The past is not behind us, we are walking on it


The past is not behind us, we are walking on it

Do you know about the origins of the church bells ringing at noon in most European countries? Well, in Hungary, this is among the easiest questions one can ask. Even young children know by heart: the ringing of the church bells at noon commemorates the 1456 victory of the Hungarian army against the Islamic-Ottoman troops in Belgrade that stopped their European advancement for several decades. Unfortunately for the Hungarian kingdom, in 1526 this victory was reversed and the 150 years of Turkish occupation of the country began.

Hungarian collective identity is shaped by these memories of confrontations that posed a major challenge for the integrity of the Hungarian state. People living on the territory of Hungary throughout these centuries therefore consisted of numerous ethnic and religious groups, including a few followers of the Islamic faith. The legacy of confrontations among the great powers in and around the Carpathian Basin has been combined with the memory of the peaceful cohabitation of the various ethnic and religious groups in this part of Europe.

The present migration flow at the Southern borders of Hungary has nothing to do with Hungary’s actions or its past, it is the consequence of global economic, political and climatic developments. Still, Hungary has to deal with this challenge, the huge crowd of understandably impatient migrants who desperately want to get to the “German Land of Promise”. In Hungary the empathy with the hard fate of these people and the willingness to help them is combined with worries concerning the destructive potential of this mass migration. One of the internationally best known Hungarian intellectuals, the Nobel awardee Holocaust survivor writer Imre Kertész, wrote about these fears as early as 2003 and has recently repeated his warning.

As far as the present situation is concerned, the Hungarian society is supporting real refugees, but is split on the judgement of potential dangers. The overwhelming majority, however, is supporting the actions of the government. Very differently from our Western neighbours like Austria or further away like Germany, the Hungarian government and most of the Hungarians do not see the potential in the migration flow as a possible solution for the country’s negative demographic trends (the present Hungarian government has a complex, well-funded family policy to meet the challenge of population loss and ageing).


In the frame of the development policies of the European Union, European Movement Hungary is of the opinion that it is very much desired to support the possibility of “circular migration”, to support the return of those who left their homeland but who have the potential (scientific, social and economic) to rebuild their society. Central-European countries have experienced quite many waves of emigration, when the young, the well-qualified fled and left a suffering economy and society behind. We expect rational initiatives from the European authorities thus to focus more on local development policies. Experiences of former crisis situations teach us that only coordinated EU involvement based on solidarity can bring about lasting solutions.

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