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The President of the European Parliament

Strasbourg, 13 December 2000

Speech by Mrs Nicole FONTAINE, President of the European Parliament

on the occasion of the presentation of the Sakharov Prize 2000 to Basta ya!
Mr Fernando Savater, it is a very emotional experience for us to receive you here today in order to present to "Basta Ya!" the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought for the year 2000.

Through you, the European Parliament wishes to pay homage to the victims of terrorism and to reward a grassroots organisation which spontaneously decided that it was time to draw a line in the sand and say 'Basta Ya!' - 'enough is enough' - to those who deny the right to life, the most precious possession of every human being, and who also deny the right to freedom, that is, the right to live one's daily life in peace and security.

The European Parliament's intention is also to acknowledge the physical and moral courage of members of the public who have put their lives in danger through their defiant declaration that they will not yield to intimidation.

In making this award to Basta Ya! the European Parliament wishes to express its total, determined support for all peaceful associations and collectives, no matter what their ideology, and to all who mobilise to resist the blind violence which is the scourge of the Basque country.

As you know, our Assembly's support is long-standing. Recently too, the European Parliament adopted a declaration on terrorism in Spain. It was personally signed by 413 of our colleagues, from every country and of every political persuasion. It strongly condemns the crimes committed by ETA in Spain and calls on the institutions of the European Union to adopt effective measures to combat terrorism.

In awarding the Sakharov Prize for the first time to human rights campaigners from inside the Union, the European Parliament wishes to affirm solemnly that any violation of human rights must be combated uncompromisingly. To democrats the world over, Andrei Sakharov symbolised every individual who had ever stood up to dictatorship and resisted the moral blackmail of an oppressive system. And all winners of the Sakharov Prize, since its inauguration in 1988, have, like him, fought for the cause of freedom.

The oppression which you resist is of the worst kind. It emanates from an identifiable source, but it has no face. It imposes itself upon a whole society, seeking to destroy a political system which has been democratically chosen by its citizens. This is why Parliament associates itself with your struggle.

As I had the opportunity to say in Madrid on 27 September this year, during the poignant ceremony at which honours were conferred upon the families of ETA's victims, 'there is no place for terrorism in our Union'. It is the very negation of democracy. Violence, in whatever form, is not only to be condemned but cannot fail to rebound against its authors, because it excludes from democratic society those who resort to it.

Our European Community is above all a community of values based on respect for the rule of law. The European Charter of Fundamental Rights which we proclaimed in Nice on 7 December bears witness to this. Article 2 upholds the right to life. Every time that terrorists in Spain kill somebody, the whole of the European Union is affected, because one of its most cherished principles has been violated.

The democracy in which we believe values words as used in debate for the purpose of persuasion, in such a way as to respect other people, and democrats submit to the majority once their will has been expressed through a free vote. We reject a world in which the anonymous gunman lies in wait for his victim in a dark hallway. We reject the violence which terrorises in order to impose silence or enforce complicity on a whole people, out of fear and through blackmail.

I cannot conclude this address without honouring the memory of the hundreds of people who have been gunned down by assassins. Both women and men, of all ages and social classes and of every political persuasion, have had their lives cruelly cut short, leaving their loved ones bereaved. I can only express our solidarity with those who have lost their nearest and dearest in this way, and with the two thousand or so people who have been injured in such attacks. May I also say that their dignity in the face of these trials, and their lack of any desire for personal revenge, are worthy of our deepest admiration?

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