These days, many in America and around the world are shattered by the new reality – that a man of such little respect for achievements of the US civil rights movement has won the highest office in the country and started working towards implementing his plans. Millions of people went to the streets to protest the new administration’s controversial appointments (incl. white supremacists), and most recently, a ban on refugees and migrants from select Middle Eastern countries.
But while the German Chancellor or the London mayor made it clear that EU-US relations should be based on shared values, including respect for human dignity, 1 the Visegrad Group, that represents countries that hugely benefited from dismantling the Berlin Wall and the peaceful integration with West Europe, has been silent or worse.
Already in November the Czech President Zeman sent a letter to the US President-elect, in which he wrote that he is “proud” that his opponents call him the “Czech Trump,” referring to their shared views on migration. 2 Hungary’s Viktor Orban talks about “making Europe Great Again” 3 – pretty much along the lines advocated by the new team in the White House.
In the past two years the V4 (Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Slovak) governments, which represent 65 million EU citizens, have invested more energy into explaining why they can’t take refugees from war-torn countries, than into actually increasing their capacities to do so.
Thus, their own record undermines their ability to ask the US to stick to its international commitments regarding refugee protection and fair treatment of citizens and visitors.
Yet, this policy does not vindicate the V4; it does not make them right. First, the US still has checks and balances and plenty of concerned citizens willing to defend and build on the constructive and inclusive legacies of the American experience. It is not yet clear whether Trump will manage to implement all of his agenda. And second, even if he did, the Central Europeans have nothing to gain from the spiral of hate, fear and insecurity he’s unleashing. The gains would be short-term, and for a narrow clique – just like it was during the two oppressive and violent regimes that caused so much destruction in our region in the 20th century.
Thus, condemning attacks on human dignity seems like the only alternative. It is unfortunate that many CEE leaders have missed the point and we all need to relearn the lessons of history the hard way. Just a small reminder: if you’re not standing up for Arabs and Muslims today, ask yourself why. That way you’ll better understand what happens in the minds of people who assault Poles or Christians, some of the identities the official V4 likes to protect internationally.
- “Angela Merkel On The Election Of Donald Trump: Cooperation on the Basis of Shared Values,” The Federal Chancellor, November 9, 2016, http://bit.ly/2jPjcPX ; Andrea Shalal, Andreas Rinke, “Merkel says fight against terrorism no excuse for U.S. entry ban,” Reuters, January 29, 2017, http://reut.rs/2jGUt2s (accessed January 30, 2017). ↩
- “Prezident Republiky zaslal blahopřejný dopis americkému prezidentovi,” Hrad.cz, November 9, 2016, http://bit.ly/2jPrgA8 (accessed January 30, 2017). ↩
- “Hungary leader Orban says it’s time to take Trump seriously,” Washington Post, January 26, 2016, http://wapo.st/2kNV6F1 (accessed January 30, 2017). ↩