Numerous dignitaries of all nationalities and beliefs have been the honoured guests of the Council of Europe. These men and women, often instrumental in the implementation of political, social and cultural initiatives, illustrate the dynamism and values which, since the 1950s, have governed the work of the Council of Europe
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Boris Yeltsin [1931 - 2007]
President of the Russian Federation
10 October 1997
This organisation has managed to rid itself more quickly than others of ideas left over from the Cold War
It is now a year and a half since
Russia joined this venerable organisation of European
democracies. This came about as a result of positive changes
in the Russian Federation and throughout Europe. The triumph
of democracy in Russia and Russia’s accession to the Council
of Europe have significantly enlarged Europe’s “realm of
freedom”, which now covers twelve time zones. We are now
poised to begin building together a new greater Europe
without dividing lines; a Europe in which no single state
will be able to impose its will on any other; a Europe in
which large and small countries will be equal partners
united by common democratic principles.
This greater Europe can now become a powerful community of nations with a potential unequalled by any other region in the world and the ability to ensure its own security. It can draw on the experience of the cultural, national and historical legacies of all of Europe’s peoples. The road to greater Europe is a long and hard one but it is in the interest of all Europeans to take it. Russia will also help to realise this goal.
I confirm here and now that Russia will honour all its commitments to the Council of Europe, and it will do so despite the fact that within Europe and outside there are forces which are trying to isolate Russia and place it on an unequal footing, forces which refuse to understand that Europe without Russia is no Europe at all.
I am addressing these problems here, at the Council of Europe, because this organisation has managed to rid itself more quickly than others of ideas left over from the Cold War.
In 1999, at the close of the 20th century, the Council will be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. I firmly believe that it has every chance of entering the new century revitalised and looking forward to the future. Our common aim is the well-being of all Europeans and the whole of Europe. Let us work together in pursuit of this noble goal!