This week Budapest
Philip Bushill-Matthews is a Euro MP with very close links to Conservatives Abroad in Majorca.

DURING the recent elections to the European Parliament, one of the most absurd allegations made about the European Union was that it is somehow similar to the former Soviet Empire or Nazi Germany.

The reason given was that the One-Size-Fits-All Socialist vision of Europe, which proposes ever more intrusive legislation, aims at the same uniformity and control once exercised by the Kremlin. The people of Eastern Europe know this to be nonsense.

Since the elections, MEPs from all EU Member States have been gathering together in their different political groupings to determine working arrangements for the coming five years. Our political family, now with some 270 Centre–Right MEPs and by far the largest grouping, met in Budapest, one of the most splendid capital cities of ”New Europe”.

Budapest itself was largely destroyed during the Second World War, and badly damaged again ten years later following the uprising against the Soviet Union in 1956. One building that was not destroyed, and indeed is now faithfully preserved, is what was officially called the House of Loyalty. It was known locally by the people as the House of Terror. It was here that people were tortured, interrogated and killed – by the fascists and later the communist dictatorships. But the people still rose up, and it was in Hungary that the passion of Eastern/Central European people to throw off the communist yoke first flowered. Hungary was the first communist country to open up its borders to the West. It was no surprise that in the European Parliamentary elections, the local Conservative party Fidesz had the largest majority of any country in the former Eastern bloc. Budapest is a city that has seen the worst and best of Europe. It was one of the earliest to promote international trade, encouraging French and German traders to settle there as early as the twelfth century. It has been overrun many times, by Romans, Mongols, Turks and even Austrians, before the Russians came along. But though its people have suffered appallingly in the past, they are at last proud members of the European family of free nations by their own free choice. Last year they voted to join the EU. This year they voted with some 150 million others across Europe to select MEPs to represent them. Today it is hard to believe that they were denied the right to vote at all until just fourteen years ago.

Hungary well knows the difference between Soviet rule and freedom: it has experienced both. Hungary is not only happy to have escaped from its tormented past: it is happier still that within the EU it now has a real future.

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