The conservative German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published an interview with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Thursday, entitled “We do not want a multicultural society”.

The Prime Minister was asked whether he felt certain comments by German Chancellor Angela Merkel were directed at him; these concerned having to be careful with large majorities, her view that a political opposition should not be regarded as an enemy, and on civil society organisations not being foreign agents – even if financed from abroad. Viktor Orbán said that he has served as prime minister for almost ten years now and his experiences are the same as those of the Chancellor. Concerning the assumption that these are criticisms aimed at him, he said that “If Madam Chancellor wishes to say something, she will do so; it would be rude to assume that she is only hinting at things.”

Regarding the meaning of “illiberal democracy”, the Prime Minister reiterated that “illiberal” means non-liberal and not anti-liberal, and it would be unfair to think that democracy can only be liberal. If it was, it would exclude non-liberal people from the platform of democracy.

According to the Prime Minister, one of the most important outcomes of the Chancellor’s visit was that it could be regarded as a strengthening of the historical German-Hungarian friendship. He outlined the importance of German investments, recalling that over the past five years six billion euros of German capital has flowed into Hungary. As for the Ukrainian crisis, both leaders had agreed that no weapons will be supplied to Ukraine and the issue must be resolved peacefully. Also, both countries support a unified and sovereign Ukraine.

Talking about the approaching visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister underlined that in spite of the current “concrete and serious” conflicts, cooperation between Russia and the European Union is of key importance. It is in the interest of Europe – and thus in the interest of Hungary as well – that Russian energy and natural resources “are built into the European economy in a mutually beneficial way.” Should this not happen, Hungary will become “a servant of two large emerging powers.” Regarding the concern voiced by the interviewer that the Russian President might try to divide Europe, the Prime Minister emphasised that he has to think with a “Hungarian head”, and therefore the Hungarian government will align Hungary’s path with its national interests.

In relation to Russian energy, the Prime Minister stressed that Hungary does not have any other energy resources apart from Russian gas, and since the South Stream project was abandoned, Hungary has to look for other solutions.

When asked whether he still thinks that the West has shot itself in the foot with sanctions against Russia, Mr Orbán stated: “I have promised my prime ministerial colleagues in the EU that, whatever I think on this matter, I will no longer talk about it.”

The interviewer referred back to the Prime Minister’s speech of last year, in which he seemed to be saying that civil society organisations are conspiring and serving foreign interests. On this matter Mr. Orbán noted that the interviewer “might have misunderstood” him. He explained that there is a very simple expectation related to civil society organisations: “we want transparency”. He continued, “I ask civil society organisations active in Hungary to reveal who their supporters are and what amounts they receive from them.” He added that citizens can then draw their own conclusions, and he noted that the “civil world” of the Hungarian-American investor George Soros has “great traditions” in Hungary, therefore this issue is an “especially sensitive” one. Reacting to the assumption that in Hungary the prosecutor’s office acts under political direction, the Prime Minister declared that this is strictly prohibited in Hungary, and that the giving or taking such directions is a criminal offence. When asked whether it was a coincidence that directly after his speech the authorities launched proceedings against one of the civil society organisations concerned, the Prime Minister said that “this is the first time I have heard of this.”

As to whether he wanted to replace the country’s elite after his election victory in 2010, Mr Orbán said that he never had that aim. He said that this was more of an intellectual, emotional issue, a matter of what upbringing the elite of a country have, how they think about the world, their country and their positions in the nation. The Prime Minister stressed that it is a “natural expectation” that key figures in the country’s political and economic life “must love and serve their country”, adding that “in these terms, we can speak of an intellectual renaissance.”

The interviewer referred to the Orbán government’s material measures as well as its intellectual ones – for example reducing the pension age of judges and redistributing state-owned land and tobacco concessions – and in light of this asked where the line could be drawn between legitimate redistribution and corruption.The Prime Minister stated that corruption occurs when decision-makers serve their own interests – which is something strictly punishable by law. “Underlying our social policy decisions are social policy objectives, and all of our decisions have served the public good.”

Concerning the question of the increased wealth of certain Fidesz members, Mr Orbán said that Hungary has exceptional transparency rules, which are far stricter than those in Germany, and that “it is no surprise that we are among the less corrupt countries.” He said that Fidesz is a plebeian party, and people expect moderation, modesty and humility from it; as a result, there are always reactions when wealth becomes apparent to the public.

As far as migration is concerned, he reiterated that within Europe we cannot talk about migration, but the free movement of labour. There are only two exceptions to this: Serbia and Ukraine. However, Hungary fully supports Serbia’s EU membership and Ukraine’s closer ties with the European Union.

Mr. Orbán also said that the coexistence of different cultures always poses a great challenge, and that it is always risky – especially in the case of Christianity and Islam. Hungary has not taken this risk, and will not do so in the future either. The Prime Minister also stressed that Hungary respects the different path that France and Germany have taken, but it is reasonable to expect others to respect the Hungarian decision. “We do not want a multicultural society,” Mr. Orbán said. In his opinion EU regulations are decidedly lax, irrational and open to abuse. He said that we have to deal with people who claim to be political immigrants as such, and we “cannot treat them as illegal immigrants.” The Prime Minister said that these people can and do move freely, “but I think that sooner or later Germany and Austria will have enough of this.”

(Prime Minister's Office/MTI)