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Finding 'Solidarity Esplanade' In Brussels

It seems former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa couldn't make it.

It seems former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa couldn't make it.

There is not much to celebrate in the European Union in dire economic times like these, but today the European Parliament rolled out the red carpet and let a string orchestra play "Ode to Joy."

It was time to name a passage between two of the parliament's building -- an opportunity for EU politicians to resort to some familiar phrases about core European values and to honor some concrete achievement bringing the continent together.

The passage squeezed in between two gray and steely constructions looking like Orwellian ministries will now bear the name "Solidarnosc 1980 Esplanade," after the Polish labor union that contributed to the downfall of the communist regimes in the eastern half of Europe.

It was hardly surprising that the word "Solidarity" became something of a buzzword among the dignitaries invited to speak before the inauguration. That Europe needed more of it to overcome all sorts of existential threats was dead certain.

The party was, however, not all hunky-dory. Lech Walesa, the iconic leader of the Solidarity movement back in the early 1980s, didn't show up despite being invited. This immediately prompted speculation that his health is as unstable as the euro.

And there were also question marks about the reason not to name the passage after him, considering that all other buildings in the massive complex bear names of individuals rather than organizations.

Previous attempts to baptize buildings after prominent members from the new EU member states have come to naught for being too controversial. The late Pope John Paul II was deemed too conservative and religious and Jan Palach, who burned himself to death in protest against the Soviet Union's invasion of Czechoslovakia, was not well-known enough.

So the East Europeans had to settle for Jozsef Antall, the first democratically elected prime minister of Hungary after the fall of communism.

The two biggest buildings in the European Parliament are named after a Belgian militant socialist and an Italian communist. How fitting that there now is a Solidarity passage.

-- Rikard Jozwiak

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