Zoltán Kiszelly: Hungary can win the political battle with Brussels

29.04.2018

Interview with political scientist Zoltán Kiszelly

- I would like to talk about the geopolitics, about the future of Hungary. What people think about Victor Orban`s current foreign policy?

- The migration is the first goal. Victor Orban was a counterpart of Merkel during the migration crisis. That`s why now Mr. Orban is recognized at the international level. People see that what he told 3 years before, as Charlie Hebdo was attacked in Paris [7thJanuary 2015], and many people didn`t not agree with him that time, as he saw a direct connection between mass immigration and terrorism, but today many share the same position of Orban. More politically correct, but the same.

Photo: Facebook

Secondly, there`s no basic changes in Hungary`s attitude toward the West. 80% of the Hungarians want to remain in Western integration systems – NATO, European Union. There`s no question about it. We are member of the Western integration system, and as Victor Orban says, Russia and China are strategic economic partners, not political partners. Russia, China, India, other BRICS countries are partners in economic terms. Once Jobbik wanted to have a referendum about membership in NATO and EU, and they wanted to join the Eurasian economic system. Only the transatlantic Leftists see Russia as a threat, the overwhelming majority wants to stay in NATO and EU.

Fidesz says, that we stay in Western organizations, and at the same time we want to make business with BRICS countries. Fidesz doesn`t question the membership in NATO and EU. We want to have the EU which is more benefiting us in economic terms, we don`t want more power of Brussels, we want to keep our sovereignty. We are taking the point of the British and the Dutch before Brexit – they told, that they wanted national sovereignty, to keep an economic cooperation, well-functioning single market, but didn`t want any further integration in other politics.

The Polish, the Hungarians, the Czechs have the same point of view as the British before Brexit. We want to keep the single market, this European cooperation, and we can prevail in this international competition only if we stay together as Europeans. But Brussels thinks that we should have a Federal State of Europe – like Germany, but in bigger terms. And we don`t want to have that, because we had an experience with Ottoman Empire, Habsburg Empire, Soviet time. Medium-sized countries like Hungary are not able to put our points in the decision making center in Brussels. Only big countries and large banks and translational companies are heard in the center. 

That means, the Western integration is out of question. The same time Fidesz wants to cooperate with Russia and China, we open our doors to the East in economic terms, and to the South (Africa, South America). Now leftist opposition, and also Jobbik, say that Russia is the threat, Putin is interfering in elections. And Fidesz say that we`re making business with Russia, but our political interests are in the West. 

In Hungary we have a differentiation: EU is good, Brussels is bad. Most Hungarians understand that Fidesz doesn`t want the exit the EU, but we are fighting against the bad decisions of Brussels bureaucrates (we call them eurocrates). 

- The question about USA. Is people in Hungary afraid of NATO activity on its territory?

- There`s no many American Army activity in Hungary. Hungary wanted to became a member of the NATO, and 70-80% support this membership. It`s out of question. Because we always wanted to belong to the West. As Mr. Hungtington said, the West ends with the Gothic cathedrals, and the Gothic cathedrals are in Hungary (in former Hungary, in Transylvania, in Croatia). Romania and Serbia are still Othodox. 

We always belonged to the West. The aim of the 1956 revolution was also to join the West. As in 1955 the Soviet troops removed from Austria, then many people thought - why they don`t remove from Hungary too? Many people didn`t know that it was the Warsaw Pact which made the presence of Soviet troops legal in Hungary, earlier in 1945 when Hungary was occupied by Soviet Union, the Soviet troops had to stay as long, as they had to support Soviet troops in Austria. 

So, the membership in NATO is out of question for the Hungarian elite – not only for political elite, but also for economic elite. We have different approach to NATO – Poland, the Baltic states, the Scandinavian states are rearing the «Russian threat», we are more relaxed.

The Chairman of the NATO Military Committee General Petr Pavel visited Hungary. Photo: NATO.int

I would like to clarify – may be, some politicians of these states see this threat? Because many people there have a good attitude to Russia…

- Yes, I talk about the official position. I visit very often Warsaw, Kraków, twice a year – as a head of the delegation of Hungarians. Everytime in March our Polish friends come to Budapest, and in November we go to Kraków. Last year I was also in April, for Smolensk rememberance, and we had a chance to talk to people close to the government.

We have different historical understanding. For 160 years Hungary and Russia had 4 military conflicts. In three conflicts Hungary lost, in only one – the First World War – we made it equal (Brest-Litovsk). We don`t want it the fifth time. May be the Polish want to try once more, and that`s the difference… That means, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria want to have business with Russia, we don`t feel any threat.

In Hungary there`s no permanent presence of American troops. We have military exercises – and it`s good, because we have to exercise our interoperability, Hungarian soldiers can cooperate with Americans and other members of NATO. But Hungary don`t have permanent presence of their troops, and Hungary is not joining the NATO command against «Russian propaganda»in Latvia. Other countries like Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Estonia are joining this NATO institute, Hungary is not a member of this. There is difference, but the Hungarian public opinion doesn`t recognize that. If there are military exercises, they say – okay, it`s not Russians, it`s Americans, it doesn`t matter. 

But the opposition parties think that if they support Brussels politics, then, they can get more support (but they didn`t got at the April elections).

Victor Orban was among the first EU leading politicians to support Mr. Trump. It`s simple – he didn`t want Hillary Clinton as president. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. If Hillary would have become the president, that would be much worse for him – the democracy export like "human rights”, “freedom of the media". And Mr. Trump is not for this democracy export.

The same time Mr. Trump is ready to meet anybody who is buying American weapons. We don`t want to spend $6-9 billion, as the Romanians ($6 billion) and the Polish ($9 billion), we don`t want to make that expensive handshake with Mr. Trump. He`s not ready to meet anyone who is not big enough like Germany and Japan or who doesn`t buy American weapon. We don`t want to buy weapons, we want to fulfill the 2% criteria of NATO, and we try to develop our own Hungarian defence industry. We have a small defense industry, and we are interested in cooperation - may be with Western companies, to produce weapons in Hungary. We think that NATO is defensive coalition, not aggressive. 

- How do you see the future of countries of EU with regard to migration crisis? How to prevent this catastrophe?

- From all the continents only Europe is opening its doors and taking all these so-called refugees or migrants. No other continent is ready to take that number of uncontrolled masses. Hungary is not supporting that.

The future of EU is marked by two cleavages. The first and biggest cleavage is between North and South – the Eurozone.

The euro is too expensive for the South (France, Italy, Portugal, Greece and Spain), they are not happy with it. The Germans and northern part of Eurozone are not able to make any offer to the South. It`s the goal of Mr. Macron – he wants French-German understanding how to finance the South of Eurozone. The Germans are not able and are not willing to to finance the South without structural reforms. But the South doesn`t want any structural reforms. 

Some countries like Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic are not in Eurozone. We don`t have any major debt. Some countries can`t leave Eurozone - if you leave Eurozone, you have to pay the debts, and the South is not able to pay it. And Germans don`t have any chance on us, we use Hungarian forints, the Polish use zloty and the Czechs use koruna.

Second cleavage because of the question of souvereignity, especially migration is between the East and the West. 

We want to keep our sovereignty – not only in migration question, but also in others. We don`t want to transfer our sovereignty to Brussels. So, they are trying to make pressure on us, that`s why this “democracy procedure”. And the Germans will use the migration as a tool to make a federal Europe. They failed with the euro. The Germans want to show, that we have to manage it only together. They want to use the crisis to show that only federal Europe can act in this crisis. 

So, the migration crisis is the tool for Brussels to take our sovereignty. Because in this case the border control should be transferred to EU, and the decision – who is a migrant or refugee – should be made by Brussels. And the decision of relocation and social benefits is also should be made by Brussels… And so, this refugee crisis is a tool for the Germans and Brussels to enhance their power, to take the sovereignty. We don`t want it.

It`s a political battle, and I hope we can win this battle, because the mood in Western Europe changed. Most Western Europeans don`t want to have migrants anymore.

The 4th of September, 2015. Fornoon. Budapest, at Eastern Railway Station. Photo: wikimedia commons

Of course, there are 2 alternatives. We have aging society, and we have a shortage on manpower, especially in physical works (like building) - everywhere, even in Hungary. We want to deal it by supporting the Hungarian families – we don`t want to import people, we don`t want the foreigners with different culture and religion. It`s a policy to support our own families, middle-class families. If you want to have the second and third child, it shouldn`t lead to the poverty. The Polish are doing the same: there give generous benefits paid by bank tax on western banks.

In Hungary, if you have achild – then you get a tax credit, if you`re unemployed – you can`t benefit. It`s not against any minority, it`s against people who are not working and not sending their kids to school. If you`re working, you can benefit regardless on your background. Your child should attend school, and you should work. In earlier times, if you had many kids, you had more benefits. It`s not good – if you sit at home with 6 children, get money and are not compelled to work – then they grow up with that example and can also have 6 children and not to work. 

Other alternative is the German – to have more migrants, and hoping, that after the first generation with only 20-30% working, the next generation of migrants attending German schools and vocational training, will work at 40-50%, and the third generation will work at 60-70%. They hope, that the working parents are contributing with their work and tax to the social costs of raising children, so it should become a self-financing system, and the German taxpayer has “only” to cover the starting costs for the first 3-5 years.

It’s only working on paper, because the German social system is still too attractive to many migrants (as the Hungarian was before 2010 for many underclass families), pushing them to have many kids and earning free social housing and family support. Many non-Europeans, especially Muslims tend to orthodox values, where women are less educated and less active on the labour market.

Our way is more difficult. But people agree with that as the election result shows.