The Vision of a "European House

I met Mikhail Gorbachev at the meeting of the Steering Committee of the 8th Petersburg Dialogue on 2-3 July 2008 in Passau. Gorbachev was the chairman on the Russian side and Lothar de Maizière on the German side.
It was about the modernisation partnership in the globalised world between Germany and Russia. At that time, Gorbachev still played a significant role and gave important impulses to the dialogue. Gorbachev had grown up in the old Soviet Union and had set the course for the modernisation of the Soviet Union with glasnost and perestroika. The result was the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Iron Curtain, disarmament and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the reunification of Europe and also Germany.

This is blamed on him in Russia today because he destroyed the old greatness of the Soviet Union. But this greatness only existed in appearance. Gorbachev had to realise that the arms race could not be won, that the Soviet Union was in great economic difficulties and that the freedom movements in Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Baltic states and the GDR could not be stopped.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were Soviet republics as opposed to Warsaw Pact states. While German reunification could be completed without a shot being fired in 1990 after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the Warsaw Pact states were also able to free themselves from forced communist rule without Moscow intervening militarily, Gorbachev tried to prevent Lithuania's independence by military means on 13 January 1991. This did not succeed.

Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia declared their independence as republics in the course of 1991, a success of the singing revolution. The end of the Soviet Union came in December 1991 when Boris Yeltsin forced Mikhail Gorbachev to resign and raised the Russian flag on the Kremlin instead of the Soviet flag.
Mikhail Gorbachev developed a vision of the European House. With his reforms, he cleared the way to build this European House. This remains his great merit. As the OstWestWirtschaftForum, we have taken up the idea of the European House with our Peace Chapel Rossoschka in Volgograd.

In the meantime, Vladimir Putin has distanced himself from this idea and is trying to turn back the wheel of history by military means. In doing so, he is bringing endless suffering to the alleged "brother people" in Ukraine and severely damaging the European House. Terrorism on the outside is matched by terrorism on the inside, which is gradually taking away all political freedoms from the citizens of Russia.

Russia's withdrawal from the Council of Europe is also a farewell to European political values. The contrast between Putin and Gorbachev could not be greater. Declaring Gorbachev's vision of a European House dead is not an option for the future. Today, the realisation of this vision seems further away than ever. When Gorbachev developed glasnost and perestroika in the Soviet Union, it hardly seemed conceivable to many that the fall of the Iron Curtain and the reunification of Europe could happen. Precisely because the unthinkable became reality, we should continue to work on the realisation of a European House!


Eberhard Sinner


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