Orbán: The EU shouldn’t even begin discussing Ukraine’s EU accession
December 01. 2023. – 10:12 AM
Most Friday mornings, Hungary’s Prime Minister gives an interview on one of the public radio stations. Since the independent media has not had a chance to interview him for several years, these weekly radio interviews provide a rare opportunity for finding out what the leader of the country thinks about current events, how he sees his opponents and any issues at hand.
Speaking on public radio on Friday morning, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that his government was not about to veto Ukraine's potential EU accession, and added that this was a philosophical question.
There is no consensus among member states on this matter – because the Hungarian government has not agreed to it – so there will be no agreement that could be vetoed, he said. "We must not allow ourselves to be forced into a situation where we would feel remorse" for blocking something, Orbán explained, adding that Hungary’s national interest is not compatible with Ukraine joining the European Union.
He also said that in his opinion, the way to defend European unity is to not put issues on which there is no consensus on the agenda.
"The EU should not even begin to discuss Ukraine’s accession to the Union", he added. The Prime Minister said there were several reasons for why the Hungarian government thought this way. First of all, the process is not prepared, because preparation does not mean "writing up a document and having everyone read it", but EU leaders should have first spoken with everyone and aligned the different interests, he explained.
On the other hand, Ukraine is currently at war, so its legal system functions differently, because of which it is not clear whether it meets the rule of law criteria that everyone wishing to join must meet. We also don't know exactly how many people we are talking about, since we don't know how many people are living in the country right now because of the war. The size of Ukraine is another question, because part of its territory is currently occupied by Russia. And last but not least, a major part of the Hungarian agricultural industry would be completely destroyed by the agricultural actors in Ukraine, if we were to allow them into our market.
"If we don't know what the consequences of admitting Ukraine would be, then we should not even start talking about it," Orbán said. He believes that a strategic partnership agreement is needed first, which could be in place for 5-10 years. And after that we could begin to think about how to proceed.
"But no one has ever asked us for our opinion," he added, “they just put a proposal before us, telling us that we should support Ukraine’s accession, but that’s not how it works”.
The EU is sending wagon loads of arms and money to Ukraine, and this money is missing from the European economy. If this money were not sent to Ukraine, the situation here would be better, the Prime Minister argued. "We sent them money so that the Ukrainian army would win on the front line, but it's not winning", Orbán said, adding that "it is highly doubtful that they would win, even if we sent more money".
If Ukraine needs money, then let's create an inter-state fund, into which any member state that wishes to do so can put money – Orbán suggested, instead of using common EU resources. The EU's money for Ukraine has run out, which is why the EU leadership wants to change the budget now, so that more money can be sent to Ukraine. The EU budget can only be amended unanimously, and this amendment is not supported by the Hungarian government.
“We don't need others telling us how we should live”
Orbán said that this was why the national consultation was needed, to give the Hungarian people an opportunity to express their opinion about this matter. He added that he needs all the support he can get, so he urged everyone to "take a few minutes for their homeland".
The latest national consultation also addresses questions of sovereignty. The Prime Minister concluded that in his view, throughout history, Hungary has always been surrounded by empires bigger than itself, and said that "we never sought to have a bite of them, they have always been the ones who wanted to have a bite of us". But
Hungary "has chosen the tactic of making sure it's there to attend the funerals of empires", and "this is our plan for the future as well".
The Prime Minister believes that the Hungarian people know how to build up and organize their area. "We don't need others telling us how we should live," he said, explaining that this is the deepest meaning of sovereignty. 'If we were like a lame duck, and if we didn't have a thousand-year-old culture, we might need them to tell us how to live our lives, but that is not the case.
According to Orbán, however, there is a certain circle within the country as well, which is working to integrate us into the bigger "empires", because then these people will also get some money into their pockets. Right now, for instance, we have the Americans' efforts to try to " force us into the war". Another thing they do is 'when the elections come, they will try to persuade people to vote so there wouldn't be a national government in Hungary'. This is the dollar-funded left, who are trying to interfere in our internal affairs with money from the US and Brussels, he said. Hungarian law forbids this, but Hungarians are a talented people, so they find loopholes, and the dollar-funded left has done the same, which is why the introduction of sovereignty protection measures is necessary.
We need a good relationship with those in the East as well
Orbán said that in the last thirty years "we have carved out our place in the Western world, so it is already secured, this is clear – we are members of NATO, the EU, etc".
Today, the decisive factors are economic, and we must seek to trade with all the countries of the world and try to make a profit. For this reason, any creation of different blocks, which is becoming more and more popular in the West, is not in our interest," he concluded.
Hungary is a country of ten million people. If there were a hundred million of us, then perhaps we could afford to close ourselves off, "because in that case the size of our economy would be sufficient to secure a sufficient amount of prosperity on our own."
But since there are but ten million of us, we need to be able to sell our products all over the world. "Our economy is not just the Hungarian economy, our economy is the whole world." To do that you need relationships, and anyone can see that at the moment the most prosperous part of the world is in the East, so we need good economic relations with the East as well. That's the reason why Orbán has been running around the world so much, "because I'm trying to open up the space for the players from the Hungarian economy".
Viktor Orbán avoids critical questions at home. It’s been years since he gave an interview to independent media. However, for several years, most Friday mornings he has been a regular guest on state-owned Kossuth Rádió, where he is interviewed by a lead editor of the public broadcasting service (operating from an annual budget of 320 million euros). Katalin Nagy has been almost exclusively the only person allowed to interview Orbán on the state-owned channel throughout his third and fourth term with a two-thirds majority in parliament. She has received the state decoration of the Cross of the Order of Merit of Hungary and doesn’t shy away from asking questions.