At the stage discussion held as part of the ceremony, Mr Orbán said: peace has always been Europe’s utmost goal which – the Yugoslav Wars aside – has been achieved for 71 years. At the same time, the need to not repeat the „’accidents’ which happened after World War II, that the fate of Europe is not decided by the Europeans, but by the Americans and the Russians” has not been addressed as these two countries play the key role in the fate of Ukraine as well.
He mentioned as a further problem that while the centre of gravity in the world economy is shifting increasingly towards the Pacific region, Europe has failed to preserve its former dominance in this area, and at the same time, it is unclear how we should manage the problem of the continent’s declining population.
The European Union has not succeeded in finding answers to almost any of these problems, not including the issue of peace which is, however, the most important, the Prime Minister remarked, who took the view that the EU will also be required in the future in order to retain this single already achieved result, and to start considering how the rest of the historical problems could be addressed.
The Member States of the EU shrunk to 27 after Brexit will have to unite their efforts, and carry forward the core values identified by the founding fathers because it is these that distinguish the EU from other alliances, Heinz-Peter Behr, German Ambassador to Budapest stated. We must think about the future of Europe, and this does not mean that the Member States should not argue with one another, but that they should reach viable compromises wherever possible, he said. Without European unity and cooperation, not a single Member State will be able to stand its ground in the global competition, he underlined. He highlighted that more mobility is required in the interest of minimising youth unemployment, and we also need more innovation. The Member States may progress at different „speeds” and may even conduct „experiments” within the integrated community, but the reinforcement of the EU must remain the common goal, he said.
Former Bavarian Minister President, Edmund Stoiber, politician of the German Christian Social Union (CSU) took the view: while there are wars and oppression in many parts of the world, from Africa, through the Middle-East, to Asia, in Europe which once was „the continent of wars” we have managed to create peace and freedom. While at present it is often just the problems that are at the forefront, in actual fact, it is freedom and peace that constitute the essential elements of European integration. We should be grateful for the path that led from the Montanunion to the European Union to the European political elites which learnt to draw conclusions from the tragic events of previous centuries. We must ask the question, however, whether we should aim „for an ever closer union”, a European federal state, he added. He stressed that the different national experiences and identities must be respected.
Austria, too, has a vested strong interest in the maintenance and progress of the integration process, Austrian Ambassador Ralph Scheide said at the German-Austrian-Hungarian-founded university. He pointed out: freedom and security, and additionally, the rule of law and democracy, too, form part of the core values. Here, in the heart of Europe, we must continue to work together for the preservation of these, and it is an important task of these countries to demonstrate even more creative force, he underlined. He took the view: in addition to the Schengen Area without border controls and the euro, the Erasmus Programme is one of the most important achievements of European integration because it facilitates communication among young people and mobility between educational institutions in Europe.
The attendees also exchanged their views on the various transnational education projects in the context of the jubilee. Erwin Teufel, former Minister President of Baden-Württemberg (Christian Democratic Union – CDU) took the view that in Germany which has a federal structure the educational system must preserve its regional and state specificities, whilst there are responsibilities which require capacities that transcend the nation states.
Heinz-Peter Bahr stressed: we must rely on young people’s innovation skills and creativity, must better involve them in the shaping of Europe’s future, and universities and other educational institutions constitute the best breeding ground for this which should be turned into „innovation laboratories” in his view.
Ralph Scheide highlighted in this context that the Andrássy University has many students from the South-East-European region as well, and therefore it is the responsibility of the countries founding the university to support the countries of the region.
Edmund Stoiber said regarding the possibility that grants may be withdrawn from Hungary over the dispute concerning the issue of migration, and this could also affect the Andrássy University: the sovereignty and individual identity of each country must be respected. He mentioned as an example the European isolation attempts made in response to the coalition formed by the Austrian People’s Party and the Freedom Party of Austria led by Jörg Haider at the time of Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel which, as he said, „did not yield the desired results” and harmed the European community. Based on this experience, we must also be very careful with the Polish Constitution, he said.