Commemoration of the Holomodor, the Ukraine artificial famine
Delivered in Plenary - 22nd October 2003
The European Union is founded on reconciliation: the belief that we can create a better future by acknowledging our past in all its brutality.
Germany has rightly confronted and sought to atone for the unspeakable horrors of the Nazi era and the Holocaust. The newer Member States of our Union are finding their own ways to seek truth and reconciliation through a frank and uncompromising analysis of their Communist totalitarian past. But some countries still seek to hide from their history. Turkey, for example, in my view still denies the genocide perpetrated on the Armenians and the Assyrians under cover of World War I. Russia has also struggled to come to terms with the brutality of Stalin’s Communist dictatorship.
The purpose of this resolution tonight is to express our horror at the Holodomor, the period of deliberately engineered famine in 1932-1933. The resolution reflects our determination to remember its millions of victims, some of whom are still alive today to tell their gruesome tale. Their evidence is vitally important, because soon they will all have gone. Only by reminding ourselves of such heinous crimes against humanity can we try to ensure they never happen again. This resolution does not contain the word ‘genocide’, because other political groups in this House do not think the strict definition of that term should be applied to the Holodomor. After all, it was only after the Second World War that the Genocide Convention was actually established. But also, perhaps – and perhaps more regrettably, in my view – because of a fear of offending modern-day Russia.
But none of us wish to belittle the unimaginable suffering inflicted upon Ukraine. No word or words can properly describe the atrocity of the Holodomor. What is important is not so much the text that we use but the sentiment that we are trying to express in our resolution – solidarity with Ukraine on the 75th anniversary of the massacres perpetrated on its long-suffering people.
One lesson that history teaches us is the importance of robust international law and judicial structures, which are now extant, if the authors of such misery are ever to be punished. Nuremberg was the start of that long, drawn-out process. The war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia, which is soon to try Radovan Karadzić, shows that these principles are as important today as ever. Yesterday this House voiced its strong support for bringing the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, Joseph Kony, before the International Criminal Court. Tyrants, wherever they are – in this case it is Joseph Stalin we are debating tonight – bent on mass murder and destruction, should have no sanctuary anywhere.
Ukraine has borne much grief throughout its history, and I do hope now that the next stage in that glorious history involves Ukraine rightly taking its place, in the not-too-distant future, as a full member of the European Union. After the crisis in Georgia there can be no doubt that many Russian nationalists are not happy about, for instance, Ukrainian sovereignty over Crimea. But I am sure that, if we all stand together in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, one day it will take its place in the European family of nations.