By: Dr Andreja Valič Zver
We are in the most beautiful time of the year. At least that is what you hear from every corner and everywhere in the media, which tirelessly rush to announce the “event of the year”, the “personality of the year”, the “athlete of the year”, the “car of the year”, the “chef of the year”, and other similar more or less flattering titles.
Allow me, dear readers, to add my own opinion and mention some that deserve at least a mention in this pre-holiday reflection. Let me start on the European floor. Many of you have already heard of the European Platform of Remembrance and Conscience. It is a connection of almost 70 institutions and non-governmental organisations from all over the world that deal with totalitarianism. It was founded in Prague in 2011 under the patronage of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Slovenians were already besides it at the time of its establishment, which was also the time of the first Slovenian presidency of the Council of the EU in 2008. I remember the international meetings in Brussels, Prague, Vilnius and elsewhere, where we planned the organisation based on the resolutions of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, which had never existed before. Its main purpose was to get to know and research half-past totalitarianisms, which caused a lot of misery to us Europeans in particular. The fact is that Fascism and National Socialism were fairly adequately punished for their evil deeds, while Communism survived the fall of the Berlin Wall without major consequences. This year’s Russian aggression against Ukraine also confirms my claim. Unfortunately, the EU has turned a blind eye to what is happening in Russia, the persecution of journalists and dissidents, the shameless destruction of democratic institutions and the unbridled expansion of Russian influence on neighbouring countries. What kind of monster is growing again in the neighbourhood, Poland and the Baltic countries understood long before the EU summits, which unsuccessfully warned of the danger, but were scornfully ignored. Until the aggression against Ukraine happened.
This year’s prize of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience is also connected with this unfortunate country. Namely, it was awarded to the Belarusian opposition led by Tihanovska and to a Ukrainian institution with which the Platform has been cooperating for years. But when the awards were presented at the annual conference in Prague this November, there was a slight complication, as the prize for 2021 was also taken over by the Russian (banned) organisation Memorial. The organisation was involved in documenting Stalin’s crimes, which annoyed Putin to the extent that the Memorial had to close its doors at the end of 2021. You can imagine that Ukrainians and Russians do not see eye to eye at these moments, but the Platform leadership managed to seat them at the same table and thus signal to Europe and the world that in the efforts for peace and democracy we do not differ by nationality, but by their values.
Another important award took place last Wednesday in the European Parliament, which since 1988 has been rewarding individuals and institutions with the Sakharov Prize, named after the famous Russian dissident. This year’s recipient is the Ukrainian nation, which is incredibly determined to oppose the Russian aggressors. In her speech, the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, specifically remembered Russian dissidents, including the winner of the 2021 Sakharov Prize, Alexei Navalny. A brave opponent of Putin voluntarily returned to Russia after a near-fatal poisoning, suffered a judicial pogrom, and is serving a prison sentence in a remote penal colony. Well, Metsola promised that Europe will not forget him and all the victims of Putin’s regime.
But speaking of “positives”, we must also balance the list with some prominent “negatives”. In addition to Putin and his clique, they certainly include the leaders of the Iranian state, North Korea, and other hard-liners and autocrats, as well as corrupt politicians who have tarnished the reputation of the European Parliament in recent days and raised doubts about the transparency of their decisions. I am afraid that the story with the Greek socialist Eva Kaili and her group is only the tip of the iceberg of corrupt and high-flying upstarts with who knows whose money. By the way, where should I place the four left-wing Slovenian MEPs who stubbornly abstained or avoided voting in the so-called Russian resolution. At the same time, I wonder what other atrocities will be necessary for ladies and gentlemen to recognise the current regime in Russia as totalitarian.
Let me end by thinking of all the persecuted and suffering people in Ukraine and in war conflicts around the world, and I sincerely wish that the Christmas light is lit in all hearts – the light of joy and hope that may bring us God’s blessing and peace.