At the NAC
NATO's Flag

16 Mar. 1999


by the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbn

Tiszelt Hlgyeim s Uraim,

Trtnelmi nap ez a mai. Magyarorszg ma foglalja el helyt az Eszak-atlanti Szvetsg tagjai kztt. Hossz folyamat zrult le: haznk vgrvnyesen a biztonsgos vilg rszv vlt.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me start with a Hungarian saying: that which we survive, makes us stronger. I am convinced that all the nations of the world do have experience which proves this saying. We, Hungarians, think that our History, at least in the last 500 years, was continuously proving this proverb.

If we take a close look at the various episodes in the Hungarian historical memory, we can find that practically all of them speak about our nation's fights for freedom and independence. We have been waiting for taking our fate in our own hands for hundreds of years.

We were fighting as much as we had to. We won many an important battle. But for a true victory, you need more. For waging a war, all you need is enemies. For keeping peace, you need genuine allies.

Ladies and gentlemen,


To be born free, is a special gift of fate. Yet freedom tends to be truly valued for those who have fight for it. The fate of peoples of Central Europe is that they had to fight over and over again, for their freedom.

This lonesome fight made our peoples in Central Europe friends of one another. This is why it is a particular pleasure for us to make this historic step together with the Czech Republic and with Poland. These are the two countries that we have so much in common with, in our national History.

Yet despite the feelings of compassion that existed towards each other's nation, there were several instances in the twentieth century in which our peoples were turned against one another by some external pressure. While Poland and Hungary for instance belonged to the two opposing military blocs in World War Two, Hungarians helped thousands of Polish refugees. Or remember 1968, for instance, when our military was forced to support the invasion of the then-Czechoslovakia by the oppressive power, our citizens found many ways to express their sympathy for the freedom fight of that country.

It was the world order of Yalta that forced our peoples into such an unnatural relationship.

This is why we can say today that with the adhesion of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to NATO, it is not simply the enlargement, the enrichment, of the Alliance that we see, but Central Europe is born again, too. From today on, our peoples can, and do, act in the spirit of our most noble historic tradition. With a common effort, we build a common and secure Central Europe.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Three countries join NATO together today. They are together yet in a sense they are on their own as well. We, Hungarians for instance enter NATO without any of our neighbours becoming member of the Alliance. We shall feel much happier about our own membership in NATO when we can see our neighbours joining too. This process shall be a new challenge for NATO. A new challenge, but one in which we shall all take part.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Long years have passed with Hungary's ship tarrying in open waters. Throughout these years, we, Hungarians felt insecurity. True, in 1991, when the occupying military left Hungary's soil, we became free. Free, but left on our own. The threat was, that without clear-cut links, in the midst of the various pulling and drawing forces, Hungary would become a constant "ferry-boat country."

We now finally have anchored our country to the Western coast.

This is the first agreement in this century that Hungary signs out of her own, free will. This is what explains that the overwhelming majority of Hungarians voted in favour of Hungary's membership in NATO in the referendum.

There are peoples which feel divided after referenda. In Hungary, the effect of the NATO referendum was a unifying one, one that created genuine national unity, for it gave a concrete form, to many a historic national aspiration.

The common will of Hungarians was a necessary but no sufficient, precondition of what is taking place today. Hungary's membership in NATO, is based on several other pillars as well.

I cannot help feeling that History is rewarding the efforts of Hungarians in 1956, in accepting Hungary as an ally in NATO. It is a reward for what we Hungarians did, this is something that every Western democracy can be proud of. Without the freedom fight of 1956, Hungary could not become a member in the Alliance of the West.

For us, it was clear all the way, that many leaders of the Western European countries were not sure whether we were going to be able to establish democracy and the rule of law after forty years of communist dictatorship. A solid pillar of our joining the Alliance is that we succeeded in building such countries. In this sense, we see the decision regarding our membership in NATO as an approval of our own achievements as well.

And finally, there was another decisive factor that made NATO's enlargement possible. The Alliance had to realise that they do needed the countries of Central Europe.

Hungary now belongs to the Southern Command of NATO. In the foreseeable future, the most likely challenges to the Alliance are going to come from the South, Southeast of Europe. Our Allies count on our insight into that region, as well as our active, forthcoming attitude in resolving these challenges.

They say, "Finding one another is a promising beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success." If it is so, we can look forward to our future co-operation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Practically all of us in Central Europe were brought up on painful stories of how much suffering our parents and grandparents went through. Many lived and suffered through two World Wars and the communist era. They lost their brothers and sisters, they lost their children. And unfortunately, this is what many children today shall carry with them throughout their lives, in our immediate neighbourhood.

All of us can feel, most directly, the genuine security that NATO-membership means. It shall take a long time in the Southern part of Europe, until peace shall be ensured by the internal conviction of people and not by the power of arms. This is why it is a particularly comforting thought that our children shall not be brought up on such painful stories of war and revenge.

This is what I have in mind when I tell you that not only Hungary as a country is becoming a member of the North Atlantic Alliance. Hungary's citizens personally feel becoming Allies of the peoples of NATO.

Ladies and gentlemen,

When we build, let us think that we build forever.

Hungary was a member of the Alliance of the Eastern bloc, for a painfully long moment in History. This was a power machine operating independently from us.

Our joining the North Atlantic Alliance is a watershed event in our national History. We have been members of this civilisation for thousand years. We belong here. Now Hungary is returning as an Ally.

Thank you for your attention.

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