Budapest, 15 August 2014

Éva Kocsis: The second quarter of this year has seen the greatest increase in the Hungarian GDP in eight years; with the 3.9 percent increase Hungary has eclipsed all the other EU countries and exceeded the expectations of financial analysts. Our guest today is Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Good morning.

Viktor Orbán: Good Morning.

Éva Kocsis: Before talking in a little more detail about the figures, let me first of all ask you if this result is a pat on the back or an expectation.

Viktor Orbán: Neither. These figures are the logical result of everything that has happened in Hungary over the past four-and-a-half years. Flare-ups and good quarterly growth figures occur now and then in the lives of many countries in Europe, but the trend is what is important. This quarterly figure is part of a process, meaning we have climbed this mountain step-by-step, slowly but surely. We hope this is not a mountain, but a plateau, where we will succeed in remaining. So what is behind the performance of the Hungarian economy is not a one-off budget manoeuvre, not some selling of state assets, not a credit transaction and certainly not a new loan, but continuously expanding production, increasing the number of jobs and improving work quality. This is why the figures are encouraging; if they are a pat on the back – to use your words – then it goes to the working people of Hungary. In 2010, when the government took power, Hungary was a country in which 1 million 800 thousand working people paid taxes; today, Hungary is a country in which 4 million 100 thousand working people pay taxes. It is clear that the Hungarian model – perhaps we can call it that now – that is outlined by Hungarian economic policy is functional and effective. I always keep an eye on how the British are doing, because there are two countries within the European Union that have come up with their own model which differs from the usual economic policy recommended by the IMF, troika, international financial organisations. The British have their own British economic model and we Hungarians have our Hungarian economic model, and it seems that the British are performing very nicely too.

Éva Kocsis: Now, the figures seem very clear, but the results are composed of too many pieces of data; let’s simplify them a little. What the average citizen wants to know is how these GDP figures might affect their lives. What effect will they have on everyday life?

Viktor Orbán: This is why what I am saying is that this is a road sign that tells us in what direction we are moving, but it isn’t the last stop, so this isn’t a bus station or railway station, we haven’t arrived at our destination yet, we are still a very long way from that. I told you that there are 4 million 100 thousand people working in Hungary today. I think that when we achieve an economic structure that is built up of 5 million working and taxpaying Hungarian people, if we achieve not only the current encouraging level of the work-based society but are capable of transcending that and the work-based society includes the whole of society, because many aren’t included as yet, then we will be able to declare that we have arrived at a state of affairs that now only needs to be maintained. The situation now is that things need to be improved further.

Éva Kocsis: The sixty-four thousand dollar question, which you also mentioned, is of course whether we are on a mountain-top or on a plateau. According to the critics we are on a mountain-top, because this figure has resulted from the fact that the growth loan programme worked well, the public work programme or the drawing down of EU funding. What you say, what the Ministry for National Economy says, is that this is a plateau.

Viktor Orbán: If we put the question similarly to the way you have done and ask what the data is the result of, then I see only one fact that is the ultimate explanation behind it, and that is that the people of Hungary want to work. The fact that they are capable of working has always been clear to us. If we look at how many hours the average Hungarian works and at the quality of the work they perform, then we have always been doing pretty well, expect that few people wanted or were able to work. Now, many people want to work and the Hungarian economy, the Hungarian private economy, is for the moment still incapable of providing jobs to all the people who want to work, but the will to work is an important social value that we should not allow to go to waste. This is why with relation to this I say that we should not think along the lines of the logic of a liberal democracy, but that in addition to the jobs that are created within the private sector job market we should convert the will and desire to work and the ability to strive to make a living into work opportunities, meaning that at such times the state must create work opportunities in addition to the jobs provided by the private sector. In the West, general thinking is that it is not the job of the state to create jobs in such a situation, and the liberal democrats see the exclusive role of economic policy as being to help the private sector create as many jobs as possible. I agree with this, that we must help the private sector create as many jobs as possible. However, in a time of crisis, and there is a crisis today within the Western economy, and in this sense we are also part of the Western economy, part of a crisis zone, then an important part and recognition of the state and the Hungarian model is that supplementary work opportunities must be created, hundreds and thousands of supplementary work opportunities if needed, so that the positive social value represented by the fact that people want to make a living from work rather than from benefits can in fact become a creative force.

Éva Kocsis: What you have been talking about is how we climbed up to this altitude. Now let’s speak a little about whether this will remain a plateau or not. JP Morgan is more critical, although it has revised its figures.

Viktor Orbán: But if what I am saying is true, that the ultimate reason for this result is that people want to work, then is follows that the answer to your question is that while the Hungarian people want to work the positive results will continue to come. The real question is whether we will always have a government that has an economic policy and an economic model that is capable of creating work opportunities to compliment the will to work; we do at the moment, and this is a lucky coincidence, a political and social psychological factor.

Éva Kocsis: All right, but what you are talking about is only one element of the new figures, because it was in fact industry that contributed most significantly to the increase in GDP. And this means that the real question is whether this will remain the case in the next quarter and into next year.
Viktor Orbán: Let’s hope so. I’d like to add another important index to this particular figure. Let’s not forget that, although perhaps no longer up the top of their heads, but Hungarian households are still up to their waists in debt and are standing or wading through an ocean of debt. This means that we have succeeded in achieving this kind of economic growth while a significant part of the population were unable to spend the money they earned through work, because they had to put it towards paying pack loans they had taken on previously. So while there is significant economic growth in Hungary, and one of the engines of economic growth is consumption, it hasn’t really been able to unfold, because although there is significant growth people are otherwise still reducing the debts they took on previously, and this is another very important and very positive development. And so I believe that there are still reserves within the Hungarian economy, and I repeat, there are 4 million 100 thousand people working today and we promised to create 1 million jobs over a period of ten years, but it now seems to me that we will be able to exceed this number. We can and must set as our objective a Hungarian economic model built on 5 million working people.

Éva Kocsis: Let’s talk a little about the international situation, which has a very significant effect on the Hungarian economy, and primarily on agriculture. Two weeks ago, when the EUs third stage sanctions against Russia came into effect, I spoke with the Minister of Foreign Trade here about the fact that it is difficult to impose sanctions without them having too great a backlash on the given region and on the EU. According to current figures, the sanctions could mean a loss of some 80 million euros to the Hungarian economy, but it is not just we who have sounded the alarm bells so to speak, but so have the Greek farmers, the French farmers and the Polish government, for example. What do you expect will happen? What compensation will be required?

Viktor Orbán: We find ourselves in an unusual situation that occurs rarely, and I hope it will occur more often in future, whereby the standpoints of the Slovakian government and Hungarian government coincide. So I agree with Prime Minister Fico that this policy of sanctions that the West, that we ourselves are practicing and which necessarily results in what the Russians are doing hurts us more than it does the Russians. In politics we call this shooting ourselves in the foot. So we aren’t just talking about the fact that the EU must in some way compensate those farmers who suffer losses, be they Polish, Slovakian, Hungarian or Greek, but also about the fact that it would be worth re-thinking this whole policy of sanctions. For my part, I have never believed that a policy of economic sanctions can be effective, and I have always been completely sure that that within an economic system built on exports, and the Hungarian economy produces goods for export; so for a country that wants to sell its products anywhere in the world any kind of economic sanction goes against national interests. So the policy of economic sanctions is contrary to Hungarian national interests. I am doing everything possible, although we all know what weight Hungary has and the possibilities are clear, and am searching for suitable partners to help change the European Union’s, in my view, not suitably well thought out policy of sanctions.

Éva Kocsis: But you agree that in the current situation there is a need for sanctions of some kind, if not economic sanctions?

Viktor Orbán: I think it is high time that we organised a high-level conference with the participation of the European Union and Russia, where future cooperation between the European Union and Russia and individual long-term issues related to that cooperation should all be put onto the agenda. One such important issue is Ukraine and Ukraine’s territorial integrity, which Hungary is otherwise defending, and which we think should be maintained. But this is about more than Ukraine; also at issue is how Russia and the West, and within that how the European Union and Russia, will live side-by-side in the upcoming decades; will they be capable of cooperating, in what fields will they succeed in cooperating and in what fields they will not. We should put military issues, economic issues and territorial issues on the agenda within the framework of a large, European Union – Russia conference.
I stress that I think it would be desirable to organise a conference between Russia and the European Union, because I also feel that it is important that the Europeans decide on the future of Europe.

Éva Kocsis: When you talk about Hungary’s tasks and role with regard to defence, and when this comes up at cabinet meetings or during discussions with experts, does the question arise, in you or the experts, that we should re-think or think further about Hungary’s defence services and military?

Viktor Orbán: We need to think about that anyway, just to mention a few difficulties too, because they are also significant. Hungary’s security is guaranteed partly by our own military strength and partly by our membership of NATO. One of the conditions of our NATO membership is that we conform to the agreements we have signed within NATO. These state that Hungary and every NATO member state must determine its defence spending as a ratio of its gross national product; this is 2 percent. In comparison, Hungary’s defence spending is only around 1 percent, for which we are duly criticised by our allies for being a country that relies to a great extent on its membership of NATO for its security while not contributing to maintaining our joint security to the extent required and not properly conforming to the related treaty. So there is plenty to re-think and these issues are regularly on the agenda; I have a regular working relationship with the Minister of Defence, perhaps to a greater extent than with my other ministers.

Éva Kocsis: In addition to the Russia-Ukraine issue, another topic of discussion at the EU summit at the end of August will be the situation in Iraq. The Islamic State extremist Sunni group is causing an increasingly dramatic situation in the region, including among Iraqi Christians and the Kurdish Yezidi religious minority. You have made a statement on the issue and are urging for a solution. What kind of solution do you envisage?

Viktor Orbán: First of all, it would be worth sticking to the analysis of the situation for a moment. In my view, we Europeans find it difficult to correspond with the phenomenon that there is a religious war going on somewhere. Because Europe has become unreligious to such an extent that we think of a religious war as a historic and social phenomenon that belongs firmly in the past. And when it appears here and now in its bloody reality, that Christians, our people who belong in the same cultural community, are being exterminated because they believe the same things we do about the relationship between man and God, then we suddenly don’t know what to do in such a situation; European institutions are reluctant to state that there is a persecution of Christians going on in the world. Sometimes using more peaceful, non-violent means, and sometimes in bloody form. And what European leaders are especially reluctant to state is that in an era of religious persecution that includes religious wars, we must protect our own people, the Christians. Because who else will defend them if not us? This of course gives rise to many legal and political problems with regard to how to do so and to many military issues, but nevertheless, we should first define our own intentions and state that yes, though they may live outside Europe, we must protect communities that represent the ideals and values of Christian culture. But they are not saying so, and I am pushing for the moment to arrive, and it will not be the first time that I have made such recommendation at the Summit of Prime Ministers; I have done so on several occasions, but have always remained in the minority. But I feel that events dictate that we should, with devotion, perseverance and continuous effort, draw the attention of the West and of the citizens of the European Union to the fact that Christians are being persecuted in the form of a bloody religious war and we cannot remain inactive in such a situation.

Éva Kocsis: On the subject of the EU summit scheduled for the end of August, the posts of the various Commissioner’s will also be decided there and your candidate for Commissioner is Tibor Navracsics [current Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and former Minister of Public Administration and Justice]. When I spoke to him, he was a little sceptical or perhaps critical about how this Commission, this soon to be formed Commission, will view how Hungary operates. In addition to which the local government elections are also approaching. What are you expecting from Brussels, from this body of EU Commissioners?

Viktor Orbán: Well, I’m expecting good cooperation. The European Union needs success stories and the Hungarian economy, and this was what the first part of our conversation was about, is a success story. There are many who would like to portray Hungary as a black sheep, one of the reasons for which is that we departed from the crisis management model recommended by the IMF and the European Union and developed our own Hungarian model. In addition, we are openly admitting that we don’t want to construct a liberal democracy; we want to construct a democracy, but not one that relies exclusively on individual interests, but instead one that regards the public good as being the most important. This is a different way of thinking, and there are those who do not have an interest in an economic and social policy that is realised in the spirit of this way of thinking being successful, or if it is successful, then in acknowledging that success. But this is nothing we should be surprised about, because there are many kinds of competition going on in the world, on the economy, on ways of thinking and of an intellectual nature too, and we must stand up bravely and represent our opinions. Our situation is easier now than it was before, because previously all we could say is believe me, the restructuring that we are implementing and which is built on the best European Christian traditions, meaning it respects freedom, human rights and accumulated cultural values; what we are doing here in Hungary will achieve results. What we are talking about now, however, is that within the European Union the gross national product has increased to the greatest extent here in Hungary. So I think that today Hungary no longer needs to talk about the fact that something will achieve results, but about the fact that the work performed, the Hungarian model, the political system based on the public good, which is democratic even if it isn’t liberal, has achieved the desired results and is providing more opportunities to people here in Hungary than the liberal democracy they are building is doing in many other countries. The facts are on our side; to quote [Hungarian singer-songwriter] Tamás Cseh, if I may, Uncle Reality has arrived and it has transpired that the facts and reality are on our side.

Éva Kocsis: What you are talking about now are the ideas that were included in your Tusnádfürdő Speech. When you gave the speech, did you expect it to produce such a reaction from around the world?

Viktor Orbán: This is always what happens, because the same thing would have happened had I read out the periodic table; it’s good to be aware of this and to approach things accordingly. Look, this is a political genre, and there are many, including people who agree with us and are rooting for us, and among our advisors, who say that there is no need for this genre in politics. A politician shouldn’t give thought-provoking lectures on difficult subjects, they say, because that always leads to trouble, and a politician should instead stick with what he knows best and simply calmly and collectedly present the public with the official standpoint appropriate to the public interest. It is other people’s business, the job of professors and scientists, to hold thought-provoking lectures. I have a different opinion about this. I believe that Hungarian Prime Ministers see things more deeply and from a unique perspective that only they have, because there is only one Prime Minister.  They see into European politics, the witches’ cauldron and the processes that go on there from a unique perspective and to such a deep extent that I think it is interesting for Hungarians who want to think to see what the world looks like from here, from where I complete and perform my work. And for this reason I undertake the odium of having to accept losses and attacks at such times, in the interests of provoking thought.

Éva Kocsis: In a few days’ time on 19 August you will be there in Sopronpuszta for the anniversary of the Pan-European Picnic.

Viktor Orbán: Here we go, yet another situation of this kind.

Éva Kocsis: We’ll see what the situation will be after that speech. Father Imre Kozma [Founding President of the Hungarian Maltese Charity Service] was here in the studio a few days ago and we spoke about the fact that that period awoke huge expectations in people, in the thinkers of the time. If you now compare the message of the period and of the Picnic to what we have received and achieved, then are they in harmony?

Viktor Orbán: Well, let’s think back to what we wanted then; we said that we would be free, strong and great, that we would open the borders, and not just the physical borders but also the intellectual borders; that we would do away with the legacy of communism and Hungary would rise to the level it can achieve according to its capabilities and industriousness. I do not claim that the past years have always pointed straight in this direction. But things are now finally moving forward in the right direction, and so I believe that the great hopes and soaring dreams of the time can be realised if the current economy and social policies are continued. Things are never certain, there is no guarantee; it is only a hope, because whether it will be realised depends on us, on many millions of Hungarians.

Éva Kocsis: Our guest in the studio during this past half hour has been Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

(Prime Minister's Office)