Márton Gyöngyösi: In a couple of years Jobbik can bring about a great surprise in Hungary

01.05.2015 | By Marcin Kędzierski and Nadia Urban and Bartosz Światłowski

100 per cent of state national property was sold out, even if it was a socialist state but it was owned by Hungarian people. 100 per cent of the state-owned national wealth was basically sold out over a night to domestic mafia and foreign multinational companies, sometimes for as cheap as 1 euro or 1 Hungarian Forint which is even less. And we believe this stupid neo-liberal rhetoric is enough to put the economics to the hands of free interpreters regardless of their nationality, where they come from what they say or what they promise because the invisible hand of the market will solve all the problems of the national economy of Hungary and the nation. Now we have become, after pursuing this absolutely schizophrenic economic policy for two and a half decades, we have become a country like a colony which is welcoming multinational companies that come to our country under any circumstances and on any conditions.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to proceed with the interview and let me start with a basic question. In the Western public opinion you are very often labeled as a fascist or anti-Semitic party. So how would you describe Jobbik as a party yourself – conservative, Christian-Democratic, national, right-wing… ?

I would have to give a short description I’d say it’s a patriotic Christian traditionalist party. It basically means that we’re the party which is nationalist and patriotic in sense that stands for the defense of Hungarian national sovereignty and the defense of our values which are not only Hungarian values but also European values but not in a sense West-Europeans tend to refer to. The Values that the UE usually refers to, we think that these are not the real or the most important for Europe. Of course, all these liberties are fantastic but our Christian roots and our cultural heritage is what the real values are, and we are on our political front not only in defense of the national sovereignty but also the real values of the Hungarian nation and Europe.

I will get back to the Christian roots but let me ask another question – what is the main difference between Jobbik and Fidesz and what is your attitude towards Viktor Orbán? Is he a Hungarian patriot and man of state or rather a brilliant politician using the opportunities.

I think you’ve answered the question. Mr Orbán is a talented and brilliant politician who always turns with the wind, he has a fantastic rhetoric and great political ability to speak to everybody the language that they want to hear and to say the things that people want to hear, putting it to, of course, always a historical context. That’s the greatest difference between Jobbik and Fidesz – Fidesz has been around for the past 25 years and it’s a political party which has been part of the whole transition process, it’s basically part of all the economic and political corruption that has been part of the past 25 years . My opinion does not change just because they seem to recognize today that the past 25 years have been full of mistakes and have been wasted. Now Mr Orbán makes the impression probably from far away that now he’s trying to make a 180 degree turn and make big adjustments to 25 year status quo, but I think that his man having been part of the political establishment in the transition years and corruption that has been characteristic in our society and country in the past two and a half decades. I think he’s not a credible man anymore because now he’s trying to revise the system that he has been a part of. It is a third Orbán government in the past 25 years when not, he was in opposition. He has been following the Euro-Atlantic foreign policy which has basically led to Hungary loosing 100% of its sovereignty in both a political and economic sense with joining NATO, with joining EU, with missing all the opportunities of regional cooperation – including the Visegrad cooperation – so he’s a man and Fidesz is a political party that is very talented at maneuvering but it has its past and his track record – it is not a wonderful track record, if you ask me, and the people will have a judgment on it very soon.

But at the very moment taking into account the position of Fidesz on the right-wing part of Hungarian political scene do you think that Jobbik has a real winning potential, do you have any plans to move maybe towards the center, where would you like to look for additional votes?

The most definitely in the center. I think that most of the people has been misled by Mr Orbán’s and Fidesz’s rhetoric, which came after disastrous 8 years of socialist-liberal government in 2010. Mr. Orbán and Fidesz were awaited by the Hungarian population, by 2/3 majority, with great expectations but I think that this is nice and slow that its fading away. Mr Orbán lost more than 1 million votes in 2014, he only managed to retain the 2/3 majority because he redrew the electoral map and he has made the new electoral law. It is an optical illusion to see that Fidesz has 2/3 majority. You have to understand the Hungarian electoral system and Hungarian electoral law to see how votes are converted into the 2/3 majority. Mr Orbán has lost a tremendous amount of support between 2010 and 2014 and he’s continuously losing support. The socialists and the liberal parties are in bids. In Hungary, they have almost ceased to exist. Jobbik is the only political force and political party that managed to gain support, we managed to gain 200 000 votes between 2010 and 2014. I also have to add that we managed to gain political support with zero support from media or from any economic or political backing. If you look at the Hungarian opinion polls and if you look at the Fidesz position at the moment you’ll see clearly that Fidesz is slighting in support. It is votes from Fidesz that we have to focus on and I think we have a very good chance to gain support moving towards the center and moving in the direction of the Fidesz’s supporters. It is a very colorful party and it is a people’s party which basically enjoys or enjoyed the support of a very colorful segment of the Hungarian society from liberal to nationalistic right-wing supporters. Some Fidesz supporters are very “easy” ant natural for us to win over, others – a little bit more difficult and we have to work on it and we are working on it.

The political ceiling of support For Jobbik is now 18-20 per cent. Do you believe that there’s a opportunity of breaking this ceiling of 20 per cent?

Well, we have broken the ceiling of 18 per cent and now we are well over 20 per cent according to the opinion polls. Elections are far away, we have 4 years, but you have to see the tendencies and you have to see the trends in Hungarian politics. I think that if you look at the map of Europe at the moment you can see that there are trends that nobody has seen before. If you look at the election in Greece, in Great Britain, at tendencies in Germany, Austria, Netherlands, in France you see that taboos are broken everyday. Hungarians have broken a few taboos through the history, in a couple of years Jobbik can bring about a great surprise in Hungary.

The next parliamentary election will be in 2018 unless something happens and they will be earlier…

I don’t believe in that, Hungary is not a place for an intermediate election. I’m not counting on that. We are preparing for election in 2018.

If in 2018 Fidesz will still win the elections and you will be the second power in Országház, will you create a coalition with Fidesz?

It’s out of the question, and I’ll tell you why. I think that our approach to politics is completely different from that of Fidesz. One of our main program points is to get away with corruption in this country regardless whether it was Fidesz’s corruption or socialist’s corruption. In the past 25 years our economic system has been developing in a very close alliance with politics, so politics and economics, politics and money have basically been intertwined in an incredible extend and it’s inseparable. Today business is inseparable from politics. You cannot be a successful businessman in this country, you cannot survive as a small and medium-size enterprise without connections with the Fidesz party at the moment. Fidesz has basically started to built a middle-class, and it is a very good objective, but it has started to built it from above, it has started to redistribute markets in Hungary today, to people who are loyal to Fidesz. If you’re not loyal are not able to run a successful business regardless of what sector of economic you are trying to function in. Fidesz has redistributed the market of tobacco distribution, on-line cashier machines, even small things like that, public tendering. Now there’s not a chance that you’ll win a public tender if you don’t have political backing from the Fidesz party. This type of corruption is overwhelming in this country today. How can I, as Jobbik work together with Fidesz in a coalition, if Fidesz’s interest is to keep this system running and my interest and my promise to my supporters is that we will deal with all corruption, regardless of its color, regardless of whether its Fidesz’s corruption or socialists’s corruption. It’s impossible, I would have to deny my own political program to enter into a coalition with Fidesz, it’s absolutely impossible.

I would like to ask you about your program. Recently Jobbik has become a more free market oriented party. Is it a real shift or just a move to show the difference between you and Fidesz?

Jobbik has not moved into the free-market direction, if you look at our economic program throughout the history of  Jobbik, it is absolutely consistent. If you could give an example of what made you think that Jobbik has become? We were never against the market as such but we always, from the beginning, have put emphasis on regaining Hungarian economic sovereignty. I think that for Polish listeners it is a point very easy to understand because we have had a very similar experience after the fall of communism. But I think Hungary have had a very extremist approach, an extremist neo-liberal approach. 100 per cent of state national property was sold out, even if it was a socialist state but it was owned by Hungarian people. 100 per cent of the state-owned national wealth was basically sold out over a night to domestic mafia and foreign multinational companies, sometimes for as cheap as 1 euro or 1 Hungarian Forint which is even less. And we believe this stupid neo-liberal rhetoric  is enough to put the economics to the hands of free interpreters regardless of their nationality, where they come from what they say or what they promise because the invisible hand of the market will solve all the problems of the national economy of Hungary and the nation. Now we have become, after pursuing this absolutely schizophrenic economic policy for two and a half decades, we have become a country like a colony which is welcoming multinational companies that come to our country under any circumstances and on any conditions. They say that they create jobs and if somebody is providing jobs in Hungary we should be happy, but the conditions under which they employ the Hungarian work-force is our business. I mean it if TESCO comes here to redistribute and retail groceries and food products, which Hungary is perfectly capable of doing itself, pays Hungarian work-force the minimum wage I don’t think it’s necessary in our interest and this type of jobs are not particularly to our benefit. It is not in the benefit of Hungary to become the place where big multinational companies assemble through predatory workflows. We are much more talented nation than that it is for ourselves to think out a strategy for our country and state involvement should be much greater in defining this strategy and to ask for outside capital, for outside help, the help of foreign multinationals, the help of the market to adapt to this strategy not the other way around. Hungary – and I think it’s true for most of the Central-European countries – it doesn’t have a strategy. The only strategy is to invite in companies, they boost the GNP and of course the politicians love to speak about GNP which is nonsense, it’s a number that doesn’t mean anything in our countries, it’s a number that tells you how much is produced in this country but it’s silent about under what conditions and by who it is produced. We have been following this schizophrenic neo-liberal economic policy and by now we have handed over all our economic sovereignty and political sovereignty, economic policy sovereignty to Brussels and to outside forces. Now Brussels is not only defining the mandatory policy but now it even has to say into how budgetary policy is running a country and it is putting enormous pressure on our countries in guiding the economic policy. This is unacceptable. Jobbik and its program has a very clear economic strategy, it is saying that it is for us Hungarian which industries should be competitive. Here in Hungary agriculture and food processing should be absolutely number one. We have all the resources to become an agricultural superpower, not only in Europe and at world level. We have to recognize this, I think that one of the most important questions in 21stcentury is who can provide its own people and its own nation with save, not GMO manipulated, but save agricultural products. This is going to be a question of life and death, and of course clean drinking water. We have these resources and we are stupid if we do not recognize that this one segment is the comparative advantage of Hungary. We should protect the agricultural sector at any cost, but also things like the construction industry, mines, Jobbik is in favor of reopening Hungarian mines that had been functioning before but have been closed, the health industry, tourism and many more. This is where our main economic focus would lay.

Thank you very much for your answer. Before I’ll start asking about the UE, let me ask you – what do you understand by saying that your Hungarian identity is not European but rather Turanic. Is there no contradiction between Turanic identity and your Christian history? Gábor Vona made quite positive statement about Ankara’s policy last time, so what is your opinion of the bilateral relation between Hungary and Turkey and what is the attitude of Hungary towards Muslim people. Finally, is there any contradiction between the Turanic identity and the Christian tradition.

From outside it might look that there is a contradiction, but there is absolutely none considering the fact that Hungary is a Turanian nation. We have to be, as Hungarians, after 1100 years of the European history we have to be clear about it that Hungary has a very complex identity. We are Asian people, we are Turanian people who arrived in Europe – whatever it means geographically – but we arrived in Europe from the East with Turanic heritage and roots. And we have never dropped this, if any foreigner comes to Hungary and gets to know our culture in depths, not only looking at the sight-seeing things in Budapest and in our lovely country, but goes deep into the Hungarian culture and Hungarian traditions and starts to do some research on the Hungarian mythology, Hungarian folk-tales, Hungarian folk music, traditional folk dresses, the cuisine – if you get to know this very much alive Hungarian traditional culture, you will realize that this is something utterly different from anything that you might have encountered in Europe. Historical research proves that Hungarian roots lay in the East. This is not something that we made up. Regardless of our roots, we are one of the oldest nations in Europe. We are a country that has been existing for the last 1000 years and it’s very difficult to find nations like that in Europe. We are very proud of our roots which are Turanic and Asian but we are also very proud to be in Europe for a very long time. 1100 years ago we arrived to the Carpathian basin and we conquered the Carpathian basin, we have taken up western Christianity – which does not mean that we have dropped our previous culture and our traditions and we have entered a completely new one, we have taken up religion which, I remind you, we did not meet the first time we arrived in Europe, we had been familiar with Christianity before, but Saint Steven has taken up the Roman Catholic faith to make an alliance with Rome. Here in Hungary, for us the religion is very import and, it’s a part of our tradition and part of our culture, we don’t want to be anything different than Christian, regardless whether it’s Kalvinist or Roman Catholic or whatever. When you asked me to define what Jobbik is I used the world traditionalist. What traditionalist means for me is that regardless of what religion somebody is, if they have religious values, they belong to the great family of traditionalists. Those people who respect their values, their own roots and their own religion – I respect those people, regardless whether they are Buddhists, Hindu or Muslim. Without respect and without dialog between religions we will get nowhere. My problem with Europe is that there are no more Christians in Europe, maybe with the exception of Poland and our land, if you look at Western Europe the churches are empty, the Christian values are not present not even at the rhetoric level not even speaking about level of practice. We have basically lost our own values and our own roots and traditions. What is rewinding now very dangerously through Europe is the self-definition emanating from the hate of other cultures and other civilizations. I think it is a big mistake that West-Europeans are now indulging in is that they believe that just because they hate Islam and Islam immigration they are defending Christianity.  They are not, because they have lost the real values of Christianity. They are only against something but they are not for something. In Western Europe it’s only a denial of something and no support for something. I don’t see this in the Islam. I think that there’s such a thing as terrorism which happens to be executed these days by people who are in the name of Allah, but they are not the real representatives of the Islam for me. I know that Christianity had a very similar extremist, I know that Buddhists and other religions also had extremism, but for me this people who follow ISIS or terrorist action or Jihadists they are not the real representatives of Islam for me. I have great respect for Islam and I completely deny terrorism but this things should be separated.

If you came to power in Hungary what would be your attitude towards the European Union – would you like to withdraw from EU or proceed a deep reform, and if so where would you look for potential allies or coalitions?

I’m very far away of being a great fan of the European Union and especially of the directions it has taken recently. I think UE is a basket case, to be honest with you I don’t think the European Union will survive the end of the year if it goes on the track it has started but there are great changes in the EU. Our attitude towards it is changing now because Euro-sceptic forces are on the rise, I think in the next European parliamentary elections we will have a sweeping majority of those who want to see the EU go in another direction. This people or this parties which has this objective are our allies. Everybody who thinks the same about European Union we see as our allies. We want sovereign member states within the EU and no federalist, centralized approach which the EU has taken since the Mastricht Treaty and even worse since the Lisbon treaty.  Everybody who wants to change the course of European Union and wants to give more sovereignty and independence to the nation states we have to potentially work with – formally or informally. We are Euro-sceptics but we are also recognizing that the EU is changing to our benefit with the rise of Euro-sceptic forces across Europe. What I would be in favor of is holding a referendum in Hungary, a real referendum about the European Union, not the one we held to decide about the EU accession,which was manipulated by the political elite – only positive things were told to the people about the EU before asking them to cast their votes on the European Union. It was dishonest, highly undemocratic referendum. We would need to bring this issue to the people by showing them the benefits of the European Union and also the disadvantages so they could make an honest opinion about whether they want to be a part of EU or they want to exit the European Union.

I will focus on the Central and Eastern Europe. The policy towards the Hungarian minority in Slovakia, Romania or Serbia might affect the relations between your countries, especially in the case of Hungary and Slovakia it might be decisive for the Visegrad Group future. How do you assess this political body – is it dead or alive? Do you see any potential in the cooperation of Central-European countries and how about possible including Romania in the Visegrad Group.

The Visegrad Group used to be a good idea but I think it’s a complete failure. Apart from getting together and making completely pointless declarations about issues. Nobody would realize if tomorrow Visegrad Group would be cancelled because it has completely missed the point. The Visegrad Group was established because in our region, in Central-Eastern Europe, which means Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary with countries that have the same history and the same cultural roots and backgrounds they will have a common voice and they will unite on the issues that they could present to the EU or even Russia or towards the outside world. But what we can see now, if you look at Visegrad Group and then at the members of the Visegrad Group you can see that there is Poland, which should take the lead in the Visegrad Group as the biggest and the most powerful country of Visegrad countries. Poland is now a medium power on the European stage and it does not want to fulfill its leading role in the Visegrad Group. I think Poland has turned away from V4 and it does not want to take the lead, take the flag and make something out of the V4. Poland is much more happier playing with Western European countries like Spain, France, Germany. I understand that this is a much happier position that speaking to Hungarians, Slovakians and Czech people at the table about topics which are not what is on the European stage.

But would you accept such a lead of Poland in V4?

Somebody should take the lead, otherwise this whole thing reminds me of a sinking ship. The Visegrad Group is nothing else than every year they get together and they happily shake each other’s hand in front of the cameras and they issue some pointless declarations that nobody particularly cares about. There is no point of the Visegrad Group at the moment. If Poland, as the biggest member of the collaboration does not give it a direction then who will? Hungary is torn apart by minority issues, Hungary and Slovakia – it’s very difficult. We are at the rock bottom of our bilateral relations since Trianon. The Czech Republic is always playing a double game and that’s the historical characteristic of the Czech Republic, one day they say this, next day they do that, so it’s by nature kind of two-faced. Slovakia and Hungary are small countries torn apart by minority issues and different issues that make it very difficult to break out from. Poland remains to take the lead, but Poland doesn’t want to take the lead. Poland is happy being one of the biggest members of the EU, Poland is following a completely Euro-Atlantic policy, taking orders from Washington and from Brussels, it’s following a different strategy from what V4 would require. It is a sad story because for me, or Jobbik, the only chance for survival, I think, for Central – Eastern Europe in this very turbulent world today is to unite on the Polish-Hungarian-Croatian axe which is a historical axe if you think, it always existed through 1000 years of history, we should get a common position. We should work on the common position in Europe, common position on Europe, common position on Russia. We should work towards our sovereignty and our independence.

But in recent months we had, as I observed, a split in the Visegrad Group regarding the reactions towards Russian intervention in Ukraine. Let me quote your statement at the political assembly of the Council of Europe, the Jobbik representative said (about the decision of suspending Russian voice in the European council) : “ It ignores the human rights violations repeatedly committed by the Kiev government and turns a blind eye on the covert intelligence operations and media war conducted by the US and several EU member states in the territory of Ukraine, as well as the coup d’état orchestrated in the Eastern European country.” What do you mean by human rights violations committed by the Kiev?

At first there was a coup against legitimate government, Yanukovych government, orchestrated  clearly by Western states and that was the first act. People tend to forget the history of this whole crisis but I always have to point back towards the creation of the Ukrainian crisis, and I say creation because it was not a developed, it was created by outside forces who are brilliant at orchestrating colored revolutions in this region, from central Asia all the way to Central – Eastern Europe and basically there was an overthrow of the legitimate government.

Don’t you believe in a real social movement? Willing to change the situation?

In this region, especially after the events of 2004, the Orange Revolution, I lost my faith in spontaneous uprisings. Solidarity movement was different, ant the ’56 uprising was different but in the modern age, since the end of the cold war, the way power is exercised – it is exercised through the soft power. And if you look at the Ukrainian crisis – one thing has to be established very clearly – that the Ukrainian crisis was devised and developed with the involvement of NGO’s, of course you could see secret service activity during Maidan events, you could see that media propaganda was pushing the events and that was directed from above by politicians and I was very sad to see how German politicians, Polish politicians, American politicians were involved up to their chin in the Ukrainian crisis and of course, I have to say that, it is in the interest of American geopolitical interest.

You could have observed also the influence of Russia.

Later. I’m talking about the time when Russia was still involved in the Sochi Olympic Games and did not even make an official statement on the Ukrainian crisis. Already at that time Victoria Nuland’s telephone conversation was tapped. We are talking about the State Secretary of State Department in USA, talking to the American ambassador in Kiev she said, after talking in disgraceful words about the European Union, she admitted that America has spent 5 billion dollars on creating the Ukrainian crisis. And she told the ambassador in Kiev who she, the USA, and the State Department want in the government and in power in Ukraine. What is that if not a direct involvement in the national sovereignty of Ukraine and of the Ukrainian people. Russians, they came months later after new Ukraine was established, after Yanukovych was expelled, after the new parliament withdrew as it first action the language law, the right of minorities in Ukraine to exercise their own language – Hungarians, Russians, Polish, Romanians and many others. And after that Mr Poroshenko started to send troops against the Russian minority in the eastern Ukraine. If you ask me, and if you follow logically the sequence of events you can see that Russia was reacting and not creating. Now looking back, after one year, I know that the cause and causality is very often mixed up but we have to be loyal to the facts I recognize, the facts in the sequence they happened. I don’t want to say that Russia is not there to blame for this conflict, I’m sure that it committed mistakes. But let’s not pretend that Russia is the evil one, Russia has done everything wrong and the West is an angel trying to help the Ukrainian people in the democratic process. The real unfortunate thing is that in this conflict Ukrainian people come last, the American geopolitical interest comes first and all of the European countries are suffering from this – Poland, Hungary, Germany, France. There’s not a single country in Europe which has an interest in Ukrainian crisis escalating and getting involved in a war, whether it’s economic or military with Russia. This is going to be the prime dangerous situation if it’s not already a very dangerous situation and I don’t want to see it escalating into the third world war. There has to be sensibility and there has to be a political solution. If the completely mindless European politicians think that expelling Russia from the Council of Europe is going to bring us closer to peace then I think that Europe has lost its senses and it is full of people who are either paid by American secret service or NATO or I don’t know who but this is not in the interest of Europe, not in the interest of a single European person or a single European country. This is purely American geopolitical interest and it’s high time that we came to our senses.

Let me ask you the last question. We talked about the communal interests of the Visegrad group, now we are working on the Eastern Partnership. What would be your position on the Eastern Partnership, what could be the common proposal of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic? What’s really the shape of Eastern Partnership?

Just like every grand project of the European Union, the Eastern Partnershipis also dead. It was a great idea to get involved in the dialog with a number of countries in Eastern Europe but this project has also come to a dead end. I think that in the past 2 years I heard less and less of the Eastern Partnership.

I was talking about Eastern Partnership 2.0, so about reshaping the program.

I don’t know. I think that the European Union at the moment is facing a number of problems which are of the economic nature, political nature, social nature. Shengen is falling apart at the moment.. We have such problems, everything that has an outlook towards outside regions is not now on the priority list of the EU, I’m afraid. Although there would be a lot to talk about with the countries that have signed up for the Eastern Partnership, I just don’t know how this is going to be restarted, you have heard my opinion about the European Union, and I think it is completely incapable of an adjustment, of realizing that failed directions could be given a different route and how things can be reformed. I just can’t answer your question, I don’t know what the solution is. I’m afraid that the European Union in the last decade was not as “attractive” as we like to think of it. It’s very difficult now to say to the member states – look, the EU is such a wonderful place, join us. I think that the dialog is good but it’s far away from being attractive and it’s difficult to make it attractive at the moment. I just don’t know the answer to your question – how it could be restarted.

About Authors

Marcin Kędzierski

Research assistant in the Department of European Studies at the Cracow University of Economics, Head of the Jagiellonian Club. Professional experience in European and Foreign Policy as well as Public Administration (internships at the European Parliament, EU Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland and the Polish Embassy in Germany).

Nadia Urban

Student of both Romanian and French Philology at Jagiellonian University. Currently working at Museum of Contemporary Art in Cracow. A freelance translator and hyperpolyglot-wannabe. On one hand passionate about literature, art and Balkan spirit, on the other hand – interested in international politics and diplomacy. So far speaking English, French, Romanian and Polish (native).

Bartosz Światłowski

Master’s degree in international relations (Jagiellonian University) bachelor in social policy (Jagiellonian University) and international relations (Tischner European University). Analysts in Diplomacy and Politics Foundation. Speaks Polish, English and Spanish.