On Friday the latest issue of the German economic weekly Wirtschaftswoche published an interview with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán under the headline “We are at the mercy of Turkey”.
Speaking about his visit to Helmut Kohl, the Prime Minister said that he and the former German Chancellor have been friends for a long time, and Mr. Kohl is greatly respected by the Hungarian people. When the two men meet, however, politics is also a topic, he added, but he said that he does not wish to interfere in Germany’s internal political affairs.
In answer to a question on whether he is aware that his meeting with Mr. Kohl is seen as an insult to the present Chancellor, Angela Merkel, Mr. Orbán said that he is happy to talk to everyone, and Helmut Kohl “is above us all”; at the same time, he said, it is bad manners to call on a lady without being invited.
The Prime Minister was asked if he considered it naive of Angela Merkel to have issued her famous declaration that Germany will cope with the influx of migrants (“Wir schaffen das”). Mr. Orbán said the Chancellor believed that her decision was good for Germany, which, he said, “I accept”. Nevertheless, he added, “what is good for Germany is not necessarily good for Hungary”.
He went on to say that Helmut Kohl is of the view that decisions in Europe must be adopted jointly, “and this is how it should be”, as only shared decisions can lead to shared consequences.
EU at the mercy of Turkey
The EU is at the mercy of Turkey, and “things like this are never good”; the security of the EU must not be placed in the hands of a power outside the EU, he said. He said that he accepts the EU-Turkey asylum agreement on condition that a border protection system is set up. “A continent must be able to protect itself”, he stressed.
Mr. Orbán said that Europe is exposed, and that here he is primarily thinking in financial terms. EU Member States will pay Turkey EUR 3 billion in the near future, followed by another EUR 3 billion, but one cannot see when and where this will end. In June Europe will be faced with yet another problem, because the Turks will insist on the visa requirement being lifted. This will be a problem, because, in his view, unless Turks are granted visa-free travel Turkey will let the refugees into Europe. Europe must protect itself against this onslaught, the Prime Minister stressed.
Attacks against Hungary were not fair
Mr. Orbán said that “It was not fair to attack Hungary just because we protected the EU’s external border with strict controls. Instead we deserved recognition”.
The Brussels plan for protection of the external borders is based on the good intentions of the Member States, and “misses the mark” in seeking to reform the asylum system. “This is a mistake”, he stated. In his view, the protection of the external borders should be the focus of the reform, or else “we shall not be able to solve the issue of migration”.
How will Schengen operate?
“Schengen is dead if the external borders are not protected”, the Prime Minister underlined.
Speaking about his “Schengen 2.0” plan, one of his observations was that peripheral Member States which are unable to protect the external borders and which refuse to accept the assistance of other Member States must be excluded from the area. Furthermore, decisions on asylum must be made in camps which are operated by the EU but located outside its territory. “If this is what we do, there will be no need for the distribution of refugees”, he highlighted.
If refugees receive assistance in Europe, they will come to Europe. A Syrian must cross several safe countries before reaching Germany. “This is not escape, this is simply travel”, he said.
Demographic and labour market problems can be solved through family policy
It is national parliaments which must decide on whether countries want to take in migrants; Hungary does not wish to solve its demographic and labour market problems through immigration, but “through forward-looking family policy”, he added.
Europe is a changing creature which is in constant motion. “It is like a shark: if it stops swimming, it dies”, he said. However, Europe appears to solely comprise EU institutions, which must be followed by the Member States. This is absurd, he stated, stressing that he does not have a dispute with Berlin, but with Brussels; not with Angela Merkel, but with the representatives of EU institutions.
He added that Hungary is a part of Europe, and so is he himself. Therefore, instead of wanting to leave, his recommendations are made with a view to improving the state of the EU. He said that “the British path” is not an option for the Hungarians.
Systems competing with the West are successful
With regard to the concept of “the illiberal state”, he pointed out that the systems competing with the West are successful, but Europe denies this, because it hurts its pride. It would be foolish not to heed reality, but “I do not believe that a Russian or Chinese system would be workable in Germany”, and this would likewise be unworkable in Hungary, he said.
Mr. Orbán argued that in Europe a system has been built in which every democrat must be liberal. Formerly, there were Christian democrats, “some time ago there were even social democrats”, but now everyone has to define themselves as liberal, and this has led to the absurd situation in which “you are not a democrat unless you are liberal”. As a result, certain issues or opinions cannot be tackled or stated, and consequently “liberalism is the enemy of free debate today”, and those who do not stay within the boundaries of “mainstream” discourse are excluded from the club of democrats, he said.
Mr. Orbán said that for him power means responsibility, and that he sees himself as an “old-school” politician. In modern politics, after losing an election it is customary to move into the financial sphere, but “I do not belong to that school”, he said.
“I have been in politics since my youth, and I shall still be in politics as a pensioner”, which means that “I shall remain in politics for the next 15 to 20 years – sometimes in the front line, sometimes in the third line”. It is the voters who will decide exactly where he will stand, the Prime Minister said.
He pointed out that Germany is Europe’s strongest country, and Europe can only advance if Germany is strong. As a result of Germany’s strength, Angela Merkel has such political weight that she cannot weaken. She is like a lorry driver, “who cannot pretend to be driving a VW Golf”. The structure of Europe is good because Germany can be strong without endangering other countries, Mr. Orbán said.