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Schriftenreihe des Europa Institutes Budapest, Band 1:106.

Without Prejudices

Being a small nation we should give the definition of a small nation first. When in the West, for example in small countries like Holland or Belgium, I have experienced more than once that these peoples do not seem to understand what I mean by a small nation. They agree that being a small or a big nation does not depend on territory, but otherwise they do not generally use the term themselves. It is more popular in Central and Eastern Europe, implying that we consider ourselves small and consequently inferior and, at the same time, we wish to compensate it by imagining ourselves bigger than we actually are. I think, we should not be obsessed by the idea of being small or big, but should rather adopt the attitude of e.g. the Danes and feel good as we are. The Danes never speak of being a small nation, but keep saying that they feel good and build their country for themselves. And the size of their country just suits them. They do not want to be either bigger or smaller.

My opinion is that we have two possibilities before us in this respect. First, we should observe ourselves with a sober scepticism and preserve the right of being sceptics. We should have doubts about ourselves, our views and, first of all, our prejudices or, one could even say, our national paranoia. Once we have overcome these feelings, we shall not feel the urge to be afraid of our neighbours and they, in turn, will not feel the need to be afraid of us anymore. The second possibility is to preserve the freedom of thought and not to be bound by this sense of smallness or greatness, for both are unfounded feelings. The twin concepts of the right to be sceptics and the freedom of thought are, to my mind, the preconditions of the right size of a nation. To preserve the freedom of thought involves namely the recognition of the freedom of thought of others as well. We should let other nations evaluate our size instead of evaluating it ourselves all the time. In this way we might be evaluated with an impartial goodwill we would like to be evaluated with. I truly believe that in this case we and the other nations of the region will be able to feel ourselves better, no matter how small or big we are.

Árpád Göncz

Introduction at the first Memorial Lecture in the Europa Institut Budapest, 1992.