2018 was a year of challenges with rising authoritarianism in many European countries. In what seems to be collective amnesia, many of the fundamental values established after the end of World War II in defense of our restored or newly established democracies have kept being shaken and this has been largely accepted by public opinion and electors.
At a time when scientific research and its achievements should be opening the way to a global Golden Age, the political and cultural developments seem to move in an opposite direction. Religious fundamentalism seeks to regain power and influence, populist and nationalist politicians are taking our civilization on the road that led to the two attempted suicides of Europe in the 20th century.
2018 however was also the year of many good news: the crushing victory of the Repeal the 8th campaign in Ireland and the repealing of Irish Blasphemy Law. The European Parliament launched Article 7 against the extreme policies of Viktor Orbán. The homophobic referendum supported by the corrupt Romanian government miserably failed. Polish women defeated another anti-choice attempt to restrict abortion further in their country. Several countries started working on revoking their blasphemy laws.
At the EHF, we organized very successful events starting with the Europe of non-believers, where we supported UAAR’s efforts to bring together specialists of secularism in Brussels. In April, we successfully raised the case of non-believers throughout the world at the European Parliament. We strengthened this stance in December when we co-organised, at the European Parliament, the presentation of the IHEU’s Freedom of Thought Report. Part of the highlights of the year were HumanistenTag, the enriching humanist festival organized by HVD Bayern, the Human Rights Passport Cover campaign launched by Humanistisch Verbond or the cross-party commitment to defend secularism obtained by our Polish Members. So was the result of ASUR’s amazing work on their Science Calendar. These are just a fraction of all the achievements of our federation and its member organisations.
2019 will be a year of change. No less than 20 EU and EEA countries will host at least one election, whether local, regional or national and the European elections will take place between 23 and 26 May. By the time we all meet in Reykjavik for our General Assembly, we will have an idea of the composition of the new European Parliament. In the second half of the year, a new European Commission will be set up. Many populist governments will delegate party loyalists with clear agendas as Commissioners. The European Parliament will have a strong say in these nominations.
Therefore, much of our work in the first half of the year will define what the European Union will look like at the same time next year. We, in any case will keep fighting for our fundamentals: liberal democracy, secular institutions, the rule of law, human rights, equality, solidarity, human dignity, government through rational discussion, freedom of belief, freedom of the media. In short, the heritage of the Enlightenment.
In the meantime, because humanism does not stop at EU borders, we will step up our work at the Council of Europe and the OSCE and keep working hand in hand, at the UN and elsewhere, with the IHEU to raise the case of non-believers throughout the world.
In 2019, we, the EHF, including our incredible member organisations and our brilliant staff must redouble our efforts. This will be a crucial year because Europe carries more responsibility than ever in the defense of the ethical-political values and of the legal principles of the Enlightenment and of its civilisation, that is our own.