If there are any signs of a second wave of the novel coronavirus epidemic “we won’t hesitate to take the necessary legal and economic steps,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Friday.
Hungary’s successful response to the epidemic saved tens of thousands of lives, Orbán said in an interview to public broadcaster Kossuth Radio, adding that this was “a major feat”.
As regards the pandemic, the prime minister insisted that the Hungarian health-care system had done a better job of managing the epidemic than those in western Europe. Hungary’s preparations for possible mass infections was built on “military logic” and this scenario was avoided as a result, he said.
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Orbán attributed Hungary’s successful handling of the epidemic to discipline and unity, saying that these practices would be needed again in the event of a second wave. He said Hungary’s level of preparedness in terms of the tools needed to combat an epidemic was satisfactory.
Concerning Western criticisms levelled against the emergency powers handed to the goverment in March in response to the coronavirus outbreak, Orbán said the map of Europe today presented a “shocking revelation”.
“During the days of communist rule, we only attributed positive meanings to the word ‘Western’ and used to laugh at Soviet progapandistic claims that ‘black people are getting beaten up in America’ and that Western youth are ‘lost in the ecstasy of Coca-Cola’,” he said. But in reality, Orbán said, people in western Europe today were dying because of a lack of care, large economies are having to be saved from financial ruin and “there is a wave of violence, gang warfare and statues are being toppled”.
I look at the [Western European] countries telling us how to live properly, how to govern, how to run a democracy, and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.”
Orbán said he had spoken on Thursday with his Slovenian counterpart Janez Jansa, who had said Slovenia was reintroducing certain entry restrictions. “This is an important warning,” Orbán said. “We’ve got to be careful.”
On the subject of the planned EU recovery fund, he said the idea of a joint loan went against the grain of Hungarians’ “instincts”, but Hungary would not be able avoid giving its consent “due to the dire financial situation of many countries”. Borrowing, he added, presented both a danger and an opportunity. Whether it turned out to be one or the other depended on how smartly the funds were spent, he said.
The prime minister said a working group has been set up under the leadership of the innovation and technology minister to prepare schemes that the EU recovery plan can finance. Electricity transmission, water management and restructuring university finances are possible areas of developments, among others.
Concerning Thursday’s ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union that the restrictions imposed by Hungary on the foreign funding of civil groups do not comply with EU law, Orbán said western Europe and “the American left” were attempting to apply a form of “liberal imperialism” to “force their worldview onto countries that think differently”. He added that international courts, too, were “often also involved in this network”.
Seeing the Hungarians who participate in these rulings, Orbán said, it was “easy to spot the ties” to the “international network” linked to US financier George Soros, which the prime minister called “the western European high command of liberal imperialism”.
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Orbán noted, at the same time, that press reports about the ruling conceded that transparency was a legitimate goal that needed to be achieved with fewer restrictions. “So complying with this ruling won’t be difficult,” he said.
Organisations involved in political life should all be subject to the same transparency regulations, the prime minister said, arguing that parliamentary parties should not have to abide by stricter rules than other groups involved in politics that are not vying for parliamentary representation.
He said all Hungarians would have knowledge of every forint spent by foreign entities on political goals. “Those who don’t hesitate to accept money from abroad shouldn’t be ashamed to discolse that.”
Orbán insisted that certain people in Hungarian political life were bent on watering down the country’s sovereignty and handing powers to Brussels.
He said putting Hungary’s independence at risk would hamstring the authorities’ ability to ensure foreign students follow rules on preventing the spread of the infection. In such cases, these political actors, he said, were not on the side of Hungarians but backed “foreigners” instead. Orbán added that there was a “150-year history of certain Hungarian politicians working against their country on the international stage.”
On the topic of the new national consultation, the prime minister said the government stood for national independence, but this stand entailed “constant struggle” with people abroad and with “internal agents” doing Soros’ bidding. He said holding elections every four years was not enough to combat these malign influences. The majority of Hungarians must demonstrate the same position on certain issues, he said, adding that this entailed forming a national consensus on how to handle a possible second wave of the coronavirus epidemic and rebooting the economy.
Featured photo by Balázs Mohai/MTI