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Central Europe as the flagship of freedom and democracy?

January 29th, 2018

While discussing the fate of western and central Europe, two conservative historians disagree on whether Central Europe can outride the West and become ‘a beacon of freedom and progress.’

In a joint interview with Heti Válasz, historians Stafano Bottoni and Márton Békés discuss the future of Europe. Békés claims that Central Europe should no longer be considered less advanced than Western Europe. The conservative historian argues that Western Europe has been much less successful than Central Europe in answering the challenges posed by the economic and migration crises. The main reason for this, Békés speculates, is that the West has abandoned its core civilizational values. As examples of Central Europe’s advantage, Békés mentions Hungary’s fence, built to keep out undocumented migrants, and the Hungarian media which, in his view, provides a free forum for open public discussion, as opposed to the ‘unfree’ western media landscape ‘which is characterized by taboos and politically correct language requirements’. Békés suspects that Western Europe may soon look at Central Europe for inspiration in tackling the current economic and migration-related challenges.

Bottoni, on the other hand, thinks that fears over the West’s decline are highly exaggerated, and suggestions that Hungary is an island of peace and growth are unfounded. Bottoni points out that young Central Europeans still migrate to the West in hope of a better life. As for civilizational values, Bottoni notes that religious, family and civic virtues are no stronger in Central Europe than in the West. Concerning freedom and democracy, Bottoni counters Békés by accusing the Hungarian government of destroying institutional culture and trust as well as trying to entrench Fidesz’s rule – forever.

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