16 December 2019, Monday, 16:15
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Vaclav Havel: Europe has unfortunate experience of dictators’ appeasement

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Vaclav Havel: Europe has unfortunate experience of dictators’ appeasement

On November 11 in the European Parliament in Brussels former Czech President Vaclav Havel delivered a speech dedicated to 20th anniversary of Communist regime’s collapse in Eastern Europe.

The former dissenter and president spoke about importance of the events for the history and the future of the united Europe. Radio Svaboda offers a part of his speech.

Vaclav Havel thanked for invitation and a possibility to address the deputies “in the days of the twentieth anniversary of the dramatic breaking down of the closed borders, the cutting of the barbed wire, the demolishing of walls between the European nations, and, in the case of Germany, of the wall dividing two parts of the same nation. It was the end of the bipolar division not only of Europe, but, to a large measure, of the world as a whole. At was such a historically important moment that various people had the impression that henceforth calm would reign and the world would simply flourish.

That didn’t happen. History did not come to end, of course. And that makes it even more important to treat the present anniversary not only as an invitation to reflect on the present but above all as a challenge to consider the future.

No one was completely prepared for such a rapid collapse of the Iron Curtain. Nor could they have been. It would have been unnatural. And so there ensued a phase of perplexity, a search for various alternatives, and uncertainty. Then NATO took the bold step of accepting new members, which had the effect of anchoring them and helped them concentrate on preparing to join the European Union. Subsequently the EU did indeed start to open its doors to the new democracies of central and eastern Europe. From time to time those countries cause it headaches of various kinds. But that is perfectly understandable. A democratic political culture cannot be created or renewed overnight. It takes a lot of time and in the meantime there are plenty of unanticipated problems to be solved…

However bothersome we might have been to the European Union up to the present, it is worth putting up with it, because any alternative to the course of events to date would most likely have been much worse and more dangerous…

…Totalitarian or authoritarian forms of government tend to have very inconspicuous beginnings and employ very ingenious means of controlling society. Only now, in hindsight, do many of us realise how deviously they were entangled in the totalitarian web. That all obliges us to be particularly circumspect. It should be the way we can help guarantee that what we endured will never be repeated. What does it require?

Above all, clear and unequivocal solidarity with all those confronted by totalitarian or authoritarian regimes wherever they are in the world. And economic or other particular interests should not hinder such solidarity. Even a minor, discreet and well-intentioned compromise can have fatal consequences- even if only in the long term, or indirectly. One must not retreat in the face of evil, because it is in the nature of evil to take advantage of every concession. Besides, Europe has already had its own unfortunate experience of appeasement policies. Our support can help open-minded people or outspoken witnesses to the situation in North Korea, Burma, Iran, Tibet, Belarus, Cuba or anywhere else, much more than we think.