Prime Minister of Hungary

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 30 June 1992

expressed the exceptional honour accorded Hungary by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe through its decision to hold its first plenary session outside Strasbourg in the Hungarian Parliament House — this House which, during its history, has seen tormented and violent debates. The walls of the Chamber, in which this meeting is taken place, have been witness to courageous statements of men and women who sacrified their lives for democracy.

Mr Antall considered that Europe, be it in the form of a commonwealth of Europe, or a united Europe, had three main dimensions: the geographical dimension, the cultural dimension and the spiritual dimension. He said that General de Gaulle, in his statement that Europe extended from the Atlantic to the Urals, wanted to express the view that the smaller western Europe would never forget the eastern and central European part under communist rule.

With regard to the cultural and spiritual dimensions of Europe, he felt it was important to always keep in mind that scientific development and cultural expression had never been petrified in Europe as in other regions of the world. The great inventions and human thoughts which had originated in Europe had also mostly corresponded to a demand of its peoples. This creativity had been further stimulated because of Europe’s openness to the outside world and its ability to integrate and assimilate inputs from outside. This, he felt, was the main reason why European culture had successfully responded to new challenges throughout history. When looking at European history, he said, one could distinguish a thread of reinvigoration and renewal.

Mr Antall felt it was important to understand the broader framework of present-day European culture which did not only include the western Christian philosophy, but had to include and appreciate the Byzantine culture, so strongly suppressed during part of its history. Other cultures had also left their imprint in Europe like the Islamic culture, for example, through the Turkish presence in Europe during past centuries. He underlined the importance of never suppressing cultural expression, but always allowing the free expression and movement of thought and people. The European culture had always lived in a symbiotic relationship with Asian and Mediterranean cultures. However, from the sixteenth century onwards, the centre of influence had moved from the Mediterranean area to the Atlantic area. Europe, therefore, had increasingly extended its relationship to not only comprise the traditional eastern part, but to also build up strong relations across the Atlantic. The creation of Nato (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) in 1949 should be seen in this historical context.

He said that he was happy to see that the Council of Europe did not only deal with human rights but also with the problems of minorities. He said that the Hungarian law on minorities was now ready for consideration in parliament. The issues of human rights and minorities could never be considered solely at domestic level but had also to be dealt with by international organisations that should give them great attention. International organisations had to take steps or sanctions against countries that did not respect the right to self-determination of peoples. The current transformation of central Europe was part of a wider process. Mr Antall wondered whether in 1953, during the Berlin crisis, and in 1956, on the occasion of the Hungarian Revolution, Europe had not had a chance to radiate the movement of freedom to other parts of the continent if other approaches had been taken. At the time, the map of central and eastern Europe had already changed from a monolithic communist bloc into a more diversified pattern. He said that, in the current reform process, all those who had fought against dictatorship were asking themselves where democratisation was leading them. They wondered whether the changes would not cause new disequilibria. He warned that people should not become disappointed. There was a real danger that the reforms would not become effective. A war was raging in a neighbouring country and one should not close one’s eyes to what was going on in the former Soviet Union. We could only hope for peace and harmony. However, the stabilisation of the democratic regimes in certain parts of Europe was in danger. Armies were getting out of control, parliaments had lost authority over them and new real dangers were looming in Hungary’s neighbouring countries. Europe had always been a turbulent region. The independence of central European countries was not only a purely European concern but also an international one. Hungary tried to maintain the effectiveness of the CSCE and attached great importance to the roles of Nato and WEU, as well as regional institutions such as the Visegrad Cooperation Agreement. These organisations should be able to ensure peaceful cooperation in central Europe and prevent its disintegration.

Mr Antall wished to give the central European point of view. There was a danger that Europe, following the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, would not see the need for a new system of pan-European security. Therefore Nato should be strengthened. Nationalism should not get the upper hand in Europe. Pan-European cooperation should not fall victim to the divergences between major powers in Europe. All European countries were threatened by the developments in the successor states of Yugoslavia. Even in the heart of Europe, in the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic, the situation gave rise to grave concern. Although Mr Antall did not believe that it would come to a military conflict, he expressed the sincere hope that it would not be necessary to change any political borders. The central European countries had followed a policy of conflict prevention. The situation in Yugoslavia and in other parts of the Balkan region had for a long time given rise to concern in Hungary. In the present situation it was difficult to see how human rights could be implemented and safeguarded in the region. There was no room for improvisation. What was necessary was a unified policy on behalf of the whole of Europe to pacify the region. Security policy had to receive special attention in addition to foreign policy. Mr Antall said that, no matter how happy the populations in the former communist countries were to see that the iron curtain had been pulled down, they were concerned that it might be replaced by a new, more dangerous, economic iron curtain. Isolated crises could be handled by the international community but, once they had been solved, it was essential that there should be greater unity among the nations to achieve a system of global economic cooperation. The problems of central European countries were also those of the whole world. These countries would not be able to maintain peaceful societies if they remained poor. In that case, the whole of western Europe would be in an economic crisis. Consequently, political, economic and social issues had to be the subject of world-wide co-operation. North-South problems would also have to be solved at that level. Mr Antall concluded by asking the delegates in the Parliamentary Assembly for their support in enabling Hungary to bring its reforms to a good end.