Speech by Gunnar Hökmark at the opening of the Conference on the 20th Anniversary of the re-independence of the Baltic states

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”We are today celebrating one of the miracles of modern politics as well as the emergence of the Europe of today. By their actions, our friends from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have manifested that dictatorships may have tank divisions, but never the dreams and devotion of democracy” said Mr Hökmark today when he opened the Conference on the 20th Anniversary of the Re-independence of the Baltic states.

It is not a small thing we are highlighting here. It’s the achievement of the ideas of freedom and the proof of the fact that – in the long run – ideas and courage are mightier than tanks and soldiers.

By their actions, our friends from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have manifested that dictatorships may have tank divisions, but never the dreams and devotion of democracy. The oppressors gave the impression that they were undefeatable. But in the end they were defeated by their own incompetence and by unarmed citizen armed with courage and beliefs.

For us, this is a day to be proud of our friends, being here today but also representing citizens in the Europe of today that is our common home. You showed that we can all make a difference.

But you showed something even more important to remember these days. When history is balancing there is a need and opportunity for those with visions and determination to tip it in the right direction.

The only realism is never to accept reality as it is, but to know that reality can change, and that we can change it.

In a time less foreseeable than ever, this is important to remember: Miracles are possible.

What will happen to the people in Northern Africa and the Middle East is not certain. Their countries can develop into open societies, stable democracies and prosperous economies. Or they can fall into a new era of suppression, but in another name.

In Eastern Europe we see the same. The countries of the Eastern Partnership are drawn between the democratic future and the old structures of invisible and visible power. Those democracies there need our support, based upon openness for those who want to create a European future, and upon firmness towards those who tend to neglect or despise democracy.

With the experience of the Baltic countries, we know that everything is possible. You have showed us that Empires can fall if there is decisiveness enough. You have shown that democracy involving all is stronger than dictatorship suppressing all.

But today we are all reminded of the fact that we have a duty. Never to accept things as they are. Always to know that we can bring about change. And that we have a duty to stand up for democracy and freedom. Not only in our speeches but also in our actions.

The re-indepencence of the Baltic States gave Europe the key to a peaceful transformation. We are, and should all be, grateful to you.


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