Address for the commemoration of the end of the Second World War in Europe
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to join the Secretary General of the Council of Europe in his call for us to remember the tragedy, bloodshed, inhumanity and suffering of the Second World War which ended 70 years ago. Today we stand and remember, but tomorrow it needs to be our children and generation to come, who take our place.
We pay tribute to all those who sacrificed their lives, standing strong against the horrific Nazi regime, its barbarism and its hatred. We have to express our enormous gratitude to those who liberated our continent from the immoral and criminal oppression of Nazism. We have to mourn the victims of this destructive ideology: combatants and non-combatants, victors and losers. We shall never forget those humiliated and murdered by the Nazi regime throughout Europe – Jews, LGBT persons, Roma people and many other innocent victims.
All Europe suffered, but Eastern Europe was particularly devastated by the war – the people of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Poland and the Balkan countries paid an especially heavy toll for our common peaceful future, and we should never forget this. But we should also remember why the Second World War broke out, what were the driving forces for this brutal tempest of murder and suffering: a victor's peace, a creeping totalitarian political system, a disregard for human beings.
We should also remember that, regretfully, the end of the war did not bring freedom to all nations in Europe.
We need to pay tribute to those who, after the end of the war, with tremendous effort, managed to reconstruct their cities, their countries and to restore democracy.
The Secretary General has put the focus on "Democratic security" in his recent report on the State of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Europe. Democracy is our strongest ally in reducing the risks of war. Working together to build and consolidate democracy, tolerance and living together is the best tribute we can pay to the victims and heroes of the Second World War.
Parliamentarians, as direct representatives of the people, have a particular role to play through responsible dialogue and cooperation beyond political and national borders. In my capacity as President, when I visit member states of the Council of Europe I emphasise that all democratic political forces must transcend their differences and, together with civil society, intellectuals and religious leaders, oppose and denounce extremism, fundamentalism and xenophobia – the seeds of totalitarianism. We have to understand the social roots of these phenomena in order to eradicate the virus of hatred which leads to conflict.
Today we also celebrate Europe day, an occasion to remember where we come from, how far we have travelled and how important European unity is for our future.
In his address to our Parliamentary Assembly on 20 April 1959, Mr Robert Schuman said:
"Our ideas on the ways to build Europe continue to differ. They should never result in forcing us to abandon the search for reasonable conciliations. The Council of Europe is one of the main forums where should be prepared the future where our security will go hand in hand with our will for peace and constructive friendship".
Indeed, the quest for democratic security and democratic peace in Europe was the main rationale behind our common European project. Our Organisation was born from the ashes of war. Our mission is all the more important as our collective memory fades and we endure on-going bloodshed in some of our member states.
Thus, let us never give up on the European dream of democratic peace and cherish the memory of the victims of the Second World War and those who fought for our common European future.
As the philosopher, poet and novelist George Santayana wrote:
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."