Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to representatives of the Russian, Belarussion, and Moldovan opposition (Yabloko, PFP, and AMN).
Apparently, they are all living in countries where civil liberties are not respected (2008 Freedom House reports on Russia and on Belarus) or not fully respected (FH 2008 on Moldova) and where democratic opposition is, well, not liked too much.
The Russian and Belarussian parties are not represented in the respective parliaments and both face suppressive policies from the state: Several leaders of Yabloko have been arrested in recent times, and PFP has tried to be officially registered for several years now but has been rejected three times on "formal grounds"...
AMN is at least represented in the Moldovan parliament, where it is the largest opposition group. Nevertheless, especially limited access to national media and a lack of an impartial press limits their possibility to get their message(s) spread as it is the case in more democratic countries. Early next year (around March or April), there will be elections in Moldova, and it has to be seen how far the democratic opposition will have a word to say.
In this blog I am intensively following the 2009 European Parliament elections, and I am complaining about a number of shortcomings and problems the EU is facing these days. But talking to those men and women coming from countries where they would be more than glad to have the problems we are having in the European Union was a reminder on what is more and what is less important in Europe today:
It is of utmost importance not to forget those women and men who are fighting for democracy in countries where pluralist democracy is more a dream than a reality, and to treasure the freedom and liberty we are enjoying in our democracies (as much shortcomings they may have)!