Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Democracy - usage

Adelina Marini, October 22, 2009

A very important anniversary approaches that turned an entirely new page in the history of Europe as pontificate it might sound. The questions to which is good that we find answers 20 years later, in fact are not too many, although they might seem much more:
- Is there a democracy in Bulgaria?
- Have we reconciled with our history?
- Have we taught our lessons from the mistakes?
- How does Europe see the democracy in the so called transition countries, new EU member states, post communist states, ex soviet satellites etc?
- How does Europe take part in the democratic processes outside its borders?

Right now I don't have the ambition to respond to these questions because 1 person cannot do that. Here I intend to share some facts that show that we are not even trying to pose these questions to ourselves, not to mention answering them.

In a pathetic interview for the talk show "Face to Face with Tsvetanka Rizova" on the Nova TV station on Sunday, the Bulgarian prime minister said with regard to the congress of the Bulgarian Socialist Party: "... it is obvious that this party is pulling us back and will pull the state behind as long as it exists. And it is mistake that a communist party which organised terrorist attacks, which slaughtered people, which admits that this is its own background, had not been outlawed and now is becoming a tutor of the society".

And yesterday the group of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament issued a declaration, condemning the statement of the premier with the following arguments: "The S&D Group expects the Bulgarian government -- despite its reliance on the parliamentary support of the far right xenophobic party ATAKA -- to act as all EU governments do in observing the principles of democracy, freedom of speech and the rule of law. The S&D Group urges all major European political families to make it clear to the government of Bulgaria that it must stick to and to promote European values. This includes respecting the right to difference of opinion and defending political pluralism".

Last week 15 journalists from the EU, equally representing the old EU member states and the new ones, were 4 days in Egypt - a socialist-authoritarian country with predominantly Muslim population. The impressions we derived while being there raised the topic about democracy, about whether it is worth for us to do whatever to intervene in places where the evolution should do its job by itself. Inevitably we reached the topic about the post communist countries. The our colleague from Hungary gave us his point of view about the protests in 2006 in Budapest, provoked by the revelations that the then socialist prime minister Ferenz Gyurcsany had lied about the actual financial situation of the central European state.

Tamasz took part in the protests not as a journalist but as a citizen and he became a witness of events, quite similar to what happened in Bulgaria in the beginning of this year. On both sides of a big Budapest boulevard 2 different groups were protesting. On the one side there were elderly people, young people, children, students. And on the opposite side - there were nationalists or as we call them in Bulgaria - ultrases. The police, unnoticed by the complaisant, according to Tamasz's words, media, started little by little to push both groups together. Then the police opened fire with real bullets - to all directions. One of the colleagues of Tamasz lost his eye, another is wounded in the arm. 3 years later Tamasz is still keeping photos of those events in his cell phone.

Beside this event, he also told us that colleagues and friends of his, supporting the socialists in Hungary, blamed him for not being unbiased during his live broadcast from the protests when he told his viewers the story he told us.

Our colleagues from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Canada remained speechless for a long time. Finally, the only thing they could utter was something like this: "We don't know why in Europe we no nothing about these things, why the Commission does not pay any attention a problem that is so serious". Our colleague from Portugal who covers European issues and has worked a lot on the developments in Central and Eastern Europe, vigorously said that "ex-communist" parties should be outlawed because they are not the same as those in "old Europe". Of course, we came to the conclusion that media quite often follow their own agenda and follow it in spite of the seriousness of an event.

I am sharing this with you not because I think the opinion of a Portugal journalist is a good argument in support of the statement of the Bulgarian prime minister, especially given the fact that Portugal also has its own bitter memories from the time before joining the EU. I shared this with you because I think it is high time that we start not only in Bulgaria but in Europe in general to analyse our common history. And is sometimes it is politically convenient for the heads of state to say "leave history to the historians", for the societies in united Europe it is more than important to know who is who in politics, what ideas he is protecting and whether he is sincere, etc.

Of course, democracy is democracy and is good to protect its principles but does this always happen? And I instantly remembered the case with the Hamas in the Palestinian territories when the movement won the elections there in this same 2006. The whole international community, including the EU, condemned this, although admitting that this is the will of the Palestinian people and that the elections were democratic and fair.

Another case that deserves to be mentioned is the unwillingness of the Bulgarian state to register the party OMO - Ilinden. Here I will not comment on "for" and "against", but only the principles of democracy and when they can be violated for the sake of a higher social-political interest.

After all, the examples of political parties being preventing from taking part in political process in a country are too many with the most common excuse that these parties are radical, nationalist, extremist and, in general, do more harm to democracy than completing its essence. But quite often the reasons behind those attempts have their bitter historical references. Therefore it would be worth the discussion about democracy and all the participants in it to be held constantly, with no narrow party emotions, with no entering into details like "and you, when .." but with the maturity which the prosperity of a society requires.

After writing the last sentence I thought that, maybe, I really am an idealist. Is this harmful for democracy?