Good Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.
There are several ways to unsettle a speaker. This is one of them. If I have understood correctly, we are past the main point of the day. I would just like to share a few comments with you, if I may.
Your Excellency, Honourable Mayor, Honourable Member of Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Veszprém is a European Capital of Culture in 2023. Talking about Veszprém in 2023 is easy and gratifying. Talking about Europe is difficult and requires caution. Talking about Veszprém is easy, because it is one of the spectacular success stories of a Hungary undergoing renewal since 2010: decades-old goals, the municipal swimming pool, Route 8, the southern bypass road, the zoo, the Gyárkert cultural park, and who knows what else. Perhaps all that is missing is a victory in the Final Four, but that is beyond the Government’s remit. And now, with the developments and investments linked to the title of Capital of Culture, Veszprém is once again taking its place on the imaginary winner’s podium of Hungary’s cities.
I know that people here have always been proud of their Veszprém identity. It is historic, and indeed one of the oldest cities in our history. An almost palpable civic culture. A Pannonian culture and consciousness. The people of Veszprém have always believed that being from Veszprém confers a certain quality. And no one has ever disputed or resented this. People coming here have not seen it as arrogance or stupidity, but rather as a kind of natural attitude, a self-evident fact. Well, Veszprem is Veszprem. I felt this not only when I came here on a school outing from our village as a primary school pupil, but also when we came over from neighbouring Székesfehérvár as secondary school pupils. Székesfehérvár is the City of Kings, and Veszprém is the City of Queens. The difference is not just aesthetic: the King is bigger, but on the chessboard – and at home – it is clear that the real striking force is possessed by the Queen. Of course everyone’s own town comes first for them, but as citizens of Székesfehérvár, down by the Sóstó wetlands, we have always admired the romantic view and atmosphere of the hilltop city of Veszprém.
With such biased sentimental memories, it was no wonder that the Government wholeheartedly supported Veszprém’s bid to become a worthy European Capital of Culture. The Government gave almost its last spare penny to Veszprém, because a queen cannot go to the ball in just any kind of frock. We have invested around 100 billion forints in the city of Veszprém, and here among you today I can see that we have made the right decision. What has happened here is something of which every Hungarian – both within and beyond our borders – can be proud. I encourage everyone to come to Veszprém! Here you will receive confirmation that being Hungarian is good, and living as a Hungarian is a worthy way of life. It is said to be built on seven hills, like Rome. When the Bishop of Rome visited us most recently, he told young people that Jesus does not want them to lounge around at home, but to achieve great things. Anyone who comes to this dance and movement arts centre will certainly not be a couch potato, as the Holy Father would say.
I also thank Veszprém for its generosity. Chivalry, fairness and generosity are among Hungarians’ beautiful and noble qualities. It is a pity that we show them less often than we should. I think that here we owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Tibor Navracsics. Minister Navracsics has always argued that this celebration should not only be about the city of Veszprém, but also about 116 other municipalities, and that the opportunity should be theirs as well. We can learn from the people of Veszprém, who have rejected the ugly habit of narrow-mindedness, selfishness and envy, have created a real community with the surrounding settlements along the shores of Lake Balaton, and have included them – from Balatonberény to Várpalota, and from Marcali to Zirc – in the Capital of Culture’s developments and programmes. Thank you!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Talking about Europe today is a difficult task. Since we have already talked about fairness, let us start with the easy part. Thank you to the European Union, thank you to the bureaucrats in Brussels who made the decision, for deciding in favour of Veszprém – and thus in favour of Hungary. The performance of Veszprém shows that if the Brussels bureaucrats can get over their now strongly developed Hungarophobia, then we together – Hungary and Brussels – are and can be capable of great things. It is a pity that the example of Veszprém is the exception and not the rule.
Of course we here in Pannonia know that cooperation among European states has always been a difficult and complicated matter. The fact is that the Roman Empire – of which Pannonia was a natural part – was not brought down by another empire, but by various warring tribes, and some of its territories were occupied and settled by different tribes. That period also decided the fate of Europe. Europe was thus destined to comprise nations with their own languages, their own cultures, their own instincts. And it was also destined to experience everything associated with those distinct nations: rivalries, conflicts, territorial and power disputes, and contests based on matters of substance as well as prestige. But ever since the fall of Rome, above the nation states there has always hovered a dream – a temptation – to reunite in one empire: to unite the former Roman territories, to unite Europe. The dream of European unity was pursued by Byzantium, Charlemagne, Otto the Great, Napoleon and Hitler – each on different grounds. And it is still pursued today. There is the simultaneous presence of independent national existence and the imperial concept, of national culture and European values, sovereignty, and – as they say in Brussels – “Ever Closer Union”. If we are lucky, we will find the delicate balance between national sovereignty and European cooperation. If we are unlucky, balance will be lost and we will find ourselves in a minefield of national conflicts, or under the wheels of a bureaucratic juggernaut abusing its power. To strike a balance, we need tolerant and strong leaders in the Pannonian mould, who love both their country and Europe. Today such things are as rare as white ravens. Instead, there is intolerance, weakness and callousness.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The modern-day form of European cooperation, the European Union, was born of two goals, two missions: peace and prosperity. Today we are up to our waists in a war, and the economic situation and future prospects are increasingly alarming and gloomy. What is the European Union, if it cannot fulfil its original mission? This is the warning question that the Lord of History has written in the heavens. And if we do not find the answer, the days of fine traditions and excellent programmes such as the European Capital of Culture will be numbered.
But today let us not torment ourselves with such difficult questions: we are here to celebrate, and let us be glad that we still have something to celebrate.
Long live the European Capital of Culture! Long live Veszprém! Long live the European Union!
Thank you for your attention.