Honourable Hosts, Prime Ministers, Your Excellencies,
Thank you for inviting me here. I have come to Prague today to convey Hungarians’ greetings to the Czech people. The nation of 1956 welcomes the heirs of 1968. The fates of our peoples have been intertwined many times over the past one thousand years. And after the end of World War II we shared the same fate, as after 1945 the reward given to the Czechs and Slovaks – together with the Polish people – was the same as the punishment given to us Hungarians: Soviet dictatorship.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I remember that in the eighties the Czech and Polish anti-communist resistance movements were models for us young Hungarians. For us Charter 77 and Václav Havel were signposts and reference points, which guided us Hungarians on the way towards dismantling the communist system. And naturally I remember some wonderful intellectual experiences, wonderful Czech films: The Firemen’s Ball, Closely Watched Trains, Cutting It Short, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. And the unsurpassable literature of the Czech people – or the Czechoslovak people, as we said at the time. When we read it, we always felt that it was also written about us. Thank you for that!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today it’s also clear that to be a ’68-er means two radically different things in the West and in Central Europe. The West’s ‘68 sought to eliminate the free European world that rests on the foundations of nation states and Christian culture. And, by contrast, there is our ’68 – which seeks to regain and defend that world. Today the message of the Central European ’68 is the same as it was back then: we want to decide our own fate; we want to live as free nations, not as imperial provinces or imperial subjects. As Václav Klaus taught us: if there is no nation state, there is no democracy. This is the kind of thing that we Czechs, Poles, Slovaks and Hungarians also felt in our bones thirty years ago, just as we do today. We are Central European democrats, and therefore we must defend the sovereignty of nation states; because if we surrender it, this will spell the end of democracy. Winston Churchill prophesied that although in 1945 the Soviet Empire had swallowed Central Europe, it would not be able to digest it. This is what happened: whenever the grip loosened for even a moment, Central Europe started speaking in its own voice and in its own language. October 1956, the ’68 Prague Spring and then Solidarność [Solidarity] destroyed the Soviet system from within, and in 1989 we finally managed to hammer the last nails into the coffin of communism. And we did this not by setting up another ideology to confront communism: we merely demanded a life worthy of human dignity. At this point, allow me to cite another important thought we learnt from Václav Havel. He once said that the introduction of a more humane system does not automatically guarantee a more humane life. In fact the reverse is the case: only a more humane life can guarantee the emergence of a more humane system. I’m convinced that what he said then is also true in today’s world. Today also, if we want to improve our contemporary European world – and it’s badly in need of improvement – we don’t need some new ideological system: we need simple human things. We need to be allowed to live our own Central European lives, to respect and protect our families, to enjoy our freedom, to love our country, and to be proud of our nation. We Central Europeans have our own language: the language of freedom, independence and solidarity with one another. This is the language that gives us an independent and resolute voice in the great family of European nations, and thanks to this Central Europe today is not only a geographical term, not only a promise, but a political, economic and cultural reality.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Milan Kundera once described the Central European nations under the Soviet yoke as people who are even prepared to die for their countries and for Europe. Thirty years ago we also showed that we are prepared not only to die for our countries and Europe, but that we can also live and work for them. Today not only do we hold our fate in common, but also our goals. The cooperation of the Central European countries is written on the hearts of Central Europeans, and so I am convinced that the years ahead will be about the success of Central Europe, and within it the V4 and the Czech Republic. With all due modesty, but with the self-confidence acquired from the achievements of the past thirty years, and thorough acquaintance with the European situation, I can tell you this: thirty years ago we thought that Europe was our future; today we see that we are Europe’s future. And I’m convinced that we are prepared for this mission.
God bless the citizens of the Czech Republic. On this anniversary today, Hungary salutes the Czech Republic.