Minister President, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear German Friends,
“The freedom of the whole of Europe stands or falls with the freedom of Hungary.” These were the words with which Bishop Johannes Neuhäusler concluded a Holy Mass in Munich. Meanwhile all of Marienplatz reverberated to the sound of the bells of the Cathedral and St. Peter’s Church, and an enormous crowd made its way to the City Hall, carrying placards and torches. On 6 November 1956, following the Soviet intervention in Hungary, sixty thousand people gathered here in Munich at the Königsplatz, to remember in silent procession the Hungarians who had fallen in their fight for freedom. And when brutal Soviet communist reprisals made further armed opposition an impossibility, and with many Hungarians setting out for the West, you Bavarians offered them a helping hand. Here they awaited the Bavarian authorities’ decision on their fates in a disciplined and orderly fashion. Many of them were even allowed to make this their new home, and they went on to become law-abiding, hardworking and dedicated citizens of Christian Bavaria. In other words, they became good Germans. We shall never forget this. Thank you, Bavaria! Danke, Bayern!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Hungary is a Christian state with a thousand-year history, which has always been a land of freedom fighters. It tolerates neither oppression, nor occupation, nor dictatorship. I can assure you that, in the future also, Hungary will always stand on the side of European freedom. I am proud to be able to greet you as the prime minister of a nation which, in 1956, was braver than the bravest.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable Minister President,
In recent decades the link which Bishop Neuhäusler made between Hungarian and European freedom has been confirmed. In 1956 Soviet tanks ground Hungarian freedom into the mud. At that time the communist dictatorship’s military intervention was a defeat for the whole of Europe. The slavery on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain also shackled the West. We all knew and felt that Europe could only be free and strong when all of it is free and strong. This was the realisation which led to the magnificent idea of the European Union; the Treaty of Rome was signed after the bloody suppression of the Hungarian Revolution. This same realisation guided us Hungarians when, thirty-three years later in 1989, we opened our border – and with it, the path to Germany. At that time Soviet troops were still stationed in our country. As Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the great refounder of the state, said: “The Hungarians knocked the first brick out of the wall”. We could add that the draught which blew through the resulting hole took with it the entire communist world order. Then we Hungarians took your bishop’s thought and reflected it back: we knew that Europe could not be free until Germany was once again united. Overnight, Germany’s reunification made the European Union a world power. Then Germany supported Central Europe, and as a result the nations of Central Europe joined the common homeland – albeit belatedly. With this the European Union reached its zenith.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear German Friends,
We Hungarians are a people of common sense. We are aware of our strengths, and never seek trouble. We never coveted a role in Europe which would exceed our size and weight. But every thirty years Hungary’s sensitive geographical location pushes us into the mainstream of current European struggles. In 1956, after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Austria, we sought to push the Iron Curtain to beyond our eastern borders. In 1989 we had to open the border. And now, in 2015–16, we have had to secure our border in order to halt massive population movement threatening us from the South. We never asked for such a role: fate and history have thrust it upon us. All that we Hungarians have done is not to run away, not to retreat: we have simply fulfilled our obligations. We have stood our ground – even when attacked from behind, by those who in reality we have been protecting. I cannot deny that the injustice of this is painful. But from Hungarians complaints strike the wrong chord, and neither do they suit our patterns of behaviour. At the same time, injustice does not exempt us from our duty. And you here in Bavaria can always rely on this.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My generation – which was born after 1956 – has always dreamt of the reunification of Europe. We thought that if reunification were achieved, our children and grandchildren would have a free and better life than we had had. We Hungarians also dreamt the European dream of peace, security and prosperity. This is why, after the collapse of the dictatorships, we thought it natural for us to join the European Union. We belong here, we have returned, and this is our home. For us it goes without saying that we must also defend it. The opening of one border in 1989 and the protection of another border today are two sides of the same coin. In 1989 we took action for Europe’s freedom, and today we are protecting this freedom. Today the situation – to paraphrase your bishop’s statement sixty years ago – is that the security of Hungary also means the security of Europe.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Together with Central Europe, Bavaria is currently one of the world’s strongest regions. It is our joint responsibility that this region, as Europe’s engine, should continue to grow and prosper for the benefit of the whole of Europe. The last few years have proved that if, as partners, we combine our efforts on the foundations of mutual respect, together we will be capable of great things.
Freedom is never an end in itself. As 1956 has also taught us, freedom becomes meaningful if we are able to act by transcending our petty goals and individual desires, and by conquering our fears; in other words, we must be brave. On our beloved old continent we must not look away in cowardice – even on such a ceremonial occasion. Our common European Union is in trouble. Our common European Union has drifted into a zone and a state of lawlessness. The list of unresolved problems is a long one, and we only have questions and disputes – but no agreed answers. We cannot expect someone else somewhere else to solve our problems for us. We must seize control of our own fate. Everyone – regardless of ideological and party affiliation – can now see that in order to preserve Europe, and in order to protect the European dream, we must enact change. The question is whether we have the courage to make genuine changes. Dear German Friends, I believe that mere reform will not be enough. We need more: we need renewal. In other words, the changes should not come from the outside, but should come forth from within. We must not allow ideological considerations, financial interests or poor political decisions to dismantle the European unity which we have built from generation to generation with much sacrifice and hard work.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Minister President,
Bavarian-Hungarian friendship is a special brotherhood in arms, which is unique in Europe and which has a long history. It started one thousand years ago, with Hungary’s first royal couple being a Hungarian husband and a Bavarian wife. In the twentieth century we were together on the losing side in two wars, and then worked together for the reunification of Europe. One can see that we Germans and Hungarians have often set out together on great adventures: sometimes for the worse, sometimes for the better. I believe that now we are on the right path. The Germans and the Hungarians are now setting out on a joint venture to create a safe, free, peaceful and prosperous Europe. This is a goal which fills us with pride, and which is worthy of the legacy of the 1956 Hungarian freedom fighters.
Long live German-Hungarian friendship! God save Bavaria!