Our culture, religious and secular traditions and the efforts of our best minds and artists are all designated as what the world that we want to build should be like. While the fate of nations living in the shadow of bigger nations is a constant balancing act, we ultimately have the strength, faith and determination to build our future together to the best of our knowledge and determine our place in the world. We believe that Hungarians add a peculiar hue to Europe; the Hungarian national independent existence adds to the value of European civilisation, even if its authority is sometimes damaged and weakened by the impact of the processes taking place in the world.

We also believe that the future of Europe lies in the close cooperation between nation states. Sándor Márai wrote in the midst of the fury of the Second World War, at a time when only a few dared to dream about European integration at all:

The grandeur of Europe has always been and will be that different cultures, history, races, languages and nations will differ in their fight for the level of their present, for their future and survival, and it is this difference that gives the true strength and character of the joint European effort.

United in diversity, reads the European Union’s well-known motto, and in this slogan, both words are equally emphatic. Integration and autonomy must exist alongside each other, in a cultural, political and economic sense.

Despite the weakening of Europe’s roots in its Christian culture and its institutionalised churches, its social influence is a matter of fact. Joseph Weiler, in his book written in connection with the preamble debate of the European Constitution, expresses his incomprehension as to why Europe cannot own up to its own historical roots: the sacrifice of Mount Calvary also contributed to the recovery of the Europe that we know today, and that we think of as a value. According to Jürgen Habermas, the ideas of equality, social solidarity and individual morality, human rights and the ideals of democracy are rooted in Jewish religious ethics and the Christian ethics of love, and there is no alternative to this day: modern Europe is still based on this heritage to this day. Ignoring or rejecting this would reveal an identity crisis of the nations of the continent.

During the 20th century, in addition to the countless lives lost in the wars, the long division also caused Europe’s cultural and economic superiority to be lost. Neither Christianity, nor democracy, nor the law was able to handle this situation. But the mere fact that we break the norm will not mean that the norm itself is invalid. If, tragically, we turn away from our traditions, it does not deny their truth. If we want to get to know our own identity, to maintain our identity, when we reflect on what constitutes the new Europe and its fundamentals, we cannot turn to values other than those based on which European civilisation was once built. We may not be different from what we are, but why would one want to be?

In the 2004 debate on the European Constitution, the EU decided, however, that the reference to Christianity in the preamble of the document was not to be included. A similar reference appearing in the Fundamental Law of Hungary generated noisy debates in Europe after 2011.

However, in 2015 the European Court of Human Rights considered, in a growing number of cases, that European norms of coexistence are a criterion justifying the restriction of other fundamental rights. Thus, the “European standards of coexistence” constitute fundamental values, and now it is the official position of the Court. This autumn we learned that Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, has set up a portfolio of Commissioner responsible for the “protection of the European way of life”. In our opinion, the representation of the Christian value system can hardly be left out of the imaginary catalogue of components of the “European way of life”.

In any case, the name of the portfolio had to be changed, due to the usual outcry, to “Promotion of the European way of life”. Commissioner designate Schinas’ first statements raise questions in terms of the extent to which he considers Christianity as an integral part of that way of life.

While he scrupulously avoids any reference to religious tradition in his first statement, this gap also speaks volumes; this modesty is self-revealing and thus fails to reach its goal. Indeed, a significant part of those European values taken as an example of the way of life, such as solidarity, protecting the downtrodden, maintaining welfare systems, protecting human dignity and strengthening the European concept of the family can all be derived from Christianity. So in Europe, even those who do not confess themselves to be Christian are ultimately governed by Christian values.


For us, Hungarians, it is our destiny to balance, stretch the boundaries, feel out and meticulously demolish walls that limit the room to manoeuvre continuously; for us, when all is said and done, this is the art of diplomacy. The future tasks of Hungarian diplomacy are organised around these tasks, in order to represent the interests of the Hungarian state effectively.

(Talk delivered by Dr András Koltay, Rector of the National University of Public Service (NUPS) on 19 November 2019. Since 2012, the Day of Diplomacy has been celebrated on this symbolic date referring to the Congress of Visegrád on 19 November 1335.)

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