Welcome speech by Jerzy Buzek on the occasion of the visit by Amadou Toumani Touré, President of the Republic of Mali
It is a real pleasure for me to be able to welcome to the European Parliament today His Excellency Amadou Toumani Touré, President of the Republic of Mali, and his wife.
We have had the honour of welcoming President Touré to our Parliament before, most recently in April 2009, but this is the first time we will have the opportunity to listen to an address by His Excellency during a special plenary session in this Chamber.
President Touré's address today is set against the broader context of the UN Summit in New York in two weeks' time, which is to review the Millennium Development Goals. We are also mindful of the targeting in recent months of European citizens by the terrorist group al-Qaida in North Africa, so we are well aware of the challenges facing Mali.
We are aware, too, that Mali, under the leadership of President Touré, our guest here today, is one of the few examples on the African continent of a successful transition to democracy.
President Touré has personally made an enormous contribution to that success. Thanks to his leadership, Mali succeeded in introducing multiparty democracy and adopting a democratic constitution after 23 years of military dictatorship. Today, 50 years after gaining independence, Mali now stands as a model of democratic transformation for other countries in the region.
That is no small achievement. And it is something that is understood by the people of Africa, who over the past two decades have been inspired by the process of democratic transformation in Central and Eastern Europe.
We understand, too, that the process of transformation and reform is an ongoing process that needs to be continued. Consolidating the rule of law, ensuring respect for human rights and fundamental values, fighting corruption - these are all goals towards which we must constantly strive. This is what our experience in Europe has taught us.
The European Parliament will remain at the forefront of an ambitious European policy, pursuing the aspirations of our citizens. What they want is a Europe of solidarity, and solidarity, too, with those who live in the most poorly developed countries and regions of the world. A Europe of solidarity with countries making a continuous effort to ensure that their citizens can live in dignity, which, above all, means freedom from hunger, disease and violence. But dignity also means being able to fulfil one's aspirations to learn and take an active part in social and political life. It means freedom of belief and respect for diversity.
I am certain that these aspirations of our citizens are also held very dear by the person we are hosting here today.
Mr President, it is my great pleasure to welcome you back to the European Parliament. The floor is yours.