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Jul 26, 2019 - Zoltán Kovács

The 30th Bálványos Open University and Summer Camp

It was July 1989. Yes, before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Thirty years ago, a group of visionaries organized the first Bálványos Open University and Summer Camp, and it’s been going ever since. This week, for the 30th installment, students, policy experts, politicians, journalists and even the prime minister gather to share ideas and enjoy summer in the Transylvanian Carpathians.

Inspired by an idea from a BBC journalist, David Campanale, young politicians from Hungary and Transylvania – a group that included Zsolt Németh, Tibor Toró and Zsolt Szilágyi – decided in 1989 to organize an event that could serve as a large intellectual workshop for the Carpathian Basin, promoting cross-border cooperation, Romanian-Hungarian dialogue and civilized exchange of political views.

That first Open University was held in Bálványosfürdő in the summer of 1990, with lecturers including György Litván, György Schöpflin, László Lengyel, and Norman Stone, the British historian. The lectures were about universal approaches to different disciplines, including literature, history, sociology, economics, political science, and law. It was a multi-lingual affair from the beginning, featuring English, Hungarian, and Romanian.

The event has expanded every year. In addition to topics on politics and current events, the camp offers recreation and entertainment provided by folk art, sports, music and film tents and evening concerts by prominent Hungarian and Transylvanian Hungarian bands.

And keeping with more recent tradition, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will deliver his annual address on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. (GMT +2). I’ll be live tweeting his speech, so follow me at @zoltanspox.

Photo credit: okpecs.hu