Friday, January 07, 2005

The Old and the New

On Wednesday, Poland's leading newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza printed excerpts from an extraordinary speech by Josep Borrell, President of the European Parliament, in which he criticized Poland and Lithuania for their mediation efforts in the resolution of the Ukrainian presidential election crisis. The position of Poland and Lithuania, he said, differed from that of the EU, "because they acted under U.S. influence", and the crisis had been resolved largely "despite" Poland and Lithuania.

At the Jamestown Foundation, Vladimir Socor analyses the background and reactions to Borrell's tirade, which laid bare once again the anti-Americanism that continues to characterize much of "old Europe's" political thinking. All of this has serious implications in the run-up to the VE-Day 60th anniversary summit to be held in Moscow in May.

Socor illustrates the persisting West European ignorance of and insensitivity to Eastern Europe's experience of World War II:
Indifference toward unresolved Soviet-bequeathed, Moscow-suppressed problems is sometimes still palpable in the European Parliament. On December 24, the deadline expired on the collection of members' signatures on a draft declaration of remembrance of the 1939 entry of Soviet forces into Poland and the three Baltic states following the Nazi-Soviet pact. Only 88 European Parliament members, out of 732, endorsed the draft declaration during the three-month period reserved for signature collection. The document required the endorsement of 50% plus one member in order to be published as a declaration of the European Parliament (BNS, January 4).

Initiated by Bronislaw Geremek from Poland, Toomas Ilves from Estonia, Valdis Dombrovskis from Latvia, and Vytautas Landsbergis from Lithuania, the document was phrased for universal consensus. It called on "the institutions of the European Union and its member states to preserve a place for those tragic facts in Europe's collective memory," and declared on the European Parliament's behalf that "a permanent European bond founded on reconciliation among nations and respect for freedom can only be based on the truth of what occurred in the history of Europe in the twentieth century" (

Because it was never properly addressed in Europe or by Russia, this historic issue now figures high on the political agenda ahead of the VE-Day 60th anniversary summit to be held in May in Moscow. To the Baltic states, May 1945 symbolizes an almost half-century of Soviet-Russian captivity. For its part, Moscow wants the Baltic states to attend the summit in a manner that would implicitly exonerate Russia of historic responsibility, even as the Russian government continually asserts that the occupation had been legal and freely consented. Many in the EU are informally indicating a preference that the Baltic states attend the Moscow summit and not spoil the show.

See also, in this blog: An Extraordinary Man

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