20 November 2015

Éva Kocsis: We have Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in the studio with us. Good morning.

Good morning.

Let us begin with the latest and most topical subject: Paks. The European Commission has started infringement proceedings due to violation of public procurement regulations. The opposition is demanding an explanation. What next?

We are going ahead. The operation of Paks is the number one precondition for cheap electricity in Hungary, and when the reactor blocks in operation at present stop functioning, it is important to have a new block or blocks to replace them. So it is one of Hungary’s national interests to operate, maintain and – if possible – enlarge the nuclear power plant, or else the price of electricity will increase steeply. Cheap electricity equals Paks, and therefore the Hungarian government will implement the project. Of course one could ask what is actually going on, as in Europe recently no nuclear power plants have been put out to tender. A nuclear power plant is being built in Finland, and there was no tender. We could once again say that we are a victim of double standards, but I would rather not sulk. I would simply say that this is a huge sum of money: we are talking about more than ten billion dollars. We have not spent this much money on any project in Hungary since the fall of communism. We are talking about a technology possessed by a number of Western European countries, they want to take part in the deal, and the European Union protects their interests. That is the way it is: where there is meat, there are flies.

The terror attacks in Paris occurred a week ago. Many said afterwards that a new era will begin in Europe, but in a certain sense, that new era has already begun. In addition, for some time experts have been saying that the question is not whether this could happen, but rather the question is when it is going to happen. How do you see this now? Is this still only an example of fire-fighting, or has the search for a real answer begun?

First of all, I would like to point out that, after the terrorist attacks, we must change our way of thinking. We must ask the question: what is more humane? Hungary was accused of acting inhumanely by building a fence on its border. But what, then, is more humane? Detaining the uncontrolled and unregulated masses of migrants at the border? Or what happened: risking the lives of innocent European citizens – the lives of hundreds? The answer is obvious: security and elimination of the terrorism threat must be given priority; and therefore we must also view the migrant situation from a different angle, as a considerable percentage of migrants are coming from countries, where we – several Member States of the European Union – are conducting military operations: so we are at war with them. We may not like this and we may not feel that this is the case, but the fact remains that we are conducting military operations in Syria against someone – also against the government there, in fact. We are conducting military operations in the territory of Iraq, we are conducting military operations in the territory of Afghanistan, and wherever military operations are conducted, there is an enemy. An enemy’s strategy of deploying subversive groups behind the lines of countries with which it is at war – in this case European countries – and then carrying out attacks, is a concept as old as war itself. I think that European leaders underestimate this. If we are at war, we must accept that this will have implications for our everyday lives. For instance, if we are at war, we cannot allow masses of people into our countries in an uncontrolled and unregulated manner without knowing their identities, their origins or their intentions. Over the last few months European leaders have been continuously allowing them in. What is more, they have been transporting them: they themselves have been transporting these masses here.

But in fact the situation is that European leaders are currently trying to manoeuvre, to strike a balance between humanitarian aid and a response to terrorism.

To be more precise, I sense some kind of vanity or obstinacy. In Hungary if one asks ten people, nine of them will say that two and two equals four. After what has happened, it is obvious that there is a correlation between immigration and terrorism. There is no need to argue about this – this is natural, clear and widely acknowledged; according to the rules of elementary human logic, this is an obvious fact. By contrast, several leaders in Europe say that there is no need to change their immigration policy, because there is no correlation between terrorism and immigration. The widening gap between European leaders and the common sense of the European people is increasingly destabilising Europe. I think this is a very serious threat. Terrorism is also a threat because it claims human lives, and as we do not know how many terrorists have been brought into the continent, how many of them are here and what we can expect, we must recognise that we are in danger. The countries which sent troops to Syria, or are conducting aerial attacks there, are in particular danger. But, in my view, denying the correlation may result in political destabilisation. Under these circumstances, there is a continuous rise in the popularity of radical, extremist political forces outside the current mainstream. Such forces question the current European system, but call a spade a spade. They are on the rise because people are not prepared to swallow the nonsensical argument that an immigration policy resulting in deaths can be continued as before. The radical parties stand against this. And I think that we moderate centrist forces must act with similar vehemence: we must not give ground on this question – the radicals must never be granted the sole privilege of telling the truth. If they are, the people will follow the line of truth, and European politics will radicalise. I do not think that this is in anyone’s best interests.

Compared with earlier statements, the French Prime Minister also struck an unusual tone on this issue, because he made it clear that some terrorists gained access to France by exploiting the refugee crisis. And he went even further. He pointed out in no uncertain terms that this is a new war: a planned war being controlled by criminals, and the methods of killing are also changing continuously. Meanwhile, we – ordinary people in the street – cannot quite decide whether the intelligence services are failing to coordinate their activities, or whether European leaders are sweeping their reports from the table, and whether we can have any hope for some kind of a coordinated solution.

The truth is that we have no reason whatever to criticise our intelligence service leaders, counter-terrorism chiefs and police commanders, because not only did they put their reports on the tables of decision-makers, but they even went public; by doing so they crossed a boundary which is normally not approached in a European democracy. It is not usually recommended that police or intelligence chiefs reveal their positions to the public, independent of their governments. But they, too, felt that the system was not working: in other words, that their recommendations were not being built into the relevant policy decisions. And so in this respect they have crossed a certain boundary. They have spoken about this continuously. We can see from media reports that this is what happened in countries outside Hungary; the only reason this did not happen in Hungary is that we not only received opinions and reports from intelligence chiefs, counter-terrorism experts and police commanders, but we also incorporated them into our decisions.

So reports on this type of threat, a threat on this scale, were also presented to you – and I am not just talking about Hungary?

Of course they were – I have been reading reports on national security issues every day. This is part of my work.

How serious are these? You can obviously only describe details which concern the public. Just so we can compare how much has the country’s exposure changed in the past two or three months?

At this point in time Hungary is not among the targets. The agencies responsible for the security of the Hungarian people have not identified groups inside or outside Hungary which are intent on harming the Hungarian people. But – using different information, primarily based on the reports of their counterparts which they have incorporated into their own reports – they have identified increasing threats in other countries. So I knew what a police chief was saying in Germany in public or non-public meetings, or what was being discussed by interior ministers at EU summits which were not open to the public. Naturally I received all this information.

When we talked a few months ago – at the beginning of June to be precise –  I raised the issue of a joint article by the economics ministers of Germany and France. They jointly wrote an article about an exclusive euro club. And then Angela Merkel made a statement a few weeks ago, in which she said that if we do not all agree and do not follow a common path, then Europe will in fact disintegrate. And only yesterday, an official request was submitted to the European Commission on the establishment of a “mini-Schengen Area”. This European disintegration appears to be imminent.

I would not ring the alarm bells just yet; I would instead say that over the past six or seven years a number of things have happened which have alerted European leaders to the fact that they must reconsider some fundamental issues regarding European policy. It is very likely that once we have reconsidered these fundamental issues, the treaty which created the European Union will also be in need of review. The Schengen Agreement is one of those agreements which are definitely in need of amendment, but the same is true if we think back to the financial crisis in Greece, or the financial crisis before that and the responses we made to those crises. If we look at the state the euro is in, and if we wonder whether it is possible to have a common monetary policy without fiscal coordination, then this is also likely to call for amendments to the treaties. We come to the same conclusion if we want to take action against the threat of terrorism. We need new rules if we do not want immigration to continuously undermine public security – because wherever there are immigrants in large numbers, the facts show that crime rates increase. So I think the time has again come to ask fundamental questions about the European Union. Former French president Sarkozy has spoken about this more eloquently than I, and in somewhat stronger terms. In his words, the European Union should be placed on new foundations. In the end whether or not this will be good for us Hungarians is a big question, but this will be decided in the debate. We can hardly avoid having to reconsider some fundamental issues.

Observing the reluctance of European leaders to take action, and their disagreement, I can hardly imagine that they will be able to agree on fundamental issues.

This is how it appears to be, but in fact we do find examples of successful agreements reached on difficult issues; about ten years ago there was the European Convention, and attempts were made to gather together all European views and formulate a new treaty or modify the old one on the basis of those views. This was a successful effort – it was difficult and time-consuming, but it was successful. At the Convention Hungary was represented by József Szájer, and he did a very good job.

In a few hours’ time EU interior ministers will meet, and one of the topics on the agenda will be the tightening of the Schengen rules, the Schengen system. Is this system of rules working?

The problem is that some countries observe it and others do not. Take Hungary, for example, which is determined to observe the rules and is mobilising all its resources, including Hungary’s military strength, police strength, intelligence services strength and financial resources – as we have spent an enormous amount of money on the protection of our borders. We have mobilised all our resources in order to honour our treaty obligations to observe the Schengen Agreement. Then there are other countries – Greece for example. I would not say that they have done absolutely nothing, because that would be unfair, but there is no tension, there is no dramatically great tension as a result of the fact that they are simply not protecting their southern borders. To be quite honest –  and I am saying this on behalf of the Hungarian people – I am reluctant, and the Hungarian people are reluctant, to be party to an international agreement in which some members strictly and in a disciplined way observe what was agreed upon, while others do not. Lack of discipline and the failure of others to observe the agreement harms us; we are the losers in a situation which is now untenable.

What about the quotas? Do you have parliamentary authorisation to go to the Court of the European Union? Why do you need to collect signatures? What is the next step in the scenario? Do you think it conceivable that your view on this issue will prevail in Europe?

It does not look like I stand to win; at this point in time we Hungarians are far from victory. I see a kind of obstinacy on the other side – and to tell you the truth, I do not really see the reason for it, unless there is some kind of ideological perversity or degeneracy in the background; I see a kind of obstinate insistence on such completely illogical and unreasonable views, such completely unrealistic views, that one does not even know what to think. Of course we all have vanity, but I think this is beyond the limit. We must attack the quotas under any circumstances – particularly after what has happened – and we must block them, because after the Paris terrorist attacks quotas mean that we would spread terrorism across Europe. If it is true that there are terrorists among the migrants – and I think there are fair numbers of them – spreading them across Europe would involve sending to each other’s countries people who support terrorism and who are already intending to or could in the future participate in terrorist attacks. I think this is the craziest thing we could do, and would jeopardise our own citizens’ security. So blocking the quotas is in the elementary security interest of the Hungarian people. We are in a minority. At this point in time our closest cooperation on this is with the Slovaks, who have also opposed the quotas. There were another three or four countries who also opposed the quotas, but they will accept and implement the quota decision. The Slovaks and the Hungarians contested – or will contest – this decision before the European Court, and we would like the Court to annul this decision. It would increase the threat of terrorism and crime, and would jeopardise the cultural identity of our country and that of the peoples of Europe. We must therefore prevent the quotas.

While, even after the Paris terrorist attacks, Angela Merkel has several times stood up for and argued in favour of an unchanged immigration policy, one can see that the rules have also been tightened in Germany. Have the German authorities, the German government or anyone contacted the Hungarian government regarding the issue of cross-border return of migrants?

There are consultations on this at expert and bureaucratic levels, but the Germans have said that they want to return those who arrived in their country after 21 October. Well, no one went to Austria or Germany through Hungary after 21 October, because by then the fences were already in place – not only on the Serbian border, but also on the Croatian border – and so I think that for now Hungary is not facing the direct threat of cross-border returns.

In Europe now we can see that solutions are being sought, in which each country is attempting to tighten the situation within its remit as a Member State, a nation state. We are seeing the introduction of very stringent regulations in France, and in recent hours the measures adopted by the Macedonians appear to indicate that they are increasingly screening migrants, and in some places are not even letting migrants through. Europe seems to be pushing immigrants, migrants, further and further out of Europe. The time will come when the masses accumulate –what will happen then? Will the whole thing just blow up? What will happen?

No, they have to be taken back. Where they are taken back to is a very difficult question, but the Schengen Agreement clearly states that they have to be taken back to the country where they first entered. And the point of entry is always Greece. We are in a Catch-22 situation, because while the agreement is clear, there is a court decision in Europe stating that Greece is not honouring its obligations towards refugees or immigrants, and so they must not be taken back there. However, these poor souls cannot just be left hanging in mid-air. They entered the EU, and sooner or later they have to be taken back to where they came from. European leaders have therefore made the reasonable proposal of assigning high priority to the establishment of so-called “hot spots”: supervised refugee centres. We shall create in Greece – or rather the Greeks agreed to create – four or five large refugee centres, and I think everyone should be taken back there, and that is where they should be kept under supervision until the situation is resolved in Afghanistan, Syria and the other countries from which they came. And there are, of course, countries where there is no question that migrants should be taken back to where they came from. Pakistan, for instance, is a nuclear great power. Pakistan is an extremely rich country. Of course many of its people are poor, but Pakistan is not comparable with Hungary in terms of gross domestic product and security expenditure. So while there is great poverty there, because the internal structure of that world over there is what it is, no one from there has the personal right to come to Europe.

You met the NATO Secretary General yesterday, during his visit to Hungary. Did you talk about the plan, the concept for a settlement? This is a question on which there is not much agreement, the question of who should resolve the situation and who should work together with whom in order to resolve the situation.

Before answering this question, I would just add to the previous one that sooner or later we must put an end to an illusion. There is a reflex in European politics. It is like a cough syrup called Fagifor: when their child coughs, Hungarian parents take the Fagifor from the medicine cabinet. I think that is what they still call the cough syrup parents give their children – at least, that is what it was called when I was a child. Or they take out an aspirin, which is good for everything. Similarly, there is a miracle blabber in Europe which every politician loves to use when they are unable to answer a difficult question. It goes like this: “We need a European solution”. It has transpired that there is no European solution to immigration, and there is no need for it either. We need national solutions, every government must implement the agreements they signed up to on a national basis, and then there will be no problem that would need to be addressed at a European level. So I am convinced that the issue of immigration, the issue of border protection, the issues of border policing should not be resolved at a European level; if a nation state is unable to perform the task in hand, they should seek assistance, and even then it should continue to be their duty to perform the task with external assistance. But it is a dangerous illusion to take the issue of border policing and border protection away from the nation states and create the impression that someone in Brussels – or God only knows where – will solve this problem for us Hungarians, the people of Szeged or the mayors of nearby settlements, or that someone else will protect Hungary’s borders instead of the Hungarian police forces. And the statements of a number of European leaders keep this illusion alive. “We need a European solution.” No, we do not need a European solution! We need Member State responsibility, observance of agreements signed by Member States and solutions implemented by Member States. The combined Member State solutions will constitute the European solution.

Let us talk about some domestic political affairs.

Oh, sorry, the NATO question – I apologise, this is what happened yesterday. I cannot report good news. Complex military conditions and situations have evolved in the regions concerned. While on resolution of the situation and the consolidation of the countries in question I see good intentions from both NATO leaders and the great powers – from the US all the way to Russia – I see no sure signs of success at this point in time.

Let us talk about an important domestic political affair: the Quaestor story. The Constitutional Court annulled certain provisions of the law. One of the arguments was that it defines the range of those eligible for compensation in terms which are too narrow. What will happen now? It has clearly turned out that providing compensation is not contrary to the Fundamental Law. However, the question now arises as to whether you are going to change the law – because this possibility exists – or do nothing.

Well, I think that defining the range of those eligible for compensation is an important detail, but one that is easy to resolve. It can be narrower or wider; the Constitutional Court has seen fit to rule that it should be wider, and we must honour their decision. The Constitutional Court ruling contained a more important element, because if I understand correctly – and this is not a simple decision – it is not right that the Hungarian state should order general compensation. The Constitutional Court ruled that no one should unjustly benefit, and it follows from this that, instead of general compensation, we must change over to a system of calculated settlements. This will not be a simple legal and accounting issue, because the transactions in the background are extremely complex. But the point is that we should be thinking in terms of calculated settlements, rather than general compensation. We must create the relevant legal conditions. An army of lawyers at the Ministry of Justice are working on translating the decision of the Constitutional Court into the language of a solution, and are developing a specific regime for settlement. This is what will happen.

Our time is up. You have been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Thank you for talking to us.

Thank you for inviting me.

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister)