An open letter to Angela Merkel: Europe - Democracy or barbarism
BENJAMİN ABTANDear Madam Chancellor,
Yours, more than any other country, bears the responsibility for the crimes of national socialism. Yours, more than any other country, has confronted the tasks of history and memory, providing younger generations with a keen understanding of the dangers of anti-Semitism and racism.
As we draw upon the 80th anniversary of the accession of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor, you have reiterated the principles of responsibility and vigilance that have guided Germany for almost 60 years. They resound evermore in a Europe which, in recent years, has experienced a rise in racism, anti-Semitism and the far right.
All those across our continent who fight for a Europe of fraternity, who build the European identity called for by the philosopher Husserl from 1935 as the only means of overcoming the dangers of nationalism during the rise of Nazism, need your support.
The voice of Germany must be clear and audible, because people are listening. You bear the responsibility conferred on you by your influence and the place of your country’s history in that of Europe.
To move from the ethic of conviction that you proclaim to an ethic of responsibility, Germany, like all countries in the EU, must put the development of democracy, and above all the fight against racism and anti-Semitism, at the very heart of its stance. Decisions on the financial, economic and institutional problems of Europe, crucial as they are for the future of the EU, must be measured against the strength they bring to democracy in Europe. The order of priorities as it stands must be reversed, and the central question of European democracies must be thus: “How are we to give life to Europe’s project of civilization based on peace, democracy, equality and the priority of the collective, plural and diverse above the identity of individuals?”
In this respect, the persistence of Roma ghettos in Slovakia, Romania, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, the anti-Semitic murders in France, that of the Roma in Hungary and those of Turkish origin in Germany, the annual demonstration of the past SS in Latvia, the Utoya massacre in Norway, the stigmatization of Muslims and the rise of racial discrimination are unacceptable cases that must be denounced with vigor.
In particular, the decay of the constitutional state in Hungary and the authoritarian trend in the Orban regime must be fought with the same energy as the burial of national debt.
Above all, the policies of Germany and Europe regarding Greece will not be solved by endless austerity, which deepens every day the social hopelessness advanced by the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn.
Germany cannot disregard the development of racist and anti-Semitic positions and the increase of racist murders on its shores. It cannot ignore the permissiveness of part of the political establishment toward those who have a growing influence on our continent because they are regarded as the success story of the far right in Europe, capable of combining legal and illegal actions, of being elected to Parliament and of using physical violence against immigrants in the street.
In particular, the democratic vigilance of Germany should push you to demand that Prime Minister Samaras respect his commitment to remove neo-Nazis from the Greek parliamentary delegation in the Council of Europe, which is possible, legal and a democratic necessity. Although he firmly made this commitment in December, following an exceptional mobilization in Athens of European civilians with the support of notable intellectuals and Nobel laureates such as Elie Wiesel, Bernard Kouchner, Serge Klarsfeld, Adam Michnik and Dario Fo, in January he quietly sent a delegation including the neo-Nazi Eleni Zaroulia.
Because your country has a particular responsibility in the fight against racism and anti-Semitism, you cannot remain silent in the face of this unacceptable double game that reinforces neo-Nazism, and you must demand that the Prime Minister respect his democratic commitment.
It consists of the protection of the weakest against violence on two fronts, social and racial, and in the duty of democracy to oppose its inflexible enemies. In a word, it consists of the fundamental values of Europe and of its civilizing project, without which it loses sense and will fall inevitably into barbarism.
Benjamin Abtan is the President of the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement (EGAM).