Central Europe has been the center of constant power rivalry for centuries. Nowadays, there is power in the statement of one being a European citizen, having European identity. However, we should not forget our national identity either. In an ideal situation, the two should be in harmony with each other and one of the pillars of this harmony is reconciliation.
Europe’s youth are familiar with the history of the European Union. We are aware of the fact that at its early stages, the European Community was designed to handle huge Franco-German tensions. Even though this Community was created by governments, Jean Monnet always emphasized the important statement: “We are not forming coalitions of states, we are uniting men”.
I do not tend to idealize the EU, or the current situation between states or nations. I just want to suggest that these conflicts cannot be solved without the correct attitude and I believe that is the will to act. We all know that ignorance lays to conflict. Tensions in Central Europe are still alive nowadays and one of the reasons for that is that we are not familiar with each other’s history, culture, or that we tend to misunderstand them.
The conflicts of Central Europe are deeply rooted, but uniting people for the common good has always been a good cause. This is what the Reconciliation Charter - an initiative of Dr. László Surján, Hungarian MEP - is about. It movement started in 2009, and today it counts more than four thousand members. It formed a living community of those who signaled to the world that they are ready to help in building the bridge that would link the factious people, who are living in conflict because of political and historical decisions.
The Reconciliation Charter reacts to these peoples’ problems. Those who seek the resolution of the conflicts in Central Europe can join the Charter with their signatures. The Movement is coloring the Carpathian Basin with lectures, exhibitions, meetings. It is addressed to anybody who is directly concerned and feels the need for reconciliation, but also to those who, as European citizens, understand that there is no chance to form a Europe of co-existence and peace with stubbornness and pride, and understand that we should find a way out of this dead-end street.
I was lucky enough to interview the founders of the Movement, Kotolácsi Mikóczy Ilona and Dr. Surján László MEP. Here it is:
Q1: In one of the interviews given about the Reconciliation Charter Mr. Surján stated that “in order to get answers one needs to address the people”. How does the movement address the people? How does it become alive?
A1: We work with volunteers from all the countries involved, and besides the strictly professional and academic events, we organize events of a very different nature in villages and towns. The language of Art talks to everyone, so there have been numerous exhibitions of fine arts focusing on the topic of reconciliation, as well as concerts and events that celebrate the common, multicultural past of some villages. We aim to address the people living in our region face to face. One way for this is the Internet, that allows sharing one’s ideas or thoughts, and another one is when you can actually talk to someone about important questions.
Q2: In the opinion of the organizers, how does the pan-European identity and the fact that many of the continent’s youth claim to have more of an European attitude than a national one affect the spreading of the idea of the Charter between young people?
A2: We do believe in an existing and developing European identity. In fact, we think that one has several layers of identity, where the regional one – in this case the Central European one – is important to the people. Young people are much more open to the World and towards each other, even if they do not share the same language or culture. We are witnessing a great combination of the freedom of movement in Europe with the natural curiosity of the Youth. This is why we are happy and proud that almost half of our signatories were born after 1980.
Q3: The evenings aimed to promote the idea of the Charter are named after Jean Monnet; also, the leading quote of Mr. Surján’s opening speech given on the Exhibition called: Bridges between the People of Europe; besides the famous politician and diplomat who are those other Europeans the organizers would mention as representatives of the conception?
A3: The founding fathers of the EU give us an excellent example of people belonging to previously enemy nations can realize that there is a higher goal and aim of our European existence, and agree that there are much more to share with each other than to dispute over. Such personalities have lived among us throughout the centuries. In our exhibition we showed “bridge-men” and “bridge-women”, who were connected to various European nations and managed to create or achieve something outstanding. Amongst others, there was Saint Elisabeth of Hungary or Thuringia, Saint John of Capistrano and Mathias Bel. But such people also live amongst us today. We hope that their voices become louder than those of politicians who gain votes via spreading fear and hostility towards each other.
Q4: On what level is the European Union present in the conception and in the current and future plans? Could the Charter be considered as connected to the EU?
A4: The basic thinking of our Movement is very “European”. Nevertheless, it is not officially connected to the EU. We share the concept and the messages of the founding fathers. “We are not uniting countries, but people.”
Q5: What is the Charter’s message to European youth? I mean not just the young people of the Carpathian basin, but also those who are not directly affected and concerned about the necessity of the Reconciliation in the region?
A5: Openness towards each other. One cannot love another one if s/he does not know him/her. This is true for communities as well. We have to find the spirit of Europe in our times. The key to this is in the hands of the young people.
For further information I highly recommend to check the website of the initiative: www.chartaxxi.eu