Presentation Ceremony Prize awarded by the Alberto Jiménez-Becerril Foundation against Terrorism and Violence - Speech by the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani
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I am deeply moved to accept this prize from the Alberto Jiménez-Becerril Foundation against Terrorism and Violence.
I should like to express my heartfelt thanks to the Foundation. I should like to thank them in particular for giving me the opportunity to pay a humble tribute to two heroes: Alberto Jiménez Becerril and Ascensión García.
Day after day, they worked quietly to defend the idea of a democratic, open Spain founded on solidarity. Theirs is an example of true heroism.
This evening marks the 20th anniversary of their cowardly murder by the terrorist group ETA.
My thoughts are with their children and the other members of their family, to whom I dedicate this prize and express my sympathy and solidarity, personally and on behalf of the institution I represent. The whole of Europe is with you today.
This prize is essential, because it honours, keeps alive the memory of and, ultimately, serves to offer justice to Ascensión and Alberto and to all the victims of terrorism. I believe that to do so is the civic and political duty of every democrat.
When we defend and honour the victims of terrorism, we are defending our values:
1) our individual freedom and the solidarity which inspired the European project;
2) democracy and the rule of law, which are the foundations of our society; and
3) justice and equality, which enable our society to move forward.
We must never forget that it is the security forces and judicial authorities who are in the front line of the fight against terrorism, and today I should like to thank them for their work and their commitment.
This prize is for them as well.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Spain is a great country. It has developed in record time into one of the freest and most prosperous countries in the world. It is an example of democracy and of how to overcome problems.
In recent decades, Spain has faced many challenges, and perhaps the most difficult was the terrorist campaign waged by ETA, which claimed so many innocent victims.
Today I should like to pay tribute to the efforts which the Spanish nation made to overcome that evil, one that it faced alone for too long. You set an example for us all to follow.
Today, we know that terrorism is the most serious threat to peace and fundamental rights worldwide. For that reason, democratic nations have a duty to protect ordinary people against this new form of barbarism.
Terrorists want to instil fear in our hearts. We democrats must unwaveringly defend the values which have made us the freest and most prosperous continent in the world.
If we are to do so, unity and the rule of law are essential. That is the great lesson which Spain has taught us. For that reason, the country has always been a driving force behind anti-terrorism policy in Europe.
The European law enforcement area, the transformation of Europol into a European agency with much broader powers and protection for the victims of terrorism are just some of the measures which Spain has been instrumental in promoting.
It did so through the work of exceptional individuals such as my good friend Jaime Mayor Oreja, who is here today.
Jaime, your commitment set the example in the fight against terrorism. Thank you very much.
I am also thinking of the MEPs from all parts of the political spectrum with whom I have worked side by side: Juan Fernando López Aguilar, Agustín Díaz de Mera, Carlos Iturgáiz, Bárbara Dührkop, Maite Pagaza, Esteban González Pons and my friend Teresa Jiménez Becerril, who is still working to ensure that we never forget. Thanks to their efforts, in recent years we have made significant progress in the fight against terrorism at European level.
But the challenge is as daunting as ever. Madrid, London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Stockholm, Barcelona: there have been too many attacks in Europe in recent years.
If we have learned anything from these attacks, it is that States acting alone will never win the fight against terrorism. This is why 80% of our citizens believe that the Union should be doing more to combat terrorism.
When we talk about combating terrorism, we must acknowledge the role that the European Union plays and that we must work together if we are to win this great battle for freedom.
We in the European Parliament are aware of the magnitude of the task facing us. That is why we have set up a special committee on terrorism.
Its remit is to identify the measures needed to make cooperation between police forces, the judiciary and the anti-terrorist authorities more effective.
It will analyse in detail the steps we have taken thus far and put forward a strategy for the future. Its work will encapsulate and build on what we have already done to:
1) clamp down on, prosecute and punish terrorist crimes throughout the European Union;
2) protect the victims of terrorism, their dignity and their memory;
3) furnish the necessary human and technological resources and equipment;
4) overcome the fragmentation of our national security systems and ensure effective pan-European coordination.
There are many examples of this job having been done well – from the review of the Anti-Terrorism Directive to incorporate new principles, to tackling cybercrime, lone-wolf attackers, radicalisation and money laundering, to tighter firearms control, strengthening Europol, the exchange of biometric data and bolstering our borders by setting up the European Border and Coast Guard.
In all these areas, we have worked to ensure that we have the best possible instruments with which to tackle the terrorist threat, and especially that we can take coordinated and cohesive action.
We must nevertheless be aware that shielding the European Area of Freedom, Security and Justice from this threat is a task that calls for a joint and proactive approach. Our security is an ongoing challenge which calls for a clear vision and surely also for firm leadership from the EU.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Following years of severe economic and political crisis in the EU, we are witnessing what could be the renewal of the integration project.
That is why we must also consider the future of the EU from a security standpoint.
I believe a secure future means:
- Firstly, ensuring we remain united. We must lend the European integration process fresh impetus in areas where Europe provides clear added value and, above all, ensure we do not build borders between Europeans and create artificial barriers. Security is a case in point, starting with the setting-up of a European FBI, under whose auspices the European intelligence services will work together.
- Secondly, the EU needs to assume a firm global leadership role based on our shared values.
- Albert Camus wrote that ‘Europe is the great adventure of the human spirit’. I could not agree more. We are continuing that adventure as described by Camus by exporting the European model of cooperation, prosperity and peace. This will pay dividends for our security. A secure EU is an EU that is able to shape the international agenda.
- We must begin with Africa and our immediate neighbours. We must fashion a joint future, opening up new markets and exporting prosperity. We must defend our interests, but without losing sight of the interests of others. That is why I have called for a Marshall Plan for Africa. And let us not forget Latin America – a continent with which we share history, culture and a commitment to freedom.
- Lastly, a more secure EU is an EU that places the citizen much closer to the centre of politics.
- The European Union was built by and for its citizens. It is not a project run by elites. It is a project with deep democratic roots. This is the road along which our history has taken us: the road to democracy, the rule of law and individual freedom.
- Those are our values. And we must not let anyone try to undermine or destroy them.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I cannot end without making special reference to the spirit of solidarity shown by the people of Spain.
They always show solidarity, but lend particular support to the victims of terrorism.
I am talking of the spirit of solidarity shown by the people of Seville following the murders of Ascensión and Alberto, whose memory we must cherish, as freedom lovers.
Let us draw on that spirit. Let us remember the victims of terrorism in Spain and throughout Europe. Such remembrance is a vital part of the fight against terrorism and in vital to preventing the radicalisation of young people.
Remembering Ascensión and Alberto reminds us that we must continue our work until the example of dignity they set illuminates every corner of our society.