Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Old Europe....new Europe

Your Brussels correspondent spent a fascinating evening at the Hungarian House in Brussels the other week while wiling away a period of exile in mainland Europe. The discussion was on the Hungarian revolution and the role of the United Nations - aptly titled to mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary year of the Hungarian revolution in October/November 1956. The speaker, Klara Hedervary, had worked in the political department of the UN where from 1957 to 1963 she had been attached to the Secretariat of the Special Committee on Hungary. This Special Committee had been set up on 7 January 1957 to provide the UN and its General Assembly with as full information as possible about Hungary and the Soviet Union and the use of armed force by the Russians in Hungary when Soviet troops entered Hungary to crush the revolution killing thousands of Hungarians. Witnesses gave evidence to that fateful day in 1956 which for the first time provided a real glimpse into the mechanics of the Soviet Communist state. In June 1957 the report was produced - all 175 pages of it. The Hungarian authorities at that time ignored the report. It was sent to all UN information centres though the Soviets refused it and for the people of Hungary copies were circulated on the black market and mainly in intellectual circles.

In the audience were a number of Hungarians who had participated in some way or another in the revolution. The interesting question was asked as to whether the UN had lived up to the expectations of the people of Hungary but the problem for the UN is that it did genuinely want to do something that it couldn't. The speaker reiterated that officials working on the Hungarian issue did not let the Hungarians down - it cost some of their career and two of them their lives.

Continuing my tour of Hungarian history, I went along to a film that was being shown in the European Parliament called "The Unburied Man" - this was about the life of Imre Nagy, who was Prime Minister at the time of the 1956 Revolution and later executed in 1958 for the part he played.

What is interesting in all of this is just the simple fact that here we have freely elected MEPs from Hungary, along with other EU Parliamentarians in Brussels, marking the 50th anniversary year of the 1956 Hungarian revolution from within the EU. This is the reality of the new Europe, marking and discussing the history of the old Europe. And last week the European Parliament opened an exhibition to celebrate 20 years of Spain and Portugal's membership of the EU and of course central to these celebrations is the role played by the EU integration process in promoting the values of solidarity, peace and democracy in these countries.

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