We cannot ignore the fact that, even after the victory over National Socialism, both the people of the Soviet Union and half of Europe had to suffer oppression and lack of freedom under Stalinist and Communist dictatorship. Bronislaw Geremek, former Polish foreign minister, stated: "If the whole historical truth is not told on May 9, commemoration cannot lead to anything good."
This question is of current political significance. For weeks, a public debate has been raging in all three Baltic states about whether their presidents should accept Putin's invitation. There is great concern that the whole truth will not be acknowledged: For these countries, occupation and repression ended only with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the attainment of independence.
Estonia and Latvia have been waiting years for Russia to sign a border treaty on which negotiations were completed. Russia has now offered to sign, but its offer is linked to a declaration that has sparked a new disagreement. It would be good if the border treaties were signed without delay and unconditionally, and Putin then presented the instrument of ratification to the two presidents on May 9.
Those who look back today at the end of the war must not forget postwar history. This applies not only to Eastern Europe, which lived without freedom for more than 40 years, but also for the story of freedom and integration in the West. May 8, 1945, represents a watershed in European history. Europe lay in ruins, divided; the age of the superpowers, the cold war, was beginning. Yet in spite of these adverse conditions, the seed of European integration was growing.
The Europe of integration, the European Union, embodies the lessons drawn from the wars and dictatorships of the 20th century. The EU is the means by which the peoples of Europe seek a future of security and welfare. The death and suffering of millions of people in Western and Eastern Europe during World War II should therefore also be commemorated in the city that best symbolizes Europeans' wish for a common future in peace and liberty, namely Brussels.
Josep Borrell, president of the European Parliament, and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the Council of the European Union, should seize the initiative and organize a ceremony at the seat of the European institutions in May to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the war. This would send out an important signal for Europe's common future.
The European Union can only create a future of peace and solidarity, freedom and justice, if it gives consideration to the past with all its different perspectives. Europe's unification on the basis of democracy and human rights signifies the true end of World War II, so the EU must mark this anniversary fittingly.
* Markus Meckel was the last Foreign Minister of East Germany
and is from the SPD; Matthias Wissman was a member of Kohl's Cabinet and is from the CDU. (via scb)