Freiheit und Demokratie
By Christian Hannemann and Joost Westerweel
Last nights debate ‘Doppelgedächtnis: Debatten Für Europa’ was in many ways an interesting debate. As speakers mr. Frans Timmermans and mrs. Iveta Radicova were evidently well prepared and the topics they adressed were exactly those which deal with problems of todays Europe.
Here we would like to adress the topic of freedom and democracy and the sense of responsibility for that freedom and democracy. Mrs. Radicova made and interesting remark about this saying ‘politics is about responsibility’. For us, students living in a western European country who only know a Europe which is not divided by the Iron Curtain, this is not always evident. She talked about values like liberty, responsibilty and tolerance and how important these are for people in eastern Europe today, although they may not always realize it. She stressed the point that freedom always goes hand in hand with responsibilty and that this freedom needs tolerance in order to survive. When asked about the state of freedom under communist rule mr. Timmermans was very clear. In his view the communist systems were ‘prisons’, providing only basic comforts, and communism itself ‘reduces people in a way that is completely unacceptable’. Although he himself is of course a Dutchman, he has served in Moscow, when the Soviet Union was still in existence, for a few years under the Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs, and therefore has credible personal experiences.
The main point we believe they wanted to make was that freedom is a blessing, worth fighting for. When mrs. Radicova was asked if she was worried about the future of democracy in the former eastern European communist countries, she replied with a clear yes. Many people in those countries aprove of democracy and the European Union as long as they give them benefits. Now, with the financial crisis and all, those benefits are less clearly visible and a lot peopl are losing faith in the new found democracy. A lot of uncertainties remain as to the faith of the new democracies in eastern Europe and there is still a lot of work to be done. But one thing is certain and that is that freedom and democracy are not alien concepts in eastern Europe, but they are values that need to be woven into the fabric of those societies as values that are worth defending and taking responsibility for.
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