Foreign Affairs
Human Rights

Speech of President Buzek to Tunisian students

Tunis -
Friday, March 18, 2011

Dear Professors,
Dear Students,

I want to thank your Faculty for making possible this meeting with you. Actually, they did me a favour. Indeed, I feel much younger when I look at you! In each of you, I can see myself when I was a student in Poland.  The wind of change is blowing in Tunisia like in my country in 1989.

First, I want to tell you to be proud

I watched you on TV demonstrating, cheering and celebrating. I recognized the same feeling that I had experienced. You went out and met each other in the streets and in public places. You realised that you were not alone and that you were part of something bigger. This experience can never be taken away from you. I applaud your courage and determination.

I like one of the slogans chanted in the streets of Tunis and Cairo: "Bread, Freedom, and human Dignity". It was a revolution for dignity. Dignity is when the rule of law applies to everyone and even to those in power. Dignity is when a job opportunity depends on personal skills and not on connections. Dignity is when thinking different is not being subversive.  

Second, I have to thank you

You have taught us a great lesson. You have reminded us that ordinary people can make extraordinary efforts. You have reminded us that real change does not come from top-down but from bottom-up. Real change does not come from the outside but from the inside.

Your revolution is a wake-up call for all the Arab people but also for the Europeans. We tend too often to take for granted that a Government should serve the people. You expressed a fundamental democratic right. Democracy is not only about how the government rules but also about how the opposition can voice its criticism. When the governance is not functioning, the people take to the streets to have their demands heard.

The other important lesson that you made clear is that the only true, long-term stability comes from democracy. We have to rethink our relations and build a new kind of partnership - one oriented more towards values and people.

Third, I urge you to be bold

Beyond the immediate debate on institutions, let's take the opportunity to see larger and think further. Where do you want your country to stand in 15 years? 15 years is the time it took to my country to enter the EU after 1989.

I want to talk to you now as President of the European Parliament. I am convinced that we are all, around the Mediterranean, part of the same community of destiny based on solidarity and openness. It is true that the EU membership is not on the agenda, but we can find creative ways to be more integrated.

There are many programs and concrete projects that we could share together. We know in Europe that only concrete achievements can create solidarity between the peoples. For you, young and brilliant students, this would mean more mobility to come and study in Europe, to visit your friends and relatives, more professional opportunities of common interest. We can imagine together a shared future of peace and prosperity.

Finally, I wish you good luck

I want to address you as the future leaders of the new Tunisia. You know better than me there is a wide gap between the previous generation and your generation. It means that, very soon, you will be taking the decisions for your country.

Some of you will work in the administration or even in the government. Others might become professionals in the private sector. You will all have an equal responsibility. A true democracy needs a respected and efficient administration as well as a vibrant and diverse civil society.

I urge you to remain politically and socially active, to get involved in the democratic transition now and in the years to come because it will shape the institutional and political landscape of your country for you and for your children. The democratic future of Tunisia belongs to each of you.

I have walked that long road towards democracy. There is no magic recipe. But your country has all the key ingredients. Just one lesson I learned: a democratic revolution is like riding a bicycle, if you stop pedalling, you fall. Have a roadmap, a good compass and keep moving forward!

Good luck for your revolution and good luck for your studies!