Editor’s note: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán spoke at the International National Conservativism Conference in Rome on Feb. 4, 2020. This is a transcription of the interview.
Christopher DeMuth: Prime Minister Orbán, let’s go back to 1989. We have a premise at this conference that today’s national conservativism movement is a direct outgrowth of 1989, but many things have changed. What do you think of when you think of your current work, and your experiences in 1989, times you may have spent with any of our three protagonists? We’ve added Margaret Thatcher to the Pantheon, you may have known her.
Viktor Orbán: OK, first, thank you very much for the invitation. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be with you this afternoon. I have an answer to the first question, to the transformation of the Eastern European territory of Europe and later on, but first a reaction to the names you have mentioned. One of my first confrontations with Western politics happened when I visited Margaret Thatcher in 1999 as prime minister, you know, I was at that time already prime minister, elected in 1998 the first time, and I visited Margaret Thatcher who was not in office. But I was in London, and I thought, you know, as a sign of respect I would like to see her. And I knocked on her door on her private flat, and she opened, and she said: I totally disagree with you. And I said, “Good morning!”
And it finally became clear, the reason was that I opposed the NATO action to launch military action from the territory of Hungary against Yugoslavia, to open a frontline on the Southern border of Hungary, because that would lead Hungary into a war. And that was not good for British soldiers, who served in the Southern part of Yugoslavia, so it was a clear cut British interest to totally disagree with me. That was my meeting with her. And Ronald Reagan who you have just mentioned as well: you know, my generation in Hungary, we considered Ronald Reagan as the liberator of our personal life. Without Ronald Reagan there would have been no chance to push the Russians, the Soviet Union out of Central Europe and to get rid of communism. This is clear.
And instead of having a complicated argument, one sentence of Ronald Reagan changed the world. The sentence was, according to the stories or the legends, when he invited his advisers on geostrategic issues, he said that, “We changed our strategy and we have a new strategy.” The question was what is that? And he answered, “We win, they lose.” That is a very important moment, because until that moment the concept of the West was to keep the balance with the communists and the Soviet Union, which means that the target was not to win, just to peacefully coexist. And he changed and said that we will win, which means that the captive nations, as we were, became free again. So admiration to him!
And John Paul, the other person is probably John Paul, I met him several times which is not an easy thing, it is rather complicated, because I am a Calvinist. And the Calvinist–Catholic relationship in Hungarian history is rather complicated. But we never considered the Holy Father as a Catholic leader of the Vatican. We always considered him as the biggest defender of Central European countries on the world stage, whatever their religious background. And I have a short story. I lost the election, or we lost the election in 2002 after four years in government. And after the defeat I was decorated by the Pope, by the Holy Father, who sent a medal to me, which is the highest decoration. And as far as I remember, no Calvinist got it since. And the message was that you got it not for what you have done up to now, but for what you will do.
So, you know, even if he is not with us anymore, I still have a very personal relation with him even today. Back to 1990. In 1990, just to help understand what the hell I am doing in politics, so in 1990, our party was established in 1988, two years prior to the destruction of the communist regime. We were young intellectuals, students, young teachers, researchers in various institutions, and so on, football players, semi-professional, as myself, so we had very normal jobs, we didn’t want to become politicians, that was not the ambition. But in 1988 we realised that something will happen soon, and the Soviet Union’s structure is not strong enough to survive, the communist regime is very unstable, so now this is the right moment to do something. And in 1988 we established a political movement with an age limit. The age limit was 35. Nobody who was older than 35 was allowed to join the party, because we established a radical anti-communist party.
And we thought that we cannot have any consensus and cooperation with the communist regime, we are radical anti-communists, but the older generation, because of the nature of life, tends to make some compromises on communist thinking and communist politics. Therefore we had that age limit later removed because of obvious reasons, but you know, our attitude was always strongly anti-communist. It was not just anti-communist in terms of national independence against the Soviet Union; it was not just anti-communist pro liberty, freedom and so on, democracy against communism, but it was radical, anti-communism against the communist way of thinking, the Marxists way of thinking which is still going on, you know. The liberal professors and politicians argue by using different words but meaning the same thing, you know, as the Marxists speak. That is the reason why we feel that we are still the same anti-communist radical politicians as we were 30 years ago, fighting the same battle. That is the point. In that respect 1990 has a relevance in our policy even today.
Christopher DeMuth: In the national conservativism movement we say every nation is independent, it charges is own course, but after all Hungary is a medium size nation, it is subject to powerful forces. There is Russia on one side, there is the EU on the other, there is Turkey and the Middle East and Africa to the South. There is the dynamics of the European economy. All of these exert pressure. How do you manage Hungarian politics with all these pressures from the outside? Is it good; is it an advantage or disadvantage to be surrounded by so many forces?
Viktor Orbán: Being smaller than the neighbours is a disadvantage. Being bigger is an advantage, no question that is the normal logic of life. But anyway, I would like to distinguish our difficulties with Moscow, Berlin and Turkey historically, and Istanbul historically, and another one, the difficulties with the European Union, which are basically two different points. If you are Hungarian, you are living in the geopolitical gap, because on one side there are the Slavs, on the other side the Germans, and in the South the Muslims. That is the place where we live.
We have to have very a sharp, always on the alert attitude to politics, because anything can happen anytime. If you look at Hungarian history, we were occupied by the Muslims, by the Ottomans I mean, by the Germans and by the Soviet Union and the Russians. Geopolitically it is not easy to manage having a nation based, sovereign, independent policy for your government, or for your nation. It is rather complicated to find a way to manage the proper relation to all three.
But anyway, what we have now, the difficulty with the European Union is different, because we have some difficulties. And the difficulty originates from a different approach to the question how we should build Europe, because there are two approaches at this moment. One would like to build up Europe from the bottom, which means a kind of cooperation of the nations. And the other concept is to build Europe from above, from the top, which is a federalist, empire-oriented approach, which wouldn’t like to have sovereign states. And that kind of competition of the two approaches is an on-going process every day in the European Union.
That is the main reason why we so often have open disputes with many leaders of the European Union and with the institutions of the European Union, because we insist on building Europe from the bottom, which means respecting national sovereignty and finding a way for sovereign nations to cooperate in order to find the common interest of the European nations. So this is another problem. But you know, a ten million strong country has, it is not a state secret, not more than 30.000 soldiers. You have to be humble, and smart at the same time. Small country leaders, small countries cannot afford not to have smart leaders; that is a privilege of the great countries.
Christopher DeMuth: And yet you have done very well. There are many people at this conference who would like to build a movement, a party to make as much difference in their countries as you have. What do you have to tell these people from your 14 years in power?
Viktor Orbán: First of all we have to understand the character of what we are doing in Hungary. I would like to be very clear that we are not better than many of the other conservative leaders in Europe. We are not smarter, we are not more skilful, this is not the case. The difference between the conservative politicians in Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Hungary is that we have no pressure to have a coalition with any other party, because we have a majority in Parliament. And the media world is not like in Western Europe, 90% for progressive liberals and 10% for conservatives, it is more balanced, I can’t say balanced, but more balanced than in the West.
When I stand up and say something I don’t make any compromise just because I have a coalition partner or limited media background. I am the only lucky man among European politicians, among conservatives who can say what I think. I know them well, they are committed to the Christian tradition at the same level. They are at the same level committed to national pride, to national sovereignty, and freedom and so on, like me, or like us, so there is no difference. They are the same as we are. But because of the circumstances, fighting for power in a reasonable way, they simply cannot afford to say what they think.
Don’t forget that politics here probably looks like an intellectual activity, don’t misunderstand, this is not the case, we are doers, you are thinkers but we are doers. Politics is about making decisions, gaining and keeping the trust of the nation, and getting the power and keeping the power. If you are not skilful enough to keep the power, how will you make decisions which are in favour of your nation? It is quite logical that, it is a natural goal of all politicians to get a majority and form a government and do something. But if they can’t say what they think, they will never say it. That is so simple.
In Hungary we were lucky enough in 2010 to get a two-third majority, having a background from the anti-communist resistance movement, which results a natural inclination to say what we think, so both elements met, and the result is here, that is Hungarian politics now. That is the first, but the second is, advice. I would not like to educate anybody because circumstances are so different in all countries. But the number one precondition to be successful in politics is braveness. Bravery to take the risk. If you don’t stand up and don’t say what you think whatever the consequences may be, you will never be a leader, and you will never have a big party.
It is not an advice, I can’t say it is an advice, but you know, look at the EPP. We belong to the family of the EPP. What is going on in the EPP, we are suspended now, because we are the black sheep of the community. But the point is that the EPP would like to be part of the power structure of the European Union by any means. And if the price of that is to give up certain values, in order to make a compromise with the left, they do so. And then we are losing our identity step by step. We became a centrist and then liberal and leftist oriented political family. The process is going on. If we don’t stand up and say: guys, we are losing our values, we are losing our profile, we don’t know who we are anymore, and the people who are our voters are not able to identify us on the base of values, what the hell are we doing? What is the sense of being in politics and being politicians? If we don’t say that sometimes, to open a new chapter, you will always just move to the leftist, liberal direction, because the media, the pressure, the universities, the intellectual life will push you to give up more and more elements of your original ideology, or your original principles and values.
And that is how the conservatives suffer in Europe now, this is the situation. I try to manage a counter-revolution, but I have very few candidates up to now, but hopefully it will happen.
Christopher DeMuth: You have been able to speak your mind, do what you want to do because you are the head of a very big party. It took 30 years for this to emerge so there was a lot of work, and you could just take credit for being in this position that your counterparts in another countries are in. But it could be that there is something about Hungarian institutions, political culture that has been helpful to you?
Viktor Orbán: Yes. OK. I spent 16 years in opposition and 14 years in government as prime minster. So I know the job from both directions. And I have some basis to make a comparison of Hungarian political culture with others. The Hungarians are very complicated, very special, you are in a hopeless situation to understand it, but you can probably approach it somehow, because it is a nation without any relatives in the European Union.
When the prime ministers of the European Union meet with each other regularly, I am the only prime minister who doesn’t understand the languages of anybody else. The majority of the prime ministers understands the language of at least one or two other countries, but I am the only one who is alone always, because we Hungarians got here in a miracle way. We are an Eastern nation which moved to the West and survived one thousand years ago. But the Hungarian instinct therefore is two folded.
First is, you know, it is a freedom-loving nation, which is good for us, in political terms, because we always represented the freedom of the nation, the freedom of the people, Christian liberty, those kinds of values.
But second, the Hungarians understand that history and politics are risky things. The basic instinct of Hungarians is to appreciate stability. Hungary is the only country in Europe where after 1990 there were no early elections at all. It happened in all other countries, even in Germany which is the most stable country, but under Chancellor Schröder there was an early election. Hungary is the only country where all parliaments served four year terms. Therefore Hungarians understand that because of the geopolitical situation, because of culturally being alien to our neighbours, that stability is the most important thing.
There are countries, like where we are, “OK, there is no government – who cares? – the country works basically”. OK, it is better to have a government than not to have, but basically, you know, the country is able to perform well, the economy is working, cultural life is producing a certain level. But there are some other countries where if the stability is not there in the government, the performance of society immediately decreases. Hungary is a country like that. The Hungarians understand that we have to have a stable government otherwise we are in trouble, not just in politics, but in all spectrums of national life. That probably helps us to stay in power as well. As I mentioned, after Angela, I am probably the second-longest serving prime minister in Europe with my 14 years. It is partly because of the instinct of the Hungarian nation, not because of my performance, I mean. Poor Hungarians!
Christopher DeMuth: How much difference does it make for the future of national conservatism in Hungary? How well it succeeds in other countries? It sounds to me like part of your success is precisely that you are somewhat isolated and there is a culture that prizes stability within so that you can weather many storms.
Viktor Orbán: Yes, because national identity is a precondition of national conservatism, and any success, if I understand correctly the intention of politics. I am not arguing in favour of China, I am not arguing in favour of Russia, I am not arguing in favour of Turkey, but they are success stories in their own way. And look at them how they are managed!
There are different recipes how to do it, but all of them first started to re-strengthen their national identity. Without having a strong national identity, you simply cannot be successful in the modern age. That is my point. And they all understood it. Second, because the headwind is so strong in Europe, from the liberal media and intellectual life and universities, the only way to survive as a national conservative or a Christian democratic leader like me is by being successful.
If you are not successful, there is no help and support from the outside. If you make a mistake and figures of the economy go down, you are killed next morning. So we must be successful. If conservative politics is not successful in Hungary, we can’t survive the next morning. So we must be successful.
I try to be as humble as I can, but you know, last years we have had 4 and 5% economic growth rates every year. Unemployment rate was when I started in 2010 12%, now it is 3%. We have basically full employment. State debt was 85% of GDP, now it is less than 70%. So financial and economic success is the precondition of running any conservative politics because of the headwind. If you are not successful running your government locally, then internationally you will be killed the next morning.
That is the reason why we are not indebted. Many conservatives think in an easier way on budget and state debt issues, especially the Anglo-Saxons like to do so. But in Hungary we can’t do that. If the figures get worse, the pressure on us is immediately growing and growing and growing. So we have to be financially very, very stable otherwise there is no basis to run our conservative politics, and we will follow the same track as many conservatives who adjust themselves to the mainstream in order to survive. Therefore we have to be very disciplined financially.
Christopher DeMuth: The conservatives, the Trump administration in America, the Boris Johnson government in the UK, they don’t seem to care about physical restrain, it used to be part of the conservative creed, and now both parties in these two countries seem not to care about it at all. How do you survive? How have you been able to make do with a constraint that everybody else would have thought was impossible?
Viktor Orbán: Because of the dollar and other international currencies they always have some additional instruments how they can rebalance their budget and foreign trade. And they can negotiate, like President Trump just did with the Chinese: give me 200 billion euros additional trade export possibilities. This is not an instrument that the Hungarians can use, so we have to have more sophisticated ways. That is the reason for the difference of approaches.
Christopher DeMuth: Hungary is a very democratic country, people are very opinionated. To some extent the polarisation that we see in politics across Europe and the United States is truly there. There are people that are for the government, against the government, there are people probably within your own party that have disagreements. But the polarisation doesn’t seem to have weakened your institutions. In America polarisation has dramatically weakened the institutions we inherited. I don’t think there is no political polarisation in Hungary.
Viktor Orbán: We have a very much similar leftist opposition as president Trump has definitely, but somehow the Hungarian attitude is different. There is a saying in Hungarian politics, which goes: the nation cannot be in opposition. Which means that the nation is something which is above the party structure. Even if you are in opposition you have to serve the nation, because the nation is something above you. OK, I am not an expert in America, but if I understand American politics correctly, many people hate Donald Trump and love their own nation. And I think it is getting more and more legitimate. In Hungary probably there are some people who hate me more than how much they like the nation, but it is illegitimate to say it. Because somehow the standard is that loving the nation is a must, to serve the nation is a must, because what else could be more important if you were born as a Hungarian.
If Hungary is not the first, what is the first? The Hungarian people are not nation oriented, I can’t say that, but by instinct they feel that without the nation, their individual life would be far worse. So we need the nation. It is a common wealth; therefore we have to raise it up as much as we can, even if we are leftists or rightists.
Christopher DeMuth: You have shown how democratic politics can support in the circumstances of Hungary a strong national conservativism movement.
Viktor Orbán: Because the movement is successful economically.
Christopher DeMuth: Because of the economic success. You have also said things that suggest that in liberal politics, democratic politics there is a tendency towards, what you would call responsibility free, rights-based liberalism, promising something to everybody, doing in a way with the idea of individual responsibility. Do you worry that there is this tendency in the wrong direction in one country or another, or if we have to regain the culture, maybe people who were familiar with democratic politics will be the best at it?
Viktor Orbán: First of all..
Christopher DeMuth: I promise never to ask you two questions at the same time…
Viktor Orbán: I’ll try to answer the first one. It is easier to say populism, because we are accused of being populists. And when I was young 20 years ago, populism had a very clear meaning that if a politician promises something but is not able to deliver, that is populism. But if a politician promises something and then delivers, it is not populism, it is democracy.
I can’t say that we were able, I was able to fulfil to 100% of all my promises. OK 10 years ago, when I became prime minister again, I made a promise, undertook something, saying that in 10 years’ time we will produce one million new jobs. In a country with 10 million at the time, with only 3.800.000 people working, to create one million jobs is something. And now, after 9 years we created 860.000 jobs. It is not 100%, you know, but 86% now, and I still have one more year, so we can probably do it.
I promised that instead of the welfare economy, because, in Europe, you know, welfare economy is fashionable, I said: look guys the welfare economy will not work, we have to transform our economy into the so-called workfare economy. And I said that workfare economy will bring more welfare than the welfare economy. And if you look at the salaries now, the wages, if you look at the number of jobs, if you look at the living standard, how much percentage of the society is still poor, it is obvious that we provided more welfare on the basis of workfare society. That is the point.
Back to the liberal approach. In our understanding the liberal government model failed, obviously failed two times in one decade. First in 2008, during the financial crisis in Europe. Liberal governments failed. They were not able to regulate their economy in a proper way and they were not able to defend their own economy against the crisis. And it was not just because of the conjuncture, it was because of the structure and the loss of competitiveness.
And then, in 2015 the liberal governments failed a second time, which was the migration crisis. And the liberal governments failed to protect their own citizens, they failed to protect their own borders, and the security of their own citizens, and stop illegal migration, so it means that liberal governments failed.
And the principal basis for liberal governments was liberal democracy. Liberal democracy in that sense is over. We need something new. We can call it illiberal, we can call it post-liberal, you can call it Christian democratic, whatever, but we need something new, because on that basis we cannot provide good governance for the people.
And don’t forget that democracy means two things. First, to provide a chance of participation for citizens, and second, good governance. Democracy makes no sense without good governance. And now it is obvious that on a liberal basis we cannot provide good governance for the people. So we developed a new theory and a new approach: that is Christian democracy. And instead of liberal freedom we use Christian liberty, so we have a wording how we describe the system we have built up. It is very unique, nobody likes it outside Hungary, the liberal press is always attacking us, making jokes of us, but it works. And the people vote for it again and again and again. This is my approach, and that’s the reason why I believe in Christian democracy.
And this is probably the point where I have to make some comments on Catholics. Because national sovereignty and Christian democracy and the anti-empire attitude that we have, somehow involve the Catholic Church into the discussion. As some of the professors pointed out in their books, if we would like to build up sovereign nation states we have to resist the attempts to build an empire. And I would like to mention that the reason why we think that Christian democracy is a good description for us is that the universal Catholic approach is the only one – I am a Calvinist, anyway –, the only one which appreciates and accepts national sovereignty. It is a global idea but considers sovereign states valuable.
That is the reason why in Hungary, where 75% are Catholic and 25% are Calvinists, we are able to cooperate for national sovereignty on a Christian-democratic basis. That creates a national unity for national sovereignty, as we understand. So Christian democracy I think is the best framework to conceptualise what we are doing.
Christopher DeMuth: What are the prospects for successful nation states, such as yours in your immediate neighbourhood?
Viktor Orbán:We have a complicated history, without the nations. And for long-long decades Central Europe was considered as a danger to European stability. It was considered ideologically and from a political stability point of view a danger. But nowadays, if you look at the European map, the most successful group of nations and the most successful region of Europe is Central Europe.
We are living together peacefully, growth rate is 4-5%, FDI and investments in this region are growing. The economic growth rate of the European Union is basically provided by Central Europe. I think when I am speaking about the success of Hungary, certainly I am a little biased, but I have to mention that all the other countries around us are very successful.
The Slovaks do well, the Czechs excellently, the Polish are stronger than ever, Croats are catching up, the Serbs try to join the European Union, so what I represent here is not just a success story of a country, but a success story of a region. And everywhere in this region the governments are based on national sovereignty, they’re all national conservatives, whatever party family they belong to in Brussels, basically, if you analyse the principal basis of their policy, they are all national conservative governments. And that is related to their success.
You can have great hopes and expectations that the renovation and a new current, a new blood to national conservativism could come from Central Europe. If you would like to write about exciting stories and success stories, not just critical works on liberals, come to Central Europe and try to translate and make understandable what is going on in many countries in Central Europe.
Christopher DeMuth: Is Ukraine a separate case?
Viktor Orbán: Yes. Ukraine is a separate case first of all, because it is a young country. Don’t forget that the Polish state is 1,000 years old, Czechs also, Hungarians also. Ukraine was always at the borderline between Russia and Europe, and so statehood as such, does not have a long history as we have. And it is very difficult to be the Ukrainian state, because the Russians, you know, we were neighbours with Russia for 45 years, trust me, it is not easy, especially when their tanks are standing on your soil.
So the Russians after the collapse of the Soviet Union developed a new approach. And they said that because NATO is so close now, they need buffer zones all around Russia, whether it is legitimate internationally or not, but they said OK, countries like Ukraine should be under the influence of Russia 50%, and the West 50%. And when the Ukrainian people decided that they would rather like to join, or get closer to the West, the Russians reacted immediately. Therefore Ukraine cannot be considered as part of the Central European success story, because they are just fighting for their survival, because of the different geopolitical situation. Full sympathy with them, but it is very difficult anyway.
Christopher DeMuth: The immigration crisis of 2015 has played a major role in the rise of conservative movements and parties around Europe. You have had several successes in stabilising the situation. Is that a problem solved, and we don’t have to worry about it, you can turn to other things, or are there looming additional problems for Hungary or for Europe or generally?
Viktor Orbán: First of all, just as a description. In Hungary we have Muslim migrants that amount to zero. So we don’t have any. The Hungarian situation is totally different from that of the Western countries and the Southern countries. It is pure mathematics to understand to where the Western countries will develop in terms of demography and composition of their societies.
Mathematics is a very severe thing. It is obvious that they will create, will develop or evolve a society which will be a composition of a big Muslim community which is growing, and a Christian community which is decreasing. That is how the Western countries will look like, whether we like it or not. It is not a wish, it is not a critique, it is a description, you know, of what is going on, not just because of the migration crisis in 2015 but because of the previous 30 years as they understood the whole issue of migration, and because of the poor performance of families, in terms of reproduction of their nations in many countries.
So the outcome in many countries is a society, a new type of society consisting of a decreasing Christian element and an increasing Muslim element. The liberals support that process, because the liberals think it is good. They don’t like Christian society, they don’t like the identity as we understand societies, so they think that the new composition of Western societies would provide a nicer life, a better life than it was during the so called Christian Europe. Therefore they support that process.
In Central Europe we have a different approach. We don’t know whether they are right or not. Probably their life and their society will be happier as a mixed society, probably. But we would not like to take the risk. That is our point. My goal is not to convince the Westerners that what they are doing is bad, because it is not my job, it is their nation and it is their country. What I would like to ask from them is to not force us to follow the same track that they are proceeding on, that is the Central European position – just to clarify the present situation and political dispute.
The second is, the migration crisis became important not just because of migration. The migration crisis raised the issue of identity. And the identity issue was forbidden in Western political disputes. It was not PC, it was not correct, so to raise the question of who we are, what is happening, what kind of changes are going on in our society, where is our national identity, where is our religious identity, these issues were not fashionable – may I say in that way? – in the last 20-30 years.
But because of the migration crisis there was no chance to avoid that dispute, and that is the reason why now, in many countries, we have identity issues at the centre of political disputes. What does it mean to be French? What does it mean to be German? It is more complicated anyway. What does it mean to be Italian? Or to be Central European, or Hungarian? These issues are legitimate again. That is the reason for the books written by some of you: Strange death of Europe, Virtue of Nationalism, and those kinds of books became very, very popular in Hungary and Central Europe, because now the issue is on the surface. We can’t avoid discussing those issues.
Therefore migration is bad, because it is a real danger, but on the other side it generated disputes which provided a chance for us to explain who we are, and raise the question that without defining who we are again, we cannot be successful and competitive with those nations, as I mentioned, who are just strengthening their own national identity.
So the dispute is OK, the dispute is good, the dispute is the only chance for national conservatives to get a majority in society. Because to get a majority does not mean that you have a majority in the government. Majority means that you have a majority of the opinion of the people. And the migration issue is a good cause for Christian democrats and national conservatives to explain again to the people what is at stake, what is really important, and how we imagine the future.
So use the chance, that was always my point. OK it is a bad development of course, because of the turmoil in Africa, and so on, and because of the pressure on the border, it is not good. But intellectually don’t miss the chance to clarify again who you are, and what is your vision on your own future. And that is how we understand migration.
And I insist on raising that question again and again, because that dispute strengthens the national identity of Hungarians, of Central Europeans, and hopefully all around Europe. That is the reason why in many new movements, national conservative character came up just as a consequence of the dispute based on and organised around the migration issue. That is how I see that. It is complicated. It is not just good, and not just bad.
Anyway, I would just like to underline, the major challenge for European politicians is, that Europe soon, soon means – I am relatively young – in 20 years, it is a reasonable perspective, from my personal point of view, it is a legitimate question that in 20 years’ time Europe will show a different picture on the Western part, on a civilizational basis, and on the Eastern part. And if we would like to build a cooperation of European nations, it is difficult to answer how we can cooperate if we became so different. It is a real intellectual and political challenge at the same time.
Christopher DeMuth: I have a final, a sort of standard final question, but I hope you take it seriously. You’ve advised the people coming into politics to be brave, you have built a very solid political foundation in a nation that values stability, and you have a career still to look forward to. It appears you still do brave things, you have a pro-natalist policy that you have been introducing. This is a new departure? I don’t know, but I am sure that they are controversy surrounded. Do you have serious or big ambitions? What do you hope to achieve in the next 4-8 years – whatever time remains to you as the leader of the Hungarian government?
Viktor Orbán: Don’t worry.
Christopher DeMuth: Or you can say, look I am dealing with problems from to Tuesday to Wednesday to Thursday, it’s enough!
Viktor Orbán: First of all, what we Hungarians are doing and what I am doing is not natural – may I say? – it is not an organic thing. A 10 million person country, no nuclear weapons, small GDP, and so on. So the role we play in Europe is not organic. That is not our job. To fight against the liberal mainstream is not the job of small countries. To fight against the intellectual headwind to change the attitude of the politicians in Western countries is not the job of Hungary and a small country as we are.
The simple reason why we play that role is because there is nobody else. My biggest hope is that somebody else will come and replace us. That is the reason I try to find partners in Italy and in Spain, and I hope that the upcoming new political forces, bigger countries will take the same flag and take the role away from us, or join us in leading that fight. I would not like to reveal any secret, but I met president Abascal. And my impression is that for one group of politicians in Europe, especially the older generation, the goal is nothing else just to stay in power somehow.
The other group of people, especially young generations who are coming is to do something. And when I explained my observation to president Abascal today, that this is a party, I mean his party would like to do something, he said no, not something, we would like to do everything! This attitude I hope will come up again. Some passion, enthusiasm, being electrified, some love of politics, I am waiting for a new generation, new movements full of energy and strength, otherwise the old way of politicians, as we do, the traditional elite in Europe will never make a competitive Europe again.
We need new movements, new parties, and so on. My hope is that the transformation process which has started during the last European election, that EPP and socialists lost the possibility to run Europe, two of us making a compromise, because we are not enough anymore in the European Parliament, we don’t have 50%, so we need new forces, and that transformation process has started, and it will go ahead. And hopefully the old parties like the socialists, the liberals, and the Christian democrats, the EPP are able to adjust themselves to this new challenge, but we need a new challenge.
And only the new movements represent new challenges to us, otherwise we will never change our attitude, and therefore Europe will never be competitive again. So good luck to the newcomers, even if they don’t belong to our political family.