A New European Order?

Václav Havel, translated by Paul Wilson

President Havel delivered the following address in December 1994 at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe summit in Budapest.

This meeting coincides with the fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the totalitarian systems in our part of the world, and thus the end of our separation into two opposing blocs. This anniversary invites us to reflect on how successful we have been in responding to the unprecedented challenge of this era, that is, the challenge of organizing relations in Europe along new and more just lines. Yes, it is only today, in fact, that Europe has a real chance to build this new order on a respect for the will of all of its nations, on their cooperation as equals, on values like democracy, the rule of law, the civil society, on the market economy, on a sense of responsibility for the outcome of human society, and on respect for the order of nature and the moral order within us.

In those five years a great deal, of course, has been accomplished. Our countries are developing a dense network of good mutual relations on many specific issues, both bilaterally and within different international organizations. We have agreed as well on many general principles by which we intend to be guided in the future conduct of our affairs, whether these are expressed in the Paris Charter or in other documents.

Nevertheless, I cannot help feeling that the birth of a new and genuinely stable European order is taking place more slowly, and with greater difficulty and pain than most of us had expected five years ago. Many countries that shook off their totalitarian regimes still feel insufficiently anchored in the community of democratic states. They are often disappointed by the reluctance with which that community has opened its arms to them. The demons we thought had been driven for ever from the minds of people and nations are dangerously rousing themselves again, and are surreptitiously but systematically undoing the principles upon which we had begun to build the peaceful future of Europe.

All too often we come up against a lack of generosity, of historical perspective, of courage to try new solutions, of genuine vision. Europeans continue to suffer and die in the former Yugoslavia, and with them is dying the hope that Europe will be able to bring these horrors to an end. New conflicts, both real and potential, are breaking out in the different successor states in the former Soviet Union and in other places as well. Yet faced with these clear warning signs, democrats appear to be marking time or even, at times, to be utterly at a loss. They mask their inability to come up with clear and courageous solutions with a superfluity of words. But there is little time to waste; the longer democrats delay in building a new European order, the greater the danger that this new order will be dictated by others—by nationalists, chauvinists, populists …

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