Speech on the occasion of the opening of the European Jewish Congress' Brussels Office
Dear President of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor,
President of the European Commission, José-Manuel Barroso,
Vice-President of the European Commission, Jacques Barrot,
Israeli Minister for Infrastructure, Uzi Landau,
Colleagues, Members of the European Parliament,
Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be invited to deliver some remarks on the occasion of the official opening of the new Brussels Office of the European Jewish Congress.
I would like to begin by paying tribute to a truly extraordinary person who has recently passed away. Marek Edelman is a very important figure, not only for his native Poland, but for all of Europe. He was the last survivor among the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 and was a great defender of human rights throughout his life. I pay tribute to his memory here this evening.
Since your organisation was established in 1986, you have played an important role in accompanying the evolution of the European Union, serving as an important liaison between Jewish communities throughout Europe and the institutions of the EU.
Your presence in Brussels and Strasbourg is important for informing the European Parliament in its deliberations and the opening of this new office is a significant step. You have proved a reliable partner of our institution and I know that this will continue into the future.
I would like to take this occasion to underline my own personal commitment to the promotion of tolerance and reconciliation, as well as to the combat against anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination based on race or religion.
Ten years ago, as Prime Minister of Poland, I took part alongside the then Prime Minister of Israel Benyamin Netanyahu in the so-called "March of the Living". We walked side by side with holocaust survivors to Auchwitz/Birkenau in what was for me a very moving personal occasion.
We address these threats to our democratic values by taking positive steps to encourage intercultural dialogue and, in particular, dialogue with different religions and faiths.
In 2008 the European Parliament marked the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue with many prominent activities to highlight this commitment. I know that the European Jewish Congress was one of our partners for that year: The jointly-organised commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Reichspogromnacht (Kristallnacht) was particularly moving.
Intercultural dialogue, based on respect and tolerance, must be an ongoing process, and not limited to 2008. Judaism, like Christianity and Islam, has made its own special contribution to shaping modern European society. The European Union is a community based on values, the most fundamental of which is the inherent dignity of every human person.
We all have a duty to oppose absolutely and without exception, all forms of extremism, racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, and to defend democracy, the protection of human rights and human dignity worldwide.
With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty will come a legal basis for conducting a structured dialogue with all of Europe's religions. I strongly welcome this development and intend to ensure Parliament plays its part in this important dialogue.
I look forward to continued good cooperation - in the spirit of an open dialogue between friends - with the European Jewish Congress and with our Jewish communities across the European Union.
I wish the EJC every success with this new office.