Welcome

Speech by Guido Westerwelle, Member of the German Bundestag and Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the second Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum

19.11.2010 - Speech

-- translation of advanced text --

Mr Janning,
Commissioner Füle,
Members of Parliament,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted that you chose Berlin as the venue for your second meeting.

For decades, Berlin stood for the division of Europe. The divide between East and West cut this city in two. For almost 30 years the Berlin Wall stood only a few hundred yards from where you are sitting today. It symbolized the terror that went with the division of Europe and Germany.

I was roughly 14 or 15 years old when my father first took me to Berlin. We went together to the Berlin Wall. Where West Berlin ended, there were wooden platforms from which one could look over the Wall into East Berlin. There were the watchtowers, there was the mined “death strip”. The Wall revealed the disregard for humanity exercised by a regime that locked its people in and treated them like prisoners.

But Berlin also proved that one cannot lock freedom away for ever. The Berlin Wall did not fall. It was toppled by the people of the East. Since that day, Berlin has no longer stood only for the division of Europe, but first and foremost for the unification of our continent.

Here you are in the right place to reflect on and discuss how best to prevent new divisions arising in Europe. For that is what the Eastern Partnership is all about. Europe does not end at Poland’s or Hungary’s eastern borders. The Eastern Partnership promotes cooperation beyond the European Union’s external borders as a way of ensuring cohesion. We want to ensure that the era of a divided Europe is over once and for all.
Ladies and gentlemen,

The process of European integration is not yet complete. Completing the integration of the EU members from Central and Eastern Europe is one of the biggest tasks we face. Forging closer links with the EU’s neighbours is another major task.

The relationship between France and Germany has shown how long-standing hostility can give way to genuine friendship and partnership between neighbours. Farsighted statesmen played a key role in that process.

But it was precisely contacts between individuals from the two sides, for example through the youth exchanges organized by the Franco-German Youth Office, that fostered genuine links between our peoples.

Over the past 20 years, a partnership has likewise taken shape between Germany and Poland, our largest neighbour to the East, which has now evolved into a genuine friendship.

We work closely with Poland, also on foreign policy issues. A few days ago I travelled to Minsk with my Polish counterpart Radek Sikorski. Together we issued a clear call for free and fair presidential elections.

Freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights are pan-European values. They bind us together, within the European Union and beyond. It is immaterial whether a state is large or small, an old or new member of our community. All of us in Europe meet as equals. It is in the interest of us all that our neighbours also share these European values.

The aim of the Eastern Partnership is to create a pan-European area of freedom, security, justice and prosperity. The European Union seeks to build on friendship with all its neighbour states.

It is not a question of these states joining the EU. The aim is to support the societies in our immediate neighbourhood as they seek greater freedom, the strengthening of the rule of law, better governance and economic renewal. This is not just in the interest of our neighbours. It is in our pan-European interest.

Germany has always advocated opening the Eastern Partnership to third party involvement. Openness and cooperation have long been the European Union’s recipe for success.

That is why I am delighted to see people from Russia and Turkey here with us today. Welcome to Berlin!

Ladies and gentlemen,

A pan-European free-trade area could generate new economic momentum. Why not create a common economic space that covers the EU, the Eastern Partnership countries and Russia?

We must not be afraid of charting new paths. When we enlarged the EU to the east, many people had their misgivings. Some even spoke of the threat it posed to prosperity in Europe. Events have proven these nay-sayers wrong. The eastern enlargement was both a political and an economic success. Both old and new EU members have ultimately gained in economic terms. This should encourage us to push ahead with free trade with the countries to the east of the European Union.

Economic freedom and personal freedom go hand in hand in Europe. Freedom must not remain a vague promise for the distant future. Travel restrictions currently prevent the full realization of the Eastern Partnership countries’ social and economic potential. For this reason we need a fresh start in visa policy.

The European Union is an advocate of open, democratic societies with market economies. For us, the unhindered exchange of young people, scientists and business people is an everyday occurrence. Our policies must seek to normalize this freedom in the Eastern Partnership countries, too.

Of course freedom of travel cannot be introduced overnight. Of course we have to take account of security considerations. But security and freedom are not mutually exclusive. I advocate a solution that finds a balance between the two.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The economic and financial crisis has laid bare structural problems in Europe that we must and can resolve. Back in the 1970s Europe was allegedly beset by “eurosclerosis”. Many people thought European integration had gone as far as it could. But the intervening years have proven otherwise. The present difficulties will also be overcome if we work together. The European Union members are now more closely linked than ever before. We are not only united by the single market and common standards for goods and services. We have also laid the groundwork for a common foreign policy to ensure that Europe’s voice can be better heard.

Cohesion is Europe’s answer to the changes wrought by globalization. The world order is in flux. Societies in Asia, Latin America and Africa are on the rise. Their political weight is growing accordingly.

Shaping globalization needs more Europe, not less. The centuries of confrontation in Europe have given way to an era of cooperation and integration. Never before in their history have the peoples and states of Europe lived and worked together as peaceably as today. Europeans have never been more united in their values and norms.

We must not however rest on our laurels. Peace, stability and prosperity in Europe are not gifts from above. Nor are they guaranteed until the end of time. We have to keep on working for them.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Eastern Partnership needs confident stakeholders who advocate freedom and human rights. Change wells up from a society’s midst. Charities, churches, environmental groups and human rights organizations drive such changes.

It is up to you to remind politicians of their pledges, to refuse to tolerate corruption, and to demand service and accountability from public authorities and the courts.

The future is in your hands.

I hope that here in Berlin you will be able to establish networks, exchange experience and work together to ensure that the Eastern Partnership strengthens cohesion in Europe.

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