70th Anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
Dear Madame Speaker Degutienė,
Dear Mr Speaker Daudze,
Dear Minister Åsenius,
Dear Vytautas Landsbergis,
It is my great privilege to be able to host you in the European Parliament today. I would like to especially thank the three Speakers for their initiative to hold this important conference in Brussels.
In August 1939 when the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed to the great shock of the world's democracies, Time Magazine called it the "Communazi Pact", perhaps a better name for a deal between two totalitarian regimes who proceeded to divide Central and Eastern Europe between themselves.
Poland was divided between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Finland lost 10% of its territory and 12% of its population, Eastern and Northern Romania, as well as the three Baltic States were directly annexed by the Soviet Union.
Up to 700 000 Estonians, Lithuanians and Latvians were deported, from a population of six million. In Poland, some 1,5 million people were deported, of these 760 000 died, many of them children. When we are looking at these figures, we can imagine the scale of the whole tragic story.
One in ten adult males was arrested; many were executed in a policy of decapitating the local elites.
In April, the European Parliament adopted its resolution on "European Conscience and Totalitarianism", which called for the proclamation of August 23rd as a Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, and called on the European public to commemorate these victims with dignity and impartiality.
We can never forget those victims for they are a reminder of where we come from, and show us how much we have achieved.
What happened seventy years ago, that large states talked among themselves about the fate of small nations, has been made impossible by the European Union.
We live in a different Europe today. Today, the essence of the European Union has to be solidarity. Solidarity in all of its forms - economic, social, but also political. More than ever we need to speak with one voice when we talk as the EU to the outside world.
When the economic crisis hit, Europe showed solidarity, and both the European Central Bank and the European Commission came forward with solutions which have helped our economies back on the road to recovery.
When Russia imposed an embargo on products coming from Poland and from the Baltic states, it was the European Commission, speaking in the name of the Union which confronted the Russian Federation.
When we discuss energy security or the proposed pipelines across the Baltic Sea, the voice of the smallest has to be heard, just as much as the voice of our larger member states.
This is European Solidarity; this is the community method which has benefited Europe for the past fifty years. This is what makes us strong.
We also have a responsibility to show solidarity to our neighbours in the East.
We need to keep our engagements in Belarus and Ukraine, countries which share our local history.
Belarus appears to be on the right track, we need to make sure it does not slip back into the authoritarian trap.
The Presidential elections in Ukraine will help consolidate democracy there, and will also indicate what kind of Ukraine, does Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, wish to be. It is their decision, not ours. We want only to help Ukraine along the way.
We have witnessed important democratic changes in Moldova in the recent few months, which promise to place the country back on the European path.
And we must also continue to engage with the Russian Federation, so that it maintains the commitments it has signed up to, and becomes a partner.
We want to show that the Eastern Partnership is not aimed against any individual country, but that is only aimed at bringing more stability and prosperity to the entire region.
It is our special responsibility, because we know that without solidarity there is no stability, without stability there is no prosperity, and without prosperity there is no peace.
When the new member states joined five years ago, we brought with us, our own history and our own stories, one of those tragic stories was the "Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact".
In Poland we used to say that World War II ended in 1989, as it did in Romania, but it ended in 1990 for the three Baltic States, and if we count the withdrawal of the last Soviet soldier then it was September 1992 in Poland, September 1993 in Lithuania and August 1994 in Estonia and Latvia.
Today we are a reunited and integrated continent because we have learnt the lessons of the Second World War, and the pact that allowed it to happen.