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Key takeaways from Viktor Orbán’s tough interview with Slovak daily Postoj

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Budapest, Hungary – Yesterday, surrounded by his faithful ministers — Péter Szijjártó, Judit Varga, and Katalin Novák, Viktor Orbán attended a summit of the European Council held in the Portuguese city of Porto, where, together with his colleagues, he was supposed to discuss the European Pillar of Social Rights with “social partners and civil society representatives.” Details of this program, proposed in 2017, are available online. Discussions dealt with “work and employment, skills and innovation, and welfare state and social protection,” none of which is exactly the prime minister’s bailiwick.

Hungary’s Orbán grants interview to Slovak daily Postoj

According to Reuters, Poland and Hungary refused to sign the draft declaration unless the noxious phrase “gender equality” was removed. The original document said that the EU will “promote gender equality,” but, on the insistence of these two countries, the passage was changed to “we will step up efforts to fight discrimination and work actively to close gender gaps… and to promote equality.”

According to MTI, Orbán, even before the meeting of the prime ministers adjourned, announced that Hungary has its own work program which assures full employment, indicating that, although Hungary may sign the document, it will not share the goals of the European Pillar of Social Rights. Orbán also said that he “as a Christian has some basic problems with gender,” which is “an ideologically motivated expression whose exact meaning is not clear.” In his opinion, it is “something that stands somewhere between woman and man.”

Since I was spared listening to Orbán’s usual Friday morning faux-interview on Magyar Rádió, I immersed myself in a much more interesting, real interview that he gave to the Slovak Postoj: Konzervatívny denník. Orbán said that it was time to give an interview to a Slovak paper, since it was in 2009 when he last talked with journalists of .týždeň, which is a conservative weekly.

I began by checking the Slovak original, which was not a superfluous exercise because the Hungarian version—and subsequently the English translation —doesn’t include the fairly lengthy introduction to the circumstances of the meeting, including some rather sharp comments on Viktor Orbán’s attachment to the Castle district. At the start of the interview, the Slovak journalists called attention to the “over-sized globe,” which obviously fascinates Orbán because he took the trouble to point out some mistakes the creator of the globe had made.

The dream of uniting Hungary and Czechoslovakia

However, “with a smile he remarked that the borders of Hungary are quite accurate.” He shared the dream of his teenage years when “he believed that Czechoslovakia and Hungary would create a common state that would be a true Central European power with 25 million inhabitants.” But, alas, after the collapse of communism, Czechoslovakia fell apart and “he realized that his dream was an illusion.”

We also learned from this introduction that the Slovak journalists were originally granted an hour of the prime minister’s precious time, but their meeting turned out to be more than an hour and a half. An incredible number of subjects were covered, including the pandemic, migration, multi-multiculturalism, Angela Merkel’s place in history, EPP and Manfred Weber, liberal and illiberal democracy, the restrictions that exist in the Hungarian media, and the Hungarian minority in Slovakia.

Since it would be impossible to deal with all these subjects here, I decided to concentrate on three topics from this long interview. The first is Fidesz’s meddling in Hungarian party politics in Slovakia, with disastrous results. The second is the Visegrád 4 as Orbán would like to see it. And the third, Orbán’s views on the European Union. Given Postoj’s conservative and specifically Christian orientation, I was pleasantly surprised at the professionalism of these Slovak journalists. If Orbán thought he would have an easy time with them, he had to have been disappointed.

The thorny issue of Hungarian minorities in neighbouring states

Here are a couple of hard exchanges, for example, on Fidesz’s overwhelming influence on the Hungarian parties in Slovakia.  (I am using my own translation.) The Slovak journalists called attention to the “very strong presence of Fidesz” in Southern Slovakia and accused Béla Bugár, co-chair of the Slovak-Hungarian party Most-Híd, of “betraying the Hungarian cause.” They quoted Bugár’s refusal “to become a Fidesz vassal.”

After a meaningless answer from Orbán, the Slovak journalists conducted the interview persisted, suggesting that “the story of Most-Híd shows that it is not in Fidesz’s interest to have only one Hungarian party in Slovakia.” Although Orbán insisted that Fidesz only wants many Hungarian babies in Slovakia and mothers who speak Hungarian with their children, without any ulterior motives, the Slovak journalists refused to leave the topic. They pointed out that there were periods when “your political projects caused great tension between Slovakia and Hungary,” for example, national identity cards and dual citizenship.

After that, Orbán obviously felt it was time to move to a safer subject. He said that the problems of Hungarian minorities in the neighboring states are of secondary importance to “the issue of the region as a whole.” If the countries of the region are not united, “they will come to grief.” The journalists were puzzled; they didn’t understand what Orbán was getting at. Orbán, who is currently faced with a crumbling Visegrád 4 alliance, was trying to sell the idea of a North-South axis between Poland and Hungary in which Slovakia has a vital role to play.

East / West or North / South axis?

I’m sure that the Slovak answer didn’t warm the cockles of Orbán’s heart. They said that “Slovaks see themselves more as a bridge between west and east than a bridge between north and south.” Moreover, the Poles are anti-Russian and Slovakia doesn’t share’s Hungary’s views on Russia. Even the Czech Republic is turning against Moscow after the Vrbětice case.

Orbán admitted that Poland’s geopolitical position makes the country vulnerable, but he is certain that the Polish demand for security can be coupled with Hungarian-Russian cooperation. This is vital for Polish security as well. The journalists remained baffled because “the guarantees of Poland today are provided by NATO,” so they inquired whether Orbán had some special V4 guarantee for Poland in mind.

The interviewers then moved on to another sensitive topic: “In the EU, you are seen as a politician who actually wants to weaken or destroy the institutions of the Union.” After describing his doubts about the survival of the West and his trust in the future of Central Europe, Orbán was asked “whether he actually wants to prepare Central Europe for life without the European Union.” He admitted that he is much more positive about the future of Central Europe than about the fate of Western Europe.

The future of Europe

Finally, the journalists reminded Orbán that István Stumpf, “the man who has shaped you intellectually,” recently said that the EU will either become a federation, a community of nations states by 2030 or it will cease to exist.” Orbán must have considered this question annoying because, with this statement, Stumpf contradicts everything Orbán stands for. He therefore refused to answer it.

Instead, he began talking about the importance of Slovakia as the only country in Central Europe which belongs to the Eurozone, and “we are still examining from the outside whether monetary integration is good for the nation or not.” Then, gathering his wits, he said that even by 2030 there won’t be a “European people” but that all national groups will remain Hungarians, Slovaks, Germans, French, etc. And he returned again to the cultural changes that have taken place in Western Europe, which may stand in the way of a stable Europe.

Among the interviews he has granted to foreigners, I found this one to be especially revealing, and, yes, frightening.

By the Hungarian Spectrum, an official partner of Kafkadesk.

1 comment on “Key takeaways from Viktor Orbán’s tough interview with Slovak daily Postoj

  1. juraj.vychod

    Viktor Orbán/Today, there is no longer a liberal democracy, I am fighting the liberals for freedom
    https://www.postoj.sk/78144/dnes-uz-neexistuje-liberalna-demokracia-s-liberalmi-vediem-zapas-o-slobodu

    Interview with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who talks about why Central Europe has a better future than Western EU countries.

    We meet in a former Carmelite monastery on the Buda Castle Hill. Viktor Orbán tried as early as 20 years ago to make the place where the seat of the kings of The Greater Hungary* was once became the seat of the prime minister (note of translater *in original is uhorskí králi – “Hungarian” kings ; in Slovakia is used term Uhorsko – in Hungary is often Magyar Királyság for lat. for Regnum Hungariae). It didn’t work out then, he lost the election, the left didn’t even want to hear about the move, so he only realized his plan recently. The Prime Minister’s assistants place us in a library with high ceilings, where every visit is immediately captivated by an oversized globe. It depicts the world before the First World War with a completely different map of Europe, when Hungary was a power. Orbán begins with the story of this globe, made by a Hungarian author. He will warn/remind/highligt us that there are several geographical errors on it, and at the remark that the borders of Hungary are certainly shown quite accurately he will smile.

    The Hungarian prime minister then returns to his youth in his memories, when, in his own words, he believed that Czechoslovakia and Hungary would create a common state that would be such a Central European power with 25 million inhabitants. But after the fall of communism, when Czechoslovakia quickly disintegrated, he understood that it was an illusion.

    The originally scheduled hour for the interview will last for more than two and a half hours. Viktor Orbán tells for the Postoj, why the West has lost its appeal, how the German spirit is changing the European Union, how to understand its iliberal state, how freedom of the media in Hungary, but also how it perceives the last Slovak prime ministers.

    Q = question
    A by VO. = answer (Prime minister Viktor Orbán)

    Q. Let’s start with the hottest topic these months, and that is vaccines …
    A by VO. … there is an even hotter topic. Why are we actually sitting here? In Hungary, we are preparing for the V4 presidency, and I found out that I last interviewed a Slovak newspaper in 2009.

    Q. This interview with you did our former colleagues from weekly/magazine .týždeň* at SMK* assembly in Rimavská Sobota. Otherwise, it is true that you have given three such interviews to such German newspapers in recent months …
    Notice: *.týždeň = the tittle of weekly is really written with dot = .týždeň; *SMK – Strana maďarskej koalície; in Hungarian MKP Magyar Koalíció Pártja
    A by VO. … exactly, and nothing to Slovaks. I think it’s abnormal and I’ve decided to fix it /rectify it.
    Q. As early as the end of autumn, when there was no idea of the EU’s problems with the supply of vaccines, you bet on vaccines from Russia and China. Did you anticipate those supply problems or was the bet on the Eastern vaccines especially close to your heart?
    A by VO. I decided to do so because I experienced a similar situation last spring, only then was it called the fight for lung ventilators. The interest was much greater than the offer, we expected something similar with vaccines and we wanted to insure ourselves. And since we have good relations with both Russia and China, I was finding out in advance if they could sell us their vaccines. The answer was that in limited quantities yes.
    Now, just before I entered this room, I had an interview with the Chinese president. We have agreed to deliver the rest of the vaccines to come from China at an earlier date.
    Q. In Slovakia, the government has also been shaken due to Sputnik, some of which do not agree with its use without registration by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Were you not afraid to start vaccinating without a European registration?
    A by VO. Our inspection body is world-class/on the world level. We did not put the Russian and Chinese vaccines into circulation automatically, they had to be taken over by our control body (vaccines must be approved by our control institution). But if we suspect we’ll have Western vaccines checked also. For example, we now see problems with the Janssen vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. We will not automatically accept the EMA’s opinion on this vaccine. She (vaccine) went to the warehouse and our inspection body will examine it similarly to the Chinese and Russian vaccines.
    Q. In the coming days, Hungarian laboratories will decide on the Slovak Sputnik, but many people in our country will not trust it with the argument that Sputnik was not actually approved by Hungarian scientists, but by Viktor Orbán.
    ((*Notice: The vaccine was tested and the results were sent from Hungarian inspection/control institution to Slovakia (I think with a positive result).))
    A by VO. Slovakia is a sovereign country. You have asked us for help with an expert opinion (expertise). We will deliver it and you will handle it as you see fit. Stupid talk will always be here.
    Q. In recent weeks, however, the word sovereignty has been used in our country just in relation to Budapest. After your meeting with former Prime Minister Igor Matovic and his parliamentarian/deputy, Gyorgi Gyimesi, where it was agreed/negotiated to test Sputnik in Hungary, Mr Gyimesi said that the precondition for the success of these talks was the absence of Slovak diplomats. If a Slovak diplomat were present, would you not have agreed with Matovič?
    A by VO. I will not take the problems of Slovak politics on my shoulders (loins). All I can say is that my intention and the intention of Hungary was good. I am always willing to provide a service to everyone who was my prime minister and through him to his nation. If a former Prime Minister, Fico or Pellegrini, calls me tomorrow and wants to talk to me, I’m at his disposal. I’ve been in politics for a long time, it’s a heavy job, but it also has one nice side. You have to work with different types of people, which is intellectually interesting, only in the case of Slovakia it was Fico, Pellegrini and Matovič, which are three completely different personalities. However, I had a very good relationship with all three, both politically and humanly.
    Q. You also had Mikuláš Dzurinda in front of you for four years. Which one was the most intellectually interesting for you?
    A by VO. (Laughter.) Mikuláš is a little foggy, I’d rather stay with the last three. Robert Fico is a fighter, an old political fighter who has always fought hard for the interests of the Slovaks in all the negotiations we have had together. We had to invest a lot of emotional and intellectual energy until we realized that we were going much better when we worked together, instead of fighting each other. We have reached this point and we have made many good agreements. Since I am also an old fighter, I know that warriors respect and respect each other.
    Pellegrini is a completely different type. He is a man of compromise who always wants to agree. Of course, he strives for good agreements, but in a more Mediterranean, more relaxed way.
    Q. And Igor Matovic?
    A by VO. Unfortunately, I only worked briefly (short time) with Igor Matovic. For him, Christianity is the key. Mr Matovič has absolutely good intentions. He is a classical Catholic with good will. When I sat down with him for an interview, it was as if I were negotiating with brother Matovic. These things have a importance/meaning. You must not fully believe the Western diction that institutions are the most important in politics. They are always run by people. Personal character, thinking, seeing the world, this is very important. It is these characteristics that have played a very positive role in building Slovak-Hungarian relations in recent decades.
    Q. Although Hungary has a population of less than 10 million, you are still talked about in Europe, you are considered a strong player, and the media portrays you …
    A by VO. … I’d rather say they’re portraying me like I’m running a realm of devils / … I’d rather say they’re portraying me as if I ruled the realm of devils. So it’s not a positive highlight, quite the opposite.
    Q. The refugee crisis has helped you significantly in this new position, during which you have said what many Europeans even west of you thought, but their politicians did not say.
    A by VO. It is true. Probably that is why today everyone is dealing with Hungary more than it deserves with its weight, because we opposed the whole mainstream on the issue of migration. My European colleagues have kept talking about a European solution, and I have told them that I support it, but if such a solution does not emerge within a certain period, we will build a fence on a national basis and stop migration. Time passed, the European solution did not come and I did what I announced. Migration raises many issues, such as border protection, the family, demography, security, terrorism, which are serious geopolitical and ideological issues. And as I take part in these debates, it keeps Hungary and me personally in sight.

    Europe and the German spirit (intermediate title in article on web-page of Postoj)

    Q. Is it not the case that Chancellor Angela Merkel, who refused to protect the German border in September 2015, made you a European symbol?
    A by VO. In Hungarian history, it has often happened that heroes and martyrs were made by the Germans.
    Q. You must have talked to her several times since then. Do you think she regretted this step?
    A by VO. Yes, I have talked to her about it several times, I have tried to convince her that the path we Hungarians have chosen is feasible for others as well. I never wanted to convince her to think about migration differently.
    If the Germans want to admit millions of Muslims and build a multicultural society, it is their decision, their destiny. I only wanted her to acknowledge our right to free choice. This is different from the German one. We don’t want such a company. I asked her not to strive for hegemony, but for pluralism. She reacted so that migration could not be stopped. My answer was that Hungary could prove that it was possible, and let us look at us as a laboratory. And did she regret it later? In this sense, it is not Angela Merkel that is interesting, but the German spirit.
    Q. What do you mean?
    A by VO. The Germans believe that if the original German society, which is already abandoning Christian values, lives with millions of Muslim migrants, they will mix up and form a new society.
    In political terminology, this is called an open society, and the Germans believe it. I do not believe in this, because I think that this will give rise to parallel societies that will live side by side and that can lead to big problems. I do not want such a development for my country.

    ↑Here – between these two paragraphs of A by VO- is a repetition of the text between these two paragraphs in larger letters:
    I asked Angela Merkel not to strive for hegemony, but for pluralism. She reacted so that migration could not be stopped. My answer was that Hungary could prove that it was possible.

    Q. You are talking about the multicultural German spirit, but just after the refugee crisis you became a hero within the Bavarian CSU, when your name fell on its mass events, the Bavarians applauded enthusiastically, and the People’s Chief Manfred Weber spoke of you only in superlatives. You are no longer an ally today, quite the contrary. What happened between you two?
    A by VO. Every love develops, but this personal dimension is not interesting. Suffice it to say that Mr. Weber insulted Hungary when he said publicly that he did not want to become President of the European Commission with the votes of the Hungarians. The Hungarian people expected me to say that such a statement would not go unnoticed. With the voices of the Hungarians, Weber could become the head of the commission, but if he said he did not want them, he did not become one. In politics, which is also about personal ambitions, it represents a certain personal pain for him. But that’s life. But behind those personal things lies something else, perhaps one of the most serious issues of our time. What do the Germans want? German Europe or European Germany? That’s a huge difference.
    Q. What is the difference?
    A by VO. If the Germans want German Europe, it means that they also want to tell other nations what to do and how to live. Manfred Weber has joined in this direction. He wants to determine what is right in migration, family, tax policy. He wants to tell us how we Hungarians should live. Helmut Kohl did the opposite, he wanted European Germany, he did not strive for hegemony, but for pluralism. He has always recognized that even smaller nations have the right to decide their own destiny.
    Q. Unlike Kohl, does Angela Merkel strive for hegemony?
    A by VO. We will be able to say something with certainty about Merkelism over a longer period of time. I already have an answer, but time has to test it. I think that the period of Merkelism, which lasted sixteen years, was a transitional period. At the beginning, the Germans did not want to tell other European nations how to live, because the German CDU still had a clear character, which was different from the European liberal mainstream.
    Helmut Kohl was still in dispute with the leaders of this liberal European mainstream and with the liberal press. It was over after him. Today, there is no difference between the views of the liberal mainstream and those of the German Christian Democrats. The reason for this shift is also that the Christian Democrats were unable to form a majority and Angela Merkel was forced to rule in the grand coalitions. Can I take one turn now to better understand me?
    Q. A German turn?
    A by VO. Yes. When I first became prime minister in 1998, I was thirty-five years old. I have been in politics for ten years, but I have not been prime minister until then. I called Helmut Kohl and asked him, as an experienced European leader, to see if he could talk to me about what is important in the profession of politician. The answer, of course, come, I am at your disposal. We talked for long hours.
    Q. And what did he tell you?
    A by VO. One important thing: you have been elected by the Hungarian electorate, your responsibility is mainly for Hungary, and don’t let anyone limit you to that. At the same time, he told me that I had to fight for my opinion to be taken into account in Europe. This is by seeking harmony between the views of other European nations and by never allowing anyone to dictate to me what and how to do.
    Q. You have obviously taken that advice to heart.
    A by VO. But he also advised me that if I wanted to be a successful prime minister, I must also be the party chairman. I did not follow this advice, I resigned as party chairman and lost the next election.
    Q. Helmut Kohl would probably be surprised today by the disintegration of the old and the emergence of new alliances. Your Fidesz left the European People’s Party (EPP) at the beginning of the year, and together with the Polish Law and Justice Party (PiS) and the Italian party, the Matteo Salvini League, you announced the creation of a new alliance to protect traditional Christian values. What is your goal, do you want to set up a new faction in the European Parliament or do you want to create a pan-European movement that will seek to change the EU?
    A by VO. When Fidesz left the EPP or, as we say, when we left the EPP, the important question for us was whether we would continue to participate in European party life. We have decided that yes, also because European party struggles have a response in domestic politics. We did not want to leave this advantage to our opponents. We now need to clarify what we are going to achieve in European politics. Our answer is that we want to change Brussels.
    Q. What exactly does that mean?
    A by VO. In its current form, Brussels is unable to provide the right answers to people’s problems. An example of this was migration, but Brussels’ response to the financial crisis in 2008 was not convincing either. We wanted to change Brussels with the EPP, but it was not willing to take action. Now we need to create a new political community that can influence Brussels, which is what Poles, Hungarians, Italians, Spaniards and many others are working on. In the end, it will be reflected in some institutional framework.
    Q. If in Italy the League won the next election, you would be quite strong, but you need more allies for pan-European influence, are you counting on politicians like Marine Le Pen?
    A by VO. Cooperation/collaboration is always a reflection of the will of multiple players. Neither of us can demand that the participants in such cooperation be only entities close to him. Not only the Hungarian Fidesz, but also the Polish PiS or Salvini will bring their allies to this cooperation. That must be accepted.
    Q. Do you mean that Marine Le Pen, whom you used to be opposed to, is also possible?
    A by VO. This option is in the air.
    Iliberal state (intermediate title in article on web-page of Postoj)
    Q. A few years ago, you started talking about building an illiberal state. Many were frightened because they perceive this concept as a questioning of the division of power that is typical of pluralist democracies. Isn’t that a legitimate concern?
    A by VO. Not. I think the exact opposite. Today, there is no liberal democracy, but liberal non-democracy. There is liberalism, but there is no democracy. Liberals strive for opinion hegemony. This is what political correctness serves, with the help of which they label conservatives and Christian Democrats and try to disqualify them. I fight the liberals for freedom. And I am on the side of freedom and they are on the side of opinion hegemony.
    However, your question has another dimension. For the past hundred years, Europe has been threatened by two totalitarian threats, National Socialism and Communism. The answer was that the Conservatives, Christian Democrats and Liberals were united in the name of defending democracy. After 1990, they moved away because we thought something else about important issues such as family, migration, the role of nations, education. In this sense, I am illiberal, and therefore I did not use the word antiliberal. Liberals should not only see us as an enemy. They have been our allies for a hundred years.
    Q. Sounded like this, it goes without saying, how do you explain that you evoked such a negative reaction with the term and definition?
    A by VO: Because it is complicated and today’s modern politics has a problem with such a nuanced debate. The space for argument-based policy has narrowed. Modern politics is no longer about persuasion, but about slogans, slogans and mobilization. That is why today’s European policy is much simpler than it was thirty years ago.
    Q. What would Viktor Orbán of 1992, who was in opposition to the national conservative government of József Antall and also held anti-clerical views, think about the creation of an illiberal state?
    A by VO: Each policy must be evaluated by the coordinates of the time. What were the coordinates then? There were post-communist parties that got into opposition, and the ruling conservative parties came in. At the time, the question was whether these new parties could prevent the post-communists from returning to power. The Conservatives did not call us to the government, so we remained in opposition. But we did not want to side with the post-communists. The original great liberal party jumped on them and committed moral and political suicide.
    We did not jump, we were in opposition to the conservatives and we also fought against the return of the post-communists. Unfortunately, this was not prevented. This led us to unite all democratic forces, and in 1998 we pushed the post-communists out of government. Of course, we have moved on many ideological topics since then, but there is also continuity. We stood on the side of freedom and against the post-communists, this has not changed.
    ↑Here – between these two paragraphs – is a the text between these two paragraphs in larger letters:
    Liberals strive for opinion hegemony. This is what political correctness serves, with the help of which they label conservatives and Christian Democrats and try to disqualify them.
    Q. Try to say what you have personally changed during those thirty years.
    A by VO: It’s hard to say, it will always be biased on my part. What is it that we know today and then we didn’t know? We know that the role of churches in society is higher than we assumed at the time. We also know that without the cooperation of Central European countries, none of them will be able to maintain their own sovereignty. It was not so evident in the 1990s. We also did not expect the reality of the Western model to be exposed as much as it did in 2008 during the economic crisis. At that time, the economic pillar of the West shook and subsequently, during the migration crisis, also the social one.
    The attraction of the West was much more impressive in the 1990s. I respect the West and I participate in integration, but I must say that countries west of us have lost much of their attractiveness over the last decades. I would not like Hungarian children to live for twenty years in a country like many Western countries will be at that time. Thirty years ago, we did not yet know how the Muslim world would expand into Europe, how China would change the world economy. And since we are Latin Christians, we did not anticipate that Orthodox Christianity could also play a very important role in the future.
    Q. So to those who blame you for how you have changed yourself, are you saying that the world around you has changed much more?
    A by VO. Change and preservation create the dynamics of human life as well as spiritual excitement. This is a fertile conflict. We do not want to fall out of the modern world, we are not anti-modernist and we understand that the world must change. The question is what do we want to transfer from the past to the future. From this point of view, we have continuity. We want to preserve the freedom that is called national sovereignty at the level of nations and individual freedom at the level of individuals. We stick to this in the conditions of the modern world.
    Hungary and media freedom/freedom of media (intermediate title in article on web-page of Postoj)
    Q. Your critics, including former allies from your more liberal era, say you have changed because of power. When Vladimír Mečiar ruled in our country in the 1990s, we faced criticism from the EU that democracy, media freedom are threatened in Slovakia and that Mečiar is building an authoritarian state. Today, the same words go to your address. We perceive that part of this critique, formulated mainly by the liberal-left establishment, is ideological. But even several conservative Hungarians in Slovakia acknowledge that, for example, the public media are completely pro-government, similar to our country under Mečiar. Didn’t you overdo it with controlling various spheres of the state?
    A by VO. I don’t know Slovak public television, but I do know German and British public television. I can say with certainty that our Hungarian public television is less pro-government than German.
    Q. But many Hungarians tend to see it as similar to television under János Kádár.
    A by VO. I lived under János Kádár and I tell them that this is not the case. Under Kádár, we had to illegally push our thoughts and secretly spread them. When a Slovak friend of ours comes to Hungary today, walks into a newsagent’s and tells him to give him a newspaper that throws at Orbán and his government, he gets about eight newspapers and magazines.
    But let’s talk about the media seriously. There are two ideological lines in Hungarian politics. One is liberal, the other Christian Democratic. When we look at commercial television, there is one liberal and one conservative television. Then let’s take the big online portals. One, maybe two are conservative and about six are liberal. When we talk about national dailies, the largest is liberal and the second largest is conservative. As for political weekly magazines, two are conservative and four are liberal. So when you look at the commercial media, you don’t see any hegemony there, but pluralism.
    Q. However, you have balanced this relationship between the liberal and conservative media by using political power.
    A by VO. When I came to power, the media ratio was nine to one in favor of a liberal view. Now it’s fifty-fifty. My critics say I changed it, but I didn’t. I publicly asked Christian-minded businessmen not to accept the nine-to-one situation. I called on them to set up Christian Democratic and conservative media projects. Because it is not the role of the state, but of private business. Many conservative media came into being this way.
    Q. Let’s stay with the public media, isn’t it really the case that you think that these media should not be critical of government power?
    A by VO. The public media is done by journalists, I can’t or don’t want to give them orders. But I consider it normal that if there is a conservative government, such a focus will tend to dominate the public service media as well. I can’t give them orders. But if they want to report on the life of the country, they cannot ignore the fact that the center of power is the Christian Democratic government. When there was a liberal government in Hungary, public television also presented a rather liberal government, moreover, conservative and Christian ideas did not miss a place in the private media.
    In my opinion, this is natural for public service media, so the key to the media situation is not public service media, but whether there are other media outside. Moreover, public television viewing is only a fraction of commercial television viewing, not to mention the online world. Today, every journalist can be a reporter if he has a smartphone and uploads his own news somewhere. So globally it can be said that the Hungarian media situation is fair.
    ↑Here – between these two paragraphs – is a the text between these two paragraphs in larger letters:
    I publicly asked Christian-minded businessmen not to accept the nine-to-one situation. I challenged them to start conservative media projects.
    Q. It was strange for us Slovak journalists that the Hungarian media were forbidden to report from hospitals about the situation related to the covid. We could not imagine that in Slovakia. Wasn’t it a muzzle for all journalists, even commercial ones?
    A by VO. This was not an order for journalists, but for hospitals. We ordered that even journalists could not enter the hospital. Many countries have followed suit. We have made it clear that those responsible for combating the pandemic will provide information to the media every day. But when there is an epidemiological crisis in hospitals, no one can go there. If relatives can’t go there, why should journalists enter?
    Slovak Hungarians and dual citizenship (intermediate title in article on web-page of Postoj)
    Q. Last year, representatives of the Hungarian minority dropped out of parliament for the first time in 30 years. How do you explain that?
    A by VO. This is a sensitive question. The state, political and cultural boundaries of a nation are not the same. A Hungarian who lives politically in Slovakia speaks Hungarian with his children, reads Hungarian literature, watches the Hungarian media, and simply lives with Hungarians from a cultural point of view. That is why we in the home country, as we call it, must pursue a policy that strengthens cultural unity but does not interfere with the sovereignty of another country.
    Q. But it is probably true that Budapest has its interests in the south of Slovakia.
    A by VO. It is in Budapest’s interest that Hungarians living in Slovakia be able to represent their own interests in Bratislava, and not that we in Budapest are forced to represent their interests in Bratislava. So if the Hungarian community in Slovakia is successful and is able to represent itself, it is better for Slovaks and for us. It’s bad now.
    Q. However, the ghost of Fidesz has been very strong in the south of Slovakia for the last ten years. While SMK blamed Béla Bugár for betraying the Hungarian cause and contributing to the assimilation of Hungarians in Slovakia, Bugár also told you that he would not become a vassal of Fidesz and in Most they were very critical of the money that flowed to southern Slovakia in the form of grants. The word of the traitor against Bugár was obviously a reflection of the intra-Hungarian war …
    A by VO. … those are very harsh expressions. I understand that Béla Bugár would not be proud of her friendship with us, many Hungarians feel the opposite way. But it is a dispute between Hungarians who like to quarrel with each other. But it is Hungarians living in Slovakia who have to find a way to represent their interests, either in the form of a mixed party, by joining a large party or in the form of their own Hungarian party.
    Q. However, does the story of Most-Híd not show that it is in Fidesz’s interest that Slovak Hungarians be on one side?
    A by VO. It is in the interest of Fidesz, which is a national party, that many Hungarian children are born in Slovakia as well, that mothers speak Hungarian with them, that they go to Hungarian schools, that no one hurts them when they speak Hungarian and that they have the freedom to engage politically. The form in which they do so is secondary. That is why we support cultural identity, not political interests.
    Q. But there were times when there were great tensions over your political projects, which you were targeting our Hungarians, whether it was a country card or dual citizenship ten years ago. It is a fact that you have not created topics of this type in the last decade, it was also surprising that last year’s centenary of Trianon took place completely conflict-free. Didn’t this happen because these topics were politically exhausted in your country?
    A by VO. In Romania, Serbia and Croatia, for example, they think that dual citizenship is a good legal instrument and helps to share different views. You Slovaks think something else, it is your right, I do not agree with you, but we simply take note that you do not want to apply the legal instrument. And we hope that one day you will change your mind based on other examples. But there is no reason for it to generate tension.
    Q. Isn’t it the case that the refugee crisis under your leadership has so changed Hungary’s approach to the EU and to Central Europe that you no longer want to open the divisive topics?
    A by VO. I will always ask neighboring countries to provide a dignified home for the Hungarians there. So if I see a problem, I will always respond in a suitable way.
    But the weight of these problems is much less important today than the question of the whole region. For if we do not get together, Slovaks with Hungarians, Czechs and Poles, and we do not act together to the east and west, we will all walk badly.
    ↑Here – between these two paragraphs of A by VO – is a the text between these two paragraphs in larger letters:
    Fidesz’s interest is that many Hungarian children are born in Slovakia as well, that mothers speak Hungarian with them, that they go to Hungarian schools.
    Q. What do you mean?
    A by VO. It may sound harsh to Slovak ears, but we in Hungary say that in Central Europe we should all understand one lesson. No matter how the Central European nations stood in World War II, we all turned out the same way. Those who were on the right side received as a reward the same as those of us who stood on the wrong side received punishment. We simply have a common destiny. The only question is who will organize Central Europe. The Germans, the Russians, the Americans, or we who live here?
    Q. And doesn’t Viktor Orbán really want to organize it?
    A by VO. This does not correspond to reality, the flagship is Poland. Without Poland, the other countries of the region do not have enough weight. If Poland withdrew from the V4, Central Europe would lose its keel. Slovakia also has a key role to play, I’m just not sure if every Slovak understands it.
    Q. In what sense?
    A by VO. The essence of V4 is the ability to influence both the north and the south. In the north you have Poles, in the south we have Hungarians. The north must unite with the south, without you we would be torn in two. That is why I always suggest to the Slovak Prime Minister that we put the north-south connection in the first place. We do not have highways, railways and gas pipelines go differently.
    Central Europe, Russia and the West (intermediate title in article on web-page of Postoj)
    Q. However, Slovaks see themselves more as a bridge between west and east than a bridge between north and south. In addition, the V4 is quite divided in its attitude to Russia and Putin. Poles are sharply anti-Russian, in Slovakia and Hungary there is a different mentality, in the Czech Republic the atmosphere is now changing after the Vrbětice case. Will Vladimir Putin not distribute V4?
    A by VO. First of all, the person of the Russian president must be separated from Russia. Let us not create the illusion that the problem is related to the person of the president, Russia is simply a geopolitical problem for us. Yes, the Poles have a very strong, anti-Russian policy, and we Hungarians perceive you Slovaks as much more open to cooperation with Russia. A pan-Slavic element has always been present in Czech political thought. We Hungarians, on the other hand, perceive that it is easier for Russians to cooperate with Slavic countries than with us. After all, we are the only country to initiate a war with the Soviet Union or Russia in 1956. Nobody has done that except us, this fact is part of our national heroism.
    Q. How do you want to unify V4 when it divides and will divide access to Russia?
    A by VO: The best answer is a look at the map. It is obvious that Poland needs security guarantees, it is a large, flat territory. Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic are protecting the Carpathians, of course, we also need guarantees, but we are not threatened by Russia, as the Poles feel. Therefore, it is necessary to combine the Polish requirement for a security guarantee with the requirements of Hungarian-Russian cooperation within the V4. So each of the V4 countries will determine its own policy towards Russia, but we must also be able to provide mutual guarantees towards Russia. So when the Czechs now demanded a position of solidarity, no matter what I think about the matter, we immediately provided it to the Czechs…
    Q. … even though you think something else about the Vrbětice case?
    A by VO. I asked the Czech representatives if what I had read really happened. I got the answer that it is “highly likely”. So that’s what I think about it.
    Q. Guarantees for Poland are implemented today in the form of NATO, do you mean any special guarantees inside the V4?
    A by VO. Yes, they are implemented in NATO, but today we can only fantasize about European defense policy. However, defense does not belong in the world of fantasy, it is the hardest reality, because there there is force against force.
    Q. So your answer is a common European defense from which power will radiate?
    A by VO. From our point of view, the EU is pursuing a primitive Russian policy, it can only say yes or no. However, we need a policy of nuances that understands that Russia is a state of enormous power that also respects power. If we are not militarily competitive with the Russians, they will be a danger to us. On the other hand, we need to work together in the economy. But we are doing the opposite, we are demonstrating our strength through the economy through a policy of sanctions, but we are weakly militarily. It should be the exact opposite.
    Q. In the EU, you are seen as a politician who really wants to weaken or destroy the Union’s institutions. But are you saying that, as a solution to the Russian problem, do you want to build a strong European defense?
    A by VO. Yes, because the coordinates in my head are not drawn in such a way that I either support or am against the whole of the EU. There are elements of the EU that should be strengthened much more, the opposite is true of the European Parliament, which plays a particularly damaging role when it turns European policy into a partisan policy and the European left uses it to attack sovereign states. So the question is not whether the EU does or not, but which EU.
    Q. István Stumpf, the man who shaped you intellectually, recently said that by 2030, the EU will either become a federation, a community of nation states, or it will cease to exist. What is your forecast for 2030?
    A by VO. This question again underlines the importance of Slovakia. Slovakia is not only a key country in that it connects the north and south of Europe, but you are the only country in Central Europe that has embarked on an experiment called the euro area. You have valuable experience, and we are currently examining from the outside whether monetary integration is good for the nation or not.
    Q. But surely you have economic analysts and political scientists who evaluate it.
    A by VO. Of course, there are different opinions on this. Back to your question about the EU and the year 2030. Surely I know so much that no European nation will emerge, Hungarians, Slovaks, Germans, French will continue to live here, there will be a large proportion of the Muslim population in Europe, but there will be no European demos in general.
    So nations and states will survive and find a form of cooperation, today it is called the European Union. However, it is not an essential institution, but the will. We will also cooperate in 2030, the question is what will happen to us.
    ↑Here – between these two paragraphs of A by VO – is a the text between these two paragraphs in larger letters:
    The original population of Western Europe is leaving Christianity and moving towards a post-Christian and post-national society.
    Q. In what sense?
    A by VO. In Western Europe, cultural changes are taking place, there are large numbers of migrants and the Muslim minority, the original population is leaving Christianity and moving towards post-Christian and post-national society. The question is whether these companies will be able to build a stable Western Europe.
    Q Do you think they won’t?
    A by VO. Personally, I am more convinced of the future of Central than Western Europe. I believe that our children will be better off than ourselves. We will experience a great Central European renaissance, in economy, demography, migration, in security policy, in culture. I am an optimist. But will there be stability in Western Europe in 2030? This is the most interesting question.
    Q. Do you actually want to prepare Central Europe for life without the European Union?
    A by VO. I would rather say that the EU has so far operated along the Franco-German axis, it has been a two-pole cooperation. Now we are moving towards the fact that by 2030 there will be a third pole, Central Europe, or V4. Trade between the V4 and Germany is twice as large as between Germany and France and three times as much as between Germany and Italy. In recent years, this trinity has been felt in disputes over migration or the budget, for me it is a picture of the future.

    I’m going to win (intermediate title in article on web-page of Postoj)
    Q. Hungarian politics have been captured by Trianon for decades, and József Antall said he felt he was the prime minister of 15 million Hungarians. As we listen to you now, we feel that you are no longer living in this Trianon trauma, but have found a new European mission for the Hungarians.
    A by VO. We like that Antall’s theorem, it was a very important theorem at that time.
    Q. Not anymore?
    A by VO. 30 years have passed since then, which did not diminish this sentence in any way, only completely new questions came to the fore. As Central Europeans, we only have to answer them together, because if we shut ourselves in our shells or retreat like a hedgehog, we will all lose it.
    Q. You are talking about your Central European visions that go beyond decades. You can lose the elections against the united opposition in Hungary next year, aren’t you afraid of that?
    A by VO: If I complete this term, I will be able to say for myself that I have spent 16 years in government and 16 years in opposition. So whatever happens, I’ve experienced it over and over again.
    Q. If you lose, will you try to come back in another four years?
    A by VO. I am about to win, but we are a big party with culture, programs and visions, and most Hungarians want and feel something we represent. Another thing is whether, according to them, we represent it correctly. However, our presence as a political party is deeply philosophically and emotionally justified, so this type of party will continue to be here. There is a new generation of politicians who are 15 years younger than us, no longer went to school under communism, have a better education, know languages, have a broad perspective, and have learned the political craft from us. So when my generation decides not to return to work one day, we will have successors.
    Q. What is certain, however, is that Angela Merkel will definitely leave in half a year. You say to the German media that you feel sorry for her departure. Given the sharp controversy you have had over migrants, is this a courtesy for you from the German audience, or do you really regret leaving it?
    A by VO. I respect Merkel, although I do not agree with her in many ways. She gave a huge personal performance that she was able to keep her party at the center of government for 16 years. He who does not do this craft cannot even appreciate how much intellectual and emotional energy there is in it all. I really regret her departure. Until now, we have always been able to predict what will happen in Germany after the elections, the framework has been stable. I am worried that after Merkel’s departure, we will realize that we will miss him more than we think today.
    Q. Why?
    A by VO. All the doors are now wide open. What will result in more weight for the Greens? And will a new generation of German political leaders be ready?
    Q. In this interview/conversation, too, you talked about Christianity, you call yourself a Christian Democrat. From the Slovak point of view, Hungary, unlike Poland, is a secular country, and the number of practicing Christians is relatively low. In fact, you are no longer a post-Christian country, and what you keep alive is a kind of political Christianity, as in Putin’s Russia?
    A by Vo. My personal answer is that I am a believing Christian and every Slovak Christian is my brother. As far as politics is concerned, the role of Christian democratic politics is not to protect ecclesiastical principles, so I would not use the term political Christianity. The most crucial question of our being, whether we will be saved or damned, is not a political question, although it is an essential question of Christianity. But politics is not competent in this.
    So I’m not even talking about Christian politics, but politics with Christian inspiration. We protect life forms and values such as human dignity, freedom, family, national community. There are political trends that are attacking this and wanting to break it down, we have to face it. So it is not about my personal faith, a person who is not a believer himself can be a part of such a Christian democratic policy. We are not at the head of a sect, but of a political party with a program.
    ↑Here – between these two paragraphs of A by VO – is a the text between these two paragraphs in larger letters:
    I am a believing Christian and every Slovak Christian is my brother. But the role of Christian Democratic politics is not to protect ecclesiastical principles,
    Q. For the Christian Democrats in Slovakia, the protection of the unborn life is a heart issue, to which you also declare yourself, but you have practically not moved with this area during your governments. So you recognize that this is a fundamental human right, but at the same time you do not want to go further, because it would not have a social majority?
    A by VO. We are clearly on the side of life, in 2011 we adopted a new constitution, where we clearly declared this value. However, a policy of total prohibitions that is otherwise morally legitimate would have a counterproductive effect. In politics, the result counts, of course, the will is also important, but the will without the result will end in disaster. In 11 years, we have managed to radically reduce abortion without a total ban. The result of our rule, then, is that, as a country, we are much more on the side of life.
    But in the question, you have touched on a very important question of how truth and majority relate in politics. This is an otherwise difficult question. If the majority does not serve the truth, then the majority has no value. But if you can’t get a majority on the side of truth, you can’t act in the interest of truth in politics.

    Author of photos in article/interview published on web-page of Postoj is Vivien Cher Benko.

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