Good evening. You’re watching Echo TV’s V4 program. Between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018, Hungary was the president of the Visegrád group for the fifth time. The main task of the presidency was to lead intergovernmental V4 cooperation (which currently has become very diverse and intensive), to develop common positions, and to organize political and professional meetings and joint projects. The presidency was closed with a large conference at the Várkert Bazár. A number of prestigious foreign guests gave presentations at the event. Vaclav Klaus, former president of the Czech Republic, and Douglas Murray, author of the bestseller The Strange Death of Europe, gave exclusive interviews to Echo TV.
What do you see as the current strength of the V4 in the EU?
It is not a simple question because I am afraid that the Visegrád Group is weaker than it seems. I think that the internal strength of the Visegrád Four is not so great, because Hungary, through the voice of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, is strong, and so is Poland, but my own country (the Czech Republic) and Slovakia are the weakest parts of the chain. And, I am afraid that there is no visible policy from the otherwise non-existent Czech government that could help the situation. So, there is no complete unity of interest in the V4.
This is a very serious criticism, especially against your own country, the Czech Republic. If we look at Slovakia, the domestic situation there is now unstable and fragile. In this regard it is interesting and very important what we can expect from the Slovakian Visegrád presidency in the next half year, since Slovakia will be the president of the V4 starting in July. You mentioned the strength and leadership of the Viktor Orbán; to what extent did the Visegrád cooperation succeed in becoming stronger during the Hungarian presidency?
What I said is neither a criticism of the Czech Republic nor of one of Slovakia, but rather a description of the real situation. I do not like wishful thinking. As a politician I have always resisted trying to present dreams as reality. I approach the results of the Visegrád group from a realistic point of view, and I spoke with a voice of realism, not one of criticism. I find this very important to say. The strength of the Visegrád group should be a community of interests, a unity of interest, but the interests are not the same. The Czech Republic sees certain issues differently from Poland or Slovakia or Hungary. So, there is no real unity of interests. There are apparently strong leaders in some countries, and there is a lack of leadership in other countries. In order to achieve something in the future, construction must begin within the countries, not just on the international scale. We have to do this within the country, and first of all I think that the Czech Republic needs to develop a concrete policy, not just phrases and formal declarations.
The question here follows logically: in your opinion, how much will the results of next year’s European elections overwrite the current of power positions?
People in Europe still do not take European elections seriously, or at least this is the case in the Czech Republic, but the situation is similar in Slovakia, too. If I remember correctly, the Czech Republic was second to last in terms of participation at the last European elections with a 17% turnout. I don’t know if it will improve next year. 17% of the population cast a vote at the European elections. They don’t take the elections seriously. I do not know whether this will change or whether there will be greater political forces appearing against the current direction of European integration. I’m not sure about that, but I will do everything to make it happen.
In connection with the migration crisis, we often talk about how the Western European elite has been kind of trapped by political correctness. Do you think that there is a chance to talk frankly about the very serious issues that determine the future of Europe, which were also the subject of the conference?
Mass migration co-organized by the European political elite based on multiculturalism, is, in my opinion, the main threat to Europe, to European societies, and to European culture. I also wrote a book on the issue of mass immigration, which has already been published in eight European languages. It was also published in Hungary this February. So, I gave a very strong opinion on this issue. I am afraid that Western Europe still does not feel this as strongly as we do. Our past is different, our memories are different, and other historical experiences are different. I think that the task for us is to explain and to tell our Western European colleagues why the current situation is tragic.
That’s right. The historical pasts are quite different in Central Eastern Europe and in Western Europe, and we still feel that strongly today. But, do you think there is a stimulus threshold that Western European leaders must reach? In other words, is this process reversible? Is it possible to shake up Angela Merkel or Macron from the current situation?
Of course, there are also changes in Western Europe. But, in my opinion, these changes are very small and very slow. I go to Western Europe weekly, and I give speeches. I do see a change compared to the situation five years ago or three years ago. But, the main problem is that the opinions of men of the street are quite different from the opinions of the political elite. There is a big gap between the two, and the lack of democracy in Europe and the European Union is striking. I know that very often people talk about a democratic deficit in Europe. I don’t agree. In my opinion, it is not a democratic deficit, but the lack of democracy. The deficit means that there is some democracy, but there are just some problems with it. I’m afraid that we live in a world where there is no democracy. The European Parliament is a good example of that, as it is not a parliament at all. There is no real dialogue between the government and the opposition. There is no freedom of speech. So, the European Parliament is just a joke. So, I do not agree that it is a democratic deficit.
Earlier in an interview you said, “Europe needs Viktor Orbán. Central Europe needs him, and we Czechs need him too, not just Hungarians.” What exactly did you mean?
I have been to Hungary three times in four months, which means that something is happening here. Nowadays, Hungary is a unique country that has decided not to suffer international tendencies and developments as a passive object. Hungary has decided to be an active participant in international political life. Congratulations to Hungary. Congratulations to the prime minister, and I regret that my own country is not doing so. New elections would be necessary, and a new political structure should be created in our country. Perhaps a new government and a new prime minister should be elected, because without such a change I do not think that current politicians can do meaningful things.
British writer Douglas Murray, author of the bestseller The Strange Death of Europe, is my next guest. Mr. Murray, in your opinion, when and why did Europe become for sale?
I would not say for sale. I think that our future is at risk. It is obvious, and this process has been going on for a very long time, and it just sped up in recent years. And, I think it has come about more in the absence of mind, in the absence of preparedness, than as a part of a bigger plan. Our civilization is at great risk.
Two questions about this. First, at the time when you decided to write about the other kind of truth, the one that you return to several times in the book, who was the majority: those who supported you or your opponents? Have they tried to make your venture impossible? Because, it is not in the interest of many to make the truth that you are writing about come to light. Or, we can say, your interpretation of the truth.
You know, the only task of a writer is to tell the truth. Of course, a lot of writers disagree with that. I have travelled around the world, not just in Europe. I have been to all European countries, and I have also seen the countries where people are fleeing from, from the Middle East to Africa. And, my opinion is that nobody at the peak of the migration crisis in 2015 thought through what would follow. For example, Greece or Italy probably thought that they could send migrants to different countries, but nobody thought through what would be the consequences of the process. And, I’m not talking about what is happening and being reported about in journalism, but thinking it though philosophically, culturally, socially. This is what I wrote about in my book. It is not popular with everybody, but I had far more supporters than opponents. My book has become a bestseller in the UK, and it is being translated into every European language. My view is that the general public is like me. They are able to see things with their own eyes. They do not need to be told what they should be seeing, because they open their eyes and they can see. There are some people who would like to stop that and they would like us to not see things. Nevertheless, I think that the general public and I are able to say honestly what we see.
Let’s name those whom you were mentioning earlier: first, those who planned the whole thing, who set the migrants on their way, and who did not think through the consequences, and, second, those who do not want this truth to come out. Let’s start with the first category. In your book you say that there is no conspiracy theory behind migration. What convinced you about that?
I understand why some people think in the framework of conspiracy theories. It is because, quite oddly, conspiracy makes the world look like a safer space. Our picture of the world looks more structured and safer if our worldview contains big plans that are forced secretly upon us. However, in the case of migration, I see a colossal mistake that we accidentally slipped into. Let me elaborate on this a little. Since the 1950s, Western European countries, from Germany to other places, have been inviting guest laborers in order to rebuild their societies after the Second World War. In my book I show that they did not fully understand this process. For example, in her 2010 Potsdam speech, Angela Merkel said that they had thought that the guest laborers would eventually go home. Now, I have to say that it is very unlikely that a person who came from a very poor country would return to his or her country of origin after having experienced life in a rich country. As I said, even Angela Merkel admitted that they were wrong to believe that, and Western European societies had to catch up in this regard. For example, they had to face that entire families would immigrate and that a chain of migration would start. Governments, for example the British government, tried to handle this, but it was too late, since if someone entered the country, then his or her spouse and children could come to the country as well, etc. This phenomenon sped up by the end of the 1990s in Britain and in the entire continent over the past 10 years. People were not concerned about this. For politicians, it was easier and more comfortable not to worry about the execution of the law. In my book I present instances of this. Many think that there is a great conspiracy theory in the background, and indeed it would be easier if there was, but I think that what happened is that multiple generations of European politicians just let go of the control and did not effectuate the law and regulations.
Do you still hold your opinion and claim that there is no conspiracy theory even though you know the work of certain NGOs very well? I mean, it is a fact that they work for a world without borders.
Yes, that is absolutely right, and I do touch upon the role of NGOs in my book. For example, I write about how the Italian government realized that the NGOs’ work conspire with human trafficking organizations. There are indeed NGOs that cooperate with migrant smugglers and they fight for a world without borders. But, this does not capture the essence of the work of the governments. It belongs to the big picture that, yes, there are actors who campaign for a world where there are no borders, and they should face the consequences of their actions. We know from two people now, as I write in the book, that in 2015 nobody told Angela Merkel to open the borders, but she said that they should not let pictures of the German border control stopping migrants at the border go viral. This was the sudden decision of a very important leader in a very important European moment, and the reason behind the decision was to prevent awkward pictures from appearing in the newspaper. Based on this concern, she suspended border control and thus created a problem that will last for generations for the people of Europe.
Mr. Murray, thank you so much.
Dear viewers, this was the last show of the V4 – The Future of Europe in 2018. On behalf of my colleagues and myself, thank you for your attention, and I wish you a happy new year. The next show will air on the 3rd of January. Goodbye.