The 2009 Ion Ratiu Democracy Awardee, Adam Michnik, was a guest of Ratiu Center for Democracy in April, 2010. The highlight of his visit was the conference titled “Ways towards Freedom”, in dialogue with Emil Hurezeanu. During his visit Adam Michnik met the well known Romanian dissident, Doina Cornea, the president of Babes Bolyai University, prof. Stefan Agachi and had an extensive dialogue with the press in relevant issues in the region.
Adam Michnik focused on the challenges the Eastern European countries are facing, 20 years after the fall of the communism: the role of right/left distinction, the rising power of the oligarchs, the role of the church and the capacity of the judicial system to deliver justice. The lecturer insisted on the lack of relevance of right/left distinction, as most of the political parties had failed to include and support it within their political programs.
Another topic that generated substantial interest in the audience was the problem of lustration (transitional justice) and the relevance of opening and relying on the content of the former secret police files. “We cannot use their (secret police) files to judge people. I t would be like using their own weapons against other citizens”. He continued, focusing on the problems raised by an inefficient judicial reform: “I don’t know any former communist country in which the judicial systems perform trustworthy”.
Adam Michnik went on to remark the growing influence of political leaders tempted to use authoritarian rules, disregarding the role of the civil society and checks and balances within the state. “There are several lili – Putins across Europe”, among them Berlusconi being the most flamboyant example. “Democracy – the speaker said - is grey, as it is the same for each and everyone. Revolutions are painted in strong colors: black, red, but democracies are grey, less spectacular. Dictatorships are perfect; over there everyone knows its place. In a democracy, we have to participate on daily basis, to make sure it is functioning”. Referring to the subtle power arrangements needed in a consolidated democracy, Adam Michnik highlighted the participation of nationalist parties, as an outcome of the existing frustrations within ordinary citizens when confronted to the economic difficulties generated by the free market. The speaker also defended the accession and integration processes and stated that “Euro - skepticism is a form of backwardness” and the former communist countries should continue their efforts to integrate in the European society.
The venue and participants:
The conference was organized at the Auditorium Maximum of Babes Bolyai University with more then 400 people present.
The audience was significant in terms of institutional affiliation, as follows:
Faculties of History, Political Sciences, Journalism, European Studies, Philosophy, Law, Letters and Economics
Management of BBU: Vice Rector Prof. Bocsan and Prof. Agachi, President of BBU’s Academic Council;
Management of relevant Romanian NGOs;
Representatives of Cluj County Council, Cluj MPs and Romanian and Polish diplomatic services
Students of Babes Bolyai University