Mr. Prime Minister, we have come to a winter of discontent: war in our neighborhood, inflation, economic crisis all at once. What's more, it doesn’t look like we will be recovering from all this anytime soon.
This was the most dangerous year since the fall of communism. We were threatened by getting dragged into war. Have no doubts – if the Left would have won in April, we would be up to our necks in it. Hungary is the only one in Europe who has remained outside of the war because the Hungarian people voted for this with an overwhelming majority this past spring. The rising price of energy also pushed Hungary in a dangerous direction. The Hungarian economy relies on imported energy and before the war and sanctions we spent yearly seven billion euros on it. This amount is now 17 billion euros – we had to pay 10 billion more euros. That is 4000 billion HUF and an enormous sum leaving the Hungarian economy. If a Christmas angel suddenly decided to erase the energy sanctions, then the price of energy would immediately drop along with inflation – and then Hungary wouldn’t be looking at one and a half percent growth but rather five percent.
One of the cornerstones of your politics is that a ceasefire, then peace negotiations are needed in the Russian-Ukrainian war. Now however, if you are looking at either the battlefield or diplomatic relations this does not seem realistic. The war could still last a long time, if not decades.
This danger is possible. At the same time though, Ukraine can only continue fighting as long as the United States is supporting them with money and weapons. If the Americans want peace, then there will be peace.
But can anyone expect Ukraine to give up part of their country in the interest of Europe’s energy security, livelihood and peace?
Nobody can expect this. Ukraine is a sovereign state and they decide when and what they fight for. We can decide on how we support them.
Hungary has decided that as this war is not our war, bearing in mind the Hungarian national interests, we are providing humanitarian assistance for Ukraine. There has never been a peace where the negotiating parties knew ahead of time what the results would be.
The only thing they really know ahead of time is what should be solved. The rest – what they will get and what they will give up – is determined during negotiations.
In the EU and Western media, Hungary is filed away as a pro-Russian party even though we have fulfilled every obligation stemming from our alliances.
We are pro-Hungarian. In the Russian-Ukrainian war, we are on the side of Hungary. Our answer to the question of whether we are on the good or bad side of history is that we are on the Hungarian side of history. We support and help Ukraine, we have an interest in the survival of a sovereign Ukraine, and we have an interest in Russia not posing a security threat to Europe. However, we have no interest in surrendering all our economic relations with Russia. These questions we view with Hungarian spectacles, not with someone else’s
Through our Hungarian spectacles we see high inflation and continually rising prices.
We have a clear plan to deal with the situation. By the end of 2023 we will bring down inflation to single digit rates.
Central bank governor György Matolcsy expressed strong criticism of the Hungarian economic situation. Does this signify any kind of break or conflict in the country’s leadership?
It is indeed unorthodox. But it only means that the governor of the central bank is in a difficult situation. The law tasks him with the management of inflation, and now inflation is especially high not only in Hungary, but equally in the whole of Europe. Moreover, the Central Bank chose a strategy of raising interest rates which makes it very difficult for businesses to survive; 20 percent interest rates are almost impossible to pay. And if there are no loans, then economic players will be in trouble so there is even more pressure on the Central Bank from them. My situation is not easy either, but György Matolcsy’s is even more difficult. And if at times like this you choose unorthodox behavior in the public eye, that’s understandable.
Will the ongoing economic situation slow down the government’s family planning support or even end it?
There will be changes regarding home construction subsidies. These will not affect the rural family housing support ‘csok’. The general family housing support will not be affected either in the first half of the year. But there are professional recommendations that seek to make this support system more targeted.
At the same time, the rest of the elements of the family support system will remain in place; in fact, it will be extended. At present, young people do not pay income tax on their earnings up to the age of 25. From now on, women who pledge to have children will be eligible for this benefit until the age of thirty.
Are you pleased to see the agreement between Hungary and Brussels?
We took a step forward. Now we are at the point that we have determined the money that is owed us is actually ours.
Brussels carved a weapon for themselves by withholding funds to Hungary – and they are using it.
It is indeed a weapon – but not a sword, rather a pocket knife. And from that you don’t have to run away in panic. If we are looking at the money due Hungary from the cohesion funds, we get a billion and a half euros net yearly. This is 600 billion HUF while the entire performance of the Hungarian economy was 68 thousand billion HUF this year. Naturally you still have to stop and get the little things… but on a more serious note, I understand there is a lot of interest in that one percent of money – but the other 99 percent is more important to me. Let’s get that first. And for that we do not need EU funds – we need investments, developments and jobs. The other kind of Brussels-money is a much more significant amount and was created as a financial fund from a joint loan in order to overcome the consequences of the Covid crisis. If there is a shining example of dishonesty, this is it: we take out a mutual loan, Hungary assumes the associated obligations, and then the Hungary-hating Brussels bureaucrats do not give us the money from it.
Do you not find it a classic joke of fate that the European Parliament’s same leftist parties that were defaming Hungary on a daily basis were just exposed in a corruption scandal?
There are situations when they hang the hangman. Brussels bureaucrats feel as if they’re above the law and can get away with anything. If a person as a Member of the European Parliament is on George Soros’s secret list of recipients and they receive money and all kinds of other support in order to condemn countries that cross George Soros’s business interests – such as Hungary – in reports that are based entirely on untruths, that is not so far from suitcases full of cash. This swamp must be drained. The Hungarian Parliament took a position on the European debate over the future of the European Union: it was proposed that the European Parliament be abolished in its current form and instead be made up of representatives appointed from national governments. It is high time this proposal be taken seriously.
Could this reduce Brussels’ Hungarophobia?
No, in fact the more we succeed the more it grows. The root of the problem is that people in the West and Hungarians have their own concepts of the future, and about their own lives in it. And these are two different futures.
We don’t want to become an immigrant country, we don’t want to let gender activists into our schools, we don’t want to eliminate the normal family framework of life, and we want neither war nor sanctions; we want to maintain our relations with the non-western half of the world as well.
According to Western liberals, their way is not simply one of many options, but rather the only morally right one. This is the old instinct of the colonizers. If we were not successful – if they could say “anyone not following us is failing” – then this would not be a problem. They could herd us into their big common pen, and the Left would gladly follow. But as long as Hungary is successful – does not get dragged into war, defends itself from migration, grows its economy, decreases budget deficits, increases family support, reinstates the extra 13th month pension – then Brussels will continue to pout. Because there is a country in Europe that stands on Christian foundations, values their past, and builds a future on national interests.
There’s already been plenty of talk about money, so let’s discuss the dollar liberals as well. It turned out that foreign parties bought them out for three billion forints. This didn’t amount to much, but if they can give three billion, then they can give 30 or 300 billion if Hungary is a stake. The question is: can a country be bought like that?
The Hungarian Left is for sale, but Hungary is not. In the April elections, there were three billion forints up against three million voters, and the latter won. And even if it was 300 billion, those three million still would have won. As long as our national and political community is together, there is no amount of money with which anyone can buy Hungary’s independence.
One of the foundations of your policy is defending national sovereignty. Is the foreign money that is and has been pouring in to fund political parties and the media destroying Hungary’s sovereignty?
It is. But we are not without tools and we will not give up. It is best to face reality: this was not a one-off incident, it’s not as if the Hungarian leftist parties just got caught doping during the election race. They sold their country out. Because what is and will be at stake is the establishment of a United States of Europe which forces Member States to forfeit the most important aspects of their sovereignty, becoming a province in an empire. Hungary will not take part in this because it would mean the end of our history. Whoever accepted that money destined Hungary for this fate.
Hungarian political public life has died down. The ruling parties won the by-elections with a large margin. One of the most significant ongoing movements is the teachers’ demonstrations. Will the government be able to help them?
I am on the teachers’ side. They do indeed make very little, the advancement opportunities are unappealing, and young teachers have undeservedly low salaries. This must change. Based on the current strength of the Hungarian economy, we can give teachers a 10 percent raise for last year, this year and the upcoming year. If we get the EU money then we can increase wages by a lot more within three years; if we don’t get it then we will need six years. There is one major thing we have a difference of opinion on, but it cannot be helped. That is the mode of protest. There are legal forms of protest in Hungary. I ask everyone who protests to stay within those means. This can be a demonstration or strike. But they should not cross the limits of the law because otherwise the Hungarian government will have no choice but to implement the necessary counter actions.
What do you think about your old opponent, Manfred Weber’s assertion that you are responsible for migration to Europe?
This is Hungarophobia, a distorted version of hatred. My poor colleague Mr Weber has a serious case of it. But let’s pay close attention in the spring when the Germans change their laws and grant citizenship to millions of migrants. And let’s think about what would happen to Hungary if we were on the same path. Because that is the next step. First migrants, then refugees, then settlers, then citizens. By the millions. Well, this won’t happen to us. Only the Hungarians themselves will decide who they live alongside – this was even made clear through a referendum.
Mr. Prime Minister, what is your message to the Hungarian people this Christmas at the end of what you have called one of our country’s most difficult years thus far?
The government and I are trying not only to hold our ground, but to set an example. We must handle crises in a way that we do not give up on our overall goals or let our achievements reached with the Hungarian people go to waste. I wish that everyone is able to maintain their big plans and goals when mapping out the coming year and rethinking possibilities in their personal and family life. Because Hungary and all Hungarians will survive this crisis and we will be on an upward trajectory once more. Together.
Photo: Benko Vivien Cher