Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Monday, February 24, 2003

Eastern Europe still angry at Chirac.

A descent into the damp basement of No. 60 Andrassy Avenue is all it takes to understand why people like Maria Schmidt insist on being heard in Europe's acrimonious debate over Iraq.

The bleak concrete building that now houses Schmidt's House of Terror museum was the headquarters of Hungary's communist secret police in the 1950s, when thousands of anti-Soviet dissidents were beaten, tortured and killed.

"It was terrible living under a dictatorship," she said in her office, decorated with an aerial photo of the World Trade Center rubble. "We've earned the right to no longer be told what to say or do."

"We will be one of the equals in the EU," declared Anton Rop, the prime minister of Slovenia, which is set to join next year.

"We are too big and too proud a country, with a rich history, tradition and a conviction about our importance in Europe, to keep quiet," said Poland's prime minister, Leszek Miller. "We will speak when we consider it appropriate and we will say what we consider appropriate."

"Every country has a right to its own opinion, and we don't regret ours," said Daniel Vaarik, a spokesman for the Estonian government, a staunch U.S. ally on Iraq.

"We have the right to our own view of the world," the Slovak newspaper Pravda said in a commentary.

"Europe will have to be different from what it was like before our entry ... and listen more to the voice of small states," it added. "After the enlargement, the EU will be different. Less French or German, less Chirac's - and no worse for that."

The writer throws in a bit of mmmm.not quite a lie but not far off.

Despite their economic, political and military weaknesses, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and other nations responded by pulling together and repeating their gratitude for American help in shaking off communism 13 years ago.

Economically most of those countries are not doing too bad. They are small but so are their populations. The growth rates in these countries are robust and their US imports have gone up in leaps and bounds lately.


Agnes Gereben, a Budapest author and historian, dismisses the notion that Hungary and its formerly communist neighbors will gain significant influence when they join the EU next year.

"There's a lot of propaganda about joining, but it's empty propaganda," she said. "It's not much different from the propaganda for the Soviet Union 20 years ago. Hungary will never have a big voice."

Schmidt, the terror museum director, isn't so sure. Three floors down from her office, a mud-caked Russian tank on display serves as a graphic reminder of how far the country has come in such a short time.

"We have a chance to make a strong Europe," she said. "It's our duty to speak out. When you face a common menace, it always helps to stick together."

< email | 2/24/2003 07:18:00 AM | link

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