of the EU is coming true. I have been hearing for thirty years that we have no common theme that concerns all of Europe. Now we have one topic: migration. From Lisbon to Vilnius and also in Budapest, the key issue in the elections will be migration. Now, for the first time, the European nations will vote together on a common theme.
Österreich: What do you think the European elections will be like?
Orbán: There are countries that think mixing two cultures, Christianity and Islam, creates something new and good. We see it differently. If the others want to mix their cultures, then they have a right to conduct this experiment. But we do not want to start any experiments in Hungary. We do not want to mix our Christianity-based culture, values, approach towards life with other cultures. We are concerned that instead of being an enrichment, it will be a burden in which things do not getting better, but worse. Therefore, I hope that the voice of people who want to retain and protect their national identity, as well as their Christian customs, will be stronger than they were up to now.
Österreich: Will there be Christmas time without terror again?
Orbán: It would be good for Europe if Europe spoke with one voice: Europe belongs to Europeans and remains a European continent. We have a culture. We have our religions. We have our values here. This is a civilization. You can come here, live together, but we do not want to discard our values. With us, women and men enjoy the same rights. For us, the model of family with a man and a woman is important. Religious freedom is important to us; we want to be able to openly practice our own religion in Europe. This concerns above all the Jewish religion. Anyone who wants to live here should accept that — and must not be an anti-Semite. But if we do not say clearly that is our expectation, then they will not respect our culture and our culture will perish. Then chaos arises. Europe is only stable and successful if Europe remains European. I expect that from the EU.
Österreich: How do you personally spend Christmas?
Orbán: Always with my family. On Christmas Eve with lots of rest, singing and prayer with the family; usually there is traditional fish soup; the Hungarian “Bejgli” is of course mandatory, which is the Hungarian cuisine in its most beautiful form. On the first and second day of Christmas, the big pilgrimage begins. We tour all over the country to the relatives. In Hungary the family comes first.
Interview: Dora Varro