The outcome of the recent European Union summit on the bloc’s 2021-2027 budget and its pandemic recovery package in Brussels can be interpreted as the Hungarian and Polish forces having “repelled the international attack of the liberal brigades”, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Friday.
Hungary and Poland thwarted the attempt to have others decide on the funds they are entitled to, the prime minister said in a regular interview to public broadcaster Kossuth Radio.
There were some, Orbán said, that had pushed for an arrangement where Hungary and Poland would receive the monies they are entitled to but their spending would have been tied to political conditions. “These are typically countries that are pro-immigration and hate us because we don’t allow them to enforce their migration policy and because Hungary stops migrants”, he said, adding that they were backed by US financier George Soros.
The prime minister said these countries had wanted to introduce a financial mechanism with which they could “blackmail Hungary and Poland”.
Orbán added, however, that Hungary had “only won an important battle, not a war”. He said debates on the future of Europe involved the clash of two conflicting visions. One, he said, was “past Christianity and the era of national cultures and would admit many people of foreign cultures so that they could mix with those living here to create a unique culture”.
But Hungary does not want this, Orbán said. “We like it if there’s security, order if there’s no terrorism and we don’t want to have to be the ones to conform those who come here,” he said. “We don’t want to go down that path.” But those who hold the opposing view “don’t want us to be the ones to decide on this because they say that Europe should be the same everywhere”, Orbán added.
This debate has not been settled, he said, adding that Hungary should be prepared to continue to fight this battle “for decades to come”. This was why, Orbán said, Hungary had to be governed by a nationally-minded government and prime minister “who understands this connection and is capable of standing up for Hungary”.
The prime minister said the EU summit was a key moment in the history of Hungary and the other 26 member states because they had tried something that had never been done before. Because several member states have hit trouble, EU leaders had to deal not just with the bloc’s next seven-year budget but also put together an economic recovery package, he noted.
Orbán said there were member states whose public debt-to-GDP ratio was expected to reach 150-160 percent. By comparison, Hungary’s debt-to-GDP ratio was 83-85 percent in 2010, he said, adding that this, too, had been “depressing”.
Given that there were a variety of interests clashing at the summit, it was “very hard” to reach a deal that everyone felt was good, he said.
Orbán said he and his team were able to secure a little more than 3 billion euros in additional funding at the summit. When the Hungarian delegation arrived there was an agreement proposal on the table that was “unfair” and “deeply flawed”, the prime minister said. It needed to be corrected and it was, he added.
On another topic, Orbán said Hungary was a part of an international division of labour that is the European single market. “But we have. a historical disadvantage that we inherited from the communist era and if we open up our borders and there are no protective tariffs in place, companies from the countries that have been more fortunate in the past will come here and put up a tough competition for Hungarian businesses,” he said.
Because these companies repatriate their profits from Hungary, “the goal is to ensure we make at least as much money off of them as they make off of us”, Orbán added. He said the government’s task was to see that money flowing into Hungary, for instance in the form of EU funds, matched the repatriated profits of foreign-owned multinationals.
Concerning the novel coronavirus epidemic, the prime minister said the situation regarding fatalities was improving. But, he added, the epidemic was worsening in neighbouring countries and the virus could be imported if Hungary failed to take action.
“This is why we need clear and straightforward rules at the country’s border crossing points which travellers must observe,” Orbán said, asking Hungarians to read up on restrictions before travelling to any foreign country.
Regarding the introduction of a school-guard system, Orbán said it was aimed at eliminating “violent behaviour”, calling it “unacceptable” that teachers should “be afraid and feel vulnerable”.
Guards will only be assigned to schools at their request with the task to help keep order, Orbán said.
“Children and parents need to be told that although we live in a free and democratic country there must be order in schools and the work must be done there,” he said.
Concerning the government’s “National Consultation” survey launched last month in connection with the novel coronavirus epidemic and restarting the economy, Orbán said, “we can’t count on the opposition when there is trouble”.
“It is a moral obligation of every party to join forces [in the current situation], but the opposition does not keep to it but wants to prevent Hungarians from expressing their opinion about prevention measures,” Orbán said.
“We need this consultation as there might be a second wave of the epidemic and it is key for us to hear people’s opinion about measures they deem important,” the prime minister said.
Featured photo by Tamás Kovács/MTI