“If we lose our anchor, we will not be successful in the future. And the fact is, what you yourself have already mentioned, we are the target of hypocrites, double standards, political correctness, illegal migrations. These negative phenomena increase the importance of protecting, promoting, and preserving our Christian values,” was Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter Szijjártó’s answer to Nova24TV journalist Luka Svetina’s question on how to defend conservatism in this day and age, without being labelled a fascist by the left.
On Monday, August 31st, the 15th Bled Strategic Forum took place, with by far the largest number of Prime Ministers attending it in the entire history of the event. On this occasion, Nova24TV talked with the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peter Szijjártó, who believes that with all the negative phenomena of the modern world, such as illegal migrations and the leftist discourse, which continues to stifle the conservative opinion, it is all the more important to preserve both our historical heritage, as well as our religious heritage.
Good morning, Mr. Peter Szijjártó.
Good morning, thank you for the invitation.
Together with your Prime Minister Viktor Orban, you are taking part in the 2020 Bled Strategic Forum, where members of the Visegrad Group states are strongly represented. Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša is often the target of criticism in the mainstream media for trying to strengthen the bonds with the V4 countries. The mainstream media outlets believe that this alliance would push Slovenia away from the values advocated by the so-called core member states of the European Union. Are those fears justified? What is the real purpose of stronger cooperation between the two countries?
Well, if I wanted to give a direct and short answer, I could simply say – no, these criticisms are not justified. And I could stop right here. However, I do not think that would meet your expectations. I am absolutely used to the attacks by the international liberal mainstream media; we understand that these media outlets form a kind of network, so they usually commit international attacks against the leaders who they do not consider to be international or liberal enough; we are very aware of that. But I think we now have this refreshing feeling that we do not need to satisfy them. We do need to satisfy our voters, we do need to satisfy our citizens, but we definitely do not need to satisfy the international liberal mainstream media. If our goal was to satisfy the international liberal mainstream media, we would feel very bad on the inside, for sure. We respect your Prime Minister a lot, we respect him as a person, we respect him as a politician, and we respect him as a leader of friendly Slovenia. We enjoy cooperating with him; we have always felt solidarity with him. I have to tell you that both Prime Misters also enjoy a very good personal relationship, which also has a very good impact on their working relationship, obviously.
When we are attacked, Prime Minister Janez Janša always defends us and speaks up for us, and that is reciprocal. The good cooperation between the countries has had a tangible impact when we worked on how to protect each other from the challenges posed by the pandemic. The Visegrad group is definitely a strong group, and the fact that the cooperation between the V4 countries is so strong is not to the liking of Brussels, and is absolutely disliked by the international mainstream media. Why? Because these government, these countries, are raising their voice, they are brave enough to speak up in Europe. We are willing to speak up for the protection of those values that the European Union was originally founded on. And the current Slovenian government has a similar approach, so it is obvious that our cooperation is intense. The better we work together, the better it is for our nation.
It has been almost half a year since the new Slovenian government was formed. You have met our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anže Logar, Ph.D., on many occasions. Is he the right person to “repair the vanishing reputation of Slovenian diplomacy?
I think he is doing a wonderful job. I think I was the first Minister to meet with him after he took office. Shortly after his appointment, I contacted him; I came to Ljubljana during the pandemic, I hoped that a certain degree of caution could be expected from him as well. He represents Slovenia perfectly on the international level; he speaks out for Slovenian national interest in the European Union, no question. We also work well together, and when it came to protecting the healthcare system due to the epidemic, we were constantly on the line. We always try to help one another. But he is not the only Slovenian Minister with whom I have a good relationship. I also have a good relationship with the Minister of Infrastructure, Jernej Vrtovec, and the Minister of the Economy, Zdravko Počivalšek.
Your Prime Minister has repeatedly said that Europe should re-adopt the Christian values on which the European culture was built centuries ago. But is this even possible in the modern times of political correctness, mass migrations, and multiculturalism? How do you promote conservativism without being declared a fascist by the left?
Well, we have to face the fact that whenever you advocate patriotism, you are immediately accused, attacked, and compared to the worst and darkest dictatorships of the last century. If you want to implement or introduce a patriotic policy, if you want to put your nation’s interests first, if you do not accept the view that democracy must be liberal, then you will be attacked in the worst possible way in Europe. This is basically the terror of opinion and the terror of ideology, which takes place in these kinds of debates in Europe. If you do not represent the mainstream liberal position, you are the worst of the worst. But since the European Union was founded and based on Christian values, and since our country has been a Christian country for more than a thousand years, this is something we would like to preserve. Just like we want to preserve our historical heritage, we also want to preserve our religious heritage, as well. If we lose our anchor, we will not be successful in the future. And the fact is, what you yourself have already mentioned, we are the target of hypocrites, double standards, political correctness, illegal migrations. These negative phenomena increase the importance of protecting, promoting, and preserving our Christian values.
In addition to Poland, Hungary is also being criticised by Brussels for failing to respect the rule of law. Your government is also being accused of interfering in the sphere of science, especially in the field of social sciences. European funds could be redistributed based on these criteria in the future. If that was to happen, what would be Hungary’s response?
Look, to set a subjective condition or subjective criteria when it comes to redistributing European funds is simply unacceptable. We, as a small Central European country, should not allow for the spread of the concept that we, as a Member state of the European Union, are receiving benefits, but the Union does not benefit from our membership. This is a two-way street. Just like we benefit from being members of the European Union, the European Union also benefits from the Central European countries being its members. Remember how much profit the Western European companies made on our market, or any other European market. Our country was occupied by the Soviets and the communists in the past, which put us in a very unequal economic position. We have opened up our market, in accordance with the agreement we have made with the European Union, and the Western European companies made a lot of profit on our markets because of this. And that is why it is our right to get these cohesion funds and structural funds, that is why this portrayal of Central European countries as the countries that only get the benefits of being the member states is wrong. An image is being created – as if they are being given to us as a token of generosity or humanitarian donations. This is simply unacceptable. We, Central Europeans, should have more self-confidence. According to a study by the European Commission, as much as 70 percent of all European funds allocated to the Central European countries return to Western Europe through their companies. Therefore, any kind of political conditioning, when it comes to European funding, is unacceptable. All of this criticism is politically motivated. If we had a socialist government in Hungary, if there was a socialist government in Poland or in Slovenia, believe me, they would not attack us.
Mr. Szijjártó, you mentioned the Soviet Union. Given the crisis unfolding in Belarus, Russia has offered the possibility of military intervention in Belarus. Does the strong Russian arming in the Polish backyard concern you?
Well, when it comes to Russia, the behaviour within the European Union is very hypocritic. The countries which are the loudest in their criticising of Russia are involved in the biggest business with them. If you just look at the exports of the largest and strongest Western European countries to Russia compared to 2015, it has increased by more than 20 percent. I think we need more honesty and directness in this case. We have always advocated a pragmatic dialogue between Russia and the West, so to speak, because we Central Europeans share a common history and are aware of the consequences of the East-West conflict. Whenever such a conflict arose, Central Europe was always affected the most. That is why we do not want new conflicts. And if we are wondering how to solve the situation in Belarus, I think we need a geopolitical approach. Russia is in the neighbourhood; it also has its own interest. We need to find a solution that would not further worsen the relationship between Russia and the European Union.
Tomorrow, Hungary will close its border to all non-residents, to try and curb the increasing number of new coronavirus infections. Together with Slovenia, Hungary has thus far been one of the most successful European countries in the battle with the corona crisis. Why are Hungary and Slovenia still in the so-called green zone, while more and more countries in the neighbourhood are being put in the red zone? How long could stricter measures against COVID-19 last?
Look, first of all, I have to congratulate the Slovenian government for its work, as it took office at the height of the crisis. And regardless of that, the government has done an excellent job of curbing the number of infections and ensuring the security of the healthcare system and the economy for the Slovenian nation. We can only speak highly about this achievement. We also made our decisions right on time. Although they were difficult and complicated to accept, and of course, we were not happy that we had to accept them – why would anyone be happy when they have to put in place restrictive measures – but we simply had to. And now, the new school year is starting; people are coming back from vacation, getting back to reality, so we have to be very careful. The numbers are worsening, so we need to implement restrictive measures at our borders in order to avoid the virus being brought back into our country. Therefore, we only allow Hungarian citizens to enter. Of course, we will have some exceptions, as this has worked very well in the spring, with Slovenia, for example. The transit will definitely be allowed, transport to work will also be allowed, thank God the workers on both sides of the border are connected in tight networks, and that is something we do not want to destroy.
Are you satisfied with the way that Slovenia dealt with the corona crisis?
If I were a Slovenian, I would definitely be satisfied, so I really value and admire the response of the current Slovenian government. You have done a good job of purchasing the protective equipment, although I heard that the government was subjected to a political attack because of this, but I told your Minister Zdravko Počivalšek that similar things were happening everywhere. Perhaps only the extent of the actions of the police might have been a bit different elsewhere. But to return to the previous statement, if your country and our country were not successful enough in purchasing the protective equipment, then we might not have been able to avoid the situation we have witnessed in Italy and Spain. So, I think both governments have done a good job in this area.
Mr. Peter Szijjártó, thank you for the interview and enjoy the rest of your time in Bled.
Thank you so much.
The journalist that talked with the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs is Luka Svetina.