Prime Minister Viktor Orbán - Photo: PMO

Orbán: Hungary, EU ‘could achieve great things if Brussels mastered its Hungarophobia’

The city of Veszprem, a 2023 European capital of culture, "is a spectacular success story of Hungary's renewal since 2010", Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Friday, opening the ActiCity Dance and Movement Centre in the western Hungarian city.

The developments and investments connected to the programme have put Veszprem back among the top Hungarian cities, he said.

One of the oldest cities in Hungary, it is steeped in “civic culture, Hungarian education and confidence”, he said. “Veszprem’s citizens have always thought that being from Veszprem came with a certain quality,” he said.

The government has supported Veszprem in becoming “a worthy cultural capital of Europe”, he said. The government has poured 100 billion forints (EUR 270m), “almost to the last penny”, into developments in Veszprem, Orbán said. “It seems we have made the right decision,” he added.

The prime minister said Veszprem strengthened belief that “it is good to be Hungarian, and living as a Hungarian is a worthy way of living life”.

Orbán thanked Regional Development Minister Tibor Navracsics who fought to include 116 other localities in the programme besides Veszprem. Veszprem citizens have “created a true community with the localities on the shore of Lake Balaton and included [them] in the European cultural capital programmes”, he said.

He also thanked the EU “and Brussels bureaucrats” for choosing Veszprem “and so Hungary”. At the same time, the city’s performance “shows that Hungary and Brussels could do great things together if only Brussels bureaucrats managed to master their well-developed Hungarophobia,” he said. “What a shame that Veszprem’s example is the exception and not the rule,” he said.

Orbán said cooperation between European states had always been “difficult and complicated”. National culture and European values, the concept of sovereignty and that of the Ever Closer Union co-exist today, he said. Europe must strike a precarious balance between national sovereignty and European cooperation lest it falls into “the minefield of national conflicts or becomes a bureaucratic machine of power,” he said.

That balance hinges on tolerant and strong, “Hungarian-style” leaders who love their countries as much as Europe, he said. Instead, “there is often intolerance, weakness and heartlessness,” he said.

The EU was created as the modern form of European cooperation to achieve peace and prosperity, he said. But today, “we are up to our jugular in a war”, he said, adding that the economic situation and prospects were gloomy. “If the European Union can’t fulfil its original mission, what is it for?” Unless that question is answered, “the days of lovely traditions and programmes like the European capital of culture of are numbered,” he said.

“But let us not torture ourselves with such difficult questions today. We came to celebrate; let us be happy to have reason to do so. Long live the cultural capital of Europe, long live Veszprem! Long live the European Union!” he said.

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