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Address of the President of the Republic of Poland Mr Aleksander Kwaśniewski at the opening of the Council of Europe Summit.
Warsaw, 16 May 2005.
Your Excellencies, Presidents and Prime Ministers of the Council of Europe Member and Observer Countries, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Honourable Guests!
Our continent is living the best years in its history. Never before has Europe been so strong, so safe, so close to being united. Its nations today are joined in the desire of freedom and peace. Its states are engaged in a partnership dialogue and jointly face up to the challengers of the 21st century. Europe has many friends and allies. It is valued and admired throughout the entire world.
I am glad that in these good days Poland has the honour of hosting the 3rd Summit of the Council of Europe. The oldest political organisation on our continent. Let me welcome you cordially in Warsaw at the Royal Castle!
Ladies and Gentlemen!
In Polish and European history this Castle is a unique place indeed. It was here that Polish Kings resided. It was here 214 years ago that the first Constitution of this continent was written. 60 years ago the Nazis destroyed the Castle but the Poles rebuilt it, as they did with the rest of our totally devastated capital. This is why this place is so dear to us – it is a symbol of rebirth of Poland’s liberty and statehood. It is one of the expressions of the staunch European spirit.
During the Warsaw Summit of the Council of Europe we shall be pondering on the prospects for the Old Continent. The direction is clear – protect human rights, protect parliamentary democracy and the rule of law. These are the same values, which lay at the foundations of our organisation when it was born in 1949. They also were the beacon 25 years ago for the great “Solidarity” movement, when Poland, together with other countries of our region, began its march to freedom, tearing down the “Iron Curtain” and toppling the walls dividing our continent. Finally this is the same direction, which was pointed to us many times by the Great Pope, a Pole, John Paul II. He always thought that by moving in this direction Europe “in the future may be - for the world - a glowing torch of civilisation”.
Last year’s enlargement of the European Union by 10 countries confirms that our continent is developing in the right direction. That our efforts are bringing good results. However this does not relieve us from the duty of being incessantly concerned about the right of all nations to democracy and a life in dignity. We were reminded of the importance of this task and of the power of the values we stand for by the dramatic events in Georgia, the Ukraine or Kyrgyzstan, where by activity of the people at large, truth and honesty had their victory. We should support this community enthusiasm and hope, helping all those who have the courage to fight with the totalitarian remnants in some countries of our continent. Those who have the will to live according to European standards and democratic values!
Ladies and Gentleman!
For sixty years, with varying luck – but with unwavering resolve! – Europe strived towards unity. We have gone so far on this ambitious road today as no other generation in Europe’s past. It arose due to the search for lasting benchmarks; for that, which bonds us beyond any doubt. We have been greatly successful in striking a balance between the forming of a European identity and the strengthening of the identity of every nation. I wish to recall at this point that the Council of Europe has for a long time been attaching great importance to intercultural dialogue as an essential condition of tolerance, defending the rights of minorities or proposing preservation of regional languages.
Poland too has valid historical experience in this respect. It was on this land that for centuries two great streams of European tradition would come together – Latin and Byzantine. For ages we remained a country of many nations and confessions. We desire to enrich Europe with the best traditions of Polish tolerance, the coexistence of religions and cultures. Following accession to the European Union not for a moment did the conviction of Poles waiver that it should always remain open to further countries of our continent.
We attach great importance to the EU’s “Neighbourhood Policy”. As a country, which has become the eastern flank of the Community, we especially want borders to unite – only staving off threats – not divide. I deeply believe that unity above borders is supported by the maturity of societies, the feeling of responsibility and solidarity shared by millions of Europeans. The civil society and the ways and means of building it are an extremely important area of our co-operation. The best example of this we saw in December last year during the historical events in the Ukraine.
The rule of law and recognition of empowerment of every human being are providing fundamental support to European unity. The Council of Europe, next to the European Union, is one of the key engineers of the European legal space. The Court of Human Rights has a special role to play here. Poland is in favour of enabling the Court to act to the fullest extent, with maximum efficiency, in the longest-term possible. The timely validation of Protocol 14 to the Human Rights Convention will be an extremely significant step in this respect.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
Talking about the unity of Europe w cannot however forget that not all Europe today can enjoy the benefits of rapid development. That on this map there remain areas of unacceptable poverty and neglect; that there are countries suffering from a clear deficit of democracy; that in many places human rights are not observed, freedom of the press is being restricted, ethnic and religious conflicts do not wither away. Finally, that insufficient is the efficiency, with which such detrimental phenomena as corruption or organised crime are combated. I need not explain that all of this exerts disintegrating and impairing impact upon the uniting of the continent. And that today for us Europeans it is a challenge, which we must face up to in solidarity. In 21st century Europe no one should feel abused, abandoned, forgotten. Let us do everything so that in this family of nations everyone can be proud of being a European!
Ladies and Gentlemen!
Today Poland is coming to the end of its Chairmanship in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. It was a period of hard work, the fruit of which is also this Summit. During these two days we shall want to revisit the achievements of the organisation, but above all to ponder on its future. To discuss the ways and means of strengthening the unity of Europe and improving its architecture, as well as jointly solving the key issues of Europeans in the spirit of solidarity.
Almost as we speak the Second European Youth Summit is being held in Warsaw. I always believed in young people, in the force of their openness, unconstrained plans and aspirations. It is youth that can befriend to the broadest extent, not yielding to the burden of stereotypes, die-hard grudges and complexes. It is youth, which wholeheartedly follows the principle “one for all, all for one”. Let me therefore wish to all of you and for myself that the European unity we attempt to build becomes the best response to these far-reaching, high-flying expectations of young people. Let us create a Europe, which will become the common home, pride and satisfaction of not only today’s but also future generations!
I am confident that the Council of Europe meeting in Warsaw will play an important role in building a better world.
Ladies and Gentlemen – I announce the opening of the Third Summit of the Council of Europe.