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Sep 21, 2016

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech on the 15th anniversary of the foundation of the Andrássy Gyula Budapest German Language University [full text in English]

September 15, 2016, Budapest

Good afternoon.

A life of adventure can encompass a great deal, even the establishment of a university.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to welcome you all: Rector, minister presidents, ambassadors and university staff. Perhaps I may also welcome the students who are here. The absolute need for this university, a German-language university, becomes all the clearer after my first couple of sentences as, given our historical traditions, it is somewhat unnatural that the prime minister of the day does not speak German. And until there is a change in this, until we see a Hungarian prime minister who also speaks German as well as English, there is no doubt that there will be a steady, continued need for a German-language university.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Naturally we are happy that you have invited some big guns to this celebratory event today, and here I am not primarily speaking about Minister Zoltán Balog and myself, but much more our guests from German-speaking territories. I should perhaps first greet Professor Oplatka, because obviously everyone here knows that he is an excellent journalist. Those of us from the world of politics can also greet him as the author of a very important book, as he is responsible for perhaps the most comprehensive research related to the fall of communism and the crucial issue of the opening of the border with the West. And he also presented us with a monograph on Széchenyi which I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to read, and which I can heartily recommend to all my colleagues, all my Hungarian colleagues, as required reading.

If you will allow me, I would like to say a few words about the two minister presidents who are here with us. I should say a few words about them partly in order thank them for the generosity they showed, as this university could not have come into being if the governments of three states – Baden-Württemberg, the Free State of Bavaria and Austria – had not then been led by generous people. Obviously, the beginning of the 2000s was financially a more relaxed period than the one we live in today; but believe me, even then it was not easy to make Austrian or German voters accept that taxpayers should pay to establish a German-language university in Hungary. Yet when the idea emerged, the minister presidents were generous, and agreed to undertake the political effort to convince their electors that it was indeed a worthwhile endeavour to create a German-language university in Hungary – and now others can also appreciate that. So we would like to thank them both for their generosity. We should not forget that at the time this also took some courage. We may not all remember this now, but since you invited me to the stage as a founder, I may not be able to deliver the speech that I have written, and there may only be time for reminiscing. Nonetheless, as one of the founding fathers, let me just remind you that back then we also needed some courage, as Mr. Schüssel was the Chancellor of Austria, and you may remember that at that time Austria was the subject of an attempt to isolate it. That was when Austria escaped from the cage of the grand coalition and created a different political arrangement. In response to this a very severe punitive campaign was launched against the country, led by the European left. In addition to the harshest diplomatic statements, there was an attempt at complete isolation. Yet the then two minister presidents had the courage – and if we were attending another type of event I would say “honour among thieves” – to believe that they had to stand by Austria. Austria also believed that, despite the international attacks, its participation in such a joint venture was justified and natural. I am, of course, personally grateful to the two minister presidents who are here with us today.

When this university was established I was Europe’s youngest prime minister. This was such a long time ago, and so starkly contrasts with today, that no one believes it any more. But that was indeed the case: at the age of 35 one tries to learn a great deal from others in one’s line of work. And in addition to their generosity I learnt a great deal from both of them. I’m not just talking about the intellectual lessons that both minister presidents taught everyone who heeded their words – including myself – about Christian Europe, about Europe’s modern-day history and about Europe’s correct geopolitical trends and directions. I’m also talking about the knowledge of my profession which I was lucky to learn from them. I would like to refer to this here as well. I learnt from Minister President Stoiber – and he sometimes brings this up when we meet, and I’m afraid there is a reason for this, so he always says – that a prime minister must never tire. And the truth is that if there was ever a leader in Europe who was never tired, it was undoubtedly Minister President Stoiber.

And naturally I also learnt something from the Minister President of Baden-Württemberg, because one could learn from him that a good leader is never in a hurry. There is no such thing as not having enough time to consider, to thoroughly deliberate on something – and I have heeded his advice. If someone suddenly puts a piece of paper under our nose to sign immediately, one thing is certain: under no circumstances should we sign it; because there is enough time for everything, there must be enough time for everything, and we must thoroughly consider everything. This is the lesson we could all learn from Minister President Teufel. This is not as simple as you may think, because in our world, hurrying, panicking and pressure are permanent parts of life. In our line of work it takes a special skill to stay calm, patient and level-headed.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Now that we have spoken about two leaders who were kind enough to honour us with their presence, let us also talk about a third one who may not be here in person, but who lent his name to our university. It is all the more relevant to talk about him because we have recently unveiled an equestrian statue featuring him, and on that occasion a few thoughts were raised which we would be wise to repeat on this, our 15th anniversary. First of all, it is important to reiterate that the person whom this university is named for represented something unique in the history of politics everywhere. It is almost commonplace – and in Hungary it has happened with some regularity – that someone is first hanged, and then a statue is erected in their memory. But Andrássy is the only one of whom it can be said that he was hanged first, then became prime minister, and was then commemorated in a statue. Those of our guests who are less familiar with Hungarian history need to know that after 1849 he was sentenced to death in absentia and hanged in effigy; and following the Compromise of 1867 he became prime minister. This is an order of events which apply to no one except him, and this whole Central European paradigm is amply reflected in his life. Therefore I believe it is only right that we are here together in a ceremony at a university named after him. But now that we have unveiled his equestrian statue, we had the opportunity to look into his life in some detail. I would quote some of his thoughts – three in all – which should be borne in mind by institutions educating intellectuals who may later be involved in Hungarian politics and politics in general. He is the originator of the sentence that to this day is the principle of Hungarian security policy: “It is always better to be sure that we cannot be harmed, than to assume that no one wants to harm us”. As he was also in charge of the great Budapest construction projects, he said that “I am not familiar with a single historical precedent in which a nation went bankrupt because of a construction project. I am, however, familiar with examples of certain states losing all political significance, leaving nothing valuable except the buildings which their monumental efforts created”. And his most important message, which Hungarians ought to take to heart – and which, I hope, also defines the spirit of this university – is the following: “A nation often begins by thinking highly of itself, and no one else shares that view. Later the time comes when others also think highly of it. But I have yet to see a nation which never had faith in itself and which others still thought highly of.”

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen,

With these thoughts we pay tribute to the man after whom our university is named.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

After this, allow me to quote Péter Esterházy, whom we may confidently describe as a truly Central European Hungarian writer. Focusing on the Danube, in one of his novels he wrote that there is a big difference between water and a river – as a river has a memory, a past and a history. And when we established this university, we did so as the leaders of peoples living by the River Danube; in other words, we were convinced that the memory of those living by the Danube will work well if it extends not only from Donaueschingen to Passau, from Linz to Vienna, from Dunakiliti to Mohács, but if the memory of those living on the banks of the Danube stretches all the way from the Black Forest to the Black Sea. Our university also seeks to express this. The Rhine, the Main and the Danube Valley – with the waterway that connects them together – form the heart of Europe. Chancellor Kohl knew this, and often reiterated it. We are convinced that this is an integral political, economic and cultural entity which is able to create prosperity not only for the people living within its territory, but can offer great energy to the wider regions which surround it.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Danube Valley – the concept of which led to the establishment of this university – has, for centuries, simultaneously meant two things to Hungarians. The Danube Valley has been a gateway to Western middle-class mentality, culture and values, and also the path along which the Islamic caliphate of the day attempted to reach Europe – by first trampling over us. It was only after the end of the Turkish era that once again there could be a strengthening of the old relations, through which we Hungarians are able to continuously perceive the reverberations of German literature, philosophy, music and painting.

Fellow Hungarians,

We have no trouble in acknowledging that the Reformation, Enlightenment and Romanticism reached us from the German-speaking territories, with German mediation. But the single most important point of connection was that we observed the emergence of Swabian settlements in parts of the country depopulated after the Turkish wars. The descendants of these Swabians not only distinguished themselves in the development of culture, but also became prominent figures in the struggles we fought for Hungarian freedom. For this our thanks go to Germany.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For a long time Hungarian and German cultures were integrally linked. We have reason to believe that without Goethe, we might not have had our Madách – as equally we have reason to believe that without German universities, Hungarian science would not have been able to soar as high as it once did. This integral link was, however, disrupted after World War II – for two reasons. The first reason leading to this rupture was the forced removal of Germans living in Hungary. From this we can conclude that Hungarian politics must not support measures which result – whether directly or indirectly – in the expulsion and relocation of people, and the destruction of human lives on any moral, racial or class grounds. This recognition sets the direction for our policy today as well. There was another reason this integral link was ruptured. After World War II, Central Europe – together with Germany – found itself torn apart; for decades what was left of the Hungarian middle classes lived behind the Iron Curtain in complete isolation from the process of development that at the time characterised the West.

And this is where we arrived at one of the key points in our debates today. Because it follows from this, we may conclude from this, that the relations which worked perfectly before World War II should, after many years of separation, have been repaired after the fall of communism. And to some extent this did happen – but the wounds did not heal without scars. This in turn means that nowadays – at least at this point in time – we see that the Western multiculturalist European elite looks on in bewilderment at the countries whose citizens fought for decades for their faith and national identity under communism. They stare in astonishment, because on the EU political stage these countries now represent what multiculturalists see as the old-fashioned version of the European middle-class lifestyle, and because this part of the world, which has joined the European Union, does not readily applaud when it hears the phrase “ever closer union”. They are bewildered at the fact that there are countries – including Hungary – which do not believe that the automatic solution to all our troubles are the actions, slogan or programme of “even more Europe”. Today as well there is a divergence in views, and this often leads to disputes – in particular when it comes to laying down in the Constitution issues related to the family, migration and Christianity, or the question of Islam. These disputes are obvious. They are so obvious that one can even talk about them on an occasion such as this, because this is where your responsibility – the responsibility of the intelligentsia –is involved; if this is the situation, we must ask what we could do.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Fifteen years ago we gave a good answer to this: in a situation like this, one must, for instance, establish a university. In a situation like this we must clear a path for the intelligentsia to come forward and in rational debates seek the more profound reasons for political polemics as they currently exist. In a situation like this, we must educate a new generation which understands this problem, and sees it as its mission to turn these differences and conclusions arising from them to the advantage of its own nation over the next few decades.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At that time what the four of us did was to establish a university with the mission to restore the former alliance between German and Hungarian culture. I am convinced that the mission of this same university today is to prove the legitimacy of our Christian, national and European position. By doing this in an intellectual manner, it may be able to extract the sting from the differences I have just mentioned.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Here there is another circumstance which I would like to mention. If it is true that the Andrássy University represents the common ground between German and Hungarian culture and academia, it must also be aware that we have reached yet another historical watershed. This is a further reason for me to encourage this university’s leaders and students to reflect on the fact that the most important axiom in every historical watershed is: “we should have the courage to contemplate”. We should have the courage to abandon the old patterns, we should have the courage to ask new questions, and we should have the courage to answer the questions raised in a novel manner. Ladies and Gentlemen, in our line of business, in politics, there are times which call for less reflection – these are the happy times of peace – and there are times which call for more reflection. In European politics today we need more reflection, rather than less, because we find ourselves coming up against unprecedented challenges; and it is perhaps clear to everyone now that we cannot resolve our new problems in the old way. Consequently we must think and reflect, and we must therefore renew ourselves. This is the task facing Europe today. If it cannot accomplish this formidable task – and this applies not only to politicians, as I said – it does not stand a chance of preserving the position in global politics for which it has fought hard over the course of hundreds of years.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In this endeavour it is obvious that we cannot rely on anyone else. We cannot expect others to solve our problems for us. Instead we need European universities to raise a new European intelligentsia, and I sincerely hope that the Andrássy University is ready to take on its share in this endeavour, and to help create a new European elite which is committed to both the past and the future of Europe.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It may also assist your work that on the international political stage we can see that the alliance of Germany and Hungary must also be renewed. We find ourselves in new situations, we argue a great deal with each other, and we hear more about the differences between the German and Hungarian positions – say, on the migrant issue – than we do about the common interests which tie us all, both Germans and Hungarians, to the preservation of a reasonable European economic policy. I am convinced that economic policy which relies on the improvement of competitiveness and the observance of fiscal discipline – which is a German model, and which has made us successful here in Central Europe – is something which we must preserve and defend. So the renewal of German-Hungarian cooperation is an urgent task not only on a bilateral level, but also across the whole of Europe. I sincerely hope that this will happen within the foreseeable future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The mission of this university could be to give to the European nations people who want to do something for Europe through their own countries. I am convinced that you will be doing your job well if here you educate true patriots: Germans, Hungarians, Slovaks, Czechs and Poles who will not be dissolved in a non-existent, imaginary European people, but remain Hungarians, Czechs, Poles, Slovaks and Germans; who believe that they may reinforce the unity and cohesion of the European nations, and can serve the cause of a common Europe through the reinforcement of their own identities. We need a generation which is fully aware that, if we are to solve our problems, there are issues for which we need “more Europe”, while there are other issues for which we need “more nation state”.

With the hope that this university will rise to its mission, I would like to congratulate you upon the past fifteen years. I thank you for the work you have done over the past fifteen years. I wish to thank the leaders of the university, I wish to thank the students, and I also wish to thank the technical staff who made it possible for you to do your jobs under these circumstances. We are proud of you: congratulations on the past fifteen years, and I wish you another fifteen years of success.