On 18 September, former foreign minister of Hungary János Martonyi’s new English language book Nation and Europe: In Lieu of Memoirs was presented to a full house. The audience, which included dignitaries such as former foreign minister Géza Jeszenszky and French Ambassador to Hungary Claire Legras, Fidesz MEP, former ambassador to Spain and Italy Enikő Győri, was greeted by President of the Danube Institute John O’Sullivan, followed by the remarks of the author, Mr Martonyi.
In his address, the distinguished scholar, lawyer, former diplomat and ex-minister highlighted again his resolute unwillingness to adhere to descriptions of reality that he finds black and white. He stressed both in his remarks and in his responses to questions from the audience that he for instance prefers not to use the terms liberal world order, as in his view the world order could just as well be called conservative: it is rules-based and nations-based. He also underscored that
being a patriot may and should go hand in hand with being ’a committed European,’
as he himself is. He noted that while the Hungarian nation comes first for him, he sees that nation as undoubtedly part of Europe. Mr Martonyi reiterated that he also believes the juxtaposition of ’sovereigntist’ and ’federalist’ is an oversimplification, as most politicians, and indeed the desired attitude in his opinion, are a combination of the two.
The members of the panel that commented on the book included renowned experts, Mr Martonyi’s former colleagues István Stumpf, professor of constitutional law and political science, former minister, former justice of the Constitutional Court of Hungary; Péter Gottfried, member of the Monetary Council of the Hungarian National Bank, former state secretary responsible for European integration; as well as György Szapáry, chief adviser to the president of the Hungarian National Bank, former Hungarian ambassador to the US.
According to István Stumpf, the rich intellectual background of János Martonyi’s values-oriented book aptly exemplifies the identity of the former foreign minister, whose career was characterized by commitment to European values, a clear position on the nation, sovereignty, patriotism and Christian democracy. And all these values also define the book, Prof Stumpf noted.
Praising the book, which was originally published in Hungarian in 2021, and has now been re-published in English by Helena Historical Press, Prof Stumpf said the it repeats the key messages of all the former writings of Minister Martonyi:
the importance of linguistic and cultural heritage, common values, and national belonging.
Among other things, this makes the essays included in the volume special: in addition to the already listed, timeless spiritual and moral pillars, not only issues of geopolitics, but also those pertaining to trade and security play an important role in the work. By summarizing Martonyi’s entire professional and public career, the book is a valuable insight into the personal experiences and credo of one of the most outstanding European politicians and diplomats of our time, which serve as a compass in the practice of politics.
Mr Szapáry and Mr Gottfried recalled the difficult times of the system change and the following years of Hungary’s nascent democracy, sharing personal recollections of important episodes of Hungary’s history that all three of them experienced and shaped as government officials. They both lauded Mr Martonyi’s wisdom, moderation and commitment to Hungary’s Euro-Atlantic integration and role throughout his career.
The book is available in both hardcover and paperback.
This article was partly based on a press release kindly provided to us by the Danube Institute.