A trip to Flanders Fields: some reflections.

On September 16, students of the College of Europe had a very educational and overall useful visit to Flanders fields. I have to say that it was indeed touching to see numerous graves of unknown heroes who sacrificed their lives for future generations. I admire the efforts that were made by European governments to preserve the memory of soldiers who died in this horrible war and I think this is the right thing to do.

But why do we in fact commemorate people who died during a war that ended many years ago? We are proud to preserve the memory of these soldiers; but why do we need to preserve it? We need to bear in mind all the atrocities brought on by wars in order to prevent the same conflicts in the present, in order to not let the same things happen again.

In this light, a number of events commemorating dead soldiers are in stark contrast with the present silence and almost total inaction in numerous armed conflicts taking place today. This seems hypocritical.

What about the genocide in ex-Yugoslavia? What about the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine? What about the conflict in Syria and Libya? It seems hypocritical to me that European politicians are paying so much attention to the commemoration of the World Wars all the while tolerating on the very same continent the Russian aggression on Ukraine, the occupation of Crimea and thousands of deaths and human rights violations resulting from it. By allowing armed conflicts to happen nowadays, European politicians are simply depriving the ceremonies of commemoration of their effects.

Coming back to the question: what is the best thing we can do for the memory of victims of all the wars that we have had? It is to prevent the same atrocities in the future, in which we are still not good enough.



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