Prime Minister Viktor Orbán - Photo: PMO

Orbán: ‘A vote for Fidesz a vote for peace’

Europe may be "drifting into war", Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in an interview to public radio on Friday, declaring that the outcome of the upcoming European parliamentary elections would hinge on "the number of votes for pro-war forces as opposed to the number for the pro-peace camp".

“In Hungary, those who support peace will vote for Fidesz; those who vote for the left wing will cast their ballot for war,” the prime minister said.

“Europe is playing with fire at the border of peace and war,” Orbán said.

Noting the war in Ukraine has lasted two years, Orbán said European leaders had been implementing sanctions, strategising and “drifting day by day, not from war to peace, but from peace to war”.

“This is highly dangerous and I’m worried about Europe’s future,” he said.

Recalling the war in the Balkans, the prime minister said that he had personal experiences of “the wind of war whistling past your ears”, and it was not fitting to agree with statements about the war “spoken as if it were an afternoon tea party”.

Orbán recalled that Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, had suggested that the idea of war broadening to Europe was “no longer a fantasy”, and he also cited the Polish foreign minister as saying that the war in Ukraine could not have a diplomatic solution and could only be resolved through “raw military power”.

Orbán said those remarks “conceal a real will” and they were not just soundbites.

He also recalled Hungary’s NATO accession in 1999, when the country had to “go through frontline baptism overnight” when NATO “decided to attack Serbia, and Hungary had to contribute military facilities, mainly airfields.”

Orbán also said the US “also had aspirations to open another front in northern Serbia, at the Hungarian border, and they had actual military plans for Hungary to implement… I rejected those and managed to keep Hungary out of the war.”

Though the Balkan wars were “smaller in scale” than the Russia-Ukraine conflict, a huge number of refugees arrived and were accommodated in southern Hungary, he said. “While the country was not at war, the war made it suffer greatly,” he said.

Hungary, he added, was forced into a war twice, tragically sealing its fate.

“We did not want to take part in either the first or second world war; we were forced into both and were among those who paid the highest price for this in the end,” he said.

Orbán said the government would not allow Hungary to be forced into a war for a third time. “We’ll keep to the pro-peace standpoint,” he declared.

A European “security solution involving Russia” is needed, Orbán said, adding that all sides should be made to feel safe, “as this may guarantee that a [further] armed conflict does not break out”.

Orbán said the war not only led to losses but produced winners, too, insisting that Washington’s aid to Ukraine “is in fact a massive military order for American industry”.

War profiteers, he added, were “few but … strong”. He said tension resulted, as “most people are on the side of peace”.

Orbán said central Europe had “lost all wars” while western Europe had won them, emerging victorious though at the cost of great suffering. “Our historical experience with war is that you can only lose out,” he said. “The closer you are to a war zone, the higher the price you pay.”

Staying out of the war “requires courage and national unity . .. the leader of a politically divided country will have great difficulties in keeping his country out of the war,” he insisted.

The prime minister estimated that some 80-90 percent of Hungarian voters were on the side of peace, adding that “I must represent the desire for life rooted in the country’s deepest life instincts”. He said “even the pro-war left knows that war is worse than peace”, and he suggested that “the left is being paid” to promote their position.

“In the whole of Europe — and for the time being in America too — governments are for war, and that is why they want a new government in Hungary … a pro-war government,” Orbán said.

“We’re paying higher prices in shops … because of the war in Ukraine,” Orbán said, adding that the war was also dampening Hungary’s economic growth.

“The government is putting the economy back on a growth path this year after an extremely difficult 2023” he said. “If we were not in a war environment, growth would not be 2.5 percent but twice as high.”

Should the war continue next year, “Hungary’s defence spending budgeted for 2023-24 will not be enough … it must be increased, and we’ll have less money left for other things,” he said. “In the shadow of war, it’s harder to run the economy … than in peacetime.”

Orbán said that memories of the second world war and its consequences had bestowed on Hungarians “an instinctive desire for peace”. While in France or Germany “it is a political position … for us it is our deepest life instinct to reject war and crave peace,” he added.

The outcome of the European Parliament elections would determine whether pro-war or pro-peace forces prevailed, he said, adding that what was at primarily stake was the issue of war rather than the usual divisions of right and left and various other ideologies.

Orbán said it was possible that anti-war MEPs would form a majority in the EP, adding that there was reason for confidence in this respect, since whereas a year ago the majority of Europeans backed the war, this was no longer the case and people were “shifting in the direction of peace”.

In Hungary, “a vote for Fidesz is a vote for peace”, he said, insisting that left-wing voters would be casting their ballot for war.

The prime minister said other key issues of dispute were “gender, family protection and migration”.

He said Europe was at a historical crossroads and politicians who shaped European discourse felt that how they acted carried “far more weight than usual”, and this was also true of the outcome of the EP election.

Regarding the 20th anniversary of Hungary’s EU membership, Orbán said that “it’s better to be inside than on the outside”, but when the country joined in 2004 “it wasn’t about” millions of migrants flowing in or “retaliation if a country wrote in its constitution that the father is a man and the mother is a woman”.

He said Hungary had joined the EU because “Europe meant peace and prosperity, but now we are in the midst of an economic crisis and instead of peace, European leaders are pushing the continent towards war.”

Regarding fuel prices, he said it was legitimate to expect wholesalers and retailers to ensure that Hungarians bought fuel at the same price as the citizens of other countries in the region, and fuel businesses should adjust their profits accordingly. He added that he had asked Marton Nagy, the national economy minister, to negotiate with these businesses rather than coerce them.

He said these businesses based their calculations on Central Statistical Office (KSH) regional data which included Polish, Czech and Bulgarian prices as well those pertaining to neighbouring countries, and the businesses regarded this as unfair. So the average price the government wants the Hungarian price level linked to is being recalculated without the Polish, Czech and Bulgarian data, he said, adding that Hungarian consumers must not have to pay more for fuel than the average price in neighbouring countries.

Meanwhile, Orbán said that Hungary’s economy would remain focused on Europe, noting the importance of German market for the economy, though its radius must be expanded. Germany, he added, had been “knocked out” by the war “because they isolated themselves” and also the US isolated Germany from the Russian energy system.

Orbán said that growth in Hungary was heavily reliant on “our most natural sales market”, western Europe, which was “sick and bedridden”, and this could be the case for another year or two.

“It’s not by chance that the Chinese president is coming to Hungary next week,” he said, noting that Hungary has increased its activity in Central Asia, “and our economic ties with Africa are also improving”.

Leave a Reply