Orbán: Freedom of speech is in bad shape in Europe

April 19. 2024. – 09:21 AM


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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.

The leaders and citizens of Europe are keenly aware that the world has become a dangerous place, and everyone is worried that the Israelis' fight against a terror organization could escalate into a war between states. Each conflict must be handled differently, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in his Friday morning radio interview on the public station Kossuth Rádió, where he also added that he has “two tough days” behind him.

Unusually for him, this was the first time in a long while that the Prime Minister was back in the studio. He has hardly spoken even with government-controlled media since the clemency case blew up in early February, even though it has become customary for him to give a radio interview on most Fridays for the past 14 years. This year it has only happened four times.

Speaking about the conflict in the Middle East, Orbán briefly referred to the early morning explosion in Iran, saying that even Hungarian intelligence information is contradictory on it, but added that he believes everyone would be better off if the conflict in the Middle East could be settled, while the war in Ukraine needs to be handled differently because it is a major conflict right here in our neighbourhood.

Orbán said that one chapter of the Russia-Ukraine has come to an end, but added that NATO was now sliding into it. "We have now come to the point where Europe sending troops to Ukraine is being seriously considered, which has opened a new chapter in the war," he said, adding that “the big question right now is whether we can stay out of this thing” and reiterated that as long as there is a nationally minded government, Hungary will not take part in the war. He added that the Hungarian position is simply an adherence to the principles of NATO, and said that he believed that the pro-war European mindset will soon begin to fracture and diplomacy will have to take control back.

"I am constantly working on avoiding a situation where the money Hungary is owed ends up in Ukraine."

– Orbán said, saying that some may call this a veto. He said that as little money as possible should be given to Ukraine because the European middle class is suffering, and then went on to list economic considerations such as Europe's economic competitiveness being in decline, or that there is no money for the green transition and the enlargement process in the Balkans.

"Freedom of speech is in a poor state in Europe,"

the Prime Minister said, adding that politicians, universities and the media have all become monochromatic. He compared it to one opinion being pushed forward with a steamroller everywhere, which is why it's possible that two German newspapers of opposite political leanings end up writing the same thing.

Orbán also spoke about NatCon, the conservative conference which was shut down by local authorities in Brussels earlier this week, saying that "hotels and caterers were openly threatened". He said that anyone who has a different opinion there from what is centrally accepted, risks losing their job.

"It may seem like an exaggeration to the listeners, but in the West you can't just post anything on Facebook. If your opinion differs from that of the mainstream, you risk losing your job. The most serious part of what happened in Brussels was the open threats received by the catering company serving the conference. This is not where Hungary is, to have people sanctioned for their opinion, but it is what's happening in the West."

– Orbán said, adding that in Brussels he had brought up "the Soros plan", which he said described how Europe should be destroyed.

Migration and the Ukrainian grain dump

"George Soros has put it in writing that a million migrants must be brought in each year," Orbán said, adding that there is a clear political will to do so in Europe.

On the issue of migration, the Prime Minister said that "tightening things up" will not help. The key according to Orbán is whether a migrant should be allowed to stay in a country without a residence permit, adding that where a person who wishes to settle in Europe waits for their request to be processed is what's important.

After migration, the reporter turned to the issue of agriculture, and Orbán started talking about the Ukrainian grain dump. "This creates problems for us too, he said. Although we are able to protect our own market, our problems lie in the markets where we used to sell our grain," he said.

Orbán said that Ukrainian oligarchs and big American companies were profiting from the grain dump caused by the Russian-Ukrainian war.

On the EU's performance over the past five years, he said he did not think there was a need for him to provide an evaluation as a "class teacher" would, but he listed several points because of which he believes the current Brussels leadership should go. He said he did not think politics was a complicated business, but there was a campaign going on, and at these times "one has to load and shoot, which is also why we are holding a campaign launch event today".

Orbán said that the stakes of the EP elections were whether the pro-war or the pro-peace side would win.

The Prime Minister was in Brussels between Tuesday and Thursday, where he attended and spoke at the National Conservatism Conference (Natcon), saying he was "glad that we are still allowed to speak in Brussels". The event could only begin at the third chosen venue, but on the first day, Tuesday, police arrived with a ban from the local mayor. The speeches were eventually allowed to go ahead, but no new arrivals were allowed in. Later that day, the decision was suspended by a court, allowing the second day of the programme, at which Orbán was scheduled to speak, to go ahead without disruption. Among the conference sponsors were the Mathias Corvinus Collegium Foundation (MCC), which is closely linked to the Hungarian government, as well as The European Conservative and the Danube Institute.

It has been announced that on Friday afternoon, Fidesz is going to adopt a so-called "Election Manifesto" in preparation for the European parliamentary elections, which will outline what is at stake in the 9 June elections. Communications Director Tamás Menczer said on Facebook that the manifesto will be adopted on 19 April at Fidesz's campaign launch at Budapest's Millenáris, where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó and EP list leader Tamás Deutsch will also speak.

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.