English translation of the word-for-word transcript of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s reply in Parliament on 21 September 2015.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I do wish to take the opportunity of responding, because there were a few important, specific points mentioned to which I would like to add the information at my disposal, so that the public and MPs contributing to this debate can better understand the situation.

First of all, I would like to tell fellow MP Mr. Tóbiás that, Honourable  Parliamentary Group Leader, the international refugee conventions that we are a party to state in absolutely clear terms that refugees may not freely choose which country they wish to escape to, and therefore this approach – that we let migrants through, and we accept migrants, and then we send them here and there – is completely incomprehensible and nonsensical. I would like to make it clear that the rules relating to refugees do not come into play at all if we are talking about economic migrants; no one, no country in the world is obliged to accept them, unless they want to. There is no international law which compels anyone to receive economic migrants. As regards genuine refugees who are indeed fleeing degradation or a threat to their lives, the world does provide safe shelter for them. But a refugee cannot say that they want to be a refugee in Germany, or in Macedonia – or in Hungary, for that matter. They have no choice! This is the same procedure, Ladies and Gentlemen, as in 1956. Those who are refugees cooperate with the authorities of the given country – say Austria. There they go to a refugee camp where they receive the basic necessities of life and are safe, and there they await the announcement of the international quotas which decide where they can go. It should be noted here that in ’56 the country offering the highest number of places to Hungarians was Nicaragua. Then their applications are assessed one by one, to determine whether they are accepted or not. But that someone should just set out for the world, and say that Greece or Turkey is not good enough for them (okay, life in a refugee camp in Turkey is surely not the best, but it is safe), and then move on to Greece, and then Macedonia; but they are still not satisfied, and then they move to Serbia, (which is likewise not good enough), and then Hungary next. Hungary? That is out of the question: I want to move on from here! Austria? What were you thinking about? I want to go from Austria straight to Germany. No immediate benefits are available? Well then, I’ll move to Sweden! This mechanism simply does not exist: it has nothing to do with any kind of international refugee convention, so no one should call us to account on that score!

Here we have the next question, which my fellow MP Mr. Schiffer raised. Two different words are mixed up, and it would be wise to separate them: the resolution of the situation and the management of the situation. It is important to make this distinction in order to keep our thinking clear, and to determine what we can and cannot agree to undertake. Hungary alone is unable to resolve the situation – that is, to end the flood of migrants and eliminate the causes creating refugees. We can take part in an international operation which seeks to achieve this, but we cannot resolve the situation. What we can undertake is to manage the situation, because even if we are unable to resolve it, we are not prepared to live with a problem under just any circumstances. While we are fully aware that we are unable to resolve the situation, we are not prepared to assist migrants in just passing through or staying in Hungary and doing whatever they like in defiance of Hungarian law, without registration and identification, and without the Hungarian authorities being able to recognise what they are facing. This is simply not possible! Therefore, when we build a fence and make our Penal Code more stringent, we are not seeking to resolve the problem (because we simply cannot undertake that), but we are indicating a specific method for coping with a global problem. This is how we are going to live with the problem until it is resolved by the international community. So management and resolution are two different things. We do not undertake to solve the problem, but we do – and must – undertake to manage it. It is our responsibility towards the Hungarian people to find an acceptable way of living with the problem in line with the Hungarian people’s best interests. I do not support, cannot allow, and will always resist a scenario in which party leaders elected by the Hungarian people simply stand up, shrug their shoulders, and say: “You see, there is no Hungarian solution; the situation will improve when it is resolved by the international community.” One cannot have this. We must create an acceptable framework in our day-to-day lives for the management of the situation. This is what is happening now, this is what everyone can legitimately expect us to do, and we shall always rise to this challenge.

This then leads us on to the question of the fence. Why does the Hungarian government support the fence? It supports the fence because it works. It works! Just take a look, the Hungarian-Serbian border section is 175 kilometres long – look, and you can see the figures. Earlier we had hoped that, in line with international experience, the number of illegal migrants would fall to one-sixth or one-seventh. This is not what happened; there was a much more significant decrease. So we can tell you that the fence on the Serbian-Hungarian border – about which I shall supply further details – is a double line of defence: not single but double. This double line of defence, with police behind it – and military operations and a strict penal code behind that – has been, combined with the police, enough to prevent illegal entry into the territory of Hungary along a section of 175 kilometres. But it does not prevent all entry. As while the term “border fence” is often mentioned in combination with the word “closure”, we are not closing the border, but merely the green border. The borders are open at the designated entry points where people have been able – earlier also – to enter and exit under normal circumstances, in observance of existing international and Hungarian regulations. But we have closed the green border, and have created a physical structure which can be protected. I do not wish to talk about operational issues here, but everyone can see – perhaps not everyone, but those who have been in the army surely can – that if I draw a line in the dust and want to protect it, I do not stand a chance. You need to create a physical obstacle which you can then protect with force. This is why we need some kind of physical border fence. It is not just a communication trick that in Hungarian we do not use the word “fence”, but rather the term “border closure”: we do so because we must indeed create a physical obstacle which can be, ad absurdum, a fence; but it could also be something else. At this point we should keep our imagination in check.

This further leads on to the question raised by our fellow MP Mr. Schiffer: if we claim that the fence works (and it does work on the Serbian border), what about Croatia? This is where we stand on the situation on the Croatian border. Ladies and Gentlemen, we cannot protect both borders – the Serbian and Croatian borders – without the defence forces. The room for manoeuvre that you have given us has been enough to deploy the police. You have not given us authorisation to use the military, and we are therefore able to protect the Serbian section; we shall also be able to protect the Croatian section, but for that we need the army to be allowed to patrol the borders together with the police. If we are given authorisation to deploy the army in addition to the police, we shall be able to protect both the Croatian and Slovenian border sections; but this needs to be sanctioned, and you have denied us this approval. Therefore, allow me to say that those who refused permission for our soldiers to patrol our borders together with the police, and who now take us to task because we are not effective enough, are hypocrites and pharisees. That is not a fair political stance.

My honourable fellow MP Mr. Schiffer used a very important phrase just now (and while it may be unfair and unjust, it is important all the same, and we could cite a number of similar phrases in that vein), when he said that the Hungarian authorities have denied care to people who are entitled to it, to people who are in need of it. I would like the Honourable House to see things clearly on this matter also. Under the new Penal Code, in the refugee camps and at the designated detention points Hungary provides full care for every individual entering its territory, including those who enter illegally – even those who enter illegally! They receive medical care, shelter, food and drink. It is not possible for someone to say that – even if they are provided with transport – they are not prepared to go to a refugee camp or collection point, and to then say that they demand care, food and drink right where they are. This is simply not possible! There is no international convention of any kind under which we would be obliged to tolerate people crossing our border illegally, sitting down on the ground and saying: “We demand the care we are entitled to”. By contrast, the Hungarian authorities may be expected to – and I, too, expect them to – provide medical care, shelter, food and drink to every single individual who is ready to cooperate, who goes to the registration points and registers. They will be given care, they have been given care, and thanks to civil society organisations, Hungary has significantly surpassed its legal obligations in this respect; because the Hungarian government provides as much as it is required to provide, but civil society, Hungarian civil society has gone beyond these mere obligations. They said – I do not know precisely what they said, but they could have said: it is understandable that the Hungarian government must maintain order, and therefore only provides care where it is required to provide it under international law. At the same time, there are people who are not prepared to cooperate, and in this context there is a criterion for the state (and I personally insist that we should observe this criterion), which is the criterion of legality. Non-governmental organisations said, however, that their work need not be judged by the same criteria, and they also provided care for those who were not prepared to cooperate. This is wonderful! I believe that Hungary’s solidarity, its share of solidarity, is beyond that which is prescribed by international law; and it is also beyond that which could otherwise be expected of Hungary. I wish to note here quietly, between ourselves, that we provide significant financial support to civil society organisations for them to do work which is not our duty to do under international law; but we do this all the same. We enter into agreements with them, and they do this work.

There are another three important things here. One of them is the point that Jobbik raised: what about migrants who are deported back to Hungary? I propose that we should first protect our borders, and then the time will come when we can no longer avoid the great debate on deportation back to the country of registration. What is the situation here? The situation is that those illegal migrants first entered the territory of the EU in Greece, and for the second time in Hungary. They were not registered in Greece, but they were registered in Hungary. As we registered them first, the situation may therefore arise in which pressure is put on us to take them back. We shall then say that this is impossible, because it is an old, ancient basic principle that when it comes to obligations no one may use their own unlawful act as a model. Greece cannot claim that while the migrants entered their territory first and Greece failed to register them, they should be sent back to Hungary. This is impossible! This would be contrary to international law, the principles of law and its traditions. We shall have to fight, and this will be a heated argument which is yet to take place, as we must now concentrate on the protection of the borders. But this debate will take place, and Hungary will have to represent this position in no uncertain terms. We are able to prove in a number of instances, in the majority of cases (not only by using our common sense), that those coming to Hungary must have come here from Greece – unless they grew wings and flew here. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, this will be the Greek debate.

A winter break. I beseech you not to fall for illusions: there will be no winter break. There will be no winter break in refugee affairs, illegal migration and the global crisis. If you take a look at the publicly available charts, statistics and tables which demonstrate the seasonal distribution of illegal migrants, you will see that about one half of the total annual number of migrants arrives by the beginning of October, and the other half arrives between October and the end of December. So there will be no break here, but instead increased pressure! We have no reason to believe that human traffickers will organise their routes any differently this year than how they have in earlier years. If these trends continue, we may expect quite the opposite: rather than a break, we should prepare for an increased flood and mass of people.

Several of you say that the construction of the Hungarian fence is not a solution, because if it were then everyone should build fences. But of course, this is the solution! To put it more modestly: we signed an agreement which we call the Schengen Agreement. Everyone signed this of their own free will and in line with the common will. It says that the protection of borders is the obligation of each nation state. This is not an optional task which the signatories are free to perform if they feel like it, or only if they can; the agreement says that this is an obligation, and this agreement also stipulates that the Schengen Area – the shared, free European territory – can only be entered at points designated by individual states and during the hours those points are in operation. So there is nothing about flooding the territory, and even the designated entry points are not available for crossing on a round-the-clock basis. There is a procedure for this. I take the view that if there is an agreement, there are two things we can do: either everyone observes it, or we change it based on our common will. So far no one has changed the agreement. I do not even see the common will behind this. So this is an agreement which must be observed. If the Greeks observed it, we would not be in trouble; if we observe it, the Austrians will not be in trouble. If the Croatians observed it, though they have not yet signed Schengen but they want to enter the mechanism… Let us just say in parenthesis for now that the latter is hardly a realistic option, given that it is subject to a unanimous decision, and after what has happened we shall find it difficult to raise a sufficient number of votes in Parliament in favour of Croatia’s entry; but that is also a problem for a later date. So if they want to join, it is right that they should be expected to protect their own borders.

This may seem a little absurd, but if you think about it, it is not so absurd at all. Greece must protect itself by some means (with a fence, if there are no other options), and Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia, too, must protect themselves; in this event the entire system of southern external land borders of the free Schengen zone and the European Union  would be protected. A considerable proportion of European Union leaders state in their defence – something that we, in Hungary never use as a defence – that this is such a formidable task that it simply cannot be performed. When we hear arguments of this type I think that it is in fact an admission of a lack of competence in terms of governance. We believe that this task is manageable. At the very centre of international debates today is the question of whether we can accept what is still the majority view among politicians – I would not say among the people, but among politicians – that we are facing a problem which we cannot protect ourselves against, which cannot be physically blocked, and which we should therefore surrender to. There are views like this. And there is another view. We are the only ones who take the view that it is possible to solve the problem, but we must combine all our strengths – legal strength, financial resources, personnel and political courage – and we can then protect our borders. And if everyone protects their own borders, Europe will be protected. This is our position, and we seek to persevere in it.

And approaching the end, as a penultimate issue, the introduction of the quota system. Naturally, Hungary is opposed to this system. There are two reasons for this. First of all, we believe this is not an issue for today; now we should concentrate on the protection of our borders. We should not allocate quotas, but thousands of soldiers – if necessary, tens of thousands – should be sent to the south, to countries where there is a need for border protection and where the given nation state is unable to cope with this. There is no legal framework for this at present. This is what we should be working on, rather than wrangling over quotas. But we have to face up to the following situation: in order to stop the quota system within the European Union’s legislative framework – and this is a proposal, a legislative initiative – you need a qualified majority. This does not exist at present. Even all the Visegrád countries combined are unable to prevent the European Union from making a bad decision. This may well happen – I mean the adoption of a decision, a bad decision – as soon as this week, and this will then be law. And afterwards, as we are an EU Member State, this will be binding on us. In that case, the Honourable Hungarian Parliament and the EU affairs committee will have to deal with a single question. I shall be happy to present this question when the time comes: what shall we do if we are to comply with a binding system which we consider ill-conceived, have fought against and voted against? What should the Hungarian stance be? This is something we shall have to discuss. I ask the parliamentary groups to prepare for this as well.

And finally, a last question, which is perhaps the most important of all questions. We are now talking about fences, the police and the army, we are talking about resources, quotas, and so on. But deep down – at the heart of the matter, as far down as the human eye can see, down to the foundations of philosophy – we must decide whether Europe wants to change or not. Is what is happening to Europe today a good thing or a bad thing? The situation today is that the number of people who have arrived in the European Union is well over a million. I gave you the figures in a breakdown by countries (Iraq, Syria, Libya, the Sub-Saharan region), so it is obvious that millions more will set out. The real problem is that there are some in Europe – I do not know if they are in the majority, but it is certain that leaders who say things like this are in the majority, which is of course not the same as the people – who believe that what is happening is a good thing, and that this is a great opportunity for their countries to change. I am not going to name names, but the leaders of large countries say that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change, and they want this to happen. I would like to make it clear that they have the right to desire this. I believe that every European nation state has the right to change according to their own free will. They are also within their rights to embrace large Muslim communities and to conclude that they are not worried by the experience that we – the European Christian cultural community – have so far been unable to integrate them, and that therefore parallel societies are coming into being in a number of European countries, with declining Christian and increasing Muslim ratios. There are some who believe that this is a welcome development. It may well be that this causes no surprise on the left, but it certainly surprises us here. There are some who believe this is good, this is desirable, and this is an opportunity.

We, however, who represent the interests of Hungary at this point in time based on the authorisation of the people, take the view that, whether this is good or bad, we do not want it. And at the end of the day the question is whether we in Hungary have the right to say that we do not want to change our cultural pattern at this speed, and based on this logic. Is it possible for us to not want this, do we have the right to not want this? The question is not whether we are right: that is something we can talk about, because there are some – I believe from the left – who claim that this is not the right position, while from the national and Christian side we claim that they are wrong. We believe that it is a good thing if Hungary preserves its cultural patterns. But the question is not what is good or bad, but whether Hungary has the right to insist on what we ourselves want to decide. This will then lead us on to the question of whether any European nation state – including Hungary – has the right to decide whom they will let into their countries, whom they wish to live together with, and whom they do not wish to be there. The Hungarian position is as firm as it is – if I may say so, I would not call it stubborn, but a firm position all the same – because it is very clear on this issue: against the background of known European experience, we do not regard such a rapid and uncontrollable change of cultural patterns as beneficial for the Hungarian people. No one has authorised us to accept this; the Hungarian people did not entrust us with the task of generating or tolerating change in Hungary on such a scale. We were entrusted with the task of enforcing that which is laid down in the Hungarian Constitution and in the laws of Hungary. In the storm of migration, or the storm of the global refugee crisis, this gives us the right to insist that we shall not accept a European policy from those seeking to force us – explicitly or implicitly – to change, and to become like them. We want to decide what we are like and whom we want to resemble. This is our own sovereign, national decision, and I am asking the Honourable House not to yield an inch on this. This is a Hungarian national duty, a constitutional duty. We Hungarians alone are able to decide on this. This cannot be dictated from the UN Headquarters in New York, and not even from the headquarters in Brussels. This can only be the decision of the Hungarian people. I am asking you to continue to insist on this position.

Thank you for your attention.

(Prime Minister's Office)