“(Századvég) is not some ad hoc-brigade that was formed to steal public funds. . . . The national and state interests have be trampled by the public’s right to know.” – András Lanczi
The following interview with Fidesz-linked think-tank Századvég president András Lánczi appeared in the pro-government newspaper Magyar Idők on December 21st, 2015 under the title “András Lanczi: the quality of the opposition is that of joke parties” (“Lánczi András: Viccpártok színvonalán áll az ellenzék“).
MI: 2015 had lots of twists and turns. By the end of last year, and early this year, it really looked like the governing parties were getting squeezed. But Fidesz–KDNP is again stably leading the political race by quite a bit. What is the reason for this?
AL: Hungary is dealing with a migration question for the first time since the Second World War. The migration phenomena has been happening for quite some time, but we have not been paying attention to it. The wandering has taken a new direction, and Hungary is on that path. This does not only shock Hungary, it is shocking all of Europe. What is interesting here is who responded how to this migration. Politics is the art of timing. The Hungarian prime minister took a firm stand on this issue, he had reasons, he had foresight, and he took action. He single-handedly changed the mood.
MI: Is is really that easy?
AL: Security is the most important thing for the people, and only after that are they concerned with assessing the conditions for redistribution. Until there is security, there will be neither material well-being nor prosperity. People need to realize that this is the world we have been living in since September 11th, 2001. Migration has also shown us that it is not a one-time event, something has really changed in the world.
MI: And our country’s gravitas has grown internationally as well. Is this good or bad for us?
AL: This is one of the most interesting questions. A year ago, when there was no sign of the impending migration crisis, I said in an interview that Viktor Orbán does not want be the president. His movement and thought process could lead him to be a significant international politician. They smiled at me then. The Hungarian prime minister – not even his political opponents can deny – is a talented politician and he sees trends. In the past one or two decades, for example, the borders between national and international politics have been blurred. This is especially true for Europe. So, if I do something in Hungary, that will more than likely have an international dimension as well. This is precisely what my earlier statements forcasted.
MI: If the butterfly in Berlin flaps its wings, then its draft will be felt across Europe?
AL: Yes. I think there is no longer such a thing as a national politician in the 19th century sense. There cannot be. So, a politician, if he is a serious man, and is really made for something, then today – whether he wants it or not – will be measured by international standards. It cannot be otherwise. What Viktor Orbán did during the migrant crisis affected every European Union member state and all of Europe. In fact, its effects went even further. His position and actions proved that he was capable of offering an alternative perspective on this issue. This is also how we can explain the position Fidesz is in.
MI: Do the left-liberals not have good solutions?
AL: The other factor that I think is very obvious is that there is a suffocation of the intellectual, spiritual, and moral trends which started in the 60s, and those individuals, their message, and their ability to act, shows they lack the ability to act. Those who represent this are no longer able to respond to these issues. This is a different world. That is also why the left-wing parties are struggling with so many things. They do not realize that there is no foreign prescription that can be brought home and filled here. Money, of course, could come generously.
MI: In light of the above, it is not surprising that the Fidesz’s December 13 congress had such a positive ambience. What do you think was the event’s most important message?
AL: The congress, in my opinion, was about one thing: there has been a certain style of politics taking place for five years, in some sense this is about a political power that has been around for 25-30 years called Fidesz. Fidesz has now reached the point where it is able to act and put a moral foundation behind its decisions that makes it obvious why it does what it does: what are its goals, what tools does want to use to achieve these goals, and how does it distinguish between right and wrong. This was abundantly clear during numerous addresses made at the congress, including that of the prime minister during his own hour speech. I think his speech was precisely about this. He made it known precisely what those moral foundations on which his governance was built are and that he would rely on those foundations for future successes. And this is what Viktor Orbán’s optimism is based on, that “we will be here for another 30 years”. That is how I interpreted it. Of course, there is a little message to his political opponents as well, to not be hopeful, instead “try to adapt”.
MI: There was another important moment, too, when he made it clear that he wants to continue to his work. How can a message like this affect ambitions within Fidesz?
AL: Ambition in politics is a good, proper, and very healthy thing. If someone is ambitious because they want to do another style of politics, and they want to do it within the party of which they are member, then they must convince their fellow party members. This is totally correct and a gesture of loyalty. But if they want to politicize in a way outside of the party, then there is no other option beyond leaving the party. That’s fine, but then go down your own path. By making it clear that he wants to stay, the prime minister also said that this power structure and style of politics that he represents is very important and will continue into the future. He made it very clear that there is room for frolicking around, room for everything, but there is a line that cannot be crossed. He sent a message to everyone about the reference point. Because what else should a prime minister be thinking of at the beginning of 2016 than preparing for the next election.
MI: There have many attacks against Századvég in recent months. What could be reason for this?
AL: Századvég has been under attack ever since the formation of the Orbán government. We are one of the important mainstays of the Orbán government. The prime minister has even said this openly. So, whoever wants to attack the prime minister might as well start attacking Századvég, too.
MI: And they have already started…
AL: Unjustly and with lies – to just mention an earlier attack – information appeared in the media earlier that Századvég executives were banned from the United States. This was a measured lie. This attack was just one element of the many attacks and political battles against Századvég over the years. What happened in recent months differs from the earlier attacks in that a storyline was concocted and premised on something that was not true. Onto this they erected various accusations and eventually everyone start talking about Századvég as if it was involved in the global scandal.
MI: What kind of scandals?
AL: The first point was that Századég is a corrupt place. Onto this they build that Századég does absolutely nothing. And then it emerged – when HVG obtained a document and wrote about it – that maybe there is some kind of work being performed at Századég. But then there came the accusation that surely this work is being performed dishonorably and unlawfully.
MI: A court recently ruled that expert work performed for the government by Századég must be made public.
AL: Századég has never had anything to keep secret. The situation is that Századég’s work was prepared for and is owned by the Prime Minister’s Office. Századég could release these documents even if it wanted to. In any case, never in the past 25 years has there been an example of a domestic or international company’s consultative work or study-preparation for the government being made public. That Századég must allow a journalist insight into its work is not just unprecedented, it’s infuriating. The materials we are talking about are the kind that, if made public, could damage Hungary’s national interests and compromise future alternative decisions. So, what we’re talking something very serious. The national and state interests have be trampled by the public’s right to know.
MI: Why did they need access to the materials?
AL: At any point there can be request which would warrant access to certain classified information. That’s why we received clearance to access these. If we would not have obtain clearance, that’s when we would have been in trouble. But then accusations were levied about our earlier work being poor because we did not even have clearance for the secrets. This begs the question: does that mean that Deloitte and the other big international consultancies, or the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, also perform poor and useless work for the government? Obviously not. Because quality work can be performed for the government without necessarily having clearance to access classified material. Also, I would like to ask our attackers: how much do they think the idea of forced price cuts on public utility providers is worth? Or, to give a current example, how much is the idea of reducing the sales tax levied on the sale of new homes to 5 percent is worth? Access to classified information was not needed to conjure those ideas. Could that be expressed in money? Századvég is always read to create ideas and help prepare decisions to be made. I am not saying that we would do it for anyone. We feel honored to have the opportunity to work for the prime minister of Hungary.
MI: Századvég has always been a background intellectual fortress for Fidesz.
AL: Yes. We can even say the oldest post-regime change think-tank which has a history that goes back to the 1980s. The prime minister, László Kövér, and that group, were young intellectuals when they founded the Századvég journal and later the foundation. Századvég is part of the regime change. It is not some ad hoc-brigade that was formed to steal public funds. I would also like to emphasize one more thing because this is often said, too: Századvég does not receive a single penny of support from the government. It performs its work based only on clearly followable contracts. We have never received donations. Only work that has been performed fully has been compensated. We have provided 77,000 pages of material.
MI: If we have already mentioned the elections, it is clear that the opposition will try to build a campaign citing corruption. What can be done to defend against this?
AL: Can the post-1948 communist nationalization or the post-1989 privatization be considered corruption? What they call corruption is, in all practicality, Fidesz’s main policy. What I mean by this is that the government has set its sight on the kinds of goals for itself and domestic businesses: building a strong Hungarian pillar in the rural countryside and in industry. For example, we welcome with open arms very foreigner who wants to invest in agriculture. This why they accuse by saying “this is corruption itself!” This is a political perspective, what has happened here is that the work corruption has become mythical.
MI: Are they trying to twist its meaning?
AL: The word has gone through a kind of meaning change in the left-liberal and radical right opposition that makes it synonymous with a complete rejection of Fidesz. Corruption has 13 or 14 different social definitions. But their of those definitions includes corruption meaning that something is done in the interest of the nation. One can call this corruption, but whoever does call it that is fooling themselves. Man does not like helping his opponents, especially not his enemies, so I will not tell them that they are going down the wrong path. This is also why the term “mafia state” is also incorrect. What do people think about when they hear the term “mafia”? The physical destruction of one’s opponents. I would like to know who it is that has been killed here! Their hate-driven assessment of the situation is enough to be the intellectual backbone of a joke party, only they have a good laugh when it is all finished.
MI: We have joke parties, too!
AL: Of course we do. But the Democratic Coalition (DK) does not consider itself a joke party!
MI: Probably not.
AL: But it still looks like one. The Liberal Party does not like to consider itself a joke party of joke-intellectual group, but they would certainly a reason to. They have lost a sense of measure when it comes to these things. But I don’t want to give advice to others.
MI: They would not accept it anyway, because they would think that you want to mislead them.
AL: Then they have problems with how they use their minds. Maybe they should consider that, too.
MI: What kind of political movements do you plan on seeing in the run-up to the elections?
AL: Not taking into consideration the global and domestic trends, I must say that a right-wing or center-right party is still capable of offering something new in terms of economics, cultural issues, and social issues. If the outstanding economics progress we see turns into a trend, then the real questions will be how we can continue offering more support to families, how can we improving housing policy, how can we improve education policy, etc. If this political trend becomes constant – and this is what our political opponents do not want to happen – then many people are going to find Hungarian politics quite boring.