By the editorial board.
Hungary – After a long confrontation between Viktor Orbán and the EPP leaders, and following the European elections, Viktor Orbán had to answer questions from the “Wise Men” of the EPP. You can read the questions of the EPP and answers of Viktor Orbán below:
EPP: Is FIDESZ prepared to cease campaigning against European institutions, as has happened in the past, refrain from putting the EPP in a negative light and from personally attacking the EPPs leadership in speeches and articles?
Viktor Orbán: A strong FIDESZ contributes to the success of a strong EPP. The 53% support for FIDESZ-KDNP during the European elections is an EPP record.
It goes without saying that an integral element of democracy lies in respecting differing views. We have different opinions on certain policies. We are convinced that better decisions are made when they stem from debates. We reserve our right to openly criticize any institution of the European Union, the EPP, as well as their leaders whenever we disagree.
We criticize the European Commission for it has pursued a political role in the last 5 years. A political Commission pursuing its own political agenda jeopardizes the balance of the EU institutions while accelerating the unwanted federalization of the European Union at the expense of national sovereignty. We will always draw the attention to these anomalies and will inform our citizens for the sake of a better functioning European Union.
Finally, let me remind you that thanks to the honest and clear EU policy-making of the FIDESZ governments, the acceptance of the EU among Hungarians has been steadily growing since 2010. Today, our 70% acceptance rate is one of the highest numbers among the Member States.
EPP: Please explain what you mean by the expression “illiberal state”?
Viktor Orbán: The fact is when the liberals lose the elections in Poland or Hungary they immediately say that it is the end of democracy. In some Member States, liberals seem to think that a democrat can only be a liberal democrat, which is a contradiction in itself.
We are Christian democrats and we are differing nowadays at least in three aspects from the liberals: The first one is the conviction that family is fundamental, and family is based on one man and one woman. We believe that this needs to be protected, which the liberals deny. Secondly, while the cultural life of every country is diverse, a Leitkultur, a cultural tradition is present everywhere. In Hungary this is Christian culture. We respect other cultures, but our own has a prominent role for us, and it is our responsibility to preserve it. Liberals refuse this concept. The third aspect is that liberal democrats are everywhere pro-immigration while we are against immigration. So whether one admits it or not: Christian democrats are illiberals by definition.
EPP: When you say that you will not support the EPP if it forms a ‘pro-migration’ coalition at the European level, which other majority formations do you have in mind otherwise?
Our mandate is to represent a strong stance on migration. Migration will remain the biggest challenge in Europe for the next decades to come.
Still, migration is an issue, however, on which there will never be an agreement on a European level. Although the European left strives to convince the European electorate that migration is a non-issue, it contradicts all possible European surveys and data, and has in fact, dramatically altered Europe’s political landscape. The traditional left-right division has become obsolete and is increasingly replaced by a division shaped by different positions on migration.
Hungary has consistently represented its position based on the results of the referendum on migration.
EPP: Is FIDESZ prepared to adopt and implement decisions of European institutions that have been passed lawfully, in particular to comply with judgments of the European Court of Justice?
Viktor Orbán: It is a matter of fact that since 2010 legislative changes in Hungary have always been in the focus of attention in Europe. No Member State has ever been subject to such a thorough scrutiny as our country was during the last nine years.
The fact, that there has not been any Article 260 TFEU case against Hungary, demonstrates that we had always complied with the judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union. This is not the case for all Member States. Moreover the performance of the Hungarian court system is in the frontline according to the EU Justice Scoreboard.
EPP: How is the independence of ordinary jurisdiction, the Administrative Court and the Constitutional Court guaranteed – as questioned in the opinions by the Venice Commission? (Opinion 943/2018 of 19 March 2018 and Opinion 720/2013 of 17 June 2013)
Viktor Orbán: The fact is that with the Barroso Commission Hungary has concluded all the concerns raised before 2014.
Concerning the 2012 judicial reform, Hungary has satisfactorily closed the administrative and infringement procedures with the European Commission.
The administrative court system has a longstanding historical precedent in the Hungarian system. The court was abolished by Hungarian communists in 1949 as part of their efforts to undermine the rule of law. A multilevel administrative judiciary, institutionally independent from ordinary courts and from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, operates in several Member States.
EPP: In what way is the freedom of expression and the freedom of association, as referred to in Article 10/11 of the ECHR, in view of the concerns expressed by the Venice Commission in Opinion 720/2013 of 17 March 2013 and 919/2018 25 June 2018, ensured, in particular regarding the work of NGOs, the necessary possibility for consultation during asylum procedures as well as the intended criminal penalties?
Viktor Orbán: Challenges to the border control required new measures in line with the obligations arising from our EU membership, in particular the protection of the Schengen borders.
The overall purpose is to close the legal loopholes through which certain organizations are supporting migration and human trafficking under the guise of humanitarian assistance.
Migration must be interpreted in the context of national and public security.
It is a fact that the asylum seekers and those who qualify for international protection are provided with free state-guaranteed legal representation.
EPP: How do you plan to clarify the pending legal issues regarding the Central European University CEU in order to guarantee the freedom of expression, science and education?
Viktor Orbán: The CEU has made a voluntary decision to leave Hungary. We accepted their decision to move to Vienna. Any further question on the CEU belongs to the competence of the Austrian chancellor.
EPP: How is the freedom of religion safeguarded in Hungary, especially when referring again to the Opinion of the Venice Commission 720/2013 of 17.6.2013, which criticizes the lack of specific criteria for recognition and the lack of effective remedies against negative decisions; furthermore this Opinion expresses the concern that, in the context of the constitutional provision on the “dignity of the Hungarian nation”, clear conflicts of interpretation are to be expected?
Viktor Orbán: In Hungary we make a clear distinction between the legal status of historic (traditional) churches and the status of other religious communities. We are fully entitled to regulate it in this manner.
The fact is that the current number of established churches (32) is above the European average.
The latest amendment to the Church Act was adopted by the Hungarian National Assembly on 12 December 2018.
EPP: How will you significantly improve the fight against corruption – given the CPI Index 2018 by Transparency International, where Hungary ranks 64th (out of the EU Member States, only Greece has a worse ranking), OLAF’s complaint about inadequate public procurement and politically motivated assignments of contracts or the corruption in relation with the independence of the judiciary?
Vitkor Orbán: In January 2017 the new Public Procurement Act entered into force and electronic public procurements have been introduced.
As the 2017 OLAF Report also shows, in Hungary the indictment rate is 47% according to OLAF’s figure on the actions taken by national judicial authorities following its recommendations (issued between 1 January 2010 and December 2017), while the average in the EU Member States is 42%. Transparency International is an organization funded by Soros. It is obviously biased and motivated politically. We do not take their report into consideration.
EPP: Under which circumstances should it be possible to curtail the rights of NGOs and civil society, taking into account how important intermediate bodies between the state and the citizens are for a sound and well-functioning democracy?
Viktor Orbán: The right to freedom of association is guaranteed by the Fundamental Law of Hungary in line with the international standards.
The fact is that in Hungary more than 60.000 NGOs are operating. Existing and proposed EU law measures contain similar or more restrictive transparency requirements. We insist on the transparency of NGO financing.
EPP: How do you plan to improve the possibilities and rights of ethnic minorities in Hungary?
Viktor Orbán: Zero tolerance in case of any form of racism is provided by the Hungarian legislation and the Hungarian Government.
EPP: How do you ensure a lasting freedom of speech, plurality of media, and uncensored, unrestricted media reporting, as well as an independent, objective media authority – especially given the critical reports from the United Nations Rights Advisory Board and the Venice Commission Opinions (672/2012, 798/2015), which state massive concerns over media freedom and media diversity in light of the Hungarian media laws. How to avoid a concentration of media power in the bands of a few?
Viktor Orbán: The fact is that with the Barroso Commission Hungary has concluded all the concerns raised before 2014.
Today there is a clear dominance of highly government critical media outlets in Hungary: RTL Club is the largest commercial TV channel; ATV is the largest TV news channel; Népszava is the largest daily newspaper; HVG is the largest political weekly; and Blikk is the largest tabloïd newspaper. In the case of online portals, 80% of the Hungarian audience prefers leftist-liberal, government critical media platforms. Not to mention the unlimited free speech on the social media.
The “leftist-liberal” dominance in the Hungarian media market had not been changed by the establishment of the Central European Press and Media Foundation. Operating in the framework of a holding is common for media bodies in Europe, as the example of RTL group owner Bertelsmann Foundation or the British newspaper, Guardian shows. As a matter of fact, the plurality of the media is more restricted in Austria, in Germany and in Belgium than in Hungary.
EPP: lt will be critical to the evaluation for the EPP that not only the wording of individual laws and regulations but rather their overall context, functioning checks and balances, and above all the implementation and application of these rules in the spirit of the values of the European Union and the principles of the EPP will be applied and respected (see Helsinki Resolution 7/8 November 2018). Which guarantees can you give to the EPP that FIDESZ in the future will act in practice according to the principles as outlined in the resolution stated above?
Viktor Orbán: The protection of the rule of law is induced in our Constitution. We, the elected leaders of Hungary made our loyalty oath to the Constitution.
In order to facilitate a meaningful dialogue, please try to refrain from using such vague and undefined concepts as “spirit of the values” or “overall context”, if there are no objective and legal arguments.
EPP: +1: We wish to underline that the absence of European symbols on official buildings and those of the party is striking and, in part, a sign that FIDESZ does not share the same European commitment as other EPP member parties. However, that conviction is the foundation of our party.
Viktor Orbán: Sorry, this is a complete nonsense.