On Friday, July 1, in Budapest, Hungary, the city council approved placing a monument of former President Reagan in the capital city park.
It is the first time a former Soviet-bloc elected government has voted to erect a monument in honor of the President for his role in ending the Cold War and freeing Eastern Europe from Communist oppression.
Népszabadság, Hungary's largest national newspaper (and the former Communist Party mouthpiece), reported that the support for the monument crossed all party lines, a rarity in Hungarian politics (portions translated below):
There was a long debate about the work of the 40th President of the USA. MDF initiated that a bust of Ronald Reagan be erected at Budapest, as the president did much for the freedom of the people living in Central Eastern Europe and to end the Cold War. The initiative was supported by the MSZP, the SZDSZ and as well as the Fidesz. MIÉP fraction leader Zsinka László objected the idea, and said that a statue of a Hungarian politician such as Pál Teleki or Ottokár Prohászka be created instead. At the peak of the debate Zsinka said that „those who vote for the Reagan statue carry out an order coming from outside.” Csaba Somlyódi (MSZP) replied ironically that they had not received any order at this week yet, and they were undecided, but thanks to Zsinka, now they know what to do. Szilárd Sasvári (Fidesz-MKDSZ) said that the bust of Reagan should be erected and the Roosevelt square be switched to Reagan. The debate including the significance of the peace conferences of Jalta and Malta took more than an hour, so the representatives spent more time on the statue than the Podmaniczky program about the medium-term developing tasks of the city. Eventually, the erection of the statue was passed.
The movement to honor Reagan began a year ago in an op-ed by the then-publisher of the Budapest Business Journal Stephen A. O'Connor (now the Group Publisher for Human Events).
O'Connor's op-ed got traction with the Mayor of Budapest, Gabor Demszky, who recognized Reagan's role in freeing Eastern Europe. He reflected on his own experience as a young dissendent jailed by the former Communist regime whom Reagan helped free with a letter to the then-Soviet-friendly former government. (The June 25, 2004, statement, "Emléktáblát állíthatnak Ronald Reagennek," can be found at the Budapest Portal, the city government website, by typing "Reagan" into the search engine.
The mayor and the former Ambassodor to the U.S., Hungarian-American Peter Zwack, picked-up O'Connor's cause and formally presented it to the city government of Budapest, the largest city in Eastern Europe (population: 2 million).