President Sassoli's speech on the commemoration of the fall of the Berlin Wall 

 

Opening of the ceremony marking the thirty year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall

To be checked against delivery

Brussels, 13 November 2019

Dear colleagues,

Allow me to greet the Presidents of the Parliament who preceded me and who are present here, in particular Enrique Baron Crespo, who was in charge on the day the Berlin Wall fell.

Thirty years ago, Germany and Europe experienced one of the most important and significant pages of their recent history.

After decades of suffering, the open wound of the division of Germany and Europe was healed, through the fall of its most visible and hated symbol.

The Wall fell under the pressure of thousands of women and men eager to regain their freedom and dignity after years of oppression and deprivation of their fundamental rights.

I want to remember that the success of that night was the result of the determination of millions of European citizens of the East who peacefully, without any violence, through the strength of their own will alone were able to overcome the yoke to which they had been subjected for decades.

Today, it is to the courage of those European citizens that I would like to pay tribute.

***

It was a pleasure to witness those moments, to see the amazement and joy of hundreds of thousands of German citizens, on both sides, alongside thousands of young people from all over Europe, there to share in the overwhelming enthusiasm of those hours.

In those days, I was among those young people and I remember the irrepressible happiness, the hugs, the tears, and the incredulous look of the Vopos who saw their world crumble as the Wall disintegrated under the blows of sledgehammers and pickaxes.

I also remember well the deep-seated awareness in all of us that we were living in a unique and unrepeatable moment in history. One that finally closed a dark page of oppression and restriction of freedom, while opening another, full of optimism and hope for the future.

***

Today, thirty years after the fall of the Wall, we can say that that enthusiasm and hope has not been betrayed: if the Europe in which we live today is a better place, we owe it to the European Union and to all it has been able to achieve.

I want to say this clearly: unfortunately, European democracy, and the values and principles on which it is based, is not irreversible.

It requires the commitment and determination of all of us to defend them. We must fight this struggle every single day. Tirelessly.

As a witness of those extraordinary days in Berlin, I cannot help but look with great concern, at the return, in Europe, of ghosts who we thought were dead and buried under the weight of history.

It is with incredulity but also immense anger that we witness the demon of anti-Semitism returning to Europe. Far too many episodes of recent European history come to mind. I am thinking of the tragic events in Halle, the Jewish cemetery vandalised in Randers, Denmark, and the threats to which Senator Liliana Segre was subject to in Italy, to whom I extend my deepest support and greeting.

The resurgence of anti-Semitism is the result of the revival of nationalism, xenophobia, racism, and is a rejection of everything that we stand for. These phenomena are the breeding ground of terrorism that threatens Europe and the whole world with acts of violence. Today is the anniversary of the tragic events at the Bataclan in Paris, and our thoughts are with the friends and families of all the young people who lost their lives that night.

The threat to our values also comes from the outside. We are confronted every day with interference that seeks to undermine our achievements and the security of European citizens in different ways. We must be united to respond to these attacks and strengthen our union by securing our borders.

It is against these threats that we must fight with great determination and unity. I am convinced that this is a battle that we can only win if we are all together.

We must do this by opposing with all our strength those who deny the facts of history, who give simple answers to complex problems, who confuse the pride that each of us feels for our country and its culture with feelings of hatred and contempt for others.

It is not an easy battle.

I often wonder how it is possible today for a European citizen to forget the lessons of the history of our continent and of our fathers. A story full of glorious pages but also of suffering and horrors like those I mentioned before.

The answer must be to insist on knowledge and memory.

I refer in particular to younger generations, who did not experience that history but learned it perhaps in books or online. It is to them that at this moment I wish to address myself with particular affection because it is in them that we place our hopes.

Today we want to make our contribution to this challenge and we do so in the presence of one of the most significant figures in German and European politics.

I therefore have the great honor of giving the floor to President of the German Bundestag Wolfgang Schauble.