Hungary’s conservative party, Fidesz, won its fourth consecutive supermajority led by both controversial and innovative party leader Viktor Orbán. Orbán has sought to create a non-leftist model of governance that still exists within the margins of a rule of law.
One of the recent keystones of his government is Judit Varga — probably the best-known member of his cabinet and head of the Justice Ministry — who spoke with El American about Fidesz’s latest victory and the relationship between Hungary and the EU. Varga has been both in charge of the Hungarian protection of its borders against illegal immigration and the reception of Ukrainian refugees. This interview has been edited for clarity.
Nobody expected such an overwhelming victory of Fidesz in last month’s election. What are the causes of this massive support of the Hungarian people?
The Hungarian people saw that the Christian-conservative side had one common passion, and the name of that passion is Hungary. In the last 12 years, we proved that the interests of the Hungarian people come first for us. That’s why we created 1 million new jobs, cut overhead costs, and built employment while providing financial support to families and the elderly.
Our credo is that Hungary must remain a sovereign Christian country where notions like faith, homeland, or family are not simply obsolete words but true values, which form the backbone of our thousand-year-old Hungarian identity. We held each other’s hand and sent a clear message to the world: whatever intrigue and cunning tricks the European left-wing uses to bring Hungary to its knees, we will resist and step up for our compatriots and the future of our children and grandchildren while remaining true and honest partners in the EU. In the end, the heart always wins!
The victory of Fidesz has been welcome in Brussels. From the first day, there was talk of a “legal but unjust victory” and the European Commission initiated the rule of law mechanism to sanction Hungary. Is there a problem in Brussels with democracy? Don’t you think that these actions can only lead to a break-up of the EU?
I bet the outcome of the elections was quite sobering for the Eurocrats in Brussels who apparently use a different definition of democracy. For us, it means the will of the people. And the Hungarian citizens have clearly stated that they don’t want the failed left-wing back. The rule of law mechanism is a mere political tool to take revenge for the victory of the national conservative side.
There was an article in Bloomberg, an outlet you can hardly blame for being conservative, that said that these punitive measures would be risky in such challenging times. But Brussels persists, disregarding the consequences. In fact, such petty political battles would only break the already-fragile trust in EU institutions. Nonetheless, we will endure and remain open to dialogue to finally fulfill the dreams of our founding fathers: to be united in diversity.
Last month, I was in Beregsurány where I saw firsthand the huge effort Hungary is making with the influx of refugees from Ukraine. Is the EU offering any help in this crisis or just nice words?
Let the numbers speak for themselves. Until mid-April, Hungary has spent 1.6 billion EUR on the defense of our Southern borders, and more than 105 million EUR on handling the refugee situation stemming from the war in Ukraine. The European Union so far only covered 2% of such costs, which is ridiculous. However, there are reasons to be optimistic at last, since the European Commission has recently announced the first cohesion funding payments to the Member States helping refugees. In the meantime, Brussels is holding back the RRF on political grounds.
The president of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, resigned last week over the OLAF report, which, according to Leggeri, defends the thesis of the most left-wing NGOs. What do you think about what is happening with Frontex and the growing influence of NGOs in the EU?
Certain NGOs are capable of exercising a significant influence over public life and public debate. Something even the EU Court of Justice confirmed when taking a decision on our law on civil society organizations in Hungary. In the European arena, however, some left-liberal NGOs have become dominant players in decision-making. A striking example was their activity before the Hungarian elections.
They literally used every means to discredit the conservative government. One of them published a report in which they stated that the Fidesz party rigged the 2018 elections. Another leftist organization literally called the government a cancer while on the forum of a liberal institute while speakers supported political pressure as a tool to influence Hungarian politics. And the list could go on. As one of the seven theses Hungary formulated on the future of Europe: decisions shall be made by elected leaders and not by international NGOs!
In many Western media, they write off the Visegrád Group as broken because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is also a concern of many Hungarians because of the centuries-old friendship with the Poles. What is the situation within the V4? Is there any risk of a breakup if the war in Ukraine escalates?
I envy those journalists who have the time and energy to discredit our alliance like they had no other issues. Therefore, I will repeat it again: the V4 cooperation is alive and well. We keep consulting before the meetings of EU ministers, share our views on the different questions and respect each other’s positions. It has never been a secret that for Poland, the issue of Russia is a red line, nor is our pragmatic dependence on Russian energy.
Although the liberal media systematically forgets to report on it, Slovakia also gets 85 percent of its gas from Russia. We are on the same side as our V4 allies in many aspects regarding the war. Peace is a number one priority for all of us. Hungary has always joined the sanctions which were equally supported by all Member States. So, the whole idea about the breakup of the V4 is just a fairy-tale of liberals who cannot accept the outcome of the Hungarian elections.
How is the war affecting the economic situation in Hungary? Despite the crisis, the Hungarian government is going to increase pensions by 8.9%.
Let us be clear: the prices will keep rising for as long as the war continues. Therefore, we cannot afford to sit back and remain idle. We are doing everything we can to protect the Hungarian people from the consequences of these price rises.
This is why we have introduced price restrictions and increased pensions while retaining previously introduced measures as well, such as family support or the PIT exemption for under 25s. The Hungarian economy remains strong and stable, our GDP grew by 7.1% last year which is the 2nd best in the EU, our unemployment rate is below 4%, and Hungarian businesses keep expanding. There is no need to worry, the government will defend the interests of the Hungarian people and businesses.
Many conservatives see with hope the example of Viktor Orbán; do you think that this new, “Hungarian Revolution” can be exported?
I truly hope that our victory will energize conservatives around Europe. Hungarian people have proved that it is possible to believe in the values of family, homeland, and Christianity and that the ancient idea of a union based on a strong alliance of strong nations can be brought back.
The key to making European conservatism great again lies in the cooperation of think tanks, movements, and civilians in order to hold the spiritual flame for those who have been left without proper representation in the EU, especially after the EPP lost its identity and joined the liberal forces. A beautiful and hopeful era is ahead of us, although strategic patience is needed now as well. Because the most important right now are peace and security.