“In the Hungarian political calendar today is the day of national independence. It won this title by beating a strong field: there are many other outstanding days. This fact bears witness to the honour derived from Hungarians having repeatedly and bravely fought for their independence.”
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to the Carmelite Monastery. Thank you for accepting our invitation. It will soon be ten years since we returned to the helm of government, but this is the first time that we have been able to receive you at a reception. Up until now we have been in rented lodgings – admittedly the most beautiful rented lodgings in the world; but we are happy that thirty years after the fall of communism we have been able to separate the legislative and executive branches not only constitutionally, but also in physical reality. From now on I shall await you here on this day every year.
28 years ago the last Soviet soldier left our homeland. As the barracks emptied, I remember how we thought that there was no more beautiful sight than the back of our departing guest. Indeed – together with Feró Nagy, who is here now – we were worried on their behalf, in case they missed their train. I well remember that the 46 years we spent with them made us curious about what life would be like without them. It is true that back then our hatred was not for those soldiers personally, but for the occupying power. And certainly there were those among them – and not a small number – who had come to sincerely love Hungary. Nevertheless, this did not change the fact summed up in the classic line, which I will quote again: “The most beautiful moment is when we say goodbye, and you board the train”.
In the Hungarian political calendar today is the day of national independence. It won this title by beating a strong field: there are many other outstanding days. This fact bears witness to the honour derived from Hungarians having repeatedly and bravely fought for their independence. But there is another side to this coin: a people who can choose from more than one date on which to celebrate their independence must have lost it at least that many times. And indeed, we Hungarians are quite good at regaining independence and sovereignty, but we are quite weak when it comes to retaining independence. There are many reasons for this: our country’s location; the size of our nation; a state treasury which is repeatedly empty at important moments; a good deal of disunity; and a certain amount of inaction. But perhaps the most painful reason has been naïvety. In my greeting address today I would like to say a few words about this political naïvety. For a few hundred years our survival instincts were robust, with sovereignty and independence as natural for Hungarians as breathing. The catalogue of woe began when we naïvely believed that a few hundred Janissaries only wanted to take look around the splendid Castle of Buda like tourists on a sightseeing trip. Then in 1848 we stopped at Schwechat, naïvely thinking that our constitutional fairness would be reciprocated by the Viennese court. Later, in 1918, it was more comfortable to believe in Károlyi’s relations with the Entente Powers and in Wilson’s Fourteen Points than to man the ramparts. In 1944 there were those who naïvely hoped that the German invasion would see an upturn in the fate of the homeland, while in 1945 there were others who were even more naïve in what they hoped from the Soviet army. Summa summarum, the frequent reason for the loss of our independence was the naïvety of our leaders. Let this be the message of today: only countries that are able to face up to reality will be able to defend their independence. Yes, but what is reality? How does a country of 10 million people like ours look on the rest of the world? Do we see them as enemies or allies? This is a tricky question. In my experience, if you are weak the outside world is your enemy; if you are strong it is your ally.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The people celebrating with us this afternoon understand that power and independence belong together. They are our friends and allies. They are people who are well aware of the fact that we Hungarians will do well if we cooperate with the outside world. And this is reciprocal: those who cooperate with the Hungarians will do well.
Thank you for being here and sharing with us our joy about Hungarian independence and Hungarian freedom.