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Prague

Orban boosts Visegrad prospects on anniversary of Velvet Revolution

The thirtieth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Prague was celebrated on Sunday. Prime Minister Viktor Orban, invited as a guest, said that thirty years ago central Europeans had been self-confident enough to declare their region as Europe’s future.

Published: November 23, 2019, 7:47 am

    “And knowing our achievements in light of Europe’s situation we can say with all due modesty that, today, we are indeed the future of Europe”.

    “We are ready for this mission,” Orban said. “Thirty years ago we central Europeans showed that we could not only die for our countries and for Europe but could live and work for them too.”

    “Today, we share not only a common destiny but common goals too,” Orban said. “The cooperation of central European countries is written into the hearts of the people of central Europe”. This is why the coming years would be about the success of central Europe and the Visegrad Group, he added.

    The Czech and Polish anti-communist resistance had served as a model for young Hungarians in the 1980s, according to Orban. This had helped Hungarians to dismantle the communist system in their own country, he noted.

    It was all but clear that belonging to the ’68 generation meant something radically different in West than in central Europe, Orban pointed out. He said that whereas the ’68 generation of the West strived to dismantle the Europe of free nation states and Christian culture, “our ’68-ers want to regain and protect these values.”

    The message of 1968 in central Europe is still the same, he said. “We want to decide our own destiny.” “We want to live as a free nation, not as an imperial colony or subordinate,” Orban said.

    “We are central European democrats and we must protect the sovereignty of nation states,” the Hungarian leader said. “Because abandoning this [principle] would end our democracy,” he said. He said it was not a new ideological system that would improve Europe today. “We need simple human things: to live our own central European lives, to honour and protect our families, to enjoy our freedom, love our country and to be proud of our nation.”

    “Central Europeans have their own language: the language of freedom, independence and solidarity with one another.” “This language gives us an independent and distinct voice in the large family of European nations,” Orban said. “This is why central Europe today is not only a geographical concept but a political, economic and cultural reality.”

    All the premiers of the Visegrad countries — Czech leader Andrej Babis, Polish leader Mateusz Morawiecki and Slovakian premier Peter Pellegrini — addressed the commemoration, together with Wolfgang Schauble, President of the German Bundestag.

    In an interview with Hungarian public radio Kossuth on Friday, Orban said that protecting Hungarian economic achievements would be the topmost task in 2020, adding that it would be an uphill struggle to sustain economic growth with the euro zone in turmoil. The government’s economic action plan for the first quarter of 2020 “hopefully will be based on tax cuts”, he added.

    Whether Hungary and central Europe are able to stand on their own feet and outperform richer countries will transpire next year, he said.

    Commenting on remarks of Donald Tusk, former EU president and newly elected head of the European People’s Party, who said that the right to freedom cannot be sacrificed for security, Orban said his Fidesz party was “waiting for the EPP to clarify its views and plans”. Orban said that until that point, Fidesz would “keep its membership” in the party family “suspended”.

    The EPP has “drifted to the left”, Orban said, adding that there was a question mark over whether the new leader would restore the original state of affairs. “If he doesn’t, we will have to build a new community,” he said.

    Orban said a Hungarian ruling party could not belong to a pro-migration political community that failed to support border protection, the border fence, or denied respect to Hungarians and appreciation for the country’s efforts in protecting Europe.

    At a regular press briefing on Thursday already, Gergely Gulyas, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, underscored that the European People’s Party must return to its fundamental values.

    Referring to Tusk as the newly elected chief in Zagreb on Wednesday, Gulyas said that Tusk had “made a speech with nothing objectionable included except his criticism concerning the protection of the [EU’s] external borders and border fences”.

    But Gulyas said that Europe could not be defended from illegal immigration without effective border protections and such fences. Tusk “needs to decide which direction he will choose”, Gulyas said.

    Hungary’s ruling Fidesz “needs a conservative, centre-right democratic alliance and if the EPP envisages such a future, Fidesz, as the grouping’s most successful member, will be at its service”, Gulyas said.

    He also said that despite the opposition’s “disrespectful” attacks against Oliver Varhelyi, he could be “one of the most qualified commissioners” in the new European Commission. Gulyas noted that Varhelyi has been approved as the commissioner for enlargement and neighbourhood policy, adding that this is “the most important” portfolio assigned to Hungary since the country joined the bloc in 2004.

    Hungary expects the new EC to improve its “botched migration policy” and seek consensus rather than conflict on this issue, Gulyas said.

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