On Monday, German chancellor Gerhard Schröder and dozens of other world leaders, are expected to gather on red square, to pay tribute to Russia’s central role, in the defeat of Nazi Germany. World war two, the bloodiest conflict in history, claimed the lives of at least twenty million Russian soldiers and civilians. For Russians and others in the former Soviet Union, May 9th has long been the most important holiday of the year.
Prague celebrates liberation
The capital of the Czech Republic was the last city in Europe to be liberated, on May the 8th, 1945. Six years earlier, in March 1939, it was the first foreign capital to be occupied by German troops, months before World War II actually began. So the city will also have a special place, in this weekend’s commemorations. Veterans of both the Soviet, and American liberating armies, will join thousands of Czech veterans for special celebrations in the first military parade to take place, in the country since the fall of communism in 1989
Baltic States: Where VE Day meant the end of independence
Poland has cast a cloud over the planned Victory Day celebrations in Moscow, by calling into question, Russia’s view of its past. And so have Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Latvian president Vaira Vike Freiberga, has decided to accept President Putin’s invitation, but her Estonian and Lithuanian counterparts, said they would boycott the event. Indeed in Western Europe, May the 8th is first and foremost the defeat of Nazi Germany, but in the Baltic states, “VE Day” marks the cementing of the Soviet occupation.
Will EU defence policy ever emerge from the shadow of the past?
People tend to forget that in the years that followed world war two, the fathers of Europe attempted to set up a European defence community, to prevent similar bloody conflicts. Although France initiated the concept, French parliamentarians rejected the treaty in 1954, and the project was put on hold for decades. But at the end of the nineteen nineties, following the union’s failure to intervene in the Balkans and a change of policy by Britain and Germany, a genuine “European defence policy” has been shaping up. But the legacy of world war two still weighs heavily on the project.
Franco-German relations: former foes unite
60 years after the end of WW 2 – what is the current relationship between Germany, and its neighbours? France and Germany used to be arch-enemies, even before WW2. But in the past 60 years, relations have improved tremendously and the two countries are now on very friendly terms. Both have cooperated in shaping the European Union.
Closing music: Patricia Kaas, “Tribute to Marlène Dietrich”