David Rennie, the Europe correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, reports over at his blog on a fine defence of the United States by the President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, at the Euro love-in in Salzburg this weekend.
The European Union leaders launched a salvage operation on the moribund EU constitution, but the Latvian president is our hero, and we are sure you will agree after reading Rennie’s report. Here is an excerpt. Three cheers for Vaira.
Amidst two days of waffle and self-congratulation, the “Sound of Europe” Euro-summit that just ended in Salzburg threw up one moment of genuine drama. It came as a left-wing Swiss/German newspaper editor, Roger de Weck, drawlingly invited the president of Latvia to agree that new EU members from east and central Europe posed a danger, as they were too pro-American in their leanings. [...]
Her reply was initially greeted with sullen silence by the audience of Euro-worthies, who had spent two days congratulating themselves on Europe’s cultural heritage, and values of democracy, “social justice” and managed capitalism. But by the end, she had at least half the audience applauding wildly, and eating out of her hands. [...]
Mrs Vike-Frieberga’s words were spoken off the cuff, and they were not always polished. She began in German, then switched to English [...]:
I am amazed by the speed with which Europe has forgotten that it was rescued during World War Two when the Americans entered the fight. The contribution of the trans-Atlantic link to European security is something that Europeans have long taken for granted. But since the corridor to Berlin [was secured] right after the war, right up to the great debates and conflict in Germany about having intercontinental ballistic missiles or not, Europe has felt quite comfortable under the umbrella of security that Nato offered, and that means the trans-Atlantic link.
By the way I’d like to remind people here that when you see row upon row of white crosses in the fields of Flanders and North of France, those are also Canadians, thousands of Canadian soldiers who died for the freedom of Europe, for the freedom of the Netherlands, of France, and of Italy.
The trans-Atlantic link is intrinsic, it goes back to Europe bringing its ideas and ideals to the North American continent – along with smallpox and the common cold and the extinction of the native peoples, naturally – they brought both destruction and ideals. North America has developed different models of the same European values that they inherited. The idea that we have somehow two systems that are inimical, I find extraordinarily strange. [...]
What is it that Old Europe is worried about, with respect to New Europe? That we are friendly with America? All that we have asked is to be part of Nato, and part of the security umbrella that Europe has enjoyed for half a century.
At this point, she turned to face the audience directly. “You lived in democracies for longer times than we,” she began. Scattered clapping began to be heard. “Austria, by the way, came very close to being in the same situation as Latvia. Be grateful for your fate, don’t complain,” she said, this time to swelling applause.
She went on: “Throughout the years, in parts of Europe, intellectuals and even politicians were enamoured with the idea of Marxism and even some thought the Soviet Union was an embodiment of what Socialism and the protection of the worker was all about. America was more realistic. America looked on us as captive nations. We were captive nations, and we are now free.”