Speech of Áder János at inaugural session of the International Crimean Platform Summit
They often call us Hungarians the nation of freedom. Why? In more than a thousand years of history, we have repeatedly experienced what it is like when a major power pressures its neighbour and does not hesitate to use threats and armed force to impose its will on it. This is what happened under the Ottoman and the Habsburg Empire, and it is what happened in 1956 when the Hungarian people attempted to free themselves from the grip of the global Communist empire.
We also have historical experience of foreign powers arbitrarily redrawing the borders of a state in difficulty: after World War I, two-thirds of Hungary’s territory and population were torn away from it. As a result, millions of Hungarians found themselves in new states, without ever wanting to be there, or being asked which country they wanted to live in?
It is a century old grievance of Hungarians, who found themselves in minority, because the states that acquired their land took away their traditional schools and did everything to stifle education in their mother tongue.
If a state – in defiance of its international obligations – forces the mother tongue of a national community out of schools, if it restricts the use of the mother tongue in public life, if it threatens those using their mother tongue with fines and penalties, it is not only a severe violation of minority rights, not only is it not worthy of a country with democratic commitments, but it is also of no benefit to the majority nation.
Honoré De Balzac once wrote: “Nothing in the world can understand each other like two kindred pains.”
The memory of both the aggression of the Great Powers and the trauma caused by the Treaty of Versailles is deeply etched in the minds of Hungarians. That is how we know exactly why the annexation of Crimea is such a sensitive wound for the people of Ukraine.
We Hungarians stand firmly by Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity because of our “kindred pain” and our commitment to international law. We agree with those who believe there is no alternative to a peaceful settlement of the crisis in eastern Ukraine.
We recognise the efforts made on the Ukrainian side to finally resolve the conflict. But we also see that much more perseverance, consistency, and above all, patience will be needed for a peaceful settlement of the Crimean issue.
Ukraine is our largest neighbour. We were among the first to recognise its independence, and we respectfully congratulate it on its 30th anniversary. We sincerely wish that this state, which is so important to us, can continue to develop in peace and stability.
We want Ukraine to offer a secure and attractive future to all its citizens and the Hungarian national community to feel at home in the country. To achieve these goals, we remain ready to provide all the assistance we can.
Thank you for your kind attention.