It is all about values here
Jan Pospieszalski and Ewa Stankiewicz talk to the Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban
JAN POSPIESZALSKI: - Prime Minister, first, I would like to thank you very much that you have found time for the interview for the Polish television and ‘The Polish daily newspaper’. I know that you are very busy and give only few interviews. Yesterday there was much emotion in Strasburg, Budapest today, and a leave for the EU again soon. Do you remember your most difficult examination in your life?
PRIME MINISTER VICTOR ORBAN: - First, I would like to express my thanks to your television for its interest very much. Welcoming guests from Poland has always been a great happiness to me. As you know there are serious attacks against us now and in such moments friendly gestures mean a lot. I would like to express my thanks to all friends of Hungary in Poland for their support. I express my thanks for the demonstrations, for the words of the Prime Minister and for the statement of the opposition leader. I have had many difficult exams in my life. I have been a member of parliament for 20 years and we set up an opposition political party in the previous system. I sometimes felt that the effectiveness of my action is more important for others than for me. And yesterday I felt the same; because it depended on me whether the nation is able to defend its honour and respect to itself.
Anyway, what we were observing yesterday looked as if teachers were trying to discipline a disobedient and naughty pupil, or maybe, putting it in different words – didn’t doctrinaires, schoolmasters recognize a genius in the pupil?
I would like to be impartial when answering to this question. However, it seems to me that older democracies think that they have got the right to teach countries who were suffering because of the Soviet dictatorship for many years. They sometimes think that they know more about democracy and freedom than Hungary, Poland and other countries of the Central Europe. Freedom and democracy are as important to us as the air. The old countries of the European Union do not realize the fact how much these values are important to us. Certainly, there are politicians friendly to the Central Europe but these are exceptions. Many politicians from the Western Europe show their respectful attitude to the countries of our region, although we sometimes feel arrogance from that side.
The European Commission started early procedures concerning potential breaches of the European law in the areas of independence of the National Hungarian Central Bank, protection of personal data and jurisdiction. All this was the subject of the discussions. You suggested a conversation about specific issues. Did specific arguments appear?
Yes. We were discussing specific matters and I think that these legal issues can be easily solved in all three cases. There is an opinion that what we cannot accept is the lack of democracy in our country. We are always open during debates on legal issues. We do not agree with the opinion that democracy is restricted in our country and that constitutional and freedom rights are breached. We are ready for talks about specific matters. However, I see difficulties in one symbolic matter. It concerns the central bank - the European Commission does not agree on taking the oath on the Hungarian constitution by its directors and members of the Monetary Council. I do not understand this attitude. For, these are the institutions which serve the nation. This issue remains open. However, I think that we can reach a compromise in other matters.
It is astonishing because it is all about the National Hungarian Central Bank and about the Hungarian constitution...
Yes, we are talking about the Hungarian bank. It has always been so for the last 20 years and nobody said that taking the oath on the Hungarian Constitution was something unsuitable. Therefore many Hungarians think that this all concerns not the mentioned Act but the fact that we would really like to change our country quickly.
Please, imagine that since I became the Prime Minister, the Hungarian Parliament has accepted 365 acts, new constitution and over 12 constitutional acts of the basic significance. We were also conducting presidency of the union at that time. Such a pace breaches many interests – like economic and ideological interests. And the real debate just concerns this issue between Hungary and the international leftist party.
You have changed the constitution for example, by introducing the statements that Hungary is Hungary, the marriage is a relationship between a woman and a man, that the human life is supposed to be protected from the conception till the natural death and the preamble includes the words: ‘God, bless Hungary’ (the first words of the Hungarian anthem). Polish MPs in Strasburg, defending you, pointed out that it was the main reason of the attacks against your policy and your government.
I think that there are two reasons for the attacks against our country. One reason is moral – it is about values. The Constitution says that Hungary would not have survived without Christianity. This is an attitude about which we must care. The document also says that respect for the country and the nation is a value and it must be strengthened. Moreover, there is a paragraph in it which defines the family as the base for the social life. Therefore we do not give homosexual couples such rights as to families and we refuse to give homosexual couples rights to adopt children. Certainly, the constitution also says that we defend life from the conception, that we respect and protect it. But the fact that it is our opinion does not mean that we are outside Europe. There is a discussion on such issues in the whole Europe. Millions of people in Germany, France or Spain think about these issues in a similar way. It is a problem not only in Hungary; it concerns all European countries. But we inscribed these values in the constitution. And those who do not like it will do everything to prevent us from it.
Other reasons for these attacks are economic issues. In fact, my government has breached many economic interests. When we took over the authority in 2010, we had enormous debts and a big budget gap, our country was on the verge of bankruptcy and corruption was omnipresent. Everything which was thicker than the air was either stolen or sold. We were trying to stop it together with our government. I did not have any other choice than using methods which are not popular in Europe – the bank tax or the tax for the biggest corporations. I used these methods in order to help indebted citizens of the middle class who are paying off loans in foreign currencies. International corporations and bank institutions felt it as a big blow. They suffered from enormous losses and therefore, my actions were perceived in a negative way. International corporations, banks and financial institutions submitted accusations against me to Brussels in order to regain their lost money.
A very fervent discussion appeared during your term of office, whether the Hungarian government is proceeding in a proper way, by giving the financial means of the union for the promotion of adoption instead of abortion. One of the leftist deputies raised this issue during meetings, stating that it is against the European values which include the right to decide about one’s own life.
When the debate started, I decided that we would continue this campaign, if not through the European financial means, then through the Hungarian budget. Abortion is a very serious issue. I must emphasize that Hungary is an extremely tolerant country. My compatriots tolerate and respect individual elections. We talk about a very delicate issue, but I must emphasize that every life is valuable and every conceived child should be born. Certainly, every man has a right to his own decision but we want to show that there are also other possibilities, that a child is a value and life should be respected. Life is not respected in Hungary not because the Hungarians are bad people. This lack of respect has remained after the times of communism. In Poland the Catholic Church has survived in the nation during last 40-50 years. Hungary is much more secularized, so people do not resort to the Church so much. If we had stronger Church, the whole country would be stronger. We are not able to reverse the situation so quickly.
I want to emphasize again that life is a value and it is an issue beyond question. European politicians, who say that Christianity is important, are attacked. Their statements are considered as politically incorrect. So, it is not easy to build a coalition for defence of these values because in discussions we are accused of being intolerant and when we speak about Christianity we hear that it is discrimination. And, therefore, the people in authority are very careful, avoid discussions concerning the whole world. In such matters, it is extremely difficult to create the common ideological alliance among countries in Europe. Personally, I use a different tactics – I try to create a coalition among people; for, there are such communities in the European politics, maybe not big, but significant for Christian opinions. These are communities concentrated around the Church, but acting in the public sphere. It is quite a strong network but its real power is invisible.
I try to build alliances with politicians for whom Christianity and traditional values are important. I know that these are strong alliances. I withstand the attacks because I feel the support from allies who are in solidarity with me.
As we are talking about the issue of the Church, do you know that while they were holding the presidency of union, a Rosary crusade took place in Hungary which also reached to Poland? We ‘got infected’ with this crusade from you. In your homeland, in respect to the variety of religions, the crusade had a name of ‘the prayer of the nation’.
The prayer is much more important for the life of the nation than it used to be thought in the public life. i would like to mention one of such spiritual initiatives. In the second half of the 50s, for several years there was a powerful prayer movement in Austria. People who took part in it, prayed for the intention of leaving their country by the Soviets. And the prayer was successful. In the Central Europe the prayer movement for the intention of the nation has deep traditions to which I refer with a great respect. I also know that people pray for me as well, especially when I face difficult tasks. And this is a great help for me.
You wrote that rules of the market cannot be universal rules which govern the society, that omnipotence of the market is not enough to coordinate the social life. What is supposed to be this regulator, this rule which builds the community?
In the recent twenty years a dangerous opinion has become popular that people will be happy when the rules of the free market decide about all areas of their life. I do not agree with it at all. The economic crisis shows clearly where such a way of thinking leads to. The reasons for the crisis lie somewhere else. – they result from the moral fall of the West Europe; for, milliards were stolen, property were speculated and nobody from the politics world nor financiers took any responsibility for that.
I believe that people on the social level, function in a different way; solidarity is important to them, as well as responsibility, sense of belonging to the community and its interest. The Hungarian constitution says that the balance must be kept between the private welfare and the social interest. In order to respect this rule, before I undertook an attempt of transforming the constitution with my Fidesz party, I had sent 8 millions of letters to citizens, with a question what changes they expected. One of the questions was: ‘Is the individual interest supposed to be more important than the common interest or are they supposed to be balanced?’ 85% of the millions of answers which I received were for the balance. In respect for these consultations, the Hungarian constitution has social character. It respects the freedom of everybody, but, at the same time, it emphasizes the public welfare as a rule for the organization of the social life.
The interview of Jan Pospieszalski with Viktor Orban appeared in the ‘Polish Daily Newspaper’ on 23 January 2012 and in the extended version of the ‘Polish Newspaper’, number 4 dated for 29 January 2012. The fragment of the interview was presented in the program ‘Nearer’ in the Polish Television INFO on 19 January 2012. The Catholic weekly ‘Sunday’ expresses thanks the editorial office of the ‘Polish Daily Newspaper’ and the ‘Polish Newspaper’ for the opportunity of reprinting the fragment of the interview.