Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Kossuth Rádió’s “180 minutes”
18 September 2015

Gábor István Kiss: Our guest on “180 Minutes” is Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Good morning.

Good morning to your listeners.

As you have just mentioned, you have just come from a meeting of the operational committee, and I suspect that our colleagues told you of the town of Pélmonostor/ Beli Manastir. We have just spoken to our correspondent in Zagreb, who said that there are thousands of migrants there, and very probably they want to continue their journey towards Hungary. What is our authorities’ response to this?

The basic fact is that the Western Balkan human-trafficking route is still in existence, and therefore Hungary’s defence of the Serbian-Hungarian border and enforcement of Hungary’s laws – ensuring that its border can only be crossed at designated border crossing points – has not put an end to the flood of migrants. Consequently, we have to assume that the enormous mass of people who wanted to reach Austria via Hungary will continue to proceed along Hungary’s southern borders. They are going to Croatia now; the question is which way they will then head. As far as we can see, there are a number of possible directions, and they are planning one of these not insignificant, robust routes of migration – illegal migration – in the direction of Hungary. We are trying to prevent this.

One aspect is what they would like, which is not legitimate: the route along which migrants would like to approach the European Union is not a legal one. The bigger problem is that the Croatian authorities are facilitating this.

The Serbs have not been any better at detaining illegal migrants heading for Hungary.

Yes, but Croatia is a Member State of the European Union, and there are rules which the Schengen Agreement says they should abide by, and they are evidently failing to comply with these rules. As I just mentioned, they seem to be playing the role of traffic police directing migrants on their territory towards the West.

Indeed, this is the situation; the question is what comes next, as far as the Hungarian government and Hungary are concerned.

So I will ask you that question. What comes next?

We must do what we have done on the Serbian-Hungarian border.

The fence?

Construction of the fence began last night. We have directed hundreds of police and military personnel to the site. Six hundred soldiers are already on site, during the course of the day another 500 will be directed there, and by the end of the week a further 700 military personnel will join them. There are around 200 more policemen on the ground already, who will be joined by another 100 on Friday, and a further 500 at the weekend. So we are regrouping our forces, and we have begun the construction of the temporary border fence.

On the section near the Danube-Dráva National Park?

We shall build a section of 41 kilometres.

Towards the River Dráva?

We have inspected the border, and we have checked the size of the area which can be crossed on foot. Experts have identified a section of 41 kilometres, and construction of the fence has begun.

And can’t we come to a common understanding with the Croatian authorities regarding this matter? Can’t we encourage them to support the concept that these are, after all, the borders of Europe, and here protection must be provided, rather than direction for migrants on where to cross?

Yes, we can, and we are very good at talking and drinking coffee, and the Croatians are very good at that too, but we find this irrelevant. We must do our own job. We cannot rely on anyone else: we cannot rely either on Croatia or Serbia. In Serbia they were not even prepared to control the crowd on their own territory which attacked our police. So friendship, cooperation, good intentions, good neighbourly relations are all very important, but we must see that when there is a problem, we cannot expect help from the south – either from Serbia, or from Croatia. It is even worse news that we cannot expect help from the West either, but then again this was also true back in the time of János Hunyadi. But the situation is what it is, and instead of helping us – or, as I asked them when I was last in Brussels, at least leaving us to our work without further attacks, because we are the only ones observing the Schengen Agreement, which we strongly intend to and will observe – the voices from the West criticising our actions are not diminishing in volume.

What do we know about the intentions of Slovenia? Do they take their duty to protect the Schengen border seriously or not?

We hope they do. They are inside the Schengen Area and Croatia is not. Croatia would like to join Schengen, but another question is whether they are fit to join or not. The Slovenes are inside Schengen, however, so they have obligations. But then again, so does Greece, and the European Union has pursued infringement procedures against Greece for six years because they have failed to meet their obligations; but as we have seen, the effect of these measures has been next to zero. Consequently, I repeat again: it does not matter what Slovenia thinks. The most important thing is that we Hungarians do our own job.

What is your view on the incident at Röszke, at the Röszke–Horgos border crossing station? On one side, there were those seeking entry throwing pieces of concrete, and then on the other side there were the police – and it is all quiet now this morning. What do you think about what happened there mid-week?

From a political and legal point of view, the situation is quite simple: an armed attack from the direction of Serbia was launched on Hungary and on the Hungarian police protecting the Hungarian state border. This armed, organised attack launched from the territory of Serbia was not prevented by Serbia in any form; not only did Serbia not prevent this, but they did not even try to prevent it. They were mere observers of events; the Serbian police watched their Hungarian counterparts being attacked from the territory of Serbia. The Hungarian police were defending themselves, and they were protecting the state border. I think that anyone who saw the footage, as well as anyone who only heard about the incident, has every reason to be proud of these young Hungarians. They were recently sent over there, to the border, and they protected the Hungarian state border with their own bodies (twenty of them were injured), whilst not resorting to the type of force seen most recently in Berlin – where one person was shot dead a few days ago. In other words, we managed to resist the attack launched against Hungary from Serbia, without Serbian assistance, whilst fully observing rules governing humane conduct.

Having witnessed this incident, do you think that you will now be able to argue with more determination and force for the need to deploy defence forces on this section of border, or even on some other section? Parliament will decide next week.

I do not think you need any particular argument here. Everyone has some common sense, everyone whose feet are in touch with the ground can see what is happening. In my view, there is little doubt in a normal person’s mind that we must resort to all available resources, to every organised Hungarian state force. Even earlier, I did not really understand what we were arguing about. There is a reason why the Hungarian Defence Force is not called the Hungarian army. It is the duty of a defence force to defend the country – this is why it is there.

You look at the figures and indeed, compared with the first half of the week when the Hungarian police detained eight or nine thousand people illegally crossing the border, from mid-week – after the fifteenth – the number of migrants detained had fallen to a fraction of this: to just one-fortieth. Is this due more to the physical border protection, or to the legal border protection measures?

Both. We have implemented a three-fold reinforcement: legal reinforcement, a physical border fence, and we have directed forces to the border. These three factors in combination have produced this effect. The policy which Hungary is pursuing – this home defence policy which protects the border, protects the Schengen Agreement, protects Europe and protects the Hungarian people – is working. We are seeking to prove to the people, to ourselves, and to the whole world that while a flood of people may well be on their way towards Europe, if everyone fulfils their obligations this flood can be stopped, it can be kept within controlled limits, and it can be made intelligible. We must filter out the danger, as Europe is facing a very serious threat – not only from the multitude of migrants, but quite simply because Europe has no idea who it is letting in. In Hungary, too, we can now say that we have arrested a terrorist; we know who organised the attack against the Hungarian state from Serbian territory, and we have their photos.

There, in Röszke?

Yes. They have been identified, there are some whom we arrested because they entered Hungarian territory, there is an identified terrorist, and analyses have shown – to me this morning – that the operation was directed in Arabic and in English, using megaphones, with an organised media background. We can see all these things, we know these things, and we are investigating these things. So this amply demonstrates that this is not just a simple immigration problem, but we must also seriously talk about the threat – the threat of terrorism.

And we should also talk a great deal about the fact – and of course, this is not your number one responsibility – that, as you mention, Hungary is protecting Europe. But how is it possible that in this family that we call Europe, while one Member State takes the relevant rules seriously, and attempts to enforce them, another simply changes its mind when the challenge reaches its own territory? We can also see that the German employment authorities welcome Syrians one week, and then withdraw that invitation the next, based on the same regulations. How is it not possible to hold every Member State to account on a standard basis regarding these regulations?

The situation is that what we call the Schengen Agreement is the expression of the common will of the signatory countries, which lays down what is to be done. So good intentions and goodwill are all very well, but in fact there is an agreement which everyone should observe. If everyone did what they agreed to do – and what Hungary is doing – the  questions that you have rightly raised would not even arise. But the problem is even worse: I do not wish to drive our listeners to panic and despair, but the problem is even worse. In Hungary, it is often said now in everyday conversation that it is all in the head, and there is a lot of truth in that. So there is a problem in people’s heads. A strain of liberalism can be observed in the heads of those who control the media, journalists, opinion-makers and commentators, and – the biggest problem – also in the heads of our politicians in Europe. We can call this suicidal liberalism. What we are doing restricts our own opportunities in life, impoverishes the quality of our own lives, puts our values at risk, and endangers our own way of life. This is nothing short of suicide! If someone jumps from the twentieth floor, from a liberal point of view you might see him as a free man; but from down here, it looks more like suicide.

There are rules; I return to the question that these rules are indeed rules which were determined jointly with respect to border protection, border crossing stations, and issues such as people of what nationality and with what intentions may cross our borders. These rules are uniform, and yet no one calls the Member States to account on their implementation. Should these rules be changed, and should everyone be persuaded to meet their respective obligations?

This is why we are going to meet, this is why we prime ministers have been invited to Brussels next week, to discuss what to do. But I would like to mention a very important thing on the side. While we speak of a suicidal strain of liberalism, or at least I speak of it, it is very important for Hungary to make it perfectly clear that it does not have any problem at all with the Muslim community – a sizeable Muslim community – living with us here, in Hungary. Its members have crossed the border legally in the past 25 years, they have observed the laws of Hungary, they have been granted residency permits, they have wonderful families, they have created livelihoods here, and they are valued, useful members of Hungarian society. Therefore what is happening now should not in any way affect the situation of the Muslim community in Hungary. They are valuable people: we have with us Turks, Syrians, Jordanians and many others, who have supported Hungary very much in the last few years – not only here in Hungary, but also in international relations. This is a valuable community. We must similarly ensure that Hungary’s very clear views in favour of a Christian Europe should not be seen as anti-Islamic. I want to point out that Hungary will never pursue an anti-Islamic policy. Islam has its own values, it is a major civilisation, without which there would be barbarism in a very substantial part of the world; it is a different culture, a different civilisation from ours. But where it is, it fulfils a very important mission in the history of humanity. In other words, we are not against Islam; we just want to live in Hungary by our own rules, and we expect everyone, including those who are adherents of the Islamic faith, to observe those rules.

Or to state their names when they cross our borders.

Introducing ourselves is the very minimum in our cultural circles, and we usually state our own names.

But talking about legal migration, a lot of criticisms have been levelled at the situation at the Röszke reception centres and the situation created by the immigration office. How is this compatible with Hungary’s obligations under international conventions? Do you think that, in the context of legal migration, what is happening in Röszke is in order?

I listen to several reports every day, including the flow of reports prepared by the immigration office. As far as I can see, Hungary is observing the Geneva Convention and all other related regulations very meticulously – to the letter. Many of the attacks are unfair and unjust because they completely lack any factual basis. So we must do our work in asylum procedures with doubled attention: on the one hand, we are overseen by our own conscience, and on the other, we are overseen by international organisations. We must therefore do our work accurately and meticulously.

There will be an EU summit next week. There is a quota concept sanctioned by the European Parliament, and there is a number: 160,000 migrants somewhere across the territory of the European Union, in the Member States of the EU. About half an hour ago, Professor Maróth was in the chair you are sitting in now, and he said that, if we want to be fair, at least one zero is missing from the end of this number of 160,000. You, Hungary and the Eastern European region continue to oppose this solution at the level of quotas, as it only serves as a kind of answer to legal migration. In that light, what will happen in Brussels next week?

Former French president Sarkozy has said somewhere that European leaders are behaving illogically. He has compared the situation to a burst water pipe in an apartment. You can argue about how much water to let into which room, but this will not fix the broken pipe: together we need to concentrate our efforts on that. We have proposals which specifically aim – as this is a matter to be resolved in people’s heads – that European politicians should at last prioritise defence of the borders. A meaningful debate on the consequences – the distribution this way or that of incomers – can be held after the pipe has been repaired. But right now all our efforts must be focused on putting an end to the continuous flow of illegal immigration and break the chain of trafficking which has been established. Let us leave until later discussion of the political intentions behind this chain, but it can be clearly seen that it is a developed business, moving huge numbers of people and vast amounts of money and assets. This trade must be destroyed, this chain must be broken. If instead of dealing with this we talk about the distribution of smuggled people, then we will actually be exacerbating the problem, not easing it.

Yes, but can you divert the original agenda for next week’s Brussels summit in the direction you have just described?

It wouldn’t be the first time Hungary had done that.

If migrants keep coming from the direction of Croatia or Slovenia, it could amply demonstrate the situation. If they cannot manage this flood of migration, that could result in a wholly different situation.

I repeat: we started construction of the fence last night, 41 kilometres of the first defence line will be completed today, and we shall start installing the second line of defence. I’ll say once again: there is not a sand dune or mole-hill which could provide a hiding place or hope to anyone trying to unlawfully enter the territory of Hungary, and we shall defend the country’s borders. This is not what we had in mind, this was not our plan over the past fifteen to twenty years. We had hoped for a different world, but we cannot shut our eyes, and we cannot stick our heads in the sand, because we bear responsibility for the safety of Hungarians. Hungarians are rightly worried, increased fear is justified, people are right to say that they do not understand what is happening and they are right to expect the Hungarian authorities and the political leaders which direct them to take control of the situation, to protect people, and to eradicate the causes of their alarm. This is our duty, and this is what we shall do.

If they tell you to abandon this position and support quotas, or else face withdrawal of part of the country's EU structural funds, this would be pure blackmail. But all the same, what would you do in that situation?

That would be a political crime. To make a link between any financial issues and immigration – it is difficult to find a polite phrase for that. This is leaving aside the fact – and this subject could occupy another entire broadcast – that in my opinion we do not receive money from Western Europeans as aid. This is a complete misconception, and cannot be accepted. I have never accepted the view that they give us money out of a sense of solidarity. The hell they do! It’s about being part of a common economic zone. We had forty years of communism, they had forty years of capitalism. They are rich in capital and strong and we are capital deficient and poor, because communism was here. Still, we decided to unite our economic areas. Obviously, there cannot be honest and fair competition between businesses, people and countries, if some have prospered for forty years, while others have seen their countries plundered for forty years. In a situation like this, you have to operate some kind of a mechanism to make our co-existence, economic cooperation and competition fair and honest. We are creating the conditions for this, because otherwise we would be overrun economically, and we would be mere colonies if we allowed this enormous disparity to persist. They know this, too – they had colonies of their own. So this is why Europe developed mechanisms in which the newly entering countries should not exist at the level of economic colonies, but should be able to participate in fair competition. This has nothing to do with solidarity, or sympathy; this is pure economic calculation, in which they further their own interests, and we further ours.

The parliamentary group meeting – we have a few minutes left, so let’s talk about this. There are new actors on the political stage, a new group leader, and a new position will be created. Lajos Kósa will be the new parliamentary group leader, and there will be a cabinet attached to the Prime Minister headed by Antal Rogán, the former parliamentary group leader. Tell me something about both of them: what do you expect of them, of this new position, and of them personally in these new roles?

The Hungarian public know both of them very well, and I have known them, too, for many years. In general I do not like to talk about things like this, because politics should not be about politicians but about the people; the kind of politics that is about politicians is dangerous ground and hinders political action. So in public I am less interested in the individuals here, although it is important to have the right people in the right positions. They are both veterans on the scene. I would like to ask this from Mr. Rogán, our parliamentary group leader. Now that we have been in office for five years – and I have had the honour to head the Government of Hungary for ten years, if one includes my very first term in office – I can see both the strengths of our operation and its weaknesses. When we govern, all I ever do is try to reinforce our strengths and remedy our weaknesses. This now needs new people and a more intelligent division of labour, and this is why I am relying on our parliamentary group leader.

I am sorry, but is this new cabinet chief post an answer to the strengths or the weaknesses?

It is part of the remedying of weaknesses. I have too much on my plate, and the truth is that I also am no longer in the first flush of youth (the poet Attila József described the feeling); so I, too, need younger people and more help.

And the parliamentary group? The group leader?

The parliamentary group is a very strong political community within Fidesz. I do not wish to go back too far – because you can see that my hands are full, and the nature of these duties is different from the internal affairs of Fidesz. But if you think about it, 38 of us established an organisation at a time when there were 800,000 (communist) party members in Hungary, and God knows how many members of the Workers’ Militia. There appeared to be absolutely no chance of winning ground for our ideals, our principles and our approach to life in Hungary. But we got together, and we did it. Our community has this strength, this moral strength and unity. While to lead a parliamentary group is not easy from a professional point of view, and there is a division of labour because many people are within the group, it is nonetheless an uplifting task from a human point of view, because in this job one must oversee the work of a close-knit community. So I think – and I was the first parliamentary group leader of Fidesz, when our party won seats in Parliament – that this is a fine job.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been with us on our programme. Thank you for accepting our invitation.

Thank you for inviting me.

(Prime Minister's Office)