This week, the Friends of Hungary Foundation, publisher of Hungary Today and Ungarn Heute, hosted its third annual conference, “Hungary At First ‘Site.’ Journalists from various renowned news sources arrived from ten different countries to Budapest for the event, which aimed at giving them an opportunity to experience Hungarian politics, economics, and culture first hand. On the first day of the event, John O’Sullivan, British conservative political commentator and journalist delivered a speech.
On the first day of the three-day event, following the opening remarks of Sylvester E. Vizi, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Friends of Hungary Foundation and former President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, State Secretary Balázs Orbán and Zoltán Kovács, the international spokesperson of the government, and journalists, listened to a panel discussion on the achievements of the Hungarian economy.
The will of the people and national sovereignty – day one of the Hungary at First ‘Site’ Conference
Following the discussions, during the dinner, Danube Institute President and director of the 21st Century Initiatives John O’Sullivan, who was awarded the prestigious ‘Hungarian Order of Merit’ earlier this year, delivered a speech to the journalists. He also recalled his work with a number of the participating journalists over the years as a conservative political commentator and journalist.
He began his speech by talking about a revival in Hungarian economy and life itself. O’Sullivan said that a change not only happened in the political system, but a restoration of architectural sites, as well as a revival of Hungarian traditions, culture, music and even in the quality of culinary products, such as Hungarian wine, also started after the end of communism. He added that “at the moment, a great revival of the Hungarian people” is happening in the country, based upon the economic revival in Western Europe and generally in the world since the 2008 economic crisis, which hit Hungary hard, just like many other countries.
O’Sullivan said that foreigners mostly know Hungary based on a couple of things: Dracula; the novels of the 1930s, which depict the period of the country, including the rise of antisemitism and the emergence of ideologies, communism, and fascism.
O’Sullivan also spoke in detail of Hungary and Budapest during the years of the so-called ‘Goulash communism,’ when the system softened and Hungary was called the ‘jolliest barrack.’ He said when someone came to “Budapest from Paris, you thought it was Moscow, and if you came to Budapest from Moscow, you thought it was Paris.” He also talked about those life-changing, traumatic events in the country’s life that determined Hungary’s view of itself and other countries’ view of it, which “led to the poisoning of Hungarian life for a long time.” He wondered whether the country has finally reached a stable situation.
Following the end of the Cold War in the 90s, O’Sullivan found himself “among those people in the West who felt that NATO and the EU were not responding as generously as they should to the needs of Central and Eastern Europe.” This led him to urge people not to turn a blind eye to Central and Eastern Europe. His hard work eventually resulted in the establishment of the New Atlantic Initiative. This organization has since done its best to integrate countries in Central and Eastern Europe into the institutions of Euro-Atlantic civilization. In fact, the initiative was indispensable in making sure these countries were accepted into the EU and NATO.
O’Sullivan was nominated for the Hungarian Order of Merit by the Friends of Hungary Foundation, the publisher of Hungary Today and Ungarn Heute this year, which he received in February.
President of Danube Institute John O’Sullivan Awarded with Hungarian Order of Merit
John O’Sullivan resides in Hungary and is the acting president of the Danube Institute. His former titles include editor of the National Review, associate editor of the London Times, senior fellow of the Hudson Institute, and special adviser to Margaret Thatcher. His famed and contested ‘O’Sullivan’s First Law’ states that any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time.
Photos by Tamás Lénárd/Hungary Today