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Laudatio by Václav Klaus: Tamás Deutsch - the 2020 Petöfi Prize Winner

English Pages, 16. 12. 2020

As a 2018 Petöfi Prize laureate, I am greatly honoured to be asked to deliver the laudatio for this year’s winner of the Petöfi Prize, the distinguished Hungarian politician and true Central European, Tamás Deutsch. I do not have the slightest doubts about this year’s choice. The jury organized by the Public Foundation for the Research of Central and Eastern European History and Society selected the right person – someone who is from the region, someone who is a genuine Central European, someone who – by his brave and productive activities in the last more than three decades – has made history.

Tamás Deutsch does indeed deserve the Petöfi Prize, I am only sorry the awarding ceremony is – hopefully only this year – organized in an inappropriate way, as a webinar, which means at a distance, imposed upon us by the quarantine measures of social distancing. Social distancing is an instrument of intentional fragmentation and atomization of human society. It makes it impossible for us to meet, to see each other in person, to smile at each other, to properly experience this moment. This arrangement is less the consequence of the covid epidemic than of the governments’ reactions to it.

Tamás Deutsch has a rich biography. He is a founding member of FIDESZ and one of the main organizers of mass demonstrations in Budapest in 1989. He was a vice-chairman of FIDESZ and a member of the government. He spent 20 years in the Hungarian Parliament (three of which as a deputy speaker). In 2009 he was elected to the European Parliament, where he serves his second term now.

We, the Czechs, are aware of one special moment of Tamás Deutsch’s life. He came to Prague on August 21, 1989 and attended an unauthorized demonstration organized on the occasion of the anniversary of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact armies. He held a banner with the inscription “We came with flowers, not with tanks” and asked for forgiveness for the Hungarian participation in the invasion. As a result of his brave deed, he was arrested and – after eight days – fined and expelled from Czechoslovakia.

I would like to assure Mr. Deutsch and all Hungarians that his act of courage will never be forgotten and that we have never – not even atthe very moment of the invasion – considered Hungary to be the real aggressor. We were fully aware of the Hungarian revolution in 1956 and of its fate. It is, nevertheless, worth mentioning that while in 1956 the Soviet Union acted alone, in 1968 it acted in cooperation with other communist countries.

Tamás Deutsch has been for a very long time one of the most important Hungarian politicians. As a Czech politician, I would like to openly and explicitly recognize that Hungary – under the leadership of Prime Minister Orbán and with politicians like Tamás Deutsch – has become one of the few remaining defenders of freedom, liberty, old, centuries proven values and traditions, and last but not least of the nation state and its irreplaceable role in human history. I applaud Hungary and its citizens for making it possible and only wish my country would do the same.

I wish this year’s Petöfi Prize winner many productive years in politics and in his personal life. I can’t resist, however, to express my concern as regards the utilization of all of his skills and political experience in the European Parliament, the embodiment of post-politics Hungary has been so successfully fighting against.

Mr. Deutsch, do accept my sincere congratulations.

Václav Klaus, December 16 2020


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