Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech at "Britain Salutes Hungary" reception

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: The Barbican, central London
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript (THCR 6/2/2/220 f114)
Editorial comments:

Between 1830 and 1930.

Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 734
Themes: Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Arts & entertainment

I think that there are several reasons why I want to support Hungary very much and to come here this evening to demonstrate it.

First, I think Hungary, by virtue of her history and particularly her post-war history, has a special …   . she clearly likes freedom and she clearly is blazing a trail in Eastern Europe for freedom. When I went there and had a fascinating visit in 1984, I did not know what to expect. First I found a Parliament building which was then not exactly used for a Parliament but I hope it will be.

The architecture of Hungary's Parliament building is based upon the Parliament at Westminster, almost identical is it not? It was deliberately modelled on our own Parliament. [end p1]

Second, when I went around, as I usually do, among the people I went into a massive market, a real market where people brought all of their things to exchange and I thought immediately there are people here who know what the market is. That was really a very very important stop. They go to bring their goods there, they know what they can sell things for, they know what people want and immediately I thought there is the basis here of a market economy. I was practically mobbed and I must tell you, everyone knew my name. I was so sorry they did not all have a vote …

But it was fantastic. And then I went to see some of the most fantastic work, some of these ceramics, the most marvellous ceramics.

And then of course here I have always been whenever Sir George Solti has been doing Bartok, I have been here and isn't it fantastic? I did not really fully appreciate the marvels of that particular music, but Sir George Solti was a pupil of Bartok and together they do absolute wonders.

And we had a fortnight's programme at the Festival Hall just a short time ago and I went to one of the main concerts and I was amazed at the range of music and I began to wish I had more time but not …   . [end p2]

Now this is the really important point. I started off by saying Hungary is a country of destiny and from that time since I went we have tried to do everything we could to increase the links between Hungary and the West and to make certain that we have, between the European Community and Hungary a trading agreement, which was a practical way of increasing the links, and it was not easy to get, but we got it, and Britain led the way.

But it is even more important than that now. You see Hungary blazed the trail for a freer political society and a freer economic society. I told you about the market. When I was there, you could set up in small business and employ twelve people, it was not very many but it was as much as they felt they could do at that time.

But now, I know particularly, Mr Gorbachev having been here recently, he is in fact following a trail which he has some faith can be followed and come to fruition because I think that he has seen the way in which Hungary is going, he has recognised that compulsion of central command and controlled economy will produce neither dignity nor prosperity nor the kind of country to which the Soviet Union could live up to.

It is easier to get the political liberty than it is to emulate the economic liberty and responsibility that must in fact follow. And I know full well that he will have in his mind the fact that things are going ahead in Hungary. [end p3]

And you know in politics if as well as talking about … you can point to the fact that someone else can do it, and have done it from being a communist country that side of the European divide, it helps tremendously.

And so I say this to Mr Pozsgay: “You know we can do it, so you know it can be done” . So when Mr Gorbachev says: “Well Mr Pozsgay can do it” .

With uncertainty you have always got to be able to have a vision to take you through the difficult times and to keep your eye on that distant star and that vision and some examples to point to which give hope.

Hungary is such an example. She will go ahead and lead the way and we shall support her as much as we possibly can because she, as a small country, has untold courage.

So we wish you well and we do … of Hungary, in all its artistic sense, and also in all its idealistic philosophic sense, and we remember the post-war history. We are going on to a new period of history and Hungary's success will be very important for us all.

We send all our good wishes back with you, we wish you well and we will do our level best here to be a partner in your great endeavours.