The leader of the Visegrad Group honored the victims of communism as a part of the 30th anniversary of Velvet Revolution in Slovakia on Nov. 17.
“It is important that Czechs and Slovaks celebrate today 30 years since gaining freedom, democracy and, above all, free elections,” said Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.
The Gate of Freedom Memorial in Devín, Bratislava, honors the 400 people who lost their lives in former Czechoslovakia while attempting to cross the border to the West. The Czech prime minister appreciated that “it is good that our young generation will never experience it again.”
Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini recalled that the memorial located beneath the Devín Castle on the rivers Danube and Morava, where the Iron Curtain ran, demonstrates what the regime looked like before it ended 30 years ago.
“Two worlds met here. One was free and democratic, and the other was the one people stood up against thirty years ago,” said Pellegrini.
Journalists at the event asked the statesmen about anti-government demonstrations in the Visegrad countries.
“The V4 countries are a great region that can set an example to other countries in terms of economy, debt and growth,” said Babiš, adding that Europe needs to be united and the V4 must be active.
Babiš also said that in the February parliamentary elections in Slovakia, he would keep his fingers crossed for Pellegrini, a Social Democrat, because relations between the V4 prime ministers are great.
“Europe perceives us and is aware of our opinions and suggestions,” he said.
Pellegrini recalled that there are protests in the streets of other European countries as well, not only in Central Europe.
“In Slovakia and the Czech Republic, we do not have to watch the police fight demonstrators, using tear gas, water cannons or batons, which is quite common in western democratic countries,” Pellegrini said.
“Let us wish that people do not remain apathetic and that they can express their opinion in the streets at any time. Let us wish that a demonstration is always a peaceful and decent path to take in our countries, as it has been until now.”
France’s Yellow Vest movement celebrated its one-year anniversary on Nov. 17, with hundreds of demonstrators arrested and protestors blocking key streets in Paris.