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17 May 2005
16 May 2005
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(To be checked against delivered speech)

Speech by President of Lithuania Valdas ADAMKUS

Warsaw, 16 May 2005

“It is an honour for me to speak on European unity and values in the country that gave birth to the Solidarity Movement which raised the ideal of united and democratic Europe above the Iron Curtain. I am grateful to the people of Poland and to the host of the Summit, President Kwasniewski, who have been promoting Warsaw as the venue for reconciliation of nations, development of good neighbour relations and initiatives on the future of Europe.

I also would like to extend my congratulations to Poland on successful chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and on the excellent hosting of the Summit.

Democracy, human rights and the rule of law are the shared values and key pillars on which we build and consolidate European democracies. The rules and standards that the Council of Europe has consistently worked for form the architecture of united Europe.

Europe without dividing lines and Europe as a union of open and democratic states – this is an achievement which we aspire to celebrate with the whole family of European nations. Regrettably, today we cannot do this.

One European country is missing at this forum. A country whose citizens subscribe to the values of the Council of Europe but who have been robbed of the opportunity to live by them. A neighbour of Lithuania remains a grey territory on the map of European democracies. The Alexander Lukashenko regime is further isolating itself and the people of Belarus from the family of free European nations and the values of democracy.

It is my firm belief that we will not close our eyes to the attempts at curbing the right of expression of the Belarusian civil society. The fact that European values have not won their way in this country testifies to our joint failure. On the other hand, this also gives an impetus to work together and help the people of Belarus to build an open and democratic society.

The Council of Europe gives a particular focus to the initiatives of regional and cross-border co-operation, which are already helping to promote political and economic reforms and civil society in Belarus. These initiatives provide an effective instrument for transmitting the know-how to the institutions that are closest to the people and for sharing good practice and experience and executing joint projects.

Regional co-operation was a major priority during the Lithuanian chairmanship of the Council of Europe. We will continue making every effort to transmit our experience to the countries which are in the process of democracy consolidation.

Already next spring I will invite the leaders of the countries in the Baltic and Black Sea regions to attend a Forum of New Democracies in Vilnius, which will focus on democracy development and reforms in Eastern Europe. I am certain that a close dialogue between the Baltic and Black Sea regions will follow up on the activities of Vilnius process and contribute to civil society and economic and legal reforms in the countries that aspire to a European perspective.

Today we witness a unique development of European identity. More and more countries accede to Euro-Atlantic structures and contribute to this process. However, only respect for shared values and delivery on international commitments will be the true source of European identity.

The common tragic history of Europe with all victories and occupations will form a part of the European identity. We have to make it clear that there is no “twofold” history of Europe, just like there can be no “special type of democracy” which could avoid meeting its commitments to the Council of Europe.

Being unprepared to resolve frozen conflicts, we cannot disguise this as dignity and thus trample on the vital national and societal interests. And since we discuss shared values, can we justify keeping an army in another country without that country’s consent?

European unity is the treasure that deserves all of our care and attention. It is in European unity that the strength, cultural and religious tolerance and the intellectual thought of Europe lies.

Only in unity and solidarity will the family of European nations be able to fight terrorism and organised crime that knows no borders.

Only by giving priority to human rights will Europe be able to successfully tackle the problems of its citizens.

Today European unity should first and foremost focus on the spiritual and moral values. European unity should be based not on the struggle against something but on joint work for democracy, human rights and the rule of law. It is the development of democracy that will prevent conflicts and pave new ways for the European identity.

The issues that we debate today in Warsaw are crucial for the future of Europe. I wish that the ideas which all of us generate would contribute in the near future to the well being and security of the family of European nations.

The Council of Europe – a many-sided forum that covers the human rights, aspiration for social unity, education and culture – will be a key instrument in building the European unity and identity.”