FP: But given the recent difficulties in Greece and Spain and elsewhere, do you still think adopting the euro is in Hungary's best interest?
PS: Obviously. A strong Europe, and within that a strong Hungary, is in our best interest. Even though we are outside of the eurozone currently, every interest we have indicates that the stability of the eurozone is in our best interest. This is unchanged as far as the Hungarian economy is concerned. We are also trying to do our level best to avoid the situation that the European Union will be evolving at different speeds.
There are already different speeds of course. Some countries are in the eurozone; some are out. Some are in Schengen; some countries out. So there is differentiation already. But we do so support integration 100 percent. But this comes with some criteria, and we are still a way off from those.
FP: So the troubles that Europe has had haven't damped Hungarians' enthusiasm about the united European project more generally?
PS: We Hungarians have always considered ourselves Europeans. We did not enter Europe; we returned to Europe. We are one of the oldest Christian countries in Europe, and the country was founded more than 1,000 years ago. Hungarians were not so naive as to think that everything would be steak and onions and just a fantastic new deal when we entered the European Union.
Of course, people are impatient. We have significant poverty, not just in Hungary, but also among the 10 new states in the EU. Elderly people draw very small pensions. Very few children are being born. The rate of production is very low. In Hungary, approximately 7 percent of the population is of Roma background, and we have to treat that also as a special issue.
In response to your question, I think the Hungarian people are welcoming of further European integration.
FP: You've recently met with your counterpart, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, and China has announced plans to purchase some of Hungary's debt. Going forward, what role would you like to see China playing in Central and Eastern Europe?
PS: The philosophy of Hungarian foreign policy has changed. We have opened toward the East, not only China, but including India, the Central Asian countries -- recently I visited Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Turkey -- so our focus of interest is wider now. Of course, China could be a natural partner for us, and I want to establish some investment and institutions in Hungary in order to have a gate for Europe.
Of course, there is a more or less united foreign policy of the European Union, and we have to follow that. You can see that even the EU is reaching out to China.
FP: Are you worried that the crisis could fuel the rise of far-right extremist groups? A lot of people internationally have been watching the growing influence of the Jobbik party with concern. Are you concerned that this kind of sentiment is growing?
PS: Every Hungarian person will worry if extremists or extreme types of views spread. We have learned throughout our history how seriously we have to take extremism, whether it comes from the left or from the right. In my view, most of the right-wing political parties that have gained some space during the last few years have done so because of populism and because of their exclusionary policies directed at immigrants.
In Hungary, Jobbik has built on the anti-Roma sentiment of some individuals. Their share of the last election was approximately 10 percent. The remainder, the two-thirds majority that the government has, is able to balance and handle this well. I find it very important to tell you that in our new constitution we put an emphasis on democratic rights and human rights. We have zero tolerance for intolerance toward anyone.