The Hungarian Prime Minister shared his thoughts on what is behind the US temporarily suspending the right of six Hungarians to travel to the USA for the first time in Brussels, where he was attending an EU summit. Viktor Orbán did not participate in yesterday’s Hungarian national commemoration program on the anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising, and had been unavailable for comments since the scandal broke.
Hungarian EU affairs blog Eurologus finally managed to ask Orbán about the case in his open press conference at the European Parliament. Below is our translation of the interview in its entirety:
Eurologus: Mr. Prime Minister, János Lázár is the Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office and is also responsible for foreign intelligence. Are you satisfied with the job he has done if he does not even know the names of those banned from the US? Or if you are aware of the names, why aren’t you making it public?
Viktor Orbán: This is a question of principles, not about information the Hungarian intelligence might have about who cannot travel to another country. This is about the responsibility the accuser has to back up his claim by naming the people in question. I cannot automatically take legal responsibility for claims made by another country. If the Americans would officially let us know who the persons are and the charges against them, then everything would become clear. We would initiate a prosecution immediately. I do not understand why this hasn’t happened already.
E: Because their laws do not make this option possible. Everyone knows this.
VO: We have our own laws as well. If somebody makes an accusation, he is obliged to prove it. I cannot assume their responsibility and initiate a prosecution based only on what another country claims. If another country accuses you with something, it is impossible that we will prosecute you only based on that.
E: Do you consider the banning of six Hungarian officials a public or a private matter?
VO: We cannot be sure about this, as we do not know what the information is exactly.
E: But we are talking about public officials here!
VO: Do we know this already?
E: This is what the Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Budapest said.
VO: Then what he said does not entirely coincide with reality. It is only a partial answer. Both private persons and state officials are concerned here. But I will just repeat that we will not make a legal case based only on accusations coming from another country, that is a public accusation without any proof. This would mean that we cannot protect our own citizens.
E: We cannot protect them from corruption either.
VO: We do not know for sure as there is no public evidence. In Hungary there is zero tolerance of corruption so the Hungarian state is obliged to prosecute any such case. I will go further: we take action after finding out about any such cases. Any information about corruption within Hungary should be made public.
E: András Horváth reported a number of cases (VAT tax fraud in Hungarian food industry) a year ago. Why didn’t our judicial system uncover the people concerned in these cases?
VO: The case about which the minister of finance has given an account was a basis of a prosecution that is under way. American companies are involved in these corruption cases.
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