Opening remarks for solemn sitting, President José Ramos Horta, President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste in the European Parliament
It is my honour and pleasure to introduce Mr José Ramos Horta, the President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.
Many of you will know and some of you may even personally remember that Mr Ramos Horta came to visit the European Parliament 18 years ago for the first time. This building, like the project of a united Europe, was still very much under construction at the time. He spoke at a hearing of the Human Rights Subcommittee on the situation in East Timor. In 1992 an independent East Timor was still only an aspiration, though shared and advocated by some courageous and committed individuals, among them Mr Ramos Horta. As a representative and activist of the opposition he argued for self-determination, based on a visionary plan. Today, he is completing a full circle to return as President of an independent nation.
My own country had enjoyed full freedom and democracy only for a couple of years when, on that April day in 1992, Mr Ramos Horta formally presented a three-stage peace plan for East Timor to the European Parliament. The plan called for the withdrawal of Indonesian troops, the release of political prisoners, respect for human rights and the stationing of UN peacekeepers in East Timor. It also envisaged the final stage of an independent East Timor should the people decide so in a referendum.
The international community and the European Parliament also honoured the ongoing struggle for self-determination of the people of East Timor and the efforts of some remarkable individuals who voiced this aspiration. Following the award of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize to Mr Ramos Horta and Dom Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, the European Parliament also sent a strong signal in 1999 by awarding the Sakharov Prize for the Freedom of Thought to Xanana Gusmão who is today the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste.
The European Parliament welcomed when the people of East Timor won the struggle for self-determination and became the world's youngest democracy following an overwhelming popular vote in favour of independence in 1999. A long and challenging process of nation-building and reconciliation started, hand in hand with the goal of overcoming poverty and building viable institutions and enhancing their capacity to work for the benefit of the people. The European Union and the European Parliament will continue to strive to be a true partner in all these efforts.
President Ramos Horta is someone whose vision and experience goes well beyond his own nation. Voicing the concerns of some of the poorest countries he has been heavily engaged in the fight against poverty and has always raised his voice for justice, sustainable development and reconciliation between nations.
Mr President, it is my pleasure to warmly welcome you again to the European Parliament. The floor is yours.