PRAGUE: We have come a long way from those poetic, buoyant, and euphoric days that followed communism’s fall; those days of suddenly gained liberties, of enormous and often quite naive hopes. Eight years later, the enthusiasm, the self-sacrifice and solidarity have long vanished -- at least in my country, for I don’t want to speak for others. We now live in a hard post-communist reality, when the vices engraved by decades of communism have surfaced, and we are often unable to deal with them.
These changes do not mean that everything is returning to the old tracks. On the contrary, what was once a beautiful dream, inciting an almost carnival atmosphere, and what we naively expected to become reality overnight is beginning to materialize despite the difficulties. The process is no longer perceived as a miracle, but accepted as a matter of course.
In those years when we, as so-called dissidents, resisted totalitarian rule, we all probably agreed that one objective was dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, that instrument of Soviet imperial power. We were less clear about what new type of European collective security should be created. Many perceived NATO as a kind of Warsaw Pact twin, established so that the democracies could jointly protect themselves against the spread of communist power, a twin that would lose it’s raison d’etre once the adversary disappeared. A new Pan-European security alliance was conceived as a replacement, with the more naive among us believing that, in the new era in which all are democrats, security alliances no longer mattered.
Gradually, reason prevailed. NATO needed to change if it wasn’t to become a ridiculous club of cold war veterans. Incorporating the new democracies would make NATO a Pan-European instrument of collective defense. When enlargement and related transformation are completed, indeed, Europe will face the prospect of life in peace, security and freedom, of its inner order based on just principles.