Dear Mister President of the Parliament, dear General Secretary, dear Minister, dear Antall Péter, dear Ildikó, dear Klára Asszony, dear Veronika!
Today we remember the tenth anniversary of the inauguration of this building of the European Parliament named after the great European and great Hungarian Christian-Democrat, Antall József. Since I cannot be sure if I will still be around in ten years, or if I will be invited to the next, round-numbered anniversary, I will use this opportunity to say everything I want about Antall József and the building. Do not worry, I try to be brief.
Ten years is a long time. We, members of the European Parliament, got used to this functional, modern building since then, and now we consider working in it and using it as a completely natural thing. It is our home. It is our customary meeting place.
Even though – and this is a most painful thing – there are not enough convenient chairs on the corridors. I myself made several efforts to achieve that goal. I lobbied several presidents in the past decade. I hope that the next ten years will bring us finally the chairs as well, and members and guests will be able to sit down and converse also outside of the meeting rooms conveniently. A Parliament, by the way, is about people conversing and talking to each other – formally and informally. Chairs could be good for community building, for informal talks, I hope that one of the future presidents finally will discover their unparalleled significance for the community.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
Now, after ten years, finally we can reveal the secret of how this wing was named after our prime minister. At that time, there was an arrangement in this Parliament between the two, big, political groups that one wing will be named after a Social Democrat, the other after a Christian-Democrat political personality. (At that time, the word Christian was not yet banned in this House.) The chair of the EPP Group at the time, Herr Pöttering, was to be elected the President of the Parliament and was falling into a rivalry among three candidates. We Hungarians in the EPP – 14 members from Hungary, 3 from Romania, and 2 from Slovakia – pledged to support the candidacy of Joseph Daul. Him in particularly because, as a minority from Alsace, he understood the history of our nation torn apart by the big powers into several parts after the First World War. Also because we considered him a committed Christian-Democrat. He desperately needed our almost twenty votes in the second round against his liberal rival Gunnar Hökmark. He promised us to use his influence to name the new building after a Hungarian politician.
Why then did we choose Antall József?
Obviously first, because he was a great European. Secondly, because he was a great Hungarian patriot. And thirdly, because he was a great Christian-Democrat. All three of these components were in harmony in him.
He was the first democratically elected prime minister after the communist dictatorship in my country. He governed Hungary as a strong and committed leader in the first three years of democracy after communism. He was a close friend of the Chancellor of the reunification of Germany, Helmut Kohl. He supported a strong alliance between our two nations and considered Germany our most important partner in anchoring Hungary in European integration.
He was always thinking about our homeland as a Christian country. He was never ashamed to stand up for his Catholic faith. Europe, he thought should be built on strong, free nations, and he considered Hungary one of those pillars.
In the process of transition to democracy, Antall József built a strong party and a strong coalition to govern Hungary in one of her most difficult times in history. He was a great democrat, and after the communist one-party system, he considered strong parties the most important foundation for democracy. He knew very well that if he wanted to be successful, he should create a solid balance between ideology and compromise, ideas and pragmatism.
His party, the MDF (Hungarian Democratic Forum), was made of three, different ideological currents. National liberals, centrist conservatives and national radicals. Under his presidency, these three lines managed to work well together because their common goal was to renew our country after forty years of dictatorship and because of his strong leadership. His coalition government was made up of three parties as well: his Hungarian Democratic Forum, the traditionalist agrarian Smallholders’ Party and the Christian Democratic People’s Party. If anyone knew then certainly Antall József knew that such a heterogeneous party, such a multifaceted government, can be strong and influential only if it was built on the will of mutual respect, pragmatic cooperation and solid leadership. First, the liberal wing of the party wanted to fight the national radicals and vice versa, the smallholders were envious of the Christian-Democrats. Please do not ask me to paint a full map of likes and dislikes, since my party, Fidesz, was in opposition to his government at that time. But Antall told them, and he was right, that they can defeat the left only if they fight together against their real foe to conquer the still-strong, persistent resistance of the forces of the communist past.
Antall wanted a strong Hungary, as a member of the European Community. Until his tragic death in 1993, he achieved a lot on this path. The key to his historic success was that he, as a strong leader could keep his party and government together.
What followed also offers a very important lesson for us. After his party lost its strong and unifying leader, they lost the elections in 1994 and the former communists came back to power. Then with each consecutive elections, MDF got fewer and fewer mandates and became less influential in Hungarian and European politics. It has lost its strong Christian Democratic identity. Its leaders became more and more opportunistic and started to ally more with liberals and socialists than with peers on the right. Finally, nine years ago, they completely disappeared from the political landscape. A very sad but unfortunately nowadays typical European story of giving up one’s identity to follow a political fashion orchestrated by noisy and intolerant liberals, leftists, greens and communists and the mainstream press; looking for the approval of ones outside of our political family; straightjacketing ourselves in the sterile and meaningless language of political correctness. And instead of standing up for ourselves, instead of defending our own friends, instead of following our internal compass, we let the rivals dictate.
If Antall József were still alive, he could have continued to build a strong, tolerant and pragmatic European party of mutual respect among the different ideological wings, and his party would be striving still. This task had to be completed by my party, Fidesz, and Viktor Orbán, to whom MDF and Antall were great partners, important examples. We consider ourselves his and his party’s successor. Even when we were in opposition, we considered MDF and Antall as a friend with whom our goals of dismantling communism and building a democratic Hungary formed the common base for understanding.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
History is a great teacher for those who are ready to listen to the message. Please remember why the left hated Antall József so much! Because he built a successful, wide, encompassing, new, democratic party from nothing, from the sketches, because his government, in extremely difficult circumstances, reformed, renewed our country. Please remember how the media in Hungary, in Europe and in the whole world attacked him and his party. Even though he was a son of a state officer well-known for helping Jews escape the Holocaust, his government was shamelessly called anti-Semitic by the liberal press. What a horrible, gigantic lie. He was labelled as wanting to recreate the pre-war Horthy regime. A lie. The only thing he wished for was to rebuild our one thousand year-old, national, historical continuity, patriotism, our Christian tradition, the love for our nation – against those leftist forces who deny and always wish to eradicate the past, everything that binds us together, everything that is national, who never consider history or national identity as a source of inspiration but only black and shameful. He only wanted to rebuild Hungary as a great equal nation again among other Europeans, an opportunity that communism and Soviet occupation took from us for forty, long years. This was what made his enemies so angry.
Remember who, even after thirty years, shamelessly calls us, the present government of Hungary and Viktor Orbán anti-Semitic, non-democratic, and who labels us still as ones who want to recreate the pre-war past. Who blackens our success, who wants to take away our faith and determination to build a free and strong European country. The same leftist and liberal forces, the same pundits as 25 years ago. Nothing of these accusations is true now, as it was not true 25 years ago when they were used against Antall József. Fake news on a global scale. Do not believe them!
Not much has changed on their court. The same lies are used against Hungary, non-stop, day and night, used by those who are defeated at the ballot boxes for the third time, again and again. The losers accuse the winners and want to give them good advice on how to behave. Democracy and the support of the majority, the will of the people does not count for them even a little bit any more.
Fidesz learned from the historic lesson of Antall József and his party. We know, as Antall knew, that we can be strong only if we are united. We believe that the differences in a big, heterogeneous political family can be bridged if there is a will, if there is strong leadership. We know very well that for a political party the best advice on how to move forward comes from inside and not from our foes. If we stand strong and united, we can win. If we give up by trying to conform and please our rivals, we lose.
This experience and knowledge makes Fidesz the most successful political party now in Europe
Ladies and Gentlemen!
Let me close with a personal remark. I also benefitted from the fact that this modern building was named after Antall József. Because I am a József as well. No one before could spell correctly my Christian name here in this House. It has an “o” with an accent and a “zs”, a “z” and “s” letter, which is pronounced as “zs” only in the Hungarian language, so it is unique. Despite the fact that Joseph is otherwise a very common name in Europe, we write it in our national, Hungarian way. (Maybe it is not by accident, that our EPP party president, Joseph Daul, who helped us get this building named after a Hungarian, bears the same name.) Because nowadays one has to write this name in the correct Hungarian spelling a thousand times every day for information and practical reasons in this place, as a collateral effect, I won, too. I can report that in almost 50 percent of the cases, my Christian name is correctly spelled in this House – after 15 years of membership. What a great achievement!
Let me finish my speech by the habitual closing of all of Antall József‘s speeches, which I learned from him as a young politician and became my habit as well: Köszönöm, hogy meghallgattak! Thank you for listening!