Good evening Your Excellencies, Honourable Mayor, People of Temesvár, Fellow Celebrants, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Hungarians love this city. Temesvár has always been a famous and important city. This was one of Hungary’s most important fortresses against the Turks, and when it was lost Hungary was lost with it. In the 19th century it was one of the engines of Hungary’s economic growth. In 1956 – already part of Romania – it was a place where young Romanians and Hungarians joined forces. Also as part of Romania, in 1989 it experienced its moment in world history. That was when the world learnt its name. The message that the citizens of Temesvár and Romania sent to the world was that we Central Europeans will reclaim our freedom – and pay for it with our lives if necessary.
According to an old maxim, the world suffers from two problems: the first is that it doesn’t believe in what is possible; the second is that it does believe in what isn’t possible. In 1989 the world didn’t believe it was possible that the Romanians would rebel against communism. As the disparaging cliché about Romanians had it: “porridge won’t explode”. Then it turned out that this was indeed possible – and it was also even possible for Romanians and Hungarians to unite in the name of freedom. There were historical precedents for this: Hungarians had not forgotten that in 1956 Romanians stood up for the revolutionaries of 1956 in numbers that proportionally were only exceeded among the Poles and Hungarians in Romania – and that it was not unusual for them to pay for this with long prison sentences. Thank you for that.
For forty years politicians around the world believed that, through compromise, the taming – or even improvement – of communism was possible. And for forty years politicians around the world believed that, through the rebellion of oppressed peoples, the overthrow of communism was not possible. Those in Romania showed that, even through compromise, the improvement of communism was not possible; and they also showed that, with a popular uprising, the overthrow of communism was indeed possible. Furthermore, they showed that this was the only way in which it was possible. The peoples of Central Europe always knew that freedom would never be gifted to us by the great powers. We also knew that if we expected a gift, then the most we could hope for would be from God; this gave us the physical and spiritual strength to have the courage to fight for our freedom. Had we waited for help from the West, we would still be living under the occupation of Soviet troops, we would still be members of the Warsaw Pact, and our future would still be decided at Communist Party congresses. But we wanted to live in freedom, we committed ourselves to the struggle, we accepted the risks, and our heroes shed blood for it. This is the glory shared by Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Romanians and Hungarians: the glory of those in Temesvár and elsewhere in Romania who gave their lives for our freedom. So this is our common past.
But when we Romanians and Hungarians come together, can we only look back, or do we also want to think together about our joint future? Are there – and can there be – goals which are jointly held by the Hungarian and Romanian peoples? That is the question. As Prime Minister of Hungary, on behalf of the Hungarian nation I can tell you that I see a great chance for Romanians and Hungarians to have shared goals in the future. We Hungarians want to break free of second-tier status in Europe. Although after forty years of communism and Soviet occupation this in itself is a fine achievement, we nonetheless want to be one of the best European countries in which to live and to create one’s future and one’s home. Hungary wants to produce goods with the latest technologies in the world economy, it wants to benefit from the best and cleanest natural environment, and it wants to remain one of the world’s safest countries. We want the work of the Hungarian people to be at least as highly valued as the work of those who weren’t subjected to the robbery and plunder of communism. And, Honourable Mayor, we Hungarians believe that we can more easily achieve this goal together with our neighbours rather than alone without partners. Therefore we are ready to build a new Central Europe together with our neighbours, including Romania. We are ready to build a Central Europe which is not only a supplier for Western European economies, but one of the most successful and competitive regions in the world: a region in which our cities are linked by motorways and rapid rail lines, in which there is full employment, to which our workers will return, and where one day we’ll find it difficult to provide jobs for workers coming here from Western Europe. If we join forces, if we cooperate, this will be possible, and this will be the new reality in Europe. The world doesn’t think that this is possible, and even many of us don’t yet believe it. What we say to this – what we former members of the anti-communist resistance and freedom fighters say – is that the situation was the same in 1989: the world didn’t believe that what later happened here in Temesvár and Romania would be possible.
We are also here today to pay tribute to Bishop László Tőkés. We – who hammered our nails into the coffin of communism when we needed to do so – always knew that in the end we would prevail. We knew that first the dictatorship would crack, and then it would collapse. It could not be otherwise – in spite of the army, the police, the secret services, the press, mass indoctrination, repression of the spirit, bribes, the carrot and the stick – or more precisely the carrot used like a stick. Superior strength came to nothing – all this was of no help. None of this could change the fact that the communist regime was conceived in sin and was based on lies, and so its collapse was only a question of time. Yes, but when? Why in 1989? And why on that day in December? Why not earlier or later? We don’t know the answer to that question. But we do know that the darkest hour is just before the dawn. We can say with all certainty that if a young Calvinist pastor hadn’t had the courage to confront those in power, we would have had to wait a very long time for the spark that blew the entire system sky high. All hail László Tőkés!
I should also mention that hindsight sheds light on the petty machinations against László Tőkés, concealment of the role he played, incomprehension and even suspicion regarding his political life’s work. But we also learnt that it is virtually inconceivable for political change to immediately conjure up blossoming orchards after one has sown the dragon’s teeth. Nowhere in the world has had four and a half decades of communism and escaped its consequences. In any case, today we have gathered together because we believe that we owe it to ourselves to state and honour the truth. And above all, we owe this to figures like László Tőkés. In a city as special as Temesvár, which was among the first in Europe to have electric street lighting, our commemoration is a source of illumination.
God bless Temesvár and its citizens. God bless László Tőkés.