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Media

Freedom of speech and censorship in the 21st century

| April 19, 2019

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends!

In my opening speech, I would like to defy the confining standards of political correctness, and take advantage of my freedom of thought, expression and speech.

In my speech, I would like to talk about the falsehood that there is only one Europe and only one European model of democracy; the political impotence showed by the West during the regime change following the fall of communism; the lack of understanding of the West towards Central and Eastern European countries; and attacks on freedom of the press from a relentless, liberal political activism. I would like to share my thoughts with this distinguished audience in the following ten points.

  1. “There will never be a single Europe, it only worked in the case of six or nine Member States,” said Nicolas Sarkozy, former president of France at the Summit on Migration in Budapest. President Sarkozy is absolutely right, and yet, in my opinion, one of the essential elements of his statement is not right at all. During the period of the European Economic Community and the European Communities, that is to say, the time when the community consisted of six and then nine Member States, there was no single Europe then, either. That Europe was multi-faceted and diverse, and in this Europe, which represents fundamental differences, the practice of European cooperation has been established with a common intention. “United in diversity,” says the slogan of the Union, and it is no accident that it does not say “One Europe.” Thus, there is no single Europe. There is a diverse Europe.
  2. There is no single Europe, not least because there has never been a single model of European democracy. In their emphasis, shades, approaches, cultural, historical, political, and constitutional traditions, normative and institutional solutions, there are often significant or even fundamentally different European models of democracy, based on common principles, values and the possibility of a European co-operation between equal parties. Monarchic and republican models of the state, central and federal state organization, direct and indirect republican presidential elections, one and two-chamber legislatures, written and historical constitutions, marriage rules built on the life partnership of a man and woman and same-sex marriages, functioning constitutional courts, the lack of them, different rules on nationality, state-church systems and systems of separation of state and church institutions, and so on – these are all features of different but equally European models of democracy. In a diverse Europe, several, diverse but equal, European models of democracy exist, therefore there is no single European model of democracy.
  3. Establishing and expanding institutions of European cooperation clearly shows regional characteristics. Institutional co-operation was established in the countries of the traditional center of Europe (and Italy), followed by the Anglo-Saxon region (and Denmark), followed by the Southern European region, and then by the Scandinavian countries (and Austria). Between 1973 and 1995 the enlargement process was based on the full acceptance and respect of the traditions, peculiarities and differences of the acceding regions and countries. At the same time, the accession of the nine countries did not and could not abolish Europe’s fundamental East-West division. Europe’s reunification would have to wait for another day.
  4. Contrary to popular belief, when 1989-90 arrived, it was not the West, and that includes the United States, nor Gorbachev that had some kind of ambitious strategic plan for a regime change in the Central and Eastern European countries, but it was the Central and Eastern European countries and nations themselves, Hungarians, Poles, Czechs and Slovaks, Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians, Romanians and Bulgarians that had the plan – and not least the courage – to overthrow the communist powers, to fight for freedom and independence, to create democracy, in other words, to change the regime.
  5. Having no plan, the regime change reached the West unexpectedly and with more far-reaching consequences. In a political sense, it was completely unprepared for political change. European political division based on the bipolar world order was eliminated by the overthrow of the communist regimes, the end of Soviet military occupation, and the supposed achievement of freedom and democracy. At the European level, the West did not have a political response to the situation that emerged and, theoretically, has been waiting for decades. Only Helmut Kohl and the German political elite were able to give a strong national response immediately to the situation and to realize Germany’s reunification.
  6. The West, as it had no political plan for the regime change, had no political concept for exploiting the unprecedented opportunity offered, nor a plan for reuniting Europe. As proof of the unbelievable and astonishing western political inertia is that five years, half a decade, after the regime change in Central and Eastern Europe, the European Union finally decided on the accession of Finland, Sweden and Austria. They were preoccupied with themselves and again left aside the nations of Central and Eastern Europe. Because of western paralysis and procrastination, Central European countries waited a decade and a half after the regime change to become members of the European Union.
  7. Ten years after the change of regime, the West finally made the decision that at least accession negotiations could begin among the European Union and the former socialist countries of Central Europe. But a decade has proved to be too short for the West to create a strategy for the reunification of Europe. In the absence of a plan for reunification and to replace it, one of the European models of democracy, the Benelux Scandinavian liberal democracy model, which has become increasingly dominant in the West in the 1990s, has been imposed on the Central European countries awaiting accession. The primary political objective of the Western European mainstream political elite for the European enlargement project was to create small models of liberal democracy in the former communist countries, slavishly copying the western pattern. In the years following EU accession, however, the West realized that these Central European countries – partly because of the slowness of the West caused by its own impotence – were losing their illusions about the West and – partly because after the overthrow of communist dictatorships, they wanted to restore their own historical continuity – began building their own European models of democracy, based on their own traditions, cultural and political heritage, different from the West, but fully equal to the models of other European democracies. The West of many colors wanted a Central Europe of one color. We wanted no part of this, and that, in the eyes of the West, has been our cardinal sin ever since.
  8. Over the course of the very slow accession negotiations, the western public spoke loudly about the need to proceed carefully, to leave enough time to prepare for EU membership. Fifteen years after our accession, the time has come for us to say that the former colonies of the Soviet empire, the citizens of Central Europe and the Baltic countries were prepared for accession, but the same is not true for the EU-15 countries.
  9. In the custom of European co-operation among equal countries, it is natural for us to understand the history of Western European nations, but they do not understand and do not want to understand our fate. For example, it is incomprehensible to them that in Central and Eastern Europe, in the so-called former socialist countries, World War II ended only in 1989-90 with the end of Soviet occupation, the Communist dictatorship and the Cold War. While the defeat of the Nazis was the subject of international justice, sins were named, sinners were punished, and international reparation, such as the Marshall Plan happened. But ultimately, the destruction caused by the Nazis and the communists never saw just reparation. Our historical heritage is not part of the common European memory.
  10. The representatives of the western mainstream liberal elite, including the best of Central Europe and its disciples in Hungary sporting Che Guevara t-shirts and infatuated with the radical activism of the 1968ers, deliberately misunderstood and misinterpreted the ideal of freedom of the press. The so-called modern-minded liberal perception does not consider freedom of the press (and the legal consequences that result from the realization of this right) as an inalienable human and civic right of citizens and their communities, but they interpret it from the perspective of the predominating liberal, political thought and the emergence of the aspiring liberal and globalist political, business, intellectual, and civic groups they prefer. In this concept, freedom of the press becomes a political category of fundamental human and civil law, normative rules guaranteeing the enforcement of individual and community rights are replaced by targeted political-power behavior. The traditional normative and guarantee approach is replaced by subjective left-liberal political-sociological arguments. This is an attack against the freedom of the press.

(Presented at a conference organized by the Századvég Foundation on Freedom of Speech and Censorship in the 21st Century)