On Wednesday, prime minister Viktor Orban described the Sunday election result as the best of all time, stressing that the government parties continue to believe in the nation state, and envisage the future of Hungary within the EU and NATO.
At an international press conference held at the Carmelite Monastery, the prime minister also told members of the press in connection with the war between Russia and Ukraine that he had proposed an immediate ceasefire to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The prime minister-president of Fidesz began his press conference lasting for almost two hours by stating that never before since the fall of communism had a single party received this many votes. The number of votes cast for Fidesz-KDNP amounted to 54 per cent of the total number of votes cast, and with this Fidesz-KDNP obtained more than two thirds of the mandates in Parliament.
He took the view that this result was owing to three facts: the first that the Hungarian people wanted peace, and as there is a war under way in a neighbouring country, they voted for the parties that offered the greatest guarantee of peace.
He recalled that “we already began our peace mission before the elections and before the war,” he paid a visit to Moscow at the beginning of February. Three leaders tried to keep peace, in addition to him, the leaders of Germany and France, but “regrettably, none of us succeeded,” he reiterated. He observed that he said for the first time in his state of the nation address that Hungary must insist on peace.
He said the second circumstance that may have contributed to the election success was that Hungary is a successful country, today Europe’s two most successful countries are Poland and Hungary. It is in these two countries that economic growth is the highest, unemployment is the lowest and the percentage of family support is the highest, and in the past twelve years, Hungary has implemented the greatest tax reductions, he listed.
According to Orban, the third circumstance is that the opponent was a coalition forged only for power which is fundamentally disrespectful towards members of the electorate. It was disrespectful to announce in advance that “we’re not concerned with our past, we’re not concerned with our programme, we’re not concerned with ideologies, whether they’re compatible or not; we’re only concerned with one thing: how to win the elections,” he said.
He took the view that by contrast they represented a programme of the heart and passion in the campaign.
He stated that the worst example of disdain and insult hurled at electors was “when they even announced that in the struggle for power, it is even OK for Fascists and communists to find their place within this coalition forged for power alone, that in fact it’s even OK for them to preserve their own ideological inclinations”.
He said the vision of the parties that won the elections and the government of Europe and the future is unchanged as they believe in the nation state, and envisage the future of Hungary within the European Union and NATO.
With some simplification, our view of the world goes like this: calamities are of a global nature. These include mass migration, pandemics and also wars, and the effective and swift responses are always national and local. Therefore, we continue to believe in the nation states, he said, adding that they also believe that this notion will have a renaissance in the whole of Europe as well.
The other pillar of the vision is for Hungary to strengthen its alliances. We continue to envisage the future of Hungary within the European Union and want to take an active part in the shaping of the European Union of the future, he indicated, adding that we are a Member State of NATO, we will remain a Member State of NATO, and want to build an army that is much stronger than it is at present. With this, we also strengthen NATO.
Among the urgent tasks in hand, the prime minister mentioned the brokering of peace as the number one priority. He added that the first step on the way that leads to peace is a ceasefire, to be followed by a European peace conference. In his view, this must take place as soon as possible because the war is becoming “ever more brutal,” and he is concerned that unless we manage to urgently broker a ceasefire, there will be much more suffering in that part of the world, and additionally, all the suffering and trouble will move ever closer to the interior of Europe.
He also stated that we need immediate action on the part of Brussels due to the issue of high energy prices. He highlighted that the Hungarian party had already made proposals regarding this. He recommended that while the war lasts – and due to this, energy prices are higher as a matter of course – all administrative rules resulting in an increase in prices should be suspended, “it doesn’t matter for what reason we introduced them”.
He mentioned the complex rules relating to the taxation of fossil energy sources, and the regulation that connects the price of electricity to the price of gas. The regulation that requires fuel to be mixed with biofuel should also be suspended.
He is of the opinion that a serious economic crisis is unfolding, and there are multiple reasons for this, but in his view the most important one is the set of sanctions imposed on Russia. “We will pay the price for that,” he said.
We must prepare for the management of this European economic crisis, he stressed, adding that “we are capable of that, we will do everything we can to protect Hungarian families”.
Orban further told members of the press that on Wednesday he had spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin to whom he had suggested an immediate ceasefire in the war between Russia and Ukraine. He also suggested to the Russian President that he, the Ukrainian and French Presidents and the German Chancellor should come to Budapest – the sooner the better – and hold a meeting. Reaching an agreement on an immediate ceasefire would be the sole purpose of this meeting, he said.
He added that the Russian President’s response was positive, but he said there are conditions on which he must agree with the Ukrainian President.
Orban, who by his account spoke to Vladimir Putin at length, took the view that Hungary is a country in a special situation, it is situated at the Eastern border of the Western world, this is “a border region”.
He added that the country has its own experience from 1956, we know full well what wars are like, in this part of the world occupation is not a rare occurrence.
In his view, Hungary is in a tie with the Poles in this race, but may well overtake them in the competition of who was occupied longest in the last one thousand years.
“We understand this thing that’s going on here, and we know that wars never end the way they started; they become ever more brutal with the passsage of time,” he said, indicating that this is why he suggested to President Putin that they agree on an immediate ceasefire.
The prime minister said Hungary is so “immovable” on the issue of peace because more than 200,000 Hungarians live in Transcarpathia, and Hungary has primary responsibility for their lives.
In answer to a question, he confirmed that among others, Russian President Putin, former US President Trump and Turkish President Erdogan phoned him up to congratulate him.
In answer to the question as to which party he would describe as the aggressor in the Ukraine-Russia war and what his thoughts are on the atrocities that took place in Ukraine, the prime minister said this is a war that was started by the Russians, they attacked Ukraine, this is an act of aggression. He added that this is the European Union’s common position, and Hungary is a part of that. In connection with the atrocities he urged an independent and impartial investigation. He indicated that on Tuesday he spoke about this at length to the Turkish President who also urged this. He stressed that civilians must be protected under any circumstances, any atrocities committed against them must be firmly condemned.
Answering another question, he warned at the same time that “we should have no illusions” as Russia and the United States of America never recognised the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in the Hague.
Regarding his conversation with the Russian President and whether Putin asked Hungary to veto EU sanctions related to gas and oil, the prime minister said the Russians are aware of the present situation, the fact that Hungary as a member of NATO and EU is in opposition to Russia. This is how we speak to each other, they know that full well, he stressed, adding that this is why the Russians will never ask anything of him. He said they had built a well-functioning system of relations with the Russians which was now falling apart. They are now making attempts to salvage this, but it may well be that the sanctions and “the pressure of the West” will be so ferocious that it will come to nothing.
In answer to another question, he described Hungarian-Russian relations as fair, stating that in the past 12 years “the Russians have never once cheated us and we have never once cheated the Russians”.
He said if requested by the Russians, having to pay Russia in roubles for the gas imported will not cause Hungary any particular difficulty.
He said 2008 was an important dividing line in Russia policy, that was when the West decided that they did not want to admit either Georgia or Ukraine to NATO. This created a new borderline between Russia and NATO. Now, they are on the verge of abandoning the old Russia policy, but there is no new policy yet, there is no way of knowing what the new European security system will be like, he explained, adding that we must monitor and analyse the situation, and must adapt to the new situation; until then, they will try to salvage whatever they can.
He also highlighted that Hungary is not planning to expel any Russian diplomats, and believes that planning in this regard is not wise. When we have a reason, we will, he stated. In his view, Hungary is defending its interests well not only against Russia, but also against everyone else as well. Hungary will not expel anyone as part of political campaigns, he said. Regarding the expulsions announced in other European states, he said each to his own.
He observed that the Russians are in the minority in the International Investment Bank, but regardless of this, they would like to keep the institution in Budapest.
He said at present in the case of gas the question is not how much it costs, but whether there is any. The essence of a long-term agreement is not to gain a profit, but to secure supply, he explained.
In answer to the question as to whether in a protracted war in Ukraine, in the event of the collapse of the Ukrainian State, Hungary would protect the Hungarian minority living in the territory of Ukraine, the prime minister said Hungary is a member of NATO, “without a NATO decision we’re not leaving the territory of NATO”.
Orban was asked about whether he believed in the renaissance of the Ukrainian nation state. He said Ukraine exists, we know them, they are Hungary’s neighbour. They are defending their country, fighting hard. He does not find this surprising, he observed, as he always thought that the Ukrainians were good soldiers.
In response to a question about his “battle of words” with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, he said while in a war it is not topical to talk about this at length, in the past few years the Hungarians had been attacked many times in Ukraine, and this was something that had overshadowed relations between the two countries. However, an intelligent Christian country does not bring this up at a time like this as they are in trouble.
It is indeed a threat that the maltreatment of Hungarians before the war and the war itself will have pushed many Hungarians from their ancient land to Hungary. “This is a great loss for us Hungarians, a great loss for Ukraine and a great loss for European culture as a whole. We’ll see what we can do,” he said.
He was asked about whether what he said about Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday night he would approve of in hindsight, Orban said the Ukrainain President has a bad habit, the habit of wanting to tell everyone what to do. “I think one would do well to give up this habit, especially if one is asking for help,” he added.
Regarding the Paks project, Orban said Hungary does not agree with the sanctions in general, but as the EU’s unity is important, they accept the sanctions as long as they do not violate Hungary’s existential interests. For the time being, not a single element of the issue of nuclear energy is featured in any EU sanction proposals, and so the project can continue on the basis of the agreements concluded earlier, he pointed out.
He observed that the project had been attacked many times, and these attacks had caused a lot of damage. Without these, the power station could have been commissioned as early as in 2023, and the present energy crisis would have been received much more lightly.
In his view, there are a few issues such as the no-fly zone and the extension of the sanctions to energy carriers which are causing difficulties in Polish-Hungarian relations, but these are not important because the Polish-Hungarian and the Visegrád cooperation is not a geopolitical alliance, it was not formed in order to have a common foreign policy, but in order for the countries of Central Europe to represent their interests more effectively within the EU. Regarding the latter, cooperation is intact, he said.
Orban was also asked about the institution of the rule of law procedure. In this regard, he pointed out that the number one priority is to reinforce alliance with Poland. “You can’t stay on your feet in such a storm on your own, or maybe you can, who knows? Either way it’s best not to try,” he said.
He stated that with the Poles they are in a mutual defence alliance, they will not allow either of them to be shut out of the European decision-making system. He observed that even if their views on foreign policy are different on a number of issues, the Polish-Hungarian alliance must be operated in the area where it can be the most successful, and that is the issue of self-defence within the EU.
He indicated that he had not yet seen the letter about the institution of the procedure, and he did not quite understand the whole situation. He said Hungary has not yet received “a penny” of the recovery fund, and so we have not even had a chance to spend it irregularly.
He stated at the same time that whatever the letter says, Hungary will not send weapons to Ukraine, and will not yield to any pressure that would seek to extend the sanctions against Russia to gas and oil. Neither will they accept any compromise “on the gender issue”.
He also highlighted that the decisions of the European Commission and the European Parliament are regularly driven by left-wing political motivations. These are not fair, lawful and neutral, but politically motivated decisions, he added.
According to the prime minister, Hungary belongs to the minority within the EU which believes in the nation states, is conservative and Christian democratic, and so left-wing formations are trying to help “their Hungarian comrades,” the Hungarian Left in every institution of the EU. The EU is facing momentous decisions, these cannot be adopted without Hungary, and “we won’t be humble losers,” he said.
In answer to a question, Orban said whether he will form a new alliance in the European Parliament will depend on the outcome of the elections in France.
The prime minister was asked several questions about internal political affairs. Commenting on the fact that the opposition’s plan to unite failed, he said he himself had lost elections plenty of times, and so he understood what was going on on the other side. “I was in opposition for 16 years, and have been in government 16 years, […] I have worked for thirty-two years to tip the balance to the positive,” he remarked.
He advised the opposition to evaluate their defeat, to stand back upon their feet and “to pull themselves together” because Hungary needs a Parliament in which there are voices other than the voice of the government. He added that in politics he had learnt that without competition there was no performance; therefore, “it would be in all our best interests” if there were high-quality, meaningful debates about serious issues in Hungarian politics in the future. “For this, you also need an opposition, and I wish them all the very best; I’m not saying may they win the next elections, but they should somehow pull themselves together,” he said.
Regarding the fact that the opposition’s candidate for prime minister delivered a speech after the defeat in front of his family, Orban said “success has many mothers, while failure is always an orphan, and if you’re an orphan, then you have to stand there on your own. That’s the way it is.” As for Jobbik, he was of the opinion that from the viewpoint of the electorate, it was disrespectful of Jobbik to combine forces with “Gyurcsány’s party”.
In answer to a question about DK President Ferenc Gyurcsany’s role in the Left’s election defeat, he said “a lack of honesty never leads to anything good”. “If you are the strongest man, you can’t hide that, you can’t cover that up with cunning,” he said, adding in continuation that people must not be looked down on because they know full well who is the boss.
Concerning Fidesz’s results in Budapest, he took the view that based on the numbers they had consolidated their positions, in 2018 their level of support had been significantly lower, and so in his mind these results were positive. Regarding the fact that the party Mi Hazank has been elected into Parliament, he said “something has grown out” of the place where Jobbik once used to be, but it is certain that in Hungary there is zero tolerance as regards anti-Semitism.
In the context of Hungary’s division, he said “after the elections, the victor owes responsibility for what is called ‘the reunification of the nation’”. In his view, this can be achieved with topics that cross party boundaries. He regards the gender issue as an issue that is capable of reuniting the nation, he said, as in the referendum more people said no to the questions asked than people who voted for Fidesz, but the issue of family support is another such question as well.
He added that in order to create an agreement moving towards national unity, we should also acquire the culture of peaceful disagreement.
Quoting Churchill in answer to a question about what message he has for those who did not vote for him, he said “success is not final; failure is not fatal”.
In answer to a question about the congratulations he received after the election results, Orban said “we have our friends,” and it is a ridiculous assumption that an EU and NATO Member State could be isolated.
Answering a question about future government measures, among the most important tasks Orban mentioned the preservation of financial stability because, he said, “if there is no success, you won’t survive”. At the same time, a continued goal is for the growth of the Hungarian economy to exceed the average of the EU. Meanwhile, the government would also like to take steps in order to achieve a demographic turnaround, he said, summarising the goals for the future, stressing that they will continue on the same path that they have followed to date.
The plan is to extend the family support system, but as to when this could take place in the present European economic situation requires some analysis, Orban said in answer to a question. Another question was about the continuation of the projects in Varosliget. The prime minister said this question had been decided by the elections, meaning that the developments will be implemented as originally decided.
In answer to a question about the formation of the next government, he said after every election there were major reshuffles, and the reason for this is that we must understand which questions Hungary will face in the next four years. From these, they must draw conclusions regarding the structure of government and the types of leaders that will be required.
He recalled that the new parliament will have to be formed by 3 May; it is there that the prime minister will be asked to form a government. “The law doesn’t require that the president of the winning party is to be asked to form a government, but I have high hopes,” he said. He added that the formation of a new government could not be concluded any earlier than before the end of May.
In answer to the question as to whether the government will maintain the cap on fuel prices and interest rates, the prime minister said the cabinet will do everything it can to protect people and families from price rises. These measures will remain in effect until the end of the set time limits, but the goal is to maintain them as long as possible, he stated. They are already conducting negotiations about this, and will continue talks with fuel traders, banks, food producers and retailers. He believes there is also scope for maintaining the reduction of household energy bills, he replied.
He rendered the maintenance of the reduction of household energy bills dependent on the rate of the country’s economic growth. He added that in the EU they would like to achieve the suspension of the ETS system, the elimination of the requirement of mixing biofuel with fuel, and the separation of the price of electricity from the price of gas; then “we will be able to defend the reduction of household energy bills”.
According to Orban, if Hungary is able to implement its project in Paks and the use of solar energy increases as planned, then by 2030 the Hungarian economy’s gas requirement will fall to around 10 per cent.
He also confirmed that the government regards the country’s financial stability as a key priority, and that they will always preserve it. He recalled that the government reduced the deficit of the budget and the sovereign debt even during the period of the election campaign. He took the view that the situation of the Hungarian economy will depend on the extent of the European crisis.
In answer to a question, he ruled out the introduction of austerity measures by the government, and also stated that they will not raise the taxes members of the public are required to pay. At the same time, in his view, as to whether the need will emerge for the levying of special taxes on multinational companies or others, similar to 2010, depends on whether the EU will be able to curb the increase of energy prices. These could raise funds for an economic policy that protects families, he underlined.
Regarding EU funds, Orban said Hungary has funds other than the funds from the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) at its disposal because the country is in a good economic state, is able to raise funds in large quantities from the money markets, and so we can rule out a scenario in which Hungary is left without money.
In the context of the pay rise of teachers, he said, they will be able to implement the 10 per cent rises promised for this year, next year and the year after. According to the prime minister, teachers are right finding this insufficient, but whether the government will be able to raise salaries above that rate will depend on the performance of the economy.
He added that as a matter of principle he does not agree with solutions in economics which tie the wages in any state sector to the minimum wage because they only have partial control over the development of the minimum wage, and they do not want to expose state finances.
He said while in a legal sense the child protection referendum did not bring about a binding result, Hungarians had never before been as united on any one issue as they were on this one. There is a clear political obligation concerning the referendum, he pointed out.