Family is the “cradle of culture”, including Hungarian and European culture, which is rooted in family, President Katalin Novák said at the official opening of the Veszprém-Balaton European Capital of Culture 2023 season in Veszprém, in western Hungary, on Saturday. “We Hungarians … know that we must not only preserve, protect and pass on what was left to us by our ancestors, but also add to it,” Novák said. She said this was the reason why Hungary over the past decade had built 200 churches and renovated the State Opera House, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Vigadó cultural centres and castles across the country. It is the same reason why Hungary is creating something new with the House of Music, the Museum of Ethnography and the Csokonai Fórum of Debrecen, the president added. “This is why we are restoring the Castle District on the Buda side and creating community spaces even in the smallest localities,” she said. All that is needed is for someone to hand over and someone to inherit the rich heritage, Novák said. “Family is also the cradle of culture; of Hungarian culture and European culture,” she said. “European culture, too, is rooted in family.”
“We are living in troubled times,” Novák said. Life and progress are being hindered by pandemics, natural and economic disasters and war, she said. “But life forges a path: babies can also be born in shelters, the fierce struggle for a better life continues even with rising prices and artists don’t stop creating,” Novák said. “Culture breeds life and hope. It can ease pain, dispel fear and helps with reconciliation,” she said. “It reminds us that we shouldn’t just survive but also live.”
Novák said the celebration of Hungarian culture was a celebration of shared European culture. She noted that this was why the Croatian president had been invited to join the opening of the European Capital of Culture season. Novák said Zoran Milanović was a “guest at home”, noting the strong ties between Croatian and Hungarian culture. “We’re celebrating together with the conviction that Europe needs us at least as much as we need a strong Europe of nations, one that is much stronger than it is today,” Novák said. She also stressed the importance of other European nations such as those of the Balkans “with whom we suffered together over centuries”. Hungary is fighting for those countries to be a part of a shared Europe “not just in spirit and culturally, but also legally and economically”. “Unification is not assimilation; we’re taking, preserving and expanding the heritage of our ancestors, making Europe richer,” Novák said. There is a place in Europe for Serbians, Montenegrins, Kosovans, North Macedonians, Albanians and the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina and their cultures alongside Germans, French, Italians, Scandinavians, central Europeans, Croatians and Hungarians, Novák said. Each nation is a unique voice, “but the harmony will only be perfect together”.
Veszprém as a European Capital of Culture represents the unique and the common, not just in its history, but also in its present, Novák said, noting that Veszprém’s queens “brought Europe to Hungary and took the world of Hungarians to other countries of Europe”.
The Croatian president told the opening that there was much more that united the nations of Europe than divided them. He said the aim of the European Capital of Culture title was to highlight the cultural richness of European Union member states and to deepen Europeans’ feeling of belonging to the same cultural space, promoting thereby each other’s mutual understanding. The project also seeks to highlight that the European cultural space is a result of the joint contributions of various states and cities, Milanović said. This is especially true for central Europe, he said, noting the region’s complex history and the “deep mark this leaves on culture”.