Walter Baier comments on behalf of transform! europe on the final document of the 6th European Forum, which took place in Athens in October.
Walter Baier speaks at the closing session of the 6th European Forum of
Left, Green and Progressive forces, Athens, 23 Oct 2022
Scientists* have recently urged that in addressing the climate crisis we adopt the worst-case scenario, that is, that global warming of between 2.1 and 3.9 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Is it not a paradox that during COP-26, the industrialised countries were reluctant to commit to an annual transfer of 100 billion USD to the developing countries, while they are spending 2,000 billion USD, that is, 20 times more, on armaments – money which is needed for the green transformation but which is being spent on the destruction of humans and nature.
The aggression of the Russian Federation is a criminal act, a breach of international law and the UN Charter, clearly condemned as such by the UN General Assembly. It is a tragedy, first and foremost for the Ukrainian people, but also for the Russian people, who are paying a high price for the criminal adventurism of their political leadership. We condemn the aggression of the Russian Federation in Ukraine and the annexation of Ukrainian territory.
300 to 500 Ukrainian soldiers are killed every day at the front. Five children die per day in the hail of rockets and shells, 14 million people are on the run. Thousands of young Russian men trying to escape service in an unjust war have been caught at the borders.
How long will this slaughter continue. For us as socialists, communists, greens, and leftists, the only position we can take is standing by the suffering Ukrainian women, men, and children, standing by the brave young Russians who oppose the war, and the refugees and deserters of both sides. Nothing is more important than to demand the immediate cessation of hostilities as a first step towards the opening of peace negotiations and the withdrawal of Russian troops.
Last year, 828 million people worldwide were affected by hunger. Every third country in the world is threatened by water shortages. More than four billion people lack access to any kind of social protection. Don’t these people deserve decent lives? Is not this what security is about?
The Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres emphasised that the damage caused by the war is being felt in dozens of developing countries, driving millions more people into extreme poverty and hunger and reversing years of progress on development.
We condemn the aggression by the Russian Federation because it is a mockery of international law, which is not only one of the most important civilisational achievements but forms the indispensable condition for changing our unbearable situation. Here there can be no ‘but’. Our stance in this respect is clear and unequivocal.
I am sorry to say that the September State of the Union speech by Ms. Von der Leyen showed no awareness of the acute danger which we are in. At a meeting of the UN Security Council, the Secretary General warned: ‘The thought of a nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now the subject of discussion.’ Indeed, the Russian Federation has threatened to use nuclear weapons, while on the other side, NATO right now is rehearsing nuclear war on European soil, in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Italy.
This reminds us of something which we should have learned in the last century: the greatest risk to global security lies in the nuclear arsenals, which currently are undergoing extensive modernisation.
The threat of mutual destruction concerns all peoples of the world. This is the reason why the nuclear have-nots have, within the framework of the UN, agreed to the Treaty on the Prohibition of nuclear weapons, which bans the development, production, deployment of nuclear weapons, and their use as threats, and which now has become current international law.
This a unique opportunity to abolish the nuclear threat, and we must demand that the EU and national governments sign and ratify it, thus paving the way for a European continent free of nuclear weapons.
We need a European security system, which NATO is not and can never be. Not for doctrinaire reasons, as some assert, but because security is always the security of the others, which means that security can only be provided by a system which includes all relevant stakeholders and takes their interests into account. In this light, NATO is not a part of the solution, nor is it a part of the problem; indeed it is the problem; it is a central obstacle on the path to such a European security system.
It was Pope Francis, the first Pope from the global South, who said that the war represents a capitulation of politics. It is for us to respond by reinvigorating the politics of peace. This means struggling to achieve single concrete steps toward détente, such as those brought about by the pragmatic Ostpolitik of the 1970s.
We must demand that our governments do more than supplying arms to Ukraine. We must demand practical initiatives to end the war, to achieve a ceasefire leading to a withdrawal of the Russian troops. Once the war comes to an end, the Ukrainian people will still insist on being recognised as a free nation with dignity, and they have every right to do so, just like the Palestinian people, the Kurdish, the Irish, and the Cypriot peoples have. Russia will remain a nuclear-armed European power and, like it or not, must be part of a security architecture.
Finally, allow me a personal remark on the matter of the economic sanctions that the EU, NATO, and the G-7 have imposed in retaliation for the Russian aggression and against which Russia retaliated by creating a calculated energy shortage. Let us not be divided on questions such as whether the measures taken are proportionate, reasonably targeted, and whether they harm our countries more than the Russian Federation or not. The simple truth is: To end them, the guns must be silenced.
We condemn the aggression of the Russian Federation and the annexation of Ukrainian land. In view of all the human losses, the devastating global consequences, the threat of a further escalation involving nuclear weapons, there must be policy, diplomacy, and dialogue. That is what we expect from the European Union and from our governments.
During the European Forum in Athens we established a rich political agenda, which can be read in the Final Declaration. We will demonstrate our comittment for peace on 8 March, 1 May, and 8 May 2023, the day on which we commemorate Europe‘s liberation from fascism. Morevoer let us take up the the wonderful proposal of our friends in the peace movement to call for a ceasefire during Christmas, or better during the two Christmases of both the Catholic and the Orthodox Christian denominations.
In a word: All we are saying is give peace a chance!
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