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Friday, 21 June, 2002, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
Intellectuals appeal to halt European nationalism
Neo-Nazis
The growth of far-right groups is a cause for concern

A group of 25 European intellectuals has issued an appeal calling on politicians to take a stand against nationalist rhetoric.

The group includes the German writer Guenter Grass, the veteran French radical Daniel Cohn-Bendit and the Bishop of Prague.

The appeal comes after months of heated rows connected with the expulsions of ethnic Germans in the region at the end of World War II.

But with elections still to come in Germany and Slovakia, the disputes will probably remain sensitive for at least a few months yet.

Distinguished list

The list of signatories for the appeal reads like an intellectual Who's Who of Central Europe, including leading Hungarian writers and former Polish dissidents.

Gunter Grass
German author Gunter Grass is among the signatories
The Catholic Church is represented by an Austrian cardinal and the Bishop of Prague, Vaclav Maly, one of the leading figures of the 1989 Velvet Revolution.

The appeal is a response to the increasing use of nationalist rhetoric by politicians across Central Europe in the past several months, which have soured relations in the region.

Leaders in Germany, Austria and Hungary have been calling for compensation for their citizens who were expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II, often using emotional and inflammatory language.

The Czechs and Slovaks have responded with strong words of their own. Elections have added to the intensity of the rhetoric on all sides.

This appeal warns that just as the doors of the European Union are opening for the region, voices can be heard reviving the traumas of past wars and re-opening old wounds.

It calls on politicians, both in their home countries and abroad, to make a stand against this.

The signatories also plan a conference to discuss these issues, but whether they will have any effect is hard to say.

See also:

24 Apr 02 | Europe
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