Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (l) - Photo: PMO

Orbán: No pardon for child abusers

Hungary's next head of state must restore the national unity that ruptured when it came to light that the previous president, Katalin Novak, granted a pardon to the deputy head of a children's home convicted of covering up child abuse, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in an interview to public radio on Friday.

Orbán said clemency cases “are completely separate from the government’s work”, and fall solely under the president’s authority, adding that Novak had said “yes” to the pardon when the only fitting response could have been “no”.

Most people in the country broadly felt this way, especially on the right, he said, adding that “family values and protecting children are at the heart of our political creed”.

The president’s decision had ruptured national unity, which could only be restored with the president’s resignation, Orbán said, praising Novak for her work and integrity in admitting to her mistake.

He said the ruling parties chose to nominate Tamas Sulyok, the current head of the Constitutional Court, for head of state based on his experience in constitutional and legal matters as well as his knowledge of the international stage and political institutions.

It was these qualities and his professional standing that made Sulyok stand out as the most qualified candidate for the job, Orbán said. He said the nomination was preceded by long consultations and negotiations, also within Fidesz’s leadership.

Orbán said Hungary was a strong country, even though “there’s trouble now because the previous president resigned”.

“Our heart still bleeds”, especially because the resignation happened over a matter in which there had been a sharp contrast between public opinion and the president’s decision, he added.

But the cloud’s silver lining was that when examining potential candidates, the ruling parties found many Hungarians who were qualified to hold the office of president, “which strengthens one’s faith in one’s own country and nation”.

Orbán said it would be the new head of state who would have to restore unity and balance, expressing hope that Sulyok would make it clear in his first national address that there can be no pardon for child abuse or related crimes.

“I hope he will also call on us to make the legislative amendments and decisions needed to prevent such things from happening again,” Orbán said, adding that he had already made some of these decisions and ordered a full-scale screening and inspection.

The prime minister said the pardon had brought what happened in the Bicske orphanage to the surface, “something that simply should not happen in a decent country like Hungary”.

“All this is simply unacceptable,” he said, adding that when child abusers were convicted, then at the very least there would be “no pardon and no mercy”.

He said all institutions working with children would have to be inspected to determine whether their leaders had passed an aptitude test and whether they meet all the requirements to be there. These screenings, Orbán added, must also extend to the officials’ lifestyles, “sexual deviance” and psychological fitness.

“People who pose a threat to children can’t be allowed to work in schools, kindergartens or children’s homes,” he said.

Orbán said it was “impossible” for a case like the one concerning the director of the Bicske orphanage who had been convicted of child abuse to happen and not be followed by a public outcry but rather a cover-up.

He said the government will bring order to this area, vowing to personally monitor the process and bring it to an end by “making the right decisions”.

Meanwhile, the prime minister said that as the current term of the European Parliament ends in June, Brussels was enveloped in “panic” and “entering a final round” to push through decisions related to “LGBTQ, migration and war”.

Orbán said Hungary must mount a defence against this. “There isn’t that much time” before the June European parliamentary elections, he added.

He said the migration pact was the “greater problem” as “the situation is slightly more divided” in Hungary on this issue than on “the LGBTQ issue”.

He underlined, at the same time, that an overwhelming majority of Hungarians supported the country’s national sovereignty and the principle that only Hungarians should have the right to decide whom they want to live together with. The government even called a referendum and has held National Consultations in this matter, he noted, adding, however, that “there are a lot of paid agents here”.

The prime minister said that George Soros had unveiled a programme in 2015-16, the “infamous Soros plan”, which proposed the same policies found in a draft plan in Brussels by those “who are now nervous about the gate closing”. These, he said, included the plan to create “migrant ghettos”, bring at least a million migrants a year to Europe and to manage, rather than reject migration.

“We’ve been able to prevent his so far,” Orbán said, adding: “I’ve been fighting since 2015, starting out on my own, but then there were more and more of us, until we became the majority who can prevent the idiotic migration-friendly rules in Brussels.”

“Now we must suffer one last attack,” Orbán said. “But we’re not alone,” he said, adding that several other EU member states did not back “migration-friendly rules”.

He referred to Slovakia among others who had abstained or objected to certain elements of the pact. “The Italians are also sane, while the Greeks are also suffering,” he said.

“We don’t want our struggles of the past years to remain migrant-free” to be in vein “because of the attack in Brussels before the election”, he added.

Meanwhile, the prime minister said that given the conflict between Russia and Ukraine could not be settled on the battlefield or through military means, a peace process was needed to end the conflict and bring about a liveable Europe for the long term.

Noting the second anniversary of the start of the war, Orbán said the conflict was “a very difficult issue”. Russia attacked Ukraine, “which raises a number of ethical and moral questions, but war is fundamentally a matter of realpolitik,” the prime minister said.

“The realities [of the conflict] were obvious from the very first moment,” Orbán said, adding that this was why Hungary had maintained its position. The West cannot thrust itself into a war which, “based on mathematical and realistic facts”, cannot be resolved on the battlefield, he said.

The aim should be to secure a ceasefire and peace, because Russia cannot be brought to its knees by military force, Orbán said. “We Hungarians don’t agree with the British, French and German points of view which want to force a military solution,” he said. “We need peace in our neighbouring country; this is an existential, vital humane matter.”

Asked if the European Union could change its stance on the war, Orbán said leaders had “made a mistake” and got “stuck in a hole”, but public opinion would settle the issue. There was a risk that the war may spread, “which is bad for Europe and would ruin us economically”. He added that vast amounts of money were being spent “without any chance of military success… This must be stopped.”

Orbán said that sooner or later someone would have to say: “I made a mistake”. “That’s why we are waiting for the American presidential election… President Trump will return and he will be given a free hand to make peace,” he said.

“There needs to be a European parliamentary election and in America a presidential election” for change to happen, he said.

Asked about Sweden’s NATO accession and the Swedish prime minister’s visit, Orbán said the differences in values between Hungary and Sweden “can be managed”.

Orbán said there were “military and weapons issues” to be discussed, and he had told the ruling parliamentary group that he understood their resistance to ratifying Sweden’s NATO accession, and considers it justified, but he also told them to give him time to build trust. He noted that he had spoken with the Swedish prime minister several times already, and their discussions would culminate in Budapest on Friday, adding that all pending issues would be resolved with the conclusion of military industrial and arms agreements. Also, guidelines on military cooperation would be laid down, he said.

“It must be accepted that we are not the same. Sweden arranges its life based on different values … Hungary is a country with a Christian culture; Christian values are fundamental to our society.”

Also, Hungary “is pro-peace, while Sweden is pro-war” when it comes to the war between Russia and Ukraine, the prime minister said.

“We don’t want to tell the Swedes how to live, and if they don’t want to tell us either, then the opportunity for cooperation opens up,” he said. “We’re not entering into a marriage, but a military alliance.” Sweden and Hungary can enter into cooperation based on interests, he said. “This will be sealed on Friday,” the prime minister said, adding that MPs would ratify the accession documents on Monday.

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