In August 1968 I was a little girl in Mexico and my family was getting ready to go back to Italy.
The echoes of the great events of 1968 and the understanding of how deeply original, truly European and future oriented was the attempt of achieving a peaceful and smooth transition towards democracy in a country of the Warsaw Pact, came much later for me. I still remember well the powerful speech of Václav Havel in front of the European Parliament in 1994, in which he explained the wish he had for his country to become soon a member of the EU as the wish to join a great project based on the will to “defend and transmit the best European values”; for him this was a way to catch up with 50 years of lack of freedom; he also predicted that such project could go tragically wrong, if it would fall on the hands of a cast of “fools, fanatics, populists and demagogues waiting for their chance and determined to promote the worst European traditions”. 50 years after the crushing of the “Prague spring” and 14 years after the historic enlargement of the EU to central and Eastern Europe, it is both surprising and frightening that those fools and fanatics are indeed closer than ever. The tragic events of the 21st of August 1968 are a powerful reminder that now it is our turn to be ready to defend our European project certainly not against the soviet tanks, but against those illiberal and reactionary forces that are gaining popular support and are consuming it from within.
Monica Frassoni, born in Veracruz, Mexico, was an MEP 1999-2009, first representing Belgium, then Italy; since 2009 she has been co-chair of the European Green Party.