Central Europe’s largest economic forum is often referred to as the “Eastern Davos” because this is where politicians, economists, NGO leaders and scientists come together from many countries of the world to discuss key issues and problems.
I was given an opportunity to explain my position on the two-speed Europe concept in a panel with such personalities as former Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller, who signed his country’s treaty of accession to the Union.
I made a stand for a one-speed Europe in the discussion. When our region joined the European Union, we were supposed to become full members rather than stay in the lobby only. Hungary has a lot of improvement to do, but we must not let the EU’s system error go unnoticed. This problem prevents Eastern Central European member states from catching up with the centre. Jobbik’s wage union initiative aims to eliminate this error, among other things.
– What was the reaction to the proposal urging to reduce the east-west wage gap?
We managed to make Western European representatives consider the idea that the success of the initiative may actually be in their interest as well. The core states may also benefit from a Union that shows more solidarity and helps the less advanced periphery to integrate. The weight and power of the entire European Union would be increased if its eastern member states could finally develop in industries relying on a greater added value rather than cheap labour.
For a while, the skilled and disciplined low-income workers still available in our region may boost the profit of the western states but in the mid- and long term the European community will be weakened by this gap because our continent will lose its competitiveness.
Neither rich nor poor migrants!
– The European Court of Justice dismissed Hungary’s claim in the migrant allocation quota case. What course of action does Jobbik suggest now?
We have always been doing our best to be constructive and proactive in terms of migration and border control. Rather than reacting to the government’s proposals, we often initiated measures that could perhaps bring us closer to a solution.
Jobbik was the first to raise the issue of the border fence and the Constitutional amendment. The essence of our proposal is still the same: we want neither poor nor rich migrants.
Hungary cannot take the road to multiculturalism which has already failed in the west.
We must defend our historical legacy, our socio-cultural structure. In this struggle, we are willing to cooperate with the government, too, because our slogan is not “Only Fidesz!” but “We are for the people”.
– Contrary to its promises, the government failed to terminate the residency bond business. All they did was to issue a decree and suspend the sales of bonds. Does this mean that they could start selling bonds again, even tomorrow if they wanted?
That’s correct. Jobbik’s constitutional bill excludes all immigration, even for residency bond buyers. Unfortunately, the government is quite narrow-minded; they ab ovo reject the opposition’s motions. However, a government being open to external suggestions is a sign of strength rather than weakness. I have no illusions as to what fate Fidesz is planning for our motion. It seems that Jobbik will be the one to adopt a more broad-minded political culture.
– The Parliament’s autumn session will begin soon. Pro-government MPs have been expecting a hot autumn and they think there might be unrest and rebellion in the streets. What kind of autumn do you expect?
War rhetoric has always been a core part of Fidesz’ political communication. They create an image of an enemy to overcome so that the struggle with this imaginary enemy could make the public forget the problems Hungary faces. I cannot exclude that Fidesz projects its own fears when the party envisions street unrest. They may be afraid that the moment will come when the problems burdening people’s lives culminate in mass movements.
This kind of communication enables the government parties to discredit, in advance, any social movement or protest triggered by the situation in our healthcare or education, for example. The government will just say that Soros took these people to the streets.
– When talking about the findings of the latest polls, political analysts often mention that Fidesz’ rejection rate is the highest of all parties, while Jobbik has become the least rejected party as a second choice for voters.
These polls describe the underlying processes going on in our society. Fidesz’ personnel is deteriorating exponentially in terms of intellectual force and the ability to thematize public discourse. In the meantime, Jobbik is able to integrate an increasing number of people, we are the only party with an efficient structure and the strongest opposition party, too. Professionally speaking, we are prepared for government work and I believe this fact sets the course for the ongoing political processes. Jobbik’s job is to channel our citizens’ government-changing mood into voter activity. The reason why I used the latter term is because I think there may be many Jobbik voters next year who would rather have supported other parties but they will have realized that if they did so, their votes would be lost instead of helping to change the government.
Either Fidesz or Jobbik. That is the question. Voting any other way will be pointless in terms of changing the government.
Struggling with 20th century reflexes
– You have often mentioned recently that the time of 20th-century parties is over, and they must be replaced by 21st-century parties, such as Jobbik. I know that the term “21st century” is generally used as a symbol of development although this period has not brought a lot of good news for Hungarians or the world as a whole so far. What is a 21st-century party like? What does this mean?
The 21st century is still a question mark. To use another analogy, it is a framework that we must fill with content. With each passing day, this mission seems to be more and more vital so that we could not just barely survive the 21st century but shape it the way we want.
– And what way or shape is that?
To put it simply, it is just the opposite of what the 20th century was. The 20th century was a time of obsessions. It was shaped by obsessions that claimed to bring happiness for the people but failed altogether. In contrast, the 21st century must use common sense as its compass. The 20th century relied on dividing people but the 21st century must focus on the common points and building bridges.
The 20th century always looked to capitalize on the lowly, the visceral drives of people because it was excellent for political manipulation. The era relied on any means whatsoever to elicit the almost animal instincts that were useful for the given political force.
The 21st century must look to what makes people more noble, what makes us human beings, what creates culture and quality in our societies and so separates us from the world of instincts.
It may sound utopian now, at a time when the 20th century is hopefully coming to an end in the political sense, but we do need ideas and noble goals because otherwise we cannot leave the current situation behind. I cannot state for sure that the 21st century will fully accomplish this goal but what I am certain of is that we must move in that direction. To do so, we must overcome our 20th-century reflexes.
– This goal is beyond the political sphere, but there are some concepts and thinkers suggesting that the only goal is to dominate the political sphere, in other words, to stay in power.
Ever since there is politics, this question has always been raised. Is politics the end or the means? To give you a current example:
Viktor Orbán wants to solve the problems in a certain area so that he could stay in government while we want to get in government so that we could solve the problems of the given area.
Just a side note: the Orbán government does not even want to solve problems unless they think that such a solution is vital for them to stay in power.
– What do you mean?
For example, they think they can win the elections without putting Hungary’s education and healthcare in order. This is an unacceptable attitude and it’s self-destructive, too, because it degrades the very community where this government lives. It weakens the community whose work could be the basis for success, and this kind of attitude always backfires sooner or later. Fidesz will experience it, too.
We don’t want senior citizens to say yes all the time!
– This August, the name Gábor Vona was typically mentioned in the same sentence with the word “pensioner”. Taking a part of your article out of context, Fidesz keeps hammering into people’s minds that you offended senior citizens. In the meantime, you were invited to meet several senior citizens’ organizations and Jobbik formed its Senior Citizens’ Platform, too. What will this organization do?
Contrary to the leaders of some other parties, we don’t expect pensioners to keep nodding to whatever we say or do. No! This organization has a very different mission: to conduct constructive debates, trusting each other’s good intentions and respecting each other’s opinions. To do so, we must free the senior citizen issue from the prison of party politics.
– For me, it sounds quite interesting, coming from the president of a political party.
I believe you but I am still of the opinion that this paradigm shift is necessary because party politics typically sets short-term goals. Social issues such as that of senior citizens require long-term solutions carried over from one four-year government term to another.
– What is the problem with the Hungarian pension system?
– For example, European countries spend 12 per cent of their GDP on pensions on average, while this number is 9 per cent in Hungary. So there is room for improvement here, and it’s also true that the pension fund will not be refilled by itself.
In order for a pension raise, we must increase the number of employees and their wages must be increased as well, since the pension system cannot be sustained without their contributions. This is what our European wage union initiative can solve in the long run.
Draw a national development map
– It is a major policy of your party to stop the “brain and hands drain” and bring back Hungarian workers from Western Europe. Is it possible to attract them back, though? Because a Jobbik victory in the elections is hardly enough to bring them back home immediately. Such a relocation programme requires a clear framework. Are you working on it?
Our action plan to bring the emigrated Hungarians back is in our manifesto and it contains a so-called diaspora strategy. This strategy should help us make place in our currently dispersed nation for those hundreds of thousands who live abroad at the moment. Most of them have enormous experience, innovative force and language skills, which must definitely be channelled into Hungary’s development. However, this is bound to be a long-term process.
– What does “long-term” mean in this case?
It’s hard to say an exact figure but I think it’s at least ten years. Just as people needed a considerable time to make the decision and leave Hungary, their return will not happen overnight, either.
However, I do believe that a Jobbik government will be able to present results that could trigger the relocation process within a few years.
Essentially speaking, we have a reserve of resources amounting to hundreds of thousands and we must do our best so that Hungary could benefit from their working at home.
– Each government of the past 27 years has talked about promoting small and medium enterprises, but the burdens of these companies are still huge while they are trying to somehow get by in their competition with multinational companies. What would a Jobbik government do about this area?
The Ministry for the National Economy should be very busy helping Hungarian small and medium enterprises become more productive and competitive. Instead, the Orbán government is rather painstakingly accumulating an astounding amount of profit for certain individuals while the other basis of their economic policy is the agreement with the multinational companies capitalizing on the cheap Hungarian labour force.
In contrast, what we want to do is to make a historic agreement with the small and medium enterprises, ranging from the so-called forced entrepreneurs to companies employing 20 people. To sum up, we need to set strategic directions for our economy and involve Hungarian businesses in the transformation of this area.
– That sounds all very nice but rather generic. Can you tell something specific, something that a future Jobbik government can be held accountable for?
Fine, let’s be specific: we must create a national development map, which clearly shows, down to the minutest details, the local social and economic situation, the features and capacities, the working capital present, to which the economic strategy of the area may be adjusted. The development of a village, town or region should not depend on what it does now; I mean how strong Fidesz is locally and if the party has a loyal cadre there to hand out funds to companies run by Fidesz buddies.
Let’s see some other specific suggestions: we must transform our supply industry. The share of Hungarian subcontractors in the supplier base of multinational companies operating in our country is much lower than necessary. The government must take a role in changing this situation. SMEs could also benefit from getting a larger share of the EU funds so that they could improve their business and put out more exportable products. At this point, let me recall the words of EU Budget and Human Resources Commissioner Günther Oettinger, who revealed that most of the EU funds flowing into Eastern Europe indirectly go back to Germany, which makes Europe’s largest national economy a net beneficiary of the cohesion funds supplied to less developed EU member states.
– Talking about the European Union, Putin’s latest visit gave a new impulse to the “either-or” foreign policy concept which suggests that Hungary must choose between Russia and the Union. Is there a point to this question at all?
Nobody can seriously think that Russia could be put in brackets and we could just pretend as if it wasn’t here and would not wish to influence Europe, especially the Eastern Central European region, based on the Russian interests in terms of power, security and energy policy. Russia is here, the question is what we do about that.
– And what should we do about that?
Hungary could possibly adopt a confrontational approach towards Russia and run into the arms of America or, do it the other way round and run into Russia’s embrace, which would enrage America and the western alliance. And then there’s the third option which Jobbik suggests: to balance between them. I know it is a much more difficult and complex task than the first two but, contrary to them, this one could bring economic and political stability for Hungary.
When I say that we should aim for a partnership with Russia, I don’t mean that we should adopt Russia’s patterns of political control.
What I mean is that we should try and sell products in the Russian market while handling Russia’s influence with the necessary weight and protecting Hungary’s sovereignty. This is a tough challenge but if you don’t want to or can’t cope with challenges like this, you should not be a politician.
Photo: Balázs Béli