"Europa,Európa” was the title of a film which told the story of a young
boy who was almost murdered a dozen times during the Holocaust and WW2.
The title reminds us on the original sin of Europe and all the crimes and
horrors what followed from it. The original sin was committed in the early
summer of 1914 .This fateful accident has lead two world wars, the Spanish
flue, two totalitarian states ,Auschwitz and the Gulag, several
dictatorships, and several thousand million corpses only on this tiny
continent, our small Asian peninsula.
It was from the growing awareness of this original sin that the idea of a
unified Europe first emerged during the historic meeting between two
conservative statesmen, De Gaulle and Adenauer. What has been decided during
this meeting was the commitment of the two previously hostile powers never
to incite a new European war. The two traditional enemies, France and
Germany, cultivated from this moment friendly relations. Subsequently, the
mutual elimination of distrust (to which Great Britain joined much later)
resulted in mutual understanding, cooperation, and the agreement to pursue
Since time of the foundation of the European Union this original commitment
was increasingly overshadowed by economic priorities. Overshadowed, yet not
The idea to forge an economic unity was not alien to the old European
tradition. After all, Europe before WW1 was a continent of empires, all of
them populated by several different ethnic groups and people Those empires,
both the colonial and non colonial ones, competed with each other also on
the economic field. National identity as ethnic ethic identity, nationalist
ideology, gained momentum mostly within the empires. Simultaneously with the
dissolution of the empires, which lasted from the end of WW1 until the
collapse of the Soviet Union “,nation” was more and more identified with
ethnic identity and even race. If I tried to describe the specificity of the
European continent in one sentence today, I would say unhesitatingly, it is
the very continent that consists of nation states.
There are happy nations in Europe, nations where nationalism and commitment to
republican and other progressive values went hand in hand, like France. And
there were and are unhappy nations which lived for centuries under the spell
of either--or. Either cultivating the uniqueness of the nation or pursuing
progress. In such unhappy nations nationalism became a battle cry against
liberalism, against leftist ideas, against progress in general. Hungary was
and remained such an unhappy nation.
Yet even the happiest of nation states practiced gross intolerance against all
the so-called aliens who did not belong “originally” to the nation. Aliens
were forced to assimilate, even overdo the “natives” in national pride and
extreme nationalism.. Integration was out of question. Yesterday’s
foreigners were accepted only as staunch nationalists All the newborn
European nations, the great grandchildren of entirely different ethnic
groups, of different cultures, ways of life, and even languages, of the
great melting pot of Europe, behaved as if nation states would be the
“natural” state of affairs ,and all other integrations artificial.
From e sixties of the previous century onwards the awareness grew that no
single European nation state country could compete economically with the
empires of quasi empires, such as the United States, China, India ,Russia.
The need for an economic unity became the main issue on the European agenda,
and the central task of the European Union. The nationalistic traditions of
single nation states, their fundamentalism, their egoism had to be overcome,
to device concerted actions.
As all empires ,also the European Union needed to expand, to include more and
more nation states, even those who were not aware of the original commitment
for the idea of a united Europe or never cared for it. Expansion was needed
mainly for economic reasons. It could not remain a secret, that such an
expansion would lead to conflicts and troubles. Conflicts between the Nord
and the South, between the center and periphery, between West and East,
between different forms of life, habits.
There are conflicts of economic and of political nature. I will not analyze,
only mention them
Fist the political issues. The member states of the European Union are liberal
democracies. It is presupposed that all of them, whatever their traditions
are, do warrant by stabile institutions civic liberties, human rights,
checks and balances, the freedom of the press. All this is presupposed, yet
if one among the member states does not honor the freedom of the press,
civic liberties, checks and balances and else, there are no means at the
disposal of the elected representatives of the Union to make this member
country to return to the norms of a liberal democracy.. Only a constitution
of the EU could weal such a power, only a reference to the-constitution
could declare certain measures of a member state anti-constitutional.
The attempt to device a constitution of the European Union, however, failed.
Several nation states rejected it on the ground that to accept a
constitution would curtail national sovereignty. Sure, it would, so what?
The member of the EU have accepted without much ado the curtailment of their
national sovereignty when the agreed not to wage war against each other, and
in addition not to have a significant national army at all. To this I would
add, that the Union is not a sovereign empire either, since the European
Union has no military power of its own. As long as the Union has no
constitution, their member states can easily annul all the values and
institutions of liberal democracy
The economic issues seem to be more urgent at the present moment, yet this is
just a semblance.
European Union needs to maintain its economic weight on the world market, and
this is, indeed, also the interest of every member state. Whether the
introduction of a common currency, the Euro, was wise, is one question,
whether it needs to be defended, is another. Without defending the European
currency the Union would suffer a terrible defeat, and it is an open
question whether it could survive the at all. Europe without Union , a
continent of the “cold beasts” (as Nietzsche expressed himself) of nation
states, would be a world shattering catastrophe with unforeseeable
The metaphor “European House” sounds utopian. .A house is a home, where one
feels at home, familiar, secure. Everyone who shares a home shares the
feeling of homeliness. In order to make sense of the metaphor one need to be
at least able to answer the question what does it mean to be an Europeans? I
think that if one asked this question of high school children in any
European country, especially in countries on the Union’s periphery, the
children would not even understand the question. I do not mean that they
could not answer it, or only hesitatingly. but that they would not even
understand it. Nation is still the greatest integrating force and
ideological weapon in most European states, and perhaps in all of them.
Pragmatic benefits, like increasing wealth, the broadening of job market,
the elimination of visas, border control do matter, but they not provide a
significant integrating force.
Everything what I said to this point are of central importance for the
understanding of contemporary Hungary.
Among the several political traditions of modern Europe two stand out:
republicanism or democracy on the one hand, bonapartism on the other hand.
By “bonapartism” I do not refer to I Napoleon, but to a model provided by
his example, represented best by III Napoleon ,and in a more extreme version
by Mussolini and Franco .For the present Hungarian model the non radical
version of –Napoleon III. is the most relevant.
Our current prime minister , better to say, his party, FIDESZ, gained power
legally by democratic elections just as Louis Bonaparte once upon a time
did...Due to a very problematic electoral law, FIDESZ received two third of
the parliamentary votes.. As a result, they can pass just the laws they
want, without any resistance, even without any consultation . They use their
de facto unconditional power to eliminate all counter powers, or, where this
is still not possible, to put their loyal members into their leading
positions for nine years.
One and a half years in power, they have already passed a media law which
limits substantially the freedom of the press .They centralized information
distribution in almost all media. They coined a so -called fundamental law,
a constitution, the preamble of which is termed ‘national confession of
faith’ and contains among others an utterly right wing interpretation of
Hungarian history. They proposed to include in the selfsame fundamental law
the criminalization of the Socialist Party, declaring their responsibility e
for all the crimes of communism. They nationalized private pension funds .
They (that is the state) is about take over the schools hitherto run by
local councils, they will determine the curriculum of each subject matter
for each of them reintroducing the already defunct Prussian school system
shaped on a military model. , They passed a All this and many else boils
down to the fever of centralization and concentration of powers, the
monopolization the sources of information, the curtailment of the rights of
the trade unions and else.
What is the answer to this challenge?
Although the numbers of their true believers begins to dwindle, FIDESZ still
enjoys more support than the opposition. They achieve this not just by the
monopolization, centralization of the new services and the media in general
,yet also by fundamentalist nationalist propaganda, and by populist
ideology, although not populist politics.
FIDESZ controls not only the right wing media, but almost all media in
Hungary. There is only one television station and one radio station with
offers outbalanced news services. The media is used for character murder,
for the attempt at criminalization of the opposition, for outright
Institutions of administration, of all the media , yet also cultural,
scientific institution are constantly reorganized. This offers the
possibility to throw out everyone who does not stand in their line, without
giving reasons. The media is almost entirely ‘purified” from “ alien”
“un-Hungarian” influence. As a result everyone is afraid, and
understandingly so. . Afraid not just from losing a current job but not to
get any other .Thus people shut up, look to another direction, they suspect
spies everywhere, and perhaps not without reason-
The immense propaganda factory of FIDESZ puts together an ideology using
First traditional Hungarian nationalism, characterized by two, seemingly
contradictory, features. First: we are the best, second, we are always
victimized. Nowadays this tradition is repeated in the following variations.
The Union criticizes our wonderful media law, because we are the pioneers,
ahead of them, they will soon learn everything from us. We are the greatest,
the best. Because they do not understand us, they neglect us. We are the
most misunderstood nation on earth. We defend our sovereignty against the
rest of Europe (by sovereignty understand: do what we like, without any
interference) The banks are our greatest enemies. Or almost the greatest
.For the greatest is communism, moreover the followers of communists, the
It is not difficult to trace the populist elements in the FIDESZ propaganda
machine, Yet, as I indicated, their propaganda is populist, their politics
is not. Politics, especially, the new tax system, privileges the rich,
especially the small but immensely wealthy Hungarian oligarchy.
Racism is one of the most successful weapon of extreme right wing populism.
FIDESZ is ,how ever, not a racist party. There is a racist party in Hungary,
called Jobbik. FIDESZ loses votes mainly in for the extreme right, the
Jobbik. Yet some members of Fidesz, play also out the racist card in order
in the competition with the Jobbik, or perhaps because of their conviction.
I described briefly the Hungarian case to show the fragility of the European
Union. The Hungarian case is not a metaphor ,rather a warning. If nation
states, or at least some nation states which has not done it before, will
not look at their own past with strongly critical eye, if they will not even
try to see themselves also with the regard of the other, the regard of the
neighbor, of the former enemy, European Union will not have a splendid
future. Yet I cherish the hopes that the Union will have the capacity to
handle its conflicts, to learn how to live well with its problems even
without solving them. .Yet, to achieve this, the denizens of European nation
states need to understand the question “what does it mean for me to be an
European” , and be ready also to answer it