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Jun 20, 2016 - Zoltán Kovács

Hungary is proud to stand with the UK as a member of the European Union

“The decision is yours, but I would like you to know that Hungary is proud to stand with you as a member of the European Union.” Signed by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, this is the text of a full-page advertisement that appeared in the British print media today. This is Hungary’s prime minister taking a stand, like many other European leaders, on an issue that’s important to Europe and important to Hungary.

The United Kingdom has a substantial history of taking a reformist, conservative standpoint on the advancement of the European Union. Indeed, the British government has never forgotten that the European Union fails if it stops serving the national interest of the member states through intergovernmental cooperation and assumes the role of an unelected government. If the British vote for exit, the EU will lose a member that was, in the spirit of Churchill's United States of Europe, there at the founding and has long been a constructive voice for reform.

Some claim that Hungary is anti-EU or, at least, deeply Eurosceptic, but the criticisms are superficial. Rather, the Orbán Government has not been shy about voicing dissent when the EU is pursuing the wrong direction. In this cause, Hungary in its heart and soul is pro-European but for a Europe of nation states and the United Kingdom has been an important – and weighty – ally in that effort.

With the advertisement, the government of Hungary is affirming its commitment to and belief in the significance of the achievements of the European Union, even if in many instances it envisages the future of the continent in a different light than some members.

But competing visions are important. Debate forms the foundation of democracy. A European Union that lacks the United Kingdom would be missing an important voice in vital debates and discussion. If, on Thursday, Britons vote leave, the losses will be many.

Of course, the decision lies with British voters. However, it is in the interest of Hungary, in the interest of other member states and eventually in the interest of the European Union that they stay. We need partners like the United Kingdom in the European Union.