Official opening of the Havel Building
(Check against delivery)
Madam Minister, Ms Loiseau,
Mr Mayor of Strasbourg, Mr Ries,
Representatives of local authorities,
Welcome to the official opening ceremony for the European Parliament building which will bear the name Václav Havel:
a man who worked to bring about reconciliation and peace in Europe; a man who, in following his vision of freedom, suffered persecution and imprisonment.
His life and his commitment to democracy inspire us and compel us to continue the efforts to build a fairer, stronger Europe which is closer to its citizens.
It is, therefore, an honour for all of us to dedicate a part of the European Parliament, an institution at the heart of our democracy, to Václav Havel, a builder of bridges and an architect of our common European identity.
When Václav Havel addressed the European Parliament in 2009, he said the following: ‘If I feel myself to be a European, it does not mean that I cease to be a Czech. In fact, the opposite is the case: as a Czech, I am also a European. Europe is the homeland of our homelands’.
In our Chamber, he also told us how civil society had held firm to European values during the dark years of Communist repression in Czechoslovakia.
For Václav Havel, a true democrat, civil society was fundamental to democracy.
Václav Havel was an advocate of ‘authentic solidarity among citizens’.
For him, Europe was, first and foremost, a joint project in the service of citizens.
Because Europe is much more than a single currency or a vast marketplace. It is our shared values which above all form the basis of our unity.
When addressing the European Parliament on 16 February 200, Václav Havel spoke about his values. He said:
‘In my view, the main European values (…) are obvious. Respect for the individual and for his freedoms, his rights and his dignity, the principle of solidarity, equality before the law and the rule of law, protection of all ethnic minorities, democratic institutions, separation of the legislative, executive and judicial estates, political pluralism, respect for private property and free enterprise, a market economy and the development of civil society.’
In March this year we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome.
This gave us an opportunity to commemorate our past, but above all to emphasise that the European Union is a project which is always looking to the future;
a future in which Václav Havel will remain a symbol of moral progress, a standard bearer for fundamental rights, a beacon of democracy for Europe and the whole world.
By dedicating this building to Václav Havel, we are keeping alive his idea of a European project, dynamic and open and responsive to the needs of society.
This building reflects Havel’s life and work, thanks to the works of art which decorate it, for which I thank Mr Bill Shipsey, of the organisation Art for Amnesty.
Let me take also this opportunity to thank Ms Marie Šeborová, Mr Peter Sís and Mr Tomki Němec, and the Atelier Pinton, for their magnificent creations, which cannot fail to inspire the people who work in and visit this building.
I should also like to thank the staff of the Parliament departments involved, and in particular Mr Tenezakis’s team, for overseeing the work of transforming this building.
The European Parliament is proud to dedicate this building to Václav Havel. His example guides us today in our efforts to make Europe more united and more prosperous for all of us and for future generations.