Hungary could emerge stronger from the crisis caused by the novel coronavirus epidemic, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said. If Hungary does not allow the epidemic to again “shoot up” and “it stays alert with border control”, if investments and job creation get supported and if Hungary does not allow the West to treat it as a “dupe”, then the country could come out stronger from the crisis, Orbán told public Kossuth radio. If the right preparations are made and health-care workers work well, then a second wave could be prevented, he said, and expressed thanks to them on the occasion of Semmelweis Day.
In response to a question concerning a possible second wave of the epidemic, he said Hungary had successfully overcome the first wave but “only a battle has been won, not the war”. Since Hungary will be affected by the surrounding environment, clever decisions should be made for instance when people go on holiday, the prime minister said. “Perhaps this time it’s best to choose Lake Balaton,” he added. The government’s task is to keep close watch, instead of taking a holiday now, he said, adding that “we must stay in office for quite a few more weeks”.
The government will also refuse to yield to pressure from Brussels to allow uncontrolled entry to persons from more and more countries, he said. Besides European Union citizens, only Serbians are allowed to enter without checks and crossing Hungary is only possible on transit corridors for citizens of other countries, he added. Efforts must also be made to prevent increased migration to threaten Hungary’s health-care situation, he said. The number of infections has increased in countries located along the traditional migrant routes which means that border protection now also means health protection, he added. Orbán also said that the activities of human smugglers had increased unexpectedly. “We need our police and soldiers … What we have witnessed in western Europe and America, that societies and politicians have betrayed their own police, must not be allowed in central Europe,” he said.
Commenting on the EU court ruling declaring that Hungary’s transit zones amounted to detention, he said Hungary’s response was to close down these zones and make border control stricter. “If we want Hungary to remain a peaceful, safe and calm place then we must act against migration with the utmost strictness,” he added. In the current “national consultation” survey, questions have been included about the links between migration and the pandemic “because there are a few interconnected points”, he said.
Commenting on the EU’s “recovery assistance” fund, he said “this is actually aid granted by us to southerners”. Central Europe which is financially much better organised and must consider whether it wants to help richer countries that did not suffer from communism and joined the EU at an earlier stage, he added.
“We are ready to help” southerners in trouble but in exchange want fair treatment because “we do not want to be dupes”, he said.
“Central Europe can stand proud”, he said, arguing that the region had mounted a more effective response to the epidemic than the West and its economies were competitive. “There’s just one problem: that we’re poorer, but that’s because of the communists.” The prime minister also said that Germany, “a country that was bombed back to the Middle Ages at the end of the second world war”, was now the richest country in the EU, while central Europe, “which was thrown to the Soviet Union”, was developing. Orbán said Europe was entering a new era in which Germany and central Europe are seen as the ones that can “drag the continent out of the crisis”.
“We have to be successful together; Europe has to stick together … but [if we want this to happen] we can’t have Brussels trying to force a way of life on us that Hungarians, Czechs and Poles don’t want,” Orbán said. “They should let us live our own lives and we’ll be successful together.” The prime minister added that now was not “a time for building empires”, but rather for nation-states to work together in a clever way.
On the topic of the 2021 budget, Orbán said its numbers were “stable” and it had a “solid foundation” for epidemic response and economy protection measures. “Now it’s time to win a second battle: the one of job creation,” he said, adding that the budget would be a key part of this. Orbán also noted the reintroduction of the 13th-month pension and that the infant care benefit will increase to 100% of the gross salary.
As regards the left-wing opposition, the prime minister said he doesn’t know “what they’re doing on the left”. He said the left “didn’t stand by the country when there was trouble and were working to weaken the country’s ability to manage the crisis”. Orbán said Hungary’s cabinet was not one based on ideology, but rather a nationally minded government, adding that it would still be possible to be left-wing if one supported measures that were consistent with their views.
As regards Germany’s presidency of the EU, Orbán said Hungary could work together with the EU president if it received fair treatment in the ongoing economic debates. But, he said, Hungary was not prepared to work together with Germany on the issue of asylum seekers and refugees. Whereas Germany is attempting to solve its demographic problems through migration, Hungarians do not believe that bringing in people from the Muslim world would result in a “peaceful, Christian, Hungarian life”, he said.