"What does Europe mean to me?" - Discussion between 89 young people born in November 1989
Dear Vice Presidents and Quaestors of the European Parliament,
My dear fellow European Citizens, young people from across the 27 Member States of the European Union,
Let me begin by welcoming each and every one of you to the European Parliament today.
Most of you celebrated your 20th birthday this Monday 9 November. So I want to wish you all a very Happy Birthday!
You share your birthday with a most significant moment in the history of our shared European continent, the reunification of not just Germany, but the reintegration of Europe.
Two days ago we were back in Berlin, but this time it wasn't a wall we were dismantling, but dominoes we made fall. There can never be walls between us again.
My colleagues, the Vice Presidents of the European Parliament, and I remember these events as they unfolded.
You are from a different generation, one that has grown up entirely in a free and democratic Europe.
That is why, on behalf of the Vice Presidents and myself, I would like to thank you for accepting our invitation to come to the European Parliament and share with us your interpretation of those historic episodes.
We would like to hear from you. Tell us 'what does Europe mean?' to each of you?
As you may know, I am from Silesia in Poland. I was born during the occupation.
I spent most of my life in an enslaved country. Twenty years ago Poland was a very different place.
But change had already started to come to Poland, we had already managed to be a free country by the time the Berlin Wall symbolically fell in 1989.
The demolition of a wall which had for so long divided a city in a divided country was in many ways the end point of a huge surge by the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe.
A surge for freedom. For basic human rights. For liberty.
This desire for freedom that resides in every human heart, could be found in the Solidarnosc trade union in my own country, in the writings of artists and intellectuals such as President Vaclav Havel whom you will hear this afternoon.
The people to the East of the Iron Curtain only had big hearts and great faith and determination to face the tanks. But they won! It started in front of the gate of a Gdansk shipyard and ended at the Brandenburg gate.
November 1989 also was a fresh new beginning. You, dear young citizens, were very much part of that new beginning.
You live in a European Union which is a community of shared values. Your dignity and your freedom are protected and guaranteed.
Whether you have come here today from Tallinn or Toledo, whether from Belfast or Budapest, you share in the same European rights.
You can travel freely between these places, study or work wherever you choose throughout 27 Member States.
You have the freedom to choose how to live your life, which religion to practice or none, whom you want to associate with, what you want to say, think and believe.
In a free and democratic society, that is your right. You have a right to hope for a better future and to work to realise that future.
Perhaps you also have a vision of how our European Union will look 20 years from now?
Will we have welcomed new Member States? In our reunited continent of democracy and human rights, how should we view our neighbours who are still striving for these freedoms?
We would all be delighted to hear from you.
Tell us what you think of this European Union of ours, what it means to you and how you would like to see it develop.
Ladies and Gentlemen, dear young citizens of Europe, thank you all once again for providing us in the European Parliament with this wonderful opportunity to hear from you.
The floor is yours.