Throughout the history of Central Europe, it has not just been a role, but a mission. Our nations feel the weight of their responsibility in Europe’s future.
30 Years of Visegrad Group
Throughout the history of Central Europe, it has not just been a role, but a mission. The Soviet occupation obscured this fact from our awareness until 1990. The modern solution to our fundamental mission was incomprehensible as long as the Soviet soldiers were stationed in our countries and our only desire was to break free from the Warsaw Pact.
Our perspectives were also narrowed and our strengths distracted by the urge to get rid of the communists and send the invading bayonets where they belong. To get them as far as possible from governing power and into to the educational materials of our children and grandchildren as the ultimate historical mistake of trying to build up a future without national values and Christian teachings.
Our countries were in a happy, yet very weakened state after the overthrow of communism and our liberation. All of our efforts were consumed by survival, the challenge of an enormous transformation, and establishing a viable new era in line with Western values. Yet still, our hearts dictated even in 1991 that our countries – Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic – should be united in some manner. We knew that centuries would come and go, but Central Europe’s community of destiny remains.
And indeed, thirty years later, as NATO members, we have claim to the most dynamic region in the European Union. Strong growth, low unemployment, rapid digital transformation, robust investments. This is who we are today.
The tough debates within the Union on migration, the demographic situation, the role of families, the conflict between national culture and multiculturalism are once again drawing our attention to the historical mission of Central Europe. Does this even exist? If it does, what is its modern form? And the most burning questions for us prime ministers: can politics do something about it?
According to the Hungarian perception, Central Europe is composed of the area between Germany and Russia. It is bordered from the north by the Baltic Sea and on 2 the south by the Adriatic. And while there may be debate over the exact borders, the V4 countries, without a doubt, make up the core of Central Europe.
We Hungarians have never believed that we were just simply born into this world. If you were born a Hungarian, you have a mission. Your mission goes beyond your person and extends to the European horizons. We also know that we can only fulfill this together with the other peoples of Central Europe. Because in the territories between the German and Russian worlds, which lie on the border of Latin Christianity and Orthodoxy, where many languages and national cultures have grown, there is a unique, common cultural quality – a way of life, a mindset, a characteristic posture.
The Hungarian conception of our own mission dates back to the Roman Empire. In our view, Europe was created by the peoples attacking the Roman Empire at differing times, independently of each other. These nationalities built their countries on the ruins of the former Roman Empire. They adopted Latin Christianity, but did not give up their individual cultures, thereby various alloys were forged by the hammer of history.
With this, our destiny was decided; not only were nation-states born, but also national cultures. An ideal, a rule, an ordinance was born of what Europe should look like. A great intellectual unity with common cultural foundations, ideas and ultimate goals. But with separate, independent members connected by the unity of Europe. All are obliged to serve European intellectual unity and goals, but they are not obligated to serve each other’s interests. Europe is unified in its diversity. Those who attack this unity are bad Europeans, but those who seek to eradicate this diversity are also bad Europeans.
A union of multitudes and multitudes united. This is Europe’s secret, its allure; this dramatic tension feeds its beauty and is its innermost essence that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. This is why Central Europeans are in love with Europe. They understand that harmony is the tension and cohesion of opposites. Harmony does not mean uniformity, nor indistinguishable masses. This is the source of the Hungarian and Central European mission for independence.
The protection of the spirit unifying our nations and Christian European culture from every outside attack, bastions and shields outward, and protecting our diversity from the inward enemy with aspirations of hegemony seeking to overtake independent nations. This has been the secret and condition of European stability for centuries. This is European self-defense, and it was as if this is what the French President is feeling about for when he seeks to introduce the idea of European sovereignty to Brussels. A dual self-defense strategy for European unity and diversity against external and internal enemies. Renewing attacks from the outside and imperialist attempts flaming up from the inside. This was Europe’s political history until the end of World War II, when our continent lost the right and opportunity to its own destiny.
V4 and Europe
In the mid-2000s all four of us entered the European Union. We had new horizons, the debates on the nature and future of Europe became our debates. Outsiders became insiders and consequently, the question emerged: what is Central Europe’s contribution to the common European future? At first the seasoned club members 3 interpreted our thoughts that especially stuck with them about the homeland, Christianity, family and sovereignty as cultural and historical folklore. I believe they considered it some temporary phenomenon that may have stemmed from our late arrival, that would eventually fade like chickenpox. After all, we are all headed in the same direction and we certainly want to get there. This was a comfortable thought, it didn’t put anyone out of their comfort zone, and in fact we had enough professional challenges back then with 2008-2009 financial crisis.
Then, the crash hit with the arrival of the migrant crisis. Eyes were opened, the contrast intensified, and a sharp light was shed upon the profound differences in reasoning, philosophies, social principles, and personal commitments.
Us Hungarians understood then that the speeches and writings on the post-Christian, post-nation era were not sensational journalism, but rather real political intentions; in fact, they are the practical European program, the future envisioned by the West that they have already begun building.
We realized that while under communism, Europe’s Sovietized territories yearned for a Christian and sovereign way of life, the Europeans in the Americanized half of the continent redefined the essence of Europe and worked consistently to implement their program. They did not see Europe’s mission as countering external attacks on Christianity nor in preserving internal diversity. Their new European policy prioritizes complete openness, borderlessness – even if only as a temporary necessary evil – interchangeable genders and family models as desired; the duty to preserve cultural heritage is rather seen as a task for museums. And the aim is not just to invent, create, introduce and make legally obligatory in their own countries – but also to make it universal in all Member States of the European Union, including those reluctant like ourselves.
In this European situation, it is clear to Hungarians what our European mission is.
To bring the uncompromising anticommunist tradition into the common European vault, to add the sins and lessons of international socialism to the sins and lessons of National Socialism. To present the beauty and competitiveness of a political and social order based on Christian social teachings. To make our French friends understand that there exists a model in Central Europe based on Teachings and is independent of weakened or unsteady individual faith. To maintain the attention of peoples living in Europe safely towards outside threats. To remind that the waves of people in the Mediterranean, which we are well aware of from history, are on their way to us at the moment, and these waves may crash as far as Scandinavia.
The migrant masses appearing are, in fact, waves of migrants longing for a European life, that our ancestors have always dedicatedly defended themselves against. Not defending ourselves is, in effect, surrender – resulting in complete transformation of our civilization, as Europe’s southern and eastern perimeters, and our Balkan neighbors have seen with their own eyes.
And to remind ourselves that, whichever enlightened empire-builder it may be, they will ruin Europe’s spirit and thus we will always end up with the opposing result.
We Visegrád countries may diverge on some of these difficult and complicated questions. To be sure, the philosophical emphases of history may differ, sympathies and dislikes nurtured towards other countries may vary, and in fact, sometimes the interpretation of geopolitical relations may deviate.
But it is also certain that that our nations feel the weight of their responsibility in Europe’s future. To defend against external attacks and to defend against internal empire-building attempts, to maintain the independence of our countries and nations.
Failing to complete a mission is heroic, but not joyful. Completing a mission while bringing success, freedom, and prosperity to your country is no less heroic, but also joyful. On behalf of my nation, I thank you for these three decades of Visegrád cooperation.
The author is the PM of Hungary