György Schöpflin (1939–2021): “Nationhood is the answer”

The former Hungarian MEP for Fidesz, lifelong academic, and Hungarian Order of Merit recipient won three elections in a row to represent Hungary in the European Parliament. Having escaped communist oppression as a boy with his family, he resided in the UK from 1950 until the early 2000s. He became a member of Fidesz in 2003 and returned to live in Budapest, taking up the cause of conservatism. He passed away at the age of 81.

Schöpflin was a member of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2019; he was elected to a seat in Brussels three times and served on the Committee on Foreign Affairs and as a substitute member of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs.

He was a prolific writer, focusing on politics in Eastern Europe and the idea of the nation. His many works, in both English and Hungarian, included Communist Political Systems: An Introduction; Nations, Identity, Power; Myths and Nationhood; and most recently, The European Polis.

In a 2018 interview, Schöpflin stated that “Europe is in danger because of itself, it has lost confidence in what it wants to be.” Asked what Hungary’s responsibility is in the current European identity crisis, its internal divisions, Schöpflin stated that Hungary’s responsibility “is to offer an alternative to the hyperliberalism that is running Europe today.”

When asked if “Nationalism is the answer?”, Schöpflin retorted quickly, “Nationhood is the answer.”

Schöpflin’s academic life extended from the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London and the London School of Economics (Eastern Europe, communism and society) to the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at the University of London. He also worked at the BBC until the mid 1970s.

Addressing him as “Professor,” the Fidesz Group in the European Parliament offered their condolences, saying that Schöpflin “represented Hungarian national interests with outstanding commitment and success during his three terms in the Parliament. His expertise, hard work, eternal curiosity and unconditional kindness leave an unfillable void.”

Schöpflin received the honor of the Hungarian Order of Merit, specifically the Commander's Cross with Star, in August of 2019.