Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl
Freedom of speech and other key liberties have disappeared in Europe and will not return any time soon, former Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl has said during a panel organized by RT as part of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).

Europe was previously "a dreamland" for people in other parts of the world due to its "constitutionalism, freedom, equality of women and men, security and welfare state," Kneissl said during the discussion on Friday.

"Well, sorry to say, but all that is gone... what Europe was is gone, and I deplore it," she stated.

According to the former diplomat, who was in charge of Austria's Foreign Ministry between 2017 and 2019, the continent "has lost its soul... it has sold its soul."

"The essence of Europe once upon a time was freedom, equality in front of the court systems. I haven't seen it. Freedom of speech - it's gone and it won't come back so quickly. It will take some time... this is for me the most traumatic aspect," Kneissl, who herself faced harsh criticism in the EU media for working in Russia after the conclusion of her diplomatic career, explained.

The EU "might overcome an energy crisis and economic recession, all that can be overdone," but the loss of those democratic liberties "cannot be overcome, at least for one, two or three, or more generations," the head of Center G.O.R.K.I. (Geopolitical Observatory for Russia's Key Issues) at St. Petersburg University warned.

RT hosted a discussion titled 'The Empire of Evil: Has the West Successfully Demonized Russia?' as part of the 2024 St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

The event featured several high-profile speakers, including former UN Special Commission weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who was prevented by the US authorities from coming to Russia to participate in the forum, as well as Tara Reade - a former aide to Joe Biden - and the great nephew of Otto von Bismarck, Alexander von Bismarck.