On June 26 Prime Minister Viktor Orban addressed members of the press following the European Council’s vote to nominate Jean-Claude Juncker for President of the European Commission. For an unabridged English transcript of the short question and answer session, click here.
Calling the nomination of Junker “a big mistake”, Orban said he disagrees with the EU’s opinion on his government’s war on household utility costs, on Hungary’s sectoral taxes levied on financial services providers, on the bloc’s restrictive land ownership policies, and on the tax-exempt status of homemade spirits. Orban told reporters that the European Union is overstepping EU agreements by interfering with Hungary’s national interests. He asserted the EU was violating its own agreements but made no specific references.
Do as I say, not as I do
“First of all, it’s always strange to think about the value of voting,” Orban said. “In a democracy if there’s a debate – and there was a debate here – that’s when decisions must be made.
“If the European Union wants to manoeuver around the agreements,” he reasoned, “then let’s have a debate and make the modifications in a transparent, democratic, well-prepared and wel-thought-out manner, instead of using various interpretations to deviate away from the fundamental agreement’s actual meaning.”
When asked whether he considered his lonely vote against the nomination of Juncker to be a loss of prestige, Orban said: “In this case I think that I stood up for something which is about more than just my own personal interests. In fact, my position was far from the interests of even my own European People’s Party. I stood up for the Hungarian national interest, and there are times when that needs to be done. There are times when you are left standing there alone, there are times when there are two of you, and there are times when you are in the majority. How many people share our opinion and stand with us does not negate the importance or legitimacy of our position, because if it did the end result would be that we did not represent the Hungarian national interest.” Orban assured the reporters that “they will come to understand the Hungarian position”.
Orban on economics, fiscal discipline and the Financial Stability Pact
He dodged a question on whether the Council discussed fiscal discipline, saying: “We won’t address the loosening of fiscal measures because we won’t have time to dissect this issue here in this brief discussion. But I can say that the majority of time at the meeting was spent debating this issue. For me personally, I interpreted the debate from the perspective of Hungary’s national interest, but if I had to brief you on the discussion from the position of the European perspective, then I would say that the biggest debate revolved around whether or not it is possible to relax financial regulations. If it is possible, is it possible to do so in a way that is in accordance with existing agreements, or will newer agreements or modifications need to be made with respect to the Financial Stability Pact? The big debate here on this issue was between the Northerners and the Southerners.”
Orban then went on to state that Hungary was not part of the debate. Echoing the speech he delivered the previous day at the Visegrad 4 meeting in Budapest, he told reporters: “Hungary chose to manage the crisis in a manner which radically deviates from the practices employed by everyone else here. We have chosen a different model to manage the crisis which simultaneously creates fiscal discipline, increases employment, increases growth and rigidly decreases government debt, and maintains proper budgetary levels. We Hungarians adhere to a different economic philosophy which utilizes a different system of methods to manage the crisis than what is practised in these circles. Because of this, the debate that took place here is not relevant with respect to Hungary. We know one thing for sure: what’s good for Hungary is if no change is made here in Brussels that would weaken the financial stability of the European Union because it would adversely affect Hungary as a consequence, regardless of us employing a different economic policy than everyone else. Still, the situation in the European Union, especially with respect to exports, has an effect on Hungary. Therefore, it makes no difference to us what they choose to do here, what matters to us is that regardless of what the European Union chooses to do, that they do it right.”
Orban was asked about the recordings
In response to whether there was any discussion about recordings leaked last week in Poland, including one in which the head of the Polish oil company accuses Orban of having “sucked off Putin”, Orban responded “no”, adding that he personally advised members of the Hungarian government to keep their mouths shut if they are drinking alcohol.