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Interview with Zsolt Németh for the Wacław Felczak Polish Hungarian Cooperation Institute website, 5 June 2019

Yesterday we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the first, partially free elections. For us that is a very important date. What is that day like from the Hungarian perspective?

The elections in 1989 were a profound turning point in Poland's history. That date is not far from a very important event in Hungary, the funeral of Imre Nagy which took place on 16 June. And at the same time our elections, in Hungary, were held almost a year down the line, in April 1990. By then, even though it was almost a year later, the conditions were right. I think it was good for Hungary that we did not have such temporary or semi-free elections as that helped to establish a more stable political system. Over the last decades we really only had elections every 4 years.

For us, the changes in Poland were significant and it was very important when the so called "Polish express" began moving. And really, between that day and June's celebrations, free elections were possible in the entire Central Eastern Europe. It is my great hope, that on the 30th anniversary of free elections, the real ones, of subsequent choices, we will also be able to celebrate here. And the conference taking place today in Poland is a very good starting point for that. Poles organised this event encompassing the entire region. Therefore, just like 30 years ago, Poles are once again at the forefront of changes. In my opinion such a move is very interesting indeed, to organise such an event, attended by both parliamentarians and representatives of the opposition. In my opinion it is natural that it is not only about the past, but primarily about the present and the future. It would also be good to publish in some format all the speeches delivered here, as in those speeches somehow the past blends in with the present. The speech by Roger Scruton, a very authentic figure, already known in the 1980s exemplifies this best. He delivered underground lectures in Poland, the Czech Republic and in Hungary. In his words – already by then he had lived such a freedom which he could not experience in West Europe, both then and now. One of the Lithuanians was spot on in saying – In truth we did join Europe, but when we were doing it we were joining the Old Europe, whilst in the meantime Europe became something entirely different. And we have to live in that Europe, defend our values in such a Europe and thus we have to fight for categories such as a nation or religion. For example here, in the Senate, everything happens under the symbol of the Cross. Citizenship is another category. I think that Scruton's comparison of the two values - citizenship and nation - is still very current and especially so in the newly emerging political system in Europe.


Poland and Hungary, so many differences, such different languages and yet Poles and Hungarians like each other so much. Why do you think that is?


I think that common history lies behind this. It shaped us in a similar fashion. It established a certain mutual consideration between the two nations. However at the same time it is a miracle of a kind, and miracles should be celebrated. I think it is a very useful miracle, as in today's Europe, if Poles and Hungarians did not have one another they would be immensely lonely. As such it is very useful. I congratulate Poles on their last elections and wish them a successful future which is no doubt in store for them.       


Thank you for the interview!


Interviewer: Marcin Bąk.

( Zsolt Németh - politician and economist, long term MEP, Hungarian Deputy Foreign Minister on two occasions) 


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