Statement at the Ceremony of the inauguration of Europe Square in Yerevan, Armenia
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honour to participate in the inauguration ceremony of the Europe square in Yerevan, the Capital of Armenia.
It is particularly symbolic that this event takes place when we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Council of Europe – the largest and oldest European Organisation which covers today the territory of the entire European continent and of which Armenia is a full member.
As I speak today in my capacity as President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I feel that it is important to emphasise that Europe is not only a geographic concept, an ideal to be pursued or a set of institutional arrangements.
For me, it is first and foremost a living space for 830 million European citizens who speak different languages and come from different cultural backgrounds, but who enjoy the same rights and freedoms, protected according to a common uniform standard – a Pan-European legal framework with the European Convention on Human Rights at the centre.
We sometimes underestimate what this means for us in concrete terms.
For example, our rights to housing, health, education and employment are guaranteed by the European Social Charter which is part of our common Pan-European legal framework.
When we seek information in newspapers, on television or on Internet, or when we express our opinions about political developments in our countries for instance, we exercise our freedom of expression protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.
The fact that our higher education diplomas and qualifications are mutually recognised is the result of the so-called Bologna process in which the Council of Europe played an instrumental role.
I could give you many more similar examples of great achievements Europe has brought to our lives. They are the fruit of "greater unity" between the peoples and nations of Europe – an objective that the founders of the Council of Europe have set for our Organisation 70 years ago.
We should always keep this in mind, while being aware that these achievements should never be taken for granted. It is our duty – as European citizens – to work together to reaffirm them.
The Europe square in Yerevan is a reminder for all of us that Europe is not just an ideal or an abstract geographic concept.
Europe has a concrete meaning for every one of us and we must – together – stand up for our rights, our freedoms and our Europe, for there to be peace and prosperity on our Continent.