“Hungary’s goal and interest is a strong and successful Europe, and it is natural for there to be debate on what path leads to this”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said on Wednesday in Budapest at an international conference entitled “The Future of Europe”.

In his opening speech at the conference, which was organised by the Public Foundation for the Research of Central and Eastern European History and Society and the Századvég Foundation, the Hungarian Foreign Minister highlighted: “A strong Europe requires also permitting free competition within Europe, people’s security must be restored, European Christian identity must be preserved, a proper debate must be conducted on the next seven-year budget, European democracy must not be eroded further, and the rapid enlargement of the EU is also necessary”.

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“At the parliamentary elections the people made a clear decision, they chose the party family which made it clear that the security of the Hungarian people comes first”, the Minister explained. “The people would like Hungary to remain Hungarian, and the Government will be entering European debates while taking this into account”, he declared.

“There are those who believe that a strong European Union can only be built on weak member states, and if the competences of member states are collected in a central body, but in Hungary’s view a strong EU can only be built on strong member states”, Mr Szijjártó explained, pointing out: “This also entails free competition between member states and the restoring of security”.

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“Brussels migration policy has failed, as have the majority of Western social integration attempts, and accordingly countries cannot be pressured into accepting that migration is a good thing”, he added.

With relation to the upcoming EU financial framework, the Minster stressed: “It is deceitful to portray European funding as some kind of humanitarian aid provided to Central Europe, since that funding is due in accordance with the European treaties, in addition to which Central Europe has opened its markets to Western European enterprises, which have realised huge profits as a result”.

On the subject of European democracy, he pointed out: “The EU must entrust the decision on the future of Europe to its citizens, and major decisions must not be brought to a close prior to next year’s European Parliament elections”.

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Mr. Szijjártó also spoke about the fact that the EU is currently facing a host of historic challenges. “For instance, no correct solutions have been put forward so far in Brussels with relation to security challenges, while the security situation has never been as unstable since the end of the Cold War”, he said.

As he explained, there is still a war going on in Ukraine, while the country is introducing unexplainable measures and decisions that contravene its international commitments and violate minority rights. As a result of Brexit, the EU will soon be losing one seventh of its economic performance, and it is still unclear exactly what kind of agreement the exit negotiations will result in, he said, referring to another challenge.

According to the Foreign Minister, it is natural for there to be debate on the future of Europe, there’s nothing wrong with that, but what does represent a problem is if this debate is not conducted on a foundation of common sense, if some people immediately shift the debate to an emotional plane and promptly stigmatise anyone who does not represent the European mainstream.

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In his lecture, British writer, sociologist and social commentator Frank Füredi spoke about the fact that there are currently new battles, cultural battles, underway, which will decide whether we can be an independent country that decides for itself what kind of future it wants to build and according to what values it wishes to raise the younger generation. “It is important t win this battle, because our future depends on it”, he pointed out.

‘If someone still believes in nations and the importance of borders, they are regarded as a populist and anyone who attempts to question the federalist standpoint is quickly declared a populist. If someone does not profess to being cosmopolitan they are almost immediately branded a fascist, and if someone believes in borders they are scoffed at for chasing 19th century illusions”, he added.

With relation to migration, Mr. Füredi declared: “If it makes no difference who permeates the borders then citizenship status becomes less valuable, which is a dangerous development”.

“If Europe wants to build a real future it must learn from the past and take its cultural heritage seriously”, he said.

In her speech, Ministerial Commissioner for managing Hungary’s presidency of the Visegrád Group (V4) Krisztina Varju said: The countries of the Visegrád Group (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) are dependable allies on the debate on the future of Europe, and represent their position in defence of Europe’s strategic and long-term interests based on common sense and reality. “The concerns they put forward represent an expression of the responsibility they feel towards society and our common future”, she said.

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The conference, which was held in Budapest’s Castle Garden Bazaar, is one of the highlighted cultural and scientific events of the 2017-2018 Hungarian V4 presidency. The event provides an opportunity to analyse the political and economic processes, and to present the identity-creating cultural values, that have a major effect on Europe’s present and future, and which also determine the latitude of the countries of Central Europe both within the European Union and outside it.

Leading politicians, recognised scholars and celebrated public figures shared their views and ideas at the conference.