Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (l) - Photo: PMO

Orbán: Terror ‘unacceptable’

Terrorism "is unacceptable", Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Friday in an interview to public radio, adding that "Hungary is on Israel's side". Speaking about the attack carried out by Hamas, Orbán said it was "shocking" to see "the mark left by terrorism".

“We feel for the victims of the attack and prays for their loved ones and the survivors, and is emotionally on the side of the victims,” he said.

Orbán said the situation in Israel was a stark reminder of the value of peace and stability, and elected leaders had a duty to protect this.

Hungary, he said, had always opposed terrorism irrespective of which country was being targeted.

“If a country is hit by a terrorist attack, its leaders — in this case Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu — no doubt think about their duty to their people and the need to do everything to prevent this,” Orbán said.

A country that is the victim of terrorism has the right to take steps to prevent such an attack from happening again and its citizens from becoming victims of terrorist strikes, the prime minister said.

The conflict in the Middle East must be contained, Orbán said, adding that though there was a war going on, Israel was fighting terrorism “like the Americans did”. “There’s no interstate war yet, and the danger is Israel getting into a war with one of the neighbouring Arab countries,” he said.

Orbán said an Arab-Israeli war would destabilise the region, shaking global politics “to the extent that the shockwaves would also be felt in Hungary”.

Though Hungarian diplomacy recognises Israel’s right to self-defence, it must pursue a de-escalation policy to prevent an interstate war, he said.

Meanwhile, the prime minister said the government trusted it would manage to evacuate every Hungarian who wants to leave Israel, adding there were so far no Hungarians known to be among the victims of the terror attack.

“Things were just starting to go well in that corner of the world,” Orbán said, noting the improvements in Arab-Israeli relations under Donald Trump’s US presidency. There were even improvements in some of the Arab-Israeli relations which no one would have thought possible just a few years prior, he added.

Whether the terrorist attack was committed to thwart this process, he said, was for now “only speculation” on which Hungary has no intelligence reports yet. “But it is important to save every element of the peace process possible in spite of the attack,” the prime minister said.

Orbán called it “shocking” that rallies were planned or held in support of the terrorists across Europe. There were attempts to organise such rallies in Hungary too, he said, “but demonstrations in support of terrorist organisations can’t be held, because that in itself would pose a terror threat.” “We won’t therefore allow this in any way,” he added.

The fact that several European countries were failing to prevent such “pro-terror” rallies meant that there were many living in those countries who supported such attacks, the prime minister said. Because western European countries had allowed an uncontrolled influx of migrants during the migration crisis, “Hamas agents are among them now, which poses a direct threat to every western European country”, he added.

“Let’s thank God that our mind and heart was in the right place in 2015, and we built the border fence and implemented the legal entry restrictions which has helped us keep the terror threat that goes hand in hand with migration … away from Hungary,” Orbán said.

He said the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and now the terrorist attack in Israel showed that “we are living in a dangerous era”, and the Hungarian state must stand firm and “won’t tolerate” any lessening of security in the country.

Orbán noted that Hungary has one of Europe’s largest Jewish communities. “Of course it’s a diverse world … just as in Israel,” he said, adding that whereas people held different political views, they were “all citizens of Hungary”.

“They are Hungarian citizens, and the Hungarian state must protect them,” he said.

Hungarian citizens must not be allowed to feel in peril because of their origin or religion.

Orbán also stressed that Hungary’s “model” for handling migration was “the only one that works”, and instead of adopting it, the European Union sought to destroy it.

He said “Brussels wants us to share the security risk”, adding that this risk was present because of “their bad decision-making in previous years”.

Orbán said the EU was making up rules to force Hungary into allowing “people who act violently” at its southern borders to live in the country.

The prime minister added that decisions made in Brussels were also aimed at forcing Hungary to build a refugee camp for 10,000 people, “a migrant ghetto”. The idea, he added, was to “keep the migrants there for a while and then let them out … we must protect ourselves from this.”

“We won’t be able to protect Hungary with the EU’s current leaders, because Brussels isn’t coming at us head on but attacking us from behind,” Orbán said. “It destroys instead of helping and poses a constant security risk to Hungary. That’s why major change is needed in next year’s European Parliament election.”

Orbán said the two Hungarian Nobel scientists, Katalin Kariko and Ferenc Krausz, had come from deep inside Hungary, and this showed that talented Hungarians could succeed “even in the most difficult times”. He said neither were the children of well-off families from downtown Budapest, and neither were graduates of American or European universities. “There are quite a few larger-than-life personalities among our athletes, scientists” and cultural representatives, he said.

Meanwhile, Orbán said that while Hungary’s focus this year was on reining in inflation, the government would push the country back to economic growth next year. Although combatting inflation “is traditionally the central bank’s responsibility”, Hungary had been faced with a heavy “international inflationary flood” which the “central bank’s little buckets couldn’t hold”, Orbán said. More effective instruments were needed, and so the government had to take over the task of fighting inflation, he added.

The government had wanted to maintain a relatively high level of growth amid the fight against inflation, “but this didn’t work out”, Orbán said. It therefore decided to focus its efforts on bringing inflation down, “even if that resulted in a loss of economic growth”, he added. This will be followed by the pursuit of a high economic growth rate in 2024, the prime minister said.

He said achieving this would not be easy, because in a low-growth environment elsewhere, it would be hard for a country like Hungary to grow, “especially with its small internal market”, and most of its economic output is sold abroad.

Whereas Germany was still dominant and the European Union “is our first priority”, he said, Hungary must remain open to all world markets. There was a debate, he added, as to whether the world economy should be divided into West and East, or whether to pursue interconnectedness, adding that the latter clearly was in the interest of Hungary’s economy.

Orbán noted his upcoming extended official visit to China next week. Hungarian foreign trade, he said, must succeed in bringing investments to Hungary and “products must be sold”.

Commenting on his visit to Georgia in the past two days, the prime minister called Georgia “a European, Christian country,” and “an important gateway” to the Caucasus. The EU plans to import electricity produced in Azerbaijan to Europe via Georgia, Romania and Hungary, he said, noting this meant laying a 1,000km-plus high-voltage cable under the Black Sea and building related infrastructure.

This, he added, would enhance Hungary’s security and energy supply and would be “good for the whole of Europe”. “We hope the EU won’t back away from this,” he said.

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