Decades of peace, stability and prosperity separate Europe from the devastation of World War II. But to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated, to appreciate the present and plot a course for the future, it is important to keep the memory of that period alive.
The great wars of the last century are well behind Europe and will inevitably slip further into the mists of time as those who survived them pass away. The traumas occurred so long ago that it is easy to take for granted the EU’s fundamental values, such as freedom, democracy and respect for human rights.
The legacy of Naziism and Stalinism underscore just how important and valuable our current democratic values are. By commemorating the victims, preserving the sites and archives associated with deportations, as well as myriad other actions, Europeans – particularly younger generations – can draw lessons for the present and the future.
By remembering the atrocities and crimes of the past, citizens can reflect on the origins of the EU and on the history of European integration, which has kept the peace among its members and has helped them reach this prosperous present. Drawing on this, people can then chart a course towards the kind of Europe in which they wish to live in the future. This is the thinking behind Action 4: ‘Active European Remembrance’.
Prior to the launch of the Europe for Citizens programme in 2007, the Commission funded a series of remembrance projects as part of its Democracy campaign, which was launched in 2005 to mark the 60th anniversary of the fall of Naziism.
Action 4 has a two-fold objective: “fostering action, debate and reflection related to European citizenship and democracy, shared values, common history and culture”, and “bringing Europe closer to its citizens by promoting Europe’s values and achievements, while preserving the memory of its past”.
Support will be provided to projects that preserve sites of historical and social interest linked to Naziism and Stalinism, such as the concentration camps of World War II. Preserving the experiences of those who lived through the war – and remembering the millions who died – should help current generations, especially the young, to understand the sacrifice made by their forebears.