Budapest, 7 September 2015
Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for giving me the floor, Péter. Allow me to welcome former minister János Martonyi, and to greet to the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament. I am pleased to see Mrs. Katalin Szili. Let me see if there is anyone else from the opposition; there is no democracy without members of the opposition. Where are they? László? Good morning, former foreign minister Kovács, I welcome you warmly, too; I am happy to see you as well. Is there anyone here from Jobbik? No one? Never mind. (Laughter)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Indeed, as Péter (Szijjártó) has said, we last met in March. In light of the latest news, we could say, of course, that a great many things have changed; but in actual fact, the essence of our message and the ideological and spiritual premise for our meeting today have not changed at all. In March too, we established that Hungary must have an independent foreign policy. The essence of an independent foreign policy is that it is based on the interests of the Hungarian people, and its yardstick is the prosperity of the Hungarian people. Our conviction in this led us to talk about this in the spring of this year. If a foreign policy is submissive and is driven by the desire for accommodation, it shackles itself, and is unable to meet the expectations that we might wish to aspire to; in other words, it is a fundamental interest of the Hungarian people that Hungary should have a foreign policy which is based on the premise that Hungary’s best interests are of the utmost importance, and its foreign policy should be implemented around the world by people who believe this.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
If we were in a country other than Hungary this might merely be a platitude, as Hungarian foreign policy also has traditions of a different kind. Hungarian politics has another, well-defined tradition and school of foreign policy. I do not want to speak disparagingly of foreign policy doctrines, the content of which I dispute, but whose intellectual quality is otherwise sound. This is a foreign policy of conformity, which always sees the Hungarian interest best served by following the actions of others. A very strong strain of this tradition survives amongst us, and this is what we would like to reverse. This tradition is strengthened by the unfair international attacks we are subjected to on a daily basis. There is an instinct to comply, in particular if you are not sitting in this warm, cosy place (and I apologise, Péter), but if you are elsewhere, out there in the cold – or, for the youngsters, if you are a G. I. Joe, and you must continuously stand your ground in a place where you, your country and your government are under constant fire. In such circumstances, these old reflexes to conform – which stem from that other, old school of foreign policy – suddenly become an understandable personal and spiritual need. And if you are not sufficiently steeled and your position is not hammered firmly into the ground it may well occur that, for understandable human reasons, you do not represent Hungarian interests, but you find yourselves trying to represent Hungary’s best interests by causing the least possible unpleasantness within your personal network of relations. This is a serious problem. All of us who enter the international scene have to cope with this. From my own experience, I recommend that your hormonal system reacts to this political situation in quite the opposite manner. The more you are attacked, the more staunchly you should state your case, rather than the more softly, compliantly or cunningly; you should represent your position all the more clearly and politely, in very simple terms. Should you defend your personal comfort zone, should you soften, you cannot defend your position; you can only do so if you harden yourselves. Be polite, flexible and friendly, but do not give an inch on the position which you are required to represent. This is the most important thing I would like to ask of you.
You can see that we live in a hypocritical world, and in this department we are hundreds of years behind others. Whether this is to our credit, or we should hold it against ourselves, I cannot decide. One certainly does not appreciate hypocrisy in one’s own family. You, who meet representatives from international politics more frequently than I do, may have a better idea of how far this accords with international politics. The essence of the matter is, however, that we live in a hypocritical world. The French foreign minister attacks us because of our fence, while the French prime minister erects one. We Hungarians might think that we should be ashamed of ourselves if we said such a thing. Such statements are an embarrassment to those who make them, aren’t they? They don’t think so. The Austrians say that more of us go to their country than might be desirable; but if we look at the figures, we see that far more Austrians go to Germany than Hungarians to Austria. If we said something similar we would feel ashamed: we would say that we had been found out, that our words and deeds were at odds, which is a bad thing. But they are not bothered. I would therefore like to remind you that your starting-point should always be the Hungarian interest, and not what your counterparts say – and in particular you should not rely on the articles on foreign affairs which they commission. And please represent the stance which your state secretaries and the Foreign Minister ask you to represent.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We should now talk about the most important question at hand: the price being paid for a set of blundering policies in world affairs. We all know that the process we are in the midst of – or if you like, the process which kicked the door in on us – is not without precedent. If a major international player decides that they wish to overthrow a government which they happen to dislike, say in Libya, they risk causing a state of chaos: in other words, the risk that the former government will not necessarily be replaced by an organised opposition. We send Gaddafi packing because he does not conform to certain Western European and American interests and does not conform to certain ideals of universal human rights. The world feels it has the moral authority – and we ourselves supported these measures – to remove him. In the wake of this a state of chaos emerges, because there is no longer any country holding back the masses setting out from the interior of Africa in the hope of a better life. And these people will come here, to Europe. I clearly remember what Prime Minister Berlusconi told us when we, the leaders of the European Union, were discussing what we should do: should Gaddafi go? Should Gaddafi stay? Should we take action against him? What should be done and how? At the time, Berlusconi told us clearly that he had an agreement with him, a financial and political pact, as part of which Libya guaranteed the protection of its borders on the European side, and therefore Italy did not have to worry about a flood of migrants from that region. He told us this plainly. He asked the great western powers not to destroy Libya without plans to curb the flood of migrants coming from the heart of Africa. A similar example was the international decision that an intervention needed to be carried out in Syria, and the West deployed the most sophisticated available military technology. As an ally, we were also involved through our tacit support, and therefore I am now not talking about the responsibility of others but about the responsibility of the wider western, Atlantic political community which we are part of. No one considered an action plan for the possible state of anarchy which could easily emerge in the wake of such an intervention. To put it in more precise terms, the United States did prepare for this eventuality: as you may have seen yesterday, they announced that they will not accept refugees – either from Syria or elsewhere. The same international law applies to everyone: the refugee conventions are as binding on them as they are on us. Yet a number of countries, with Australia taking the lead, made it clear that they would not accept migrants or refugees. America took the same stance, and so did Israel. Only the day before yesterday, the Gulf States – which belong to the same religious and cultural community as the people heading for Europe now – announced that they will not accept migrants or refugees. Only Europe is doing so! Everyone is prepared for an eventuality which is undesirable but which may well come about. Everyone has made a policy decision, and the citizens of every such country – Australia, the United States, Israel, and the Gulf States – can feel that their leaders are in control of the situation, adopting decisions and enforcing them. There is a single exception: we Europeans. This is the situation today, and you must stand your ground in this extremely difficult environment.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is also evident – and I can now tell you this first hand, as I had meetings with every leader of the European Union last week – that there is no plan of any kind for the management of this crisis situation. In the current situation the underlying problem is grave enough, but an even more serious problem is that there is no European plan for handling it. The plans which we have are not aimed at the problem, but its consequences. A quota system – whatever that may mean – is an expression of an idea to distribute people arriving in Europe among ourselves according to certain percentages or numbers, and so on. We find this unacceptable, because it seeks to address the consequences, rather than the cause. The cause is that Europe is today unable to exercise control over its external borders. As long as we fail to control our external borders, we cannot tell how many people we shall be eventually forced to distribute. We were initially talking about 40,000, then 120,000, and now we are talking about 500,000. And if millions more continue to arrive – and I believe that millions more will arrive – and if the leaders of Europe fail to change their policy, shall we distribute them all? The Hungarian position is against quotas. The Hungarian position does not exclude the possibility of talking about a quota system at some point in time, in a fair manner; we have a problem with its timing. We must adopt the position of “first things first”, as the Americans say. As long as we are unable to protect Europe’s external borders, there is no point in discussing the fate of migrants at a political level, but we can talk about it at an expert level. It is absurd when you think about it. In a news item from last night, I think, the Germans said how many billions of euros they will spend on migrants arriving in their country, instead of giving that money to the countries neighbouring crisis zones where people who are now coming here in large numbers can first be given refuge. Everyone would be better off if they did not come here. This is important. It would cost less, and there could be no moral objection to our conduct. Instead, we choose not to protect our borders, they come here, and we are then faced with financial burdens many times greater.
It would make far more sense for the European Union to set up a fund – according to some reports, there are such funds – from which we would agree to provide financial aid to the countries which are important for us now in terms of managing the refugee problem in their region. First of all I could mention Turkey. This is the key, Ladies and Gentlemen, because I believe it is an illusion – one which many European politicians share today – that we shall somehow send them back at some point. Sending back anyone who is already here would present far greater political risks, would cause more human suffering and would cost substantially more money. Conflicts should be managed where they emerge. Who will send hundreds of thousands or millions of people back from here? Hungary is in a fortunate position because here we will not have hundreds of thousands, or millions. But who will send them back from Germany? As things stand now, not even Austria will have to face this problem, because everyone is leaving Austria for Germany. Who will undertake this task? Who will make the decisions which are necessarily related to this? Families will have to be transported, by air and by rail. Who will take this risk, when a sizeable proportion of European public opinion has expressly welcomed these people? There is no agreement in the countries of Western Europe – unlike Hungary, where surveys show people’s views with perfect clarity, and where we succeeded in finding areas of agreement with the aid of the National Consultation. Elsewhere there is a wide gap between the will of the majority of the public and the will of the political elite.
I feel compelled to say that in most European countries – I could honestly say in ninety per cent of European countries – there is a gap between the opinion of the people and the policy pursued by the elite. (I am not going to mention which countries – not a single one – to spare our Foreign Minister the time-consuming task of having to receive ambassadors.) In a democracy this is a serious problem. This difference may be covered up for a while with, say, orchestrated journalism. And if you look at the press of one country or another (I myself check it every day), no one could reasonably claim that there is no orchestrated journalism. We stand accused of causing problems for press freedom; but if one surveys the entire Hungarian press for its depiction of the migrant crisis, if one examines the various voices and tones, if one looks to see how opinions diverge, one finds a much broader spectrum than in the press of the countries which believe themselves to be – entirely without foundation – more advanced than our own. This is not a philosophical question, or a question of media law; this is a question of facts. Every morning more proof emerges that there are orchestrated opinions on these issues. I am not accusing anyone of personally controlling the press or public opinion; I am not even claiming that political leaders guide these opinions. I am merely pointing out that western societies are constructed in a way that makes it possible to pursue policies there over a longer period – I mean weeks, rather than years – with apparent public support, which the majority of the people do not actually support; but even there, this cannot go on indefinitely. Those countries are more developed democracies than we are, and therefore their leaders are able to distance themselves more from the people. This is less possible in a less developed democracy such as Hungary; here, we must immediately integrate public opinion into our policies: there is less tolerance, and if we pursue a policy contrary to their view the public show tolerance for a much shorter period. There is a limit everywhere, however, and this is what is creating internal tensions within European politics, because everyone feels that things cannot go on like this forever. The public’s voice will have to be heard sooner or later. The people of Europe will regain their ability to influence politics sooner or later, as this is their constitutional right – it is just a question of time. I am certain that, sooner or later, there will be a different migration policy in Europe – one that will stand on different foundations. Such a policy must be developed, as a democratic system cannot live with this internal contradiction for long, and Western Europe is unquestionably a democracy. It will therefore have to resolve this internal contradiction, too, one way or another.
I would merely like to say this in the context of areas of agreement: though it is not on the agenda of this group, it is nonetheless useful to look at some other professions, and to look at the mysterious art of political strategy. This is pursued in the Prime Minister’s Office, in the Prime Minister’s immediate vicinity: advisors are familiar with this world. In this world – at least in Hungary, and certainly ever since we have been in office – there is a professional consensus. According to this, whenever we see a problem – a difficult issue, or rather several difficult issues – on the horizon, we seek to reach areas of agreement between the people and the Government before it looms larger, before its weight starts to crush the entire spectrum of Hungarian politics and before it culminates in a crisis. Our opponents always joke about the National Consultation, and we sometimes give them ammunition; however, the essence of the National Consultation is to create an area of agreement on the most difficult issues in good time. It is not just about legitimacy, something that the Government can refer to – but that is not irrelevant. We must have a genuine area of agreement to directly explore people’s opinions with our questions. And if out of eight million people one million send the questionnaires back, it means that they probably discussed the question at home, over the kitchen table or somewhere, they must have given it some thought, they must have spent some time pondering the issue and, by ticking the boxes, they stated that this is their opinion on the question. These are important things. This is why we are able to stand by our migration policy. The Government’s position on migration is uncompromising – because one million out of eight million people responded, and 85–90 per cent of them told us clearly what they want. They also told us what they do not want. So there is an area of agreement in Hungarian politics, and several areas of agreement on migration, which gives democratic stability to the functioning of the Hungarian government. If this were not the case, there would be the sort of wavering which we observe daily in democracies west of us, where public opinion is solely expressed through the press. In politics – in particular, in modern politics – we must stand with both feet on the ground. We are not talking about gaining people’s votes, which is also important, and the time to talk about that will come in 2018. But until then, we must gain the support of the majority of the people for specific decisions, and there is no other way to achieve this than by resorting to these methods. These are valuable methods and valuable areas of agreement which now exist.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Speaking in specific terms, I have to say that at the very end, in a few months’ time – perhaps in as long as one or two years’ time – the current debates about whether there should be quotas, whether one is allowed to build fences, and if not, why others should be allowed to do so, and how many more migrants will come, will eventually be replaced by a single final debate. By this I do not want to say that the current issues are not important: whether we should distribute migrants amongst ourselves, who is a refugee and who is a migrant, or whether they can be sent back (and in a minute I am going to tell you where they should be sent back to and who should take them back). These are all important issues; but we shall eventually come to a debate which will first emerge in circles of the ideologically-motivated intelligentsia in the West, will then penetrate the realm of politics, and will finally reach Hungary. The question is whether a country has the right to declare that it does not wish to change its own ethnic-cultural composition suddenly and dramatically as a result of external intervention. Does a country have the right to say it does not want this? Or do we have to subject ourselves to the international liberal doctrine (I apologise for introducing ideology), which says that everyone is free to choose where they wish to live in the world? And that those who already live somewhere do not have the right to say whom they want to or do not want to live together with? This will be the very end of the debate. This is the point we shall reach. In my statements I am preparing the Hungarian position by degrees, as you may observe, and therefore current issues and the Hungarian positions to be taken in the long-term debate usually emerge side by side. I suggest that everyone should prepare for having to take a stance on this issue at the very end. I do not wish to engage in the debate now; I would merely like to point out to you that we have a position on this debate. The National Consultation provides us with firm support in this respect also. Our position is a sovereign position, according to which every nation, every community, every state has the right to decide on its own development. This is why we do not have the right to influence or to even pass judgement on the attempts of other countries to live with large communities which are based on religious and cultural foundations which are different from those traditionally found there. I believe we should not in any way judge France for choosing to have – or at least accepting – a society in which eight to ten per cent of the population is from the Muslim community. And based on demographic calculations – and this is pure mathematics – indigenous French people have also decided that in the future they shall live in a society in which that community will form an increasingly large percentage. That is their decision. Obviously, the Germans also made their own decision with respect to Turkish people some time ago, and have been making decisions on this ever since. I believe that we must not pass judgement on these decisions, either from a political point of view, or based on reason, because it is the right of every people – a given country’s indigenous people – to decide with whom they want to live.
Likewise, it is a historical feature of Hungary and a given – regardless of what anyone may think about it, whether one likes it or not – that it is home to hundreds of thousands of Roma. Someone, at some point in time, decided on this, and this is a situation which we have inherited. This is our situation, this is a given which no one can object to or call into question in any way and which we accept in our life. At the same time, however, we cannot require others – in particular, others to the west of us – to follow suit, and demand that they should also live with a substantial Roma minority. What is more, when members of our Roma minority decide to leave for Canada, we want to make it very clear that we would like them to stay, and that we want to solve the formidable problems involved in our co-existence so that they can stay. We expect the same of others as that which we expect of ourselves. Others, too, must treat us in the same way. On this we must not interfere in their affairs, but likewise they must not interfere in Hungary’s desire or refusal to change its current state, its current cultural-ethnic composition, through any refugee or immigration policy, or any other method. Because if the Hungarian people decide that things are fine the way they are, thank you very much, no one has the right to tell us to change – to tell us to live with a substantial and ever-growing Muslim community. No one has the right to demand this of us, and at the end of the debate this is what we shall have to say in very clear terms.
Later we need to make some distinctions, but the time has not yet come. As we are gathered here in order to prepare for the future, however, I would like to tell you a little about these future directions. First of all, we do not have a problem with Islam. To clarify: I do not know what is in people’s heads, as that is to some extent a private affair, and there are also some people who have problems with Christianity; but in a political sense, Hungary will not take an anti-Islamic stance. We look upon Islam as an intellectual and spiritual structure which has great merits and which created entire civilisations over a considerable part of the world. We do not live in those civilisations, we live in the Christian civilisation, but we nonetheless recognise them. In those areas there are civilisations, instead of barbarism. Consequently, we do not wish to engage, and the Hungarian government does not wish to become entangled, in debates about the nature of Islam, and other issues which have permeated Western European politics and which, I believe, poison the atmosphere and in no way serve the cause of co-existence; we do not want these debates. It would not be wise under any circumstances if, in consequence of the current situation, our relations with countries which form part of Islamic civilisation were to be disrupted. Therefore, even if arrows may be fired at us from those parts – and fortunately there have been not quite as many recently as in the past – we must try and disregard them. Turkey is our friend, and it is our friend even if we tell them that we do not want to see a large Islamic community in Hungary. For all that, Turkey is our friend. And we do not have a problem with Turkey seeing Islam as a value to be integrated into its politics to some degree. That is their prerogative. The Gulf States are our friends. We would also like to come to an understanding with Iran. And this foreign policy has nothing to do with what we think about our own country’s cultural or ethnic composition.
The second important point on which we have to make a careful and fine distinction is that we have no problems either with the Muslim community living here in Hungary. Those who are here have found a good place to be. They are in Hungary in accordance with the law; they are not immigrants, but have come to Hungary over the last twenty to twenty-five years, have entered the country lawfully at designated border crossing-points, have asked permission to establish their businesses, and created a living in Hungary. We are perfectly happy to have kebab shops on our main streets. And at Easter we like to buy lamb from the local Syrian butcher. They have their own living, they have settled here, and contribute with their work to the value which Hungary generates year after year. Therefore, we shall continue to appreciate the Muslim community which we have in Hungary, but we do not at all wish to see a sudden and dramatic rise in their numbers as a result of external intervention. I know that these are seemingly contradictory ideas, but if we have sufficient intellectual power to express and to represent these ideas in a subtle manner (and if our ambassadors do not have that, no one does), I believe that you will be able to do just that. We do not criticise Islam as a civilisation, and we wish to strengthen our relations with countries forming part of that faith. We look upon the Islamic cultural communities living in Hungary as a valuable asset, and we do not wish to put them in awkward situations even at a verbal level; but we insist on Hungary’s current ethnic-cultural composition, and we do not want to recognise anyone’s right to force us to change that. This is more or less the position, the intellectual stance, which you will have to represent with respect to specific political issues. I ask you to choose the words that you use with regard to these more profound, underlying considerations, and to increase or lessen the strength of your message as necessary.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Border protection. What I am going to say might at first appear to be medieval, but as the Americans say the same thing, this medieval approach is probably acceptable. A country which has no borders or is unable to protect them, should the need arise, is no country at all. Naturally, the European Union made the right decision, also from our point of view, when it determined upon reducing the importance of borders between the Member States to a minimum. I would like to stress that it did not eliminate them, as there is still a border between Austria and Hungary. And there is a border between Germany and France as well; even if there is some dispute over where it should actually run, it is there nonetheless as designated in the relevant international conventions. The fact that there is no actual border control at these border crossing-points after we introduced a legal regime under special rules which does not employ joint border controls and which we commonly refer to as “Schengen” does not mean that there are no borders. There are borders. Our situation is different from, say, that of the Germans, who have no external EU borders: we have them. Hungary is in that group of countries which not only have borders internal to Europe (say towards Austria or Slovakia, where there is no border control now because under the Schengen Agreement we agreed to pretend that there are no borders), but which also have external borders which we have agreed to protect. If any of you took the time to look at the Schengen Agreement (I doubt that many of you regularly read it before going to bed, but let us assume that you did take a look), you would find that this is clearly laid down. This is not a recommendation, or a humble request, but a legal obligation: a country which signs up to the Schengen Agreement – i.e. does not patrol its borders neighbouring other EU Member States – must agree in return to protect any of its borders which are also external borders of the Schengen Area. This is part of the Schengen Agreement, and this is an obligation. Therefore it is the duty of Hungary, Greece, Italy, Spain and France, which all have such external borders, to protect these borders with their national forces, as national borders. Furthermore, in this Schengen Agreement – which one has recently been forced to study carefully and which has added new dimensions to one’s legal knowledge – one can find another provision, saying that the countries with such external borders must guarantee that non-EU nationals may only cross their external borders at the designated border crossing-points, during certain official hours. Let us now compare this with the reality. Imagine stationing ourselves, with the Schengen Agreement in hand, in Röszke, by the unmarked “green border”, and telling people – although it is unclear in what language we would speak to them – that the situation is as follows: there are Dublin regulations, Schengen and common European agreements; here is a border, and you are not allowed to cross it. Would you be so kind as to read this? The border crossing-point is over there, you must go there. It is night time, unfortunately, and you will have to go there during opening hours. Today this is the legal reality.
And there is a sociological reality which is vastly different from this. We must ask ourselves what we are going to do. Are we going to pretend that these legal obligations do not exist, and say that life has overruled the law? I would note that we could cite examples of genetically encoded attitudes dating from the communist era which we acquired as justifications for our own transgressions: “Do you seriously expect me to respect their laws?” We Hungarians understand the possibility of adjusting the law to our own needs, rather than our conduct to the law; but if Europe does this – and this is what Europe is doing now – this will cause major problems. It is not possible to maintain certain rules based on common agreements, while at the same time saying that they cannot be enforced in reality. If these two part company, it will first eliminate the Schengen system, and bring with it the risk of more physical borders elsewhere, in the interior of the European Union, rather than on its external borders. And then we shall forfeit freedom of movement, which will in turn destroy trust, as one Member State will not believe that another is unable to protect its borders, assuming that it really does not want to protect them, and is merely shifting the problem on to others. Here I could mention Greece as the focus of such a crisis of trust. Greece should provide border control, which could prevent illegal migrants reaching Hungary. We would not have any problem at all if the Greeks duly performed the required registration and separated refugees from migrants; if that was the case, Hungary would not have any problem on the Serbian-Hungarian border, and therefore neither would the Austrians and the Germans. However, the Greeks are not following the rules. We can now start wondering why Greece, which is our ally and with which we sympathise in its current plight, does not follow the rules. Is it unable to follow the rules, or unwilling to? And so we see the beginnings of the erosion of trust, the very foundation of the European Union. In response to this presumption we create legislation, and everyone knows that it was passed because we do not believe the Greeks (but this is something that no one will admit to), and the whole thing will turn into a hypocritical legal system in which the moral requirements on compliance are continuously loosened, as everyone knows how they were conceived. This is a dead-end street. We cannot build, maintain or operate the European Union like this. In other words, if we have regulations – European regulations which are based on common agreements – they must be observed. This is the dilemma Hungary is facing. And we do not want to say: “Dear Austrian brothers, dear German friends, when we allow people to cross the border, this is a situation which was caused by the Greeks, and that’s that”. Having signed the Schengen Agreement, we insist on complying with it. The problem is that right now we are unable to do so.
The Hungarian state should arrive at a point at which, if it demands that from tomorrow morning its borders can only be crossed at designated border stations, according to prescribed procedures, it should be able to enforce this decision. Do you think we could enforce this today? We cannot. We cannot, because there is no physical border between Serbia and Hungary. Or at least if a line can be a physical border, there is no physical structure above that line which would enforce the rule that no one can cross the Hungarian state border other than at designated border stations. This is why migrants are pouring in: because we are unable to enforce this rule. When we saw that this situation could arise, we decided on the construction of – what is the PC term for it? – the temporary border security fence, or simply the fence. We were perhaps also aware that we were pressed for time: it was not possible to build a fence like the one the Spanish had built, or the one erected by the French, who proudly boast about it at home and deny its existence in their external communication – but that is another story. We needed to build a tall border fence with good technical parameters as a durable, long-term solution, and at the same time a rapidly-erected wire border fence in front of it. We needed to build the two simultaneously, and once complete, we will have to maintain them both until the current madness subsides. The problem is that, while we are of course making progress with the construction work, time is ticking away. It is in the elementary interests of us all, including the European Union – and whatever they may be saying, it is equally in the best interests of the Austrians and the Germans – that we should not act like Greece. Hungary should not behave like Greece, but should have the will and the ability to protect its external borders. To this end we need a physical line, a physical structure, which the military – and I ask the opposition not to tie our hands, but to make it possible for us to deploy the army for these purposes – can control, together with the police and members of other authorities with border surveillance powers.
The opposition has every reason to ask whether there is any guarantee that this will be sufficient. There is no guarantee. One thing is certain: we must do everything that is humanly possible. This also has moral implications, to which I shall return in a minute. As I said, there is a dimension under international law, and there is a clear national interest which dictates that we should do everything we humanly can. If a decision is adopted that the borders must be protected, I expect members of the Government – the Defence Minister, the Interior Minister, and in general every member of the Government responsible for border control – to ensure that our borders are protected. This is a question of suitability. Not just a question of the suitability of individuals, but also a question of the suitability of the Hungarian defence and police forces. We keep them, pay them and respect them, and we have good reason to do so – particularly in the case of the police. They have performed their law enforcement duties to the highest standards and have been able to control events without resorting to physical force or using minimal force, so that we have managed to preserve the physical safety and property of migrants and Hungarians alike. A few hundred police officers will take their oaths in the next few months, to protect Hungary’s external border to the best of their abilities, within the boundaries of the law, and to thereby protect the Schengen system, and ultimately Hungary’s EU membership. This is a European obligation. I sincerely hope that the Hungarian law enforcement agencies will be able to fulfil this obligation. In this respect we are not sparing human or financial resources; we shall make any number of people and any amount of money available. This job must be done. Otherwise we could find ourselves in a situation similar to that of Greece.
Let us now also talk a little about the issue of moral responsibility. After all, these are human issues, there are millions of people on the road, and many of them have set out from countries where there are indeed armed conflicts – even if the majority do not come from regions like that. The ratios are changing spectacularly. The percentage of migrants coming from the interior of Africa is rising continuously, and we also see the appearance of migrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh. Even if these people are not coming from war zones, they have somehow covered thousands of kilometres, mostly on foot, and in some cases together with their families. It is therefore unavoidable that we should respond to this situation on an emotional level also; in order to relate emotionally, we must clarify the issue of responsibility, and in particular the issue of moral responsibility. And I would very much like you to succeed in this process, even if intellectually it is a very difficult one. In politics – in which you yourselves are serving – or in constitutional law, the nature of responsibility is linked to the outcome. There is ultimate responsibility for the outcome. When you find yourselves judged at the appropriate time, whether in this world (not something I would wish for, although there have been plenty of moments like this in Hungarian history) or in the next, you will not be asked what your intentions were, but what the outcome of your decisions was. In politics, one does not bear responsibility for intentions; the only responsibility that exists is for outcomes. This somewhat distinguishes our line of work from most other jobs in daily life. Nonetheless, we are responsible for the outcome. I am not going to name names, or even countries, but if someone keeps saying that we abide by the Dublin Convention, and it is now time to distribute migrants in Europe based on quotas, it sounds like a legally appropriate proposition. it is a positive proposition in its intentions, but despite these intentions it is a terrible idea, because the outcome of this will be that the people concerned will take this as a message that they can come to no harm, they are free to come as they have done up to now, they may cross borders illegally as they have done so far, and they will eventually find shelter and accommodation somewhere. From nations’ points of view, quotas mean a sharing of burdens: the burden which each nation agrees to share. But for a person who has walked two thousand kilometres, quotas are not about burdens, but about getting shelter somewhere and, regardless of the underlying intentions, the message is taken as an invitation. It is this outcome that we bear responsibility for. Our moral responsibility, too, is linked to the outcome, rather than to our intentions; and regardless of our intentions, our political decision has encouraged millions to set out, and for this we must accept our share of moral responsibility. This is why it is very important to make it clear, and this is why I put it as plainly as I do, almost with the harshness of sandpaper, when I say: ‘Do not come’. I beseech those who wish to come to Europe through Hungary: ‘Do not come’. I say this for moral reasons, because we Hungarians cannot be responsible for what may happen to you on the way. We are not encouraging you to set out on this journey. And I, and we Hungarians, cannot accept responsibility if the sea claims your lives. Do not risk your lives and the lives of your children for the sake of an illusion. Do not come, you will not be able to cross the border. As you are not refugees (and I shall come back to this in a minute), but migrants, Hungary will act in accordance with the rules on migrants. Hungary will not let you in, or will send you back. Therefore you should not risk your children’s lives.
These people – and we are coming to a very important point here – are no longer fleeing to safety. Turkish refugee camps may not be the most comfortable places, very probably are not what you would dream about, and may not offer the life we would like for ourselves, but those who are already in a Turkish refugee camp are safe. They have already moved away from the area where their lives were at risk, day in and day out. Those who have reached Greece are already safe, as no one in Greece will persecute them. Those who have reached Macedonia are already safe, and are no longer fleeing for their lives: they want something else. Those who have reached Serbia are safe: they want something other than safety. And those who have reached Hungary are already safe, and are not fleeing for their lives; if they want to move on, they want something else. Migrants who have reached Austria and travel on to Germany are not fleeing for their lives, because their lives are not in danger in Austria – so they want something else. And we must face up to the fact that these people do not simply want refugee status, but they want refugee status in Germany. That is a big difference! Because in fact, they simply picked out the German lifestyle as something they see as desirable. They could live in Macedonia, or Turkey, or Greece, or Hungary, but they do not want to. They want to live a German life, and they want to go there. This has nothing to do with safety. This has nothing to do with the moral responsibility we bear for a person fleeing for their life, and we must therefore treat them as migrants rather than as refugees. We understand this because life in Germany is certainly better than life in a refugee camp in Turkey, or in Greece, or in Hungary. If this were not the case, Hungarians would not go to Germany for work. But they want a German life. And if we do not make this clear to ourselves, but allow highly visible emotions to force us to assume a false moral responsibility, we shall make the wrong political decisions. We may even make decisions which are morally well-founded in terms of intentions, but catastrophic – almost criminal – in terms of outcomes. We simply must not do this. We must therefore speak in clear and straightforward terms: if you have your life, you are not in danger, and have fled, it is better for you to stay in Turkey or in Greece, rather than try to come to the European Union through Hungary. And if you want to emigrate to the European Union, the EU has rules for that. Every country has its rules on immigration. If you wish to live in Hungary, whether as a migrant or as a refugee, an application can be submitted in Athens at the Embassy of Hungary – or I believe, at the Embassy of Germany there also. We will assess your application. We have our own rules, and at the end of the procedure we will tell you whether, if you are refugee, you should stay here or under international conventions you should move to another country. If you are a migrant, we will tell you whether we want you to live here, whether we need you, and whether we can find a place for you. Because we are the ones who best know how many people we are able to provide jobs for and to care for at the same level as Hungarians; and we can only provide jobs and care for a number of people which does not upset our own system.
From this viewpoint, I think that what the Catholic Church said recently is very wise. Even heretics are free to express their appreciation here, as it is perfectly obvious that if private individuals take on burdens in this situation – for instance, in the form of donations for the needy, or the church organises collections or decides to give from its own resources – they are not doing a bad thing from an economic point of view. It cannot be harmful to the national economy and may, in fact, be beneficial. I do not want to go into complicated arguments here about purchasing power and spending, et cetera, but it may well be beneficial for the economy. If, however, the burdens fall heavily on countries, and their budgets need to pick up the bill, it means that those economies will not be able to grow. The ratios of production and distribution will change, the ratios of funds available for the development of the economy and welfare expenditure will change, and a great many other things will change, which may easily push those countries towards economic disaster. Several experts have argued in this vein. This is why I think it is very reasonable that the Catholics – and of course, two thousand years is two thousand years – wisely send the world the message that individuals and churches must take on their own share of responsibility, rather than state budgets. And this distinction is extremely important, because otherwise we would destroy the Christian welfare states. I think this is an important distinction which we rarely talk about, but it is perhaps important to mention here.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Is there anything else worth mentioning in the sixteenth minute of my lecture? Yes. I could perhaps supply you with an argument or two regarding the quota system. What is the situation now? The situation is that we are a flock, all twenty-eight of us, and our leaders have told us that quotas are a good thing. All twenty-eight of us must therefore repeat that quotas are a good thing, but there is one sheep in the flock which says: “Hold on a minute!” Of course, the sheep with the bell around its neck leads the way and must be followed, and so far so good; but is it absolutely certain that we have carefully considered this? Is it absolutely certain that we have thoroughly considered every angle? Is it absolutely certain that the quota system will resolve the problem of migrants flooding across the green border in their thousands every day? And mentioning quotas, are they mathematically defined in relation to something? And can you tell what the total is that they will be defined in relation to? Forty thousand? Five hundred thousand? One million? Ten million? How many will come? Ladies and Gentlemen, shouldn’t the calculation of quotas come after first protecting our borders, so that we know precisely how many people we are talking about, and can then determine who will take on what percentage? But even if we were to reach the stage, Ladies and Gentlemen, of talking about the distribution of migrants within the Schengen Area, are we going to fit electronic tags on their ankles? Will people granted leave to stay in the European Union all be sitting in a row, and told: ‘You’re going to Tartu, you’re going to Southern Portugal, you’re going somewhere around Frankfurt, and you are to settle down on the outskirts of Vienna’? And what if they do not want to? Or if we take them there, will we chain them to make them stay? How will this work? Has anyone thought through how this will work within the EU and its system of free movement? We are talking about this, at the level of slogans, instead of about the need to protect the borders so that we may at least find out who it is we are to give asylum to and assess the magnitude of the problem; and about whether this whole scheme should be compulsory or not. I believe that when they consider that here we are, the twenty-eight of us, as a flock, they will find that a black spot will appear, and that one will be the black sheep of the flock. I sincerely hope that when that black sheep says in the name of reason that we should stop and clarify a few questions first, it will not feel uncomfortable. You are not the ones who should feel uncomfortable.
At the same time, be cooperative, because the other twenty-seven (or however many of them there are, as I am perhaps being unfair to the Visegrád countries, given that they, too, stop to ask the same questions as we do) are right to say that the problem is one that is worth working on for the benefit of all. Because it is true, on the one hand, as I said, that everyone wants to go to Germany, and this is, of course, a German problem. But Germany is part of the European Union, and Chancellor Merkel is right about this. If Germany is part of the European Union, a German problem is also a European problem. So we should not quarrel, and should not be inflexible, and above all not be patronising towards our twenty-seven partners in the EU, but should be cooperative, friendly and flexible, without giving an inch on our own position in the absence of reasonable arguments. This is what I am asking of you. Politics is a difficult world, a club of street fighters, but today the street is called the press, or communication. And of course rules do not count for anything in this environment. In the international press no one will have any qualms about reporting that migrants are treated inhumanely in Hungary. In contrast with this, what is the truth? The truth is that everyone who comes here must register under the Schengen regulations, we must ascertain their identities, and they must complete a form so that we know that they are who they claim to be. We then give them accommodation, shelter, food, water and medical care in designated locations which can be readily reached. What is more, we even take them there if they want us to. But it is not possible for a few hundred people to decide that they will not register, sit down by the side of the road, and say that from now on this is where they want their food and drink, this is where the doctor should come to see them, and then chant the name of the German Chancellor and Germany because they want to go there, so they demand to be taken there immediately. This will not do. And I believe no one has the right to demand this of us, however desperate their situation might be.
It is absurd that Hungary takes action against its own citizens in order to enforce compliance with transparent rules. If a Hungarian crosses the border illegally, we punish them. If a Hungarian walks across the green border into Serbia, they are committing a misdemeanour. What is more, if they cross the green border into Austria, it also qualifies as a misdemeanour. And then are people other than us free to do so? And are we to assist them in this? Let us just think about the absurdity of all this. Therefore, I think that the Hungarian position is both humane and consistent. Migrants must cooperate with the authorities, must be identified and registered in compliance with European regulations, and we then offer them the option of going to gathering points where they are given food, drink, accommodation and medical care; in fact, we ask them to avail themselves of these services. This is where we stand now. This situation will change on the Hungarian side, Ladies and Gentlemen, on 15 September, as the Hungarian Parliament – and I would like to take this opportunity to express my thanks for its cooperation, even though it was not unanimous – voted for new regulations which raise the level of protection of Hungary’s external borders. Representatives voted for regulations which make it clear that illegal border crossing is not a minor offence carrying a penalty of 20,000 forints, but one which is punishable by imprisonment or deportation. And human trafficking is not some casual way to supplement one’s income (even if those who are willing to join this business on the Hungarian side may otherwise find it convenient), but a crime: a very serious crime, which carries a sentence of several years in prison, and full confiscation of property.
These will be the new rules from 15 September. The reason they are not being introduced tomorrow morning is that the new regulations are very much stricter than the former ones. And such tight regulations cannot be implemented immediately, even on the border. Everyone must be given time to prepare. This is why, for instance, we are pursuing a flyer campaign right now in Serbia. This is why we shall use all available media to tell migrants: the situation on the borders of Hungary has changed, do not come, because you are liable to face deportation or several years in prison. It is to be hoped that we can send this message on our flyers in the right languages, and correctly, with a degree of linguistic accuracy worthy of Hungarian culture. We would also like to make it clear to human traffickers that, from 15 September, the risks involved in fishing in troubled water are higher than before. At the same time, we are also giving our police time to prepare and set up border surveillance units, as this is not the sort of job they have been used to doing in recent years. And the army and our soldiers must also be prepared, once the legislative authority is given; and I again ask the opposition to enable extension of this authorisation for the protection of the borders to situations in which there is no conflict, but in which the borders are threatened by a civilian invasion. So everyone has a few more days to prepare for this.
The question now is whether a genuine change – an improvement as far as we are concerned – will appear overnight on 16 September. We might hope so, but cannot reasonably think so. Partly because the opposition refused to support deployment of the army, we were unable to debate the bill promptly in Parliament, and this will only be possible at some time after 20 September, I hope. Therefore we shall not be able to deploy all our forces on 15 September, because there are constitutional restrictions, and in a less developed democracy such as ours, you can see that the Constitution must be observed. In more developed democracies I see there are more flexible solutions. I would again cite the example of the French-British border. However, we must observe these rules, and this is only right; this is the only feasible solution from a constitutional point of view. And I believe that we can only take confident, firm action if we know that we stand on ground which is completely stable from constitutional, legal and moral points of view. But even if a significant change does not appear overnight, one thing is certain: the Hungarian government will not back down and will make progress step by step while enforcing international regulations as well as Hungarian laws, and while equally asserting fundamental moral and human values.
I sincerely hope that we will make swift progress, and the occasion will soon arise when Hungary can tell its German and Austrian friends that Hungary’s southern border is secured; of course this will not mean that Hungary has closed its borders, as has been stated in the international media. That is rubbish, if you pardon the expression, because securing a border does not mean that it cannot be crossed at all. The Hungarian border can be crossed – at the designated points. Life will go on. The Serbian-Hungarian border will be just as open for crossing by legal means as it was before; it will only be secured against illegal border crossing. Our German and Austrian friends may rest assured that we shall enforce the Schengen Agreement and we shall comply with it; we shall not shift the burdens on to others, but shall bear them ourselves. To demonstrate to you how far ahead of us the others are in hypocrisy, and that this is a race that we must enter, let me just give you one tiny example: while it is obvious that far more migrants are coming to Hungary (at times, many times more) than to other countries with external borders – and once again I shall not name countries – the assistance given to them is this big, while the assistance we receive is this small. But there is no reason in getting upset about this, because this is life in Hungary. The task in hand is to succeed using our own resources. This is why I always say that we are not going to ask for a single penny. There are funds from which Hungary should be entitled to assistance, and of course we believe it would be fair if we got our share of assistance; but we shall not go to a single country to tell them that we have enormous difficulties, and plead with them to give us money. Hungary is a state – a one thousand-year-old state – which must be capable of relying on its own resources in protecting its external borders and enforcing law and order on those sections of border. If we have to rely on our own resources, so be it. If we are given assistance, we shall accept it, but we shall never blame a lack of assistance for any failure to meet our obligations.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Excellencies, Honourable Foreign Ministers Martonyi and Kovács, Dear Péter,
Thank you for your attention. It has been an honour to address you.