Speech by Jerzy Buzek on the occasion of receiving the award of the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia - Staatspreis Nordrhein-Westfalen
Honourable Prime Minister Rüttgers,
Dear Mr Fischer, thank you for your very kind words,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour to be here today and to receive this prestigious award from the State of Nordrhein-Westfalen which has a great standing.
The state of Nordrhein-Westfalen is known for its European vocation from the very first moment. And being the partner region to Silesia, my home, it is close to my heart!
It is a great pleasure to receive it by Ministerpräsident Rüttgers, who is a real European in the best tradition of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Chancellor Angela Merkel.
This award goes mainly to the role of the European Parliament as "Motor of Democracy" and I am proud that I am chairing this house at this historic moment.
On 1 December -only last week- the Lisbon Treaty entered into force. With the Lisbon Treaty, the European Union has finally received the tool to be more efficient and to better serve the needs of the European citizens.
It is said, that the European Parliament has benefitted mostly by the Lisbon Treaty: and this is the truth! The European Parliament is now a co-legislator on equal footing with the European Council for most European policies.
But the biggest winners in my eyes are the European citizens: the democratic elements are strengthened in the EU in the following ways:
• The European Parliament can tackle the most important issues (immigration, environment, financial supervision) in co-decision on the same footing as the Council;
• National Parliaments are closer involved in European decision making;
• With the citizen's initiative, every European citizens can feel more involved in the European project.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Last and not least, I am very proud to inform you that I want to donate the prize money to a project very close to my heart: The European Humanities University (EHU) in Lithuania! And I am very happy, that here with us today is the Rector of the University, Mr. Anatoli Mikhailov.
University in exile is a very special project! And there is a reason behind it The European Humanities University was founded in Minsk in 1992, but closed by the Lukashenka Regime in 2004 to be re-opened in exile, in Vilnius a year later.
The EHU is offering education to several hundred young and bright Belarusians, hopefully future leaders of their country. Its ultimate aim is to return to Minsk. But that can only be possible with a true change of the country towards democracy.
In October, I met the students in Lithuania, great young people, and have extended the invitation to visit me in Brussels. I hope this will soon be the case.