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French historian: Orbán understands the challenges of the new century

The Eastern European countries have no longing for the West either, they do not want to copy the system there, but rather go their own cultural path, says the French historian Max-Erwan Gastineau, who gave an interview on the Sunday news on Kossuth Radio about the fundamental differences between Central Europe and gave to the West.

– Mr Gastineau, a few days ago you published an article in one of the largest French newspapers, Le Figaro, in which you wrote about the Hungarian law on pedophiles. It is not the first time you have defended the Hungarian government. Why do you feel the need to explain the reasons behind these decisions to the West?
– It is not my job to defend the Hungarian government, but to try to explain to Europe that there are two Europe, historically and culturally. I don’t like the arrogance of the West who thinks that Western democracy should be applied everywhere and is the best democracy in the world. It’s like trying to make us believe that Eastern Europeans are not worth as much as they are.
First of all, one has to know the history of these countries, Poland, Hungary, in order to understand why they are doing this or that.

That is why I write a lot about Hungary because I believe that what Hungary is doing is defending a model of society and that it is based on a criticism of liberalism. For me this is a very interesting thesis and it is based very much on reality, on the truth.

Instead of criticizing, we, the French, should adopt and integrate some of these theorems, which Budapest criticizes in the case of the Union and the West.

– And why are you interested in this type of illiberalism?
– This is because people today tend to confuse Europe with liberal values. Of course, liberalism is an important philosophy, human rights are important, everything that is based on the individual, but societies, whether in the West or in the East, are not only based on these rights. We have traditions, history, morals. Europe is not only built on rights, on the individual, but also on history, on culture and on a unity in which we find Christianity. Europe needs both poles, individuals and social communities. I believe that all of this can live together, the individual-based West and the conservative social structure of Central Europe.

– Seventeen of the 27 countries that debated the Pedophile Law were against Hungary and seven were in favor. The latter include Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Lithuania. Isn’t that a coincidence?
– no But even in France they do not want to understand that, although there have been countless debates on television. Here they think that everyone agrees with the Brussels values, they don’t notice that there are differences. Not only between East and West, but also between different countries. If we look at which countries were against Hungary and which for Hungary, we see that there is a clear difference. The West must recognize that the liberal morality that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s is not so strongly represented in the East, precisely because of its traditions and its special history. The latter tends to be neglected here in the West. That is why we have to know each other, the history of the Hungarians. I’m sure, that many of you fought against communism with liberal principles, but basically society is rather conservative. This is what Central European writers write, such as the Czech Kundera, who is very well known in France. While in the West in 1968 they fought for a change in morality and the dismantling of society, in the East, on the contrary, they built on communities and preserved Christianity, which was threatened by communism. In other words, there were two Europes in ’68, just as there are two Europes now. And of course there is opposition and rivalry between them. Central Eastern Europe wants to save Europe, feels threatened and needs help to survive. This is what Central European writers like the Czech Kundera, who is very well known in France, write. While in the West in 1968 they fought for a change in morality and the dismantling of society, in the East, on the contrary, they built on communities and preserved Christianity, which was threatened by communism. In other words, there were two Europes in ’68, just as there are two Europes now. And of course there is opposition and rivalry between them. Central Eastern Europe wants to save Europe, feels threatened and needs help to survive. This is what Central European writers like the Czech Kundera, who is very well known in France, write. While in the West in 1968 they fought for a change in morality and the dismantling of society, in the East, on the contrary, they built on communities and preserved Christianity, which was threatened by communism. In other words, there were two Europes in ’68, just as there are two Europes now. And of course there is opposition and rivalry between them. Central Eastern Europe wants to save Europe, feels threatened and needs help to survive. In other words, there were two Europes in ’68, just as there are two Europes now. And of course there is opposition and rivalry between them. Central Eastern Europe wants to save Europe, feels threatened and needs help to survive. In other words, there were two Europes in ’68, just as there are two Europes now. And of course there is opposition and rivalry between them. Central Eastern Europe wants to save Europe, feels threatened and needs help to survive.

– Isn’t the West making the same mistake in Asia or Africa? Or in Arab countries like Iraq, where the situation is worse than it was twenty years ago?
– Yes, and I wrote about it in my book. In 1989 America and the Western world believed that all the peoples of the world were built on the same foundation. They wanted to see the same model in the Balkans, in Central Europe, in South Africa or in Latin America. This was the case until the so-called Arab Spring. We believed in the same prophecy, in the same uniform. That era is over. I think that the Eastern European countries no longer long for the West, they don’t want to copy the system there, they prefer to go their own cultural path.

We see the same thing in other parts of the world, for example in Asia. China or Singapore follow a different model. They believe, largely because of the teachings of Confucius, that the world is made up of different cultures and that we can be successful without adopting the Western model that they wanted to impose in the 1990s.

– And what do you think, who is more likely to understand whom? From west to east or the other way around?
– Not everything is black and white, because there are differences between the Central European countries, there are debates, there are social democrats, conservatives or liberals, just like in the West. There is also a very strong belief in France in the need to defend French and European traditions. Many French are against multiculturalism or against rainbow families. Many do not want migrants who are unable to integrate. And there is a growing practice of people imposing their will on politicians. This has happened in Great Britain, for example. You expect family strength and respect for European tradition in the face of globalization.

– Is there any chance that Emmanuel Macron will one day understand what Orbán wants?
– No, I do not think so. If you read his speeches, his debates, you will see that Macron is a man of the nineties of the last century. He still believes that there is a global consensus on what democracy is or what human rights are. He did not understand that this is a piece of Western idealism. In the 1990s something else started to happen. I have read many speeches by Orbán that showed that there was a lot of movement in the world. Huntington said the same thing when talking about the clash of civilizations. Maybe Macron understood all of this, but he still clings to the roots of an old world. And it is from these roots that the French tradition, the French or European spirit is inherited. He relies on abstract values and tries to overcome a Central Europe based on conservative traditions. That’s why he lost the election a few days ago. These results have shown that a large proportion of the French have turned their backs on politics. It does so in the form of physical outrage for not voting. “Why should I go?” – they ask. For thirty years the problems have been the same: unemployment, migration leading to internalization, Islamization and then terrorism. There are the abandoned former industrial regions, the problem of education. Politicians have long had no answer to that. And if you don’t, why choose? The French are still interested in politics

– A young fellow historian of yours, Thibaud Gibelin, has written a book called “Orbán plays and wins”. Do you agree?
– I think Orbán is a talented Fidesz politician who understands what the people want. When I participate in political debates in the French media and he is mentioned, I say that he is not just a politician, not just a good strategist, but also a good theorist. He puts what he says into practice, and that is very interesting to me as a historian, whether we agree with him or not. And he is certainly one of those rare politicians who have a vision and also put that vision into practice. Yes, Viktor Orbán is playing and he wins because he has a vision of the world that is in line with the vision of the Hungarian people and, more broadly, with the vision of the peoples of Europe. And that’s a return to the nations.

UME

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