The following interview with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was published on December 24 under the title “We are making the country victorious” (“Győsztessé tesszük az országot”) in a number of regional newspapers recently acquired by Mediaworks, the former publisher of Népszabadság. In the case of one print daily, the Fehér Megyei Hírlap (Fehér County Newspaper), hackers appear to have inserted additional text which we have translated in bold-face type below.
The prime minister says pensions and wages will increase significantly in the future and taxes will decrease. The most important goal for 2017 is that it be worthwhile for everyone to work in Hungary.
This year’s Christmas is certain to be different from previous ones. The Berlin terrorist attack was obviously timed to coincide with the start of the holiday. Beyond expressing condolences, what else can one say after such a tragedy?
It really is different in that there was never an example of Christians being killed in the heart of Europe. We offer our sympathies and condolences to the Germans. Clearly nobody can remain the same with regard to migrants as to date. Brussels has to change. Those who illegally entered Europe must be sent back, the borders must be protected, and the circulation must be stopped.
Last December you were one of the most attacked politicians in Europe because on the subject of the migrants you said that we must make every effort to obstruct the flood of immigrants. A year ago you said “We will get the respect and recognition and they will accept our point of view, we just need to be sufficiently tough and persistent.” And this has essentially happened. What kind of 2017 is Europe facing?
In 2016 the people became more and more vocal in their opposition to those governments and politicians that were not willing to hear the people’s voices. A year ago nobody would have thought the United Kingdom would leave the EU, and that in America the Clinton clan, the traditional American left-wing intellectual party, would fall from power. A rebellion is taking place in the world’s two representative democracies. This will continue. 2017 will be the year of a lot of rebellion in European democracy. Hungary for this reason is a stable island in a seething western world, because we asked the people’s opinion even though it doesn’t interest us, and we protected the country against illegal immigration in 2015 and 2016.
One cause for rebellion is the approaching end of the organizing principle of the American dream, that everyone can improve themselves through their own strength with hard work?
Exactly, but also the end of the European dream as well. So far Western Europe told youth that if you do the same as your parents, if you are industrious, learn a trade, obey the law, and work, then you will certainly get ahead and you will accomplish more. Today there is hardly a country where this can be said without the risk of not being serious. Earlier Western Europe had to decide how to distribute surplus money among various public welfare measures. However, today the basic feeling is one of austerity and going without. Apart from economic difficulties the question of immigration has become a serious question. For decades Western Europe accepted immigrants whose integration was clearly a failure. There are a number of Western European cities where people do not feel safe, there is a proliferation of crime, and the threat of terror is incrementally increasing. This shakes the self-confidence and self-respect of the western world. The economic slowdown, crime, terror, migration, and prevarication and indecisiveness, and dishonest talk come together in the western world, and the leaders have not found an answer for it. This will have serious consequences.
Hungary is a part of the European Union. And yet we need to protect ourselves from it to a certain extent?
We are a people of Eastern origins but we belong to the western world. For this reason we are interested in the success of the West, in the success of a Europe that does not want to change us, and which acknowledges and even respects that we are Hungarians and will remain that. We Hungarians and the Central-European countries have been given the opportunity to learn from Western Europe’s mistakes. We needn’t adopt every practice, in fact we should categorically say no to everything that is bad. We should say no to large-scale immigration, and no to Brussels’ irresponsible endeavors that pose a threat to our culture and everyday life. We will also say no when Brussels tries to rescind the Hungarian decrease in utilities costs by hiding behind the joint energy policies. We are going to defend the country and what we’ve achieved against everyone, including Brussels.
2016 was a busy year in the history of Hungary. Has a reckoning of the year taken place?
Six years ago in 2010 we set goals for the country which the liberal economists continuously said were impossible. These economists believed almost religiously that it is not possible to reduce debt and improve competitiveness. That it is not possible at the same time to decrease taxes, create new workplaces, while preserving the value of money. Except we managed to achieve much by 2016. In Hungary today 680,000 more people work than in 2010, and with that unemployment fell to under 5 percent. There has not been an example of that in Hungary for 26 years. The national debt decreased and economic performance continuously increased for three years. The family tax discount is increasing once again. Wages are starting to be increased. Thanks to decreases in household utility costs (mandated by parliament in 2013 – tran.) we were able to increase the value of pensions.
What can we expect in the new year?
The most important goal of 2017 is that it be worthwhile for everyone to work in Hungary. So long as people are struggling to find a job and support their family, they cannot feel victorious. When they start to earn more, and see that it is worthwhile doing what they are working on, then they awaken to the fact that they are citizens of a victorious country. The government is decreasing the tax burden on employers so they can increase wages. Next year the minimal wage will increase 15 percent and that of skilled workers will increase 25 percent. The wage increases will continue in 2018. The number of hospital corpses will also increase. We will increase pensions by more than originally planned, and we will decrease the VAT from 27 percent to five percent on those foodstuffs that are most important to pensioners.
What economic results are necessary for this?
I am cautiously bacchanalian. I plan in a conservative manner, because that means financial and economic security for the country. For this reason all I can promise for certain is that the country will continue its unbroken development. However, things could easily change if the country performs better than expected and wages increase even more significantly, the quality of life grows faster, and we make more progress in 2017 than what we are currently projecting.
Does that mean that 2017 will be the most difficult?
Not at all. The most difficult task is to awaken people to the fact that they can be proud of their work, because they themselves achieved these successes. For many decades we were raised to believe that the Hungarians were condemned to failure. This has deep roots: they took our territory and a significant part of our population. It is no wonder that many think that we are losers. Many believe today as well that something is happening in the world, and it will certainly be bad for us, and if something good happened to us, then we have luck to thank for this rather than ourselves. Our greatest task is to change this instinct and thought process. We do not want to live in a country as the sons of a failed people. Our goal is to make Hungary a victorious country.
The situation with public health care and education does not appear to be successful branches. Have the reforms gotten stuck?
On the contrary. Hungary renovated and improved 71 hospitals, built 23 new health-care institutions and renovated 54. We built 27 new emergency ambulance stations. 700,000 children get free schoolbooks, and more than 300,000 get two or more free meals a day. It is possible to downplay these accomplishments, but one thing is for sure: this amounts to serious progress in comparison to the school and hospital closures that took place between 2006 and 2009, and the last socialist government took a month’s salary away from teachers and health-care workers by way of saying farewell.
The opposition continually accuse (the government) of corruption. Do you think these attacks are effective?
Accusing others of corruption as a means of discrediting someone politically has become completely common. We also do this. This battle has to be fought intelligently. If a person claims he is not corrupt, then this makes it more believable that he is. Denial has the opposite effect. We have to make it definitely clear that we do not tolerate any abuse. I advise everyone, both governing party and opposition parties, to obey the laws, and then there won’t be trouble. The truth is that when a country is developing, corruption is suppressed. The reason there is money for higher pensions, family supports, free textbooks is because I do not tolerate anyone stealing money. It would have been possible to do this earlier, except our predecessors were in the habit of making the money disappear.
Next year the national assembly will choose the new president of the republic. As the chairman of the party you can propose the Fidesz candidate for president. According to media reports, you have already decided in favor of Jànos Áder.
János Áder enjoys great respect within Fidesz, and if he agrees we will nominate him. Cool headedness, calm and balanced behavior is needed in Hungarian and international politics, and he represents this.
Will there be changes to the government in 2017?
I would like to complete the current government cycle with the current ministers.
What message do you send Hungarians for Christmas in 2016?
The strength of Christianity lies in the fact that Christmas is a celebration of love, and those people who have severed the region’s roots can also be reached. I wish that as many as possible find their way back to the original pagan meaning of Christmas, as we await … the birth of the savior. For Hungarian people Christmas is connected with love, and being together with family. My wish is for everyone to spend the holiday in the company of those they love, as I do every year with my own family.