„I have the privilege to be a Member of this Parliament since its first direct elections in 1979. If anybody had said during the election campaign in that year that on 1 May, 2004 the nations which were then occupied by the Soviet Union, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania or the Warsaw Pact, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary, and the part of Communist Yugoslavia, Slovenia, as well as Malta and Cyprus, would belong to the European Union, we would probably have replied, a fine dream and great hope, but we would have said that we feared that this hope and vision for all that we wished for it was not going to become reality in our lifetime. Now it has!
„This is a great day for the European Union, for democracy, and for the Parliament. We are delighted we can welcome our new colleagues here.
„Let us not forget that it was our Parliament, and all groups shared this, who always said that we didn’t want to negotiate with only five countries. We wanted to negotiate with twelve. Those who were not in the front group should be given the chance to catch up. If they have now caught up, it is Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia that are here this afternoon, it is because we wanted them to be included in the negotiations. They have been able to catch up and we congratulate them on that. First the Parliament, then the Commission and then the Nice Summit agreed that there should be a calendar for negotiations, and those countries that were able to could be included in the 2004 European parliamentary elections. We were the ones who said that first, and we are entitled to our share of pride about that, because we made our contribution to making democracy a reality in Europe, and giving the people in these ten countries the chance freely to elect their representatives to this House. We should be pleased about this.
„Everyday business will soon overtake us again, and we will forget the important long-term debate that we shall be having today and tomorrow. There will be debating, there will be disagreeing, but we have an enormous opportunity here, we have to say this to the people of the European Union. The generosity of the European Union is precisely that we no longer overcome these differences at the point of the bayonet, now we talk about them and this will be Europe’s opportunity and Europe’s future for the 21st Century.
„We share these ideals of Europe. Mr. President, we heard your impressive speech outside at the flag raising ceremony, and also from Mr. Lech Walesa. He stands for solidarity, but we must all stand for solidarity to ensure that, for example, the Baltic States can rely on our solidarity on issues like national minorities and other issues. We must thank Commissioner Verheugen for his contribution to ensuring this Europe of ours is a Europe of solidarity. For the first time in Europe’s thousand year history we have the chance to go into the future in peaceful co-operation. Our continent is an old one which is ever renewed, and we cannot have it split again. Now we go together into the future, and it is a great day for all of us.“
(Translation from the original German)
Further information from Katrin Ruhrmann, Tel. +32 475 493357