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Speech at the opening of the 2nd EFI Policy conference, in Jerusalem

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Speech by MEP Gunnar Hökmark, president of the European Friends of Israel, at the opening of the 2nd EFI Policy conference, in Jerusalem, Israel, the 5th of February 2011

Mr President, Your Excellencies, ministers and members of parliaments from Europe and Israel, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to welcome you all to the Second Policy conference of EFI, taking place here in Israel and in the ancient city of Jerusalem,

Sometimes you can wonder where you are. Maybe not only in a geographical meaning but also in an existential one. But if I ask you where you are tonight I am thinking about it in a political meaning. And if you answer to me that we are in Israel and Jerusalem you would of course be right, but would miss the point I would like to make to you all.

We are here tonight, not because of this being Jerusalem or Israel, that¹s not were we are in first hand, we are here in a democracy. That¹s why we are here tonight. We are here tonight, 400 of European parliamentarians and ministers from all over Europe together with Israeli parliamentarians and ministers and the president of Israel, in a nation without borders and with the strongest possible common denominator for parliamentarians and politicians, namely the democratic society we are all coming from. Ladies and Gentlemen, We are her tonight in Democracy, supporting the case of democracy when its threatened and expressing our friendship for all those who are standing up for democracy and human rights when they are challenged.

The values of democracy are not dividable. You can never be a halfway democrat. You cannot say you are for democracy here where I live but not there where the others live. You cannot say you are defending democracy if you are not ready to stand up for a democracy when it¹s under threat. That¹s why we are here tonight, not because we like you, we do like you, but we are here in order to stand up for democracy and we are here tonight standing up for you and the sake of Israel. That¹s why we are here and that¹s were we are. In Democracy.

We are in a country where men and women have the same rights. Where leading politicians and militaries can be prosecuted, questioned or interrogated as in any society with the rule of law or just challenged as in every democracy. In a country which is the only place where young Muslim women can dance to music in the public, where gays whatever origin they have can meet tolerance and respect, where you have the right to speak and vote whatever origin you have, whatever your religion is and where you have the same rights to buy a house as anyone else. These are some of the things that belongs do democracy and contributes to the legitimacy of Israel being a part of the democratic nation. They need to be safeguarded in all of our societies against them who believe you can compromise with these values.

Democracy is always right. Dictatorship is always wrong. That doesn¹t mean democracies are always right. As parliamentarians we all know that to democracy belongs the debate about what is wrong or right. And it is the democracy we defend, not the different decisions as such. Those are and will always be under debate. That¹s democracy. That¹s the case in all the countries we come from and that is the case here. We feel free to discuss as fellow parliamentarians what we think is right and wrong. And we will do, as friends of Israel.

Because a democracy is never finished. Dictatorships are. Democracy is always under process and development.

Its only dictatorships that exists under the presumption that their societies are finished. And as we can see these days. Dictatorships are finished.

They provide not for the changes needed, and, as we can see, they give no real stability.

What we have seen the last days underlines the fact that there is no stability in stability, if not combined with freedom, democracy and an open society. Dictatorships are fostering the worst in human beings, democracies the best. The only stability that is sustainable is the stability in change, rooted in democracy.

That¹s why the need for the peace process, because there is no stability or security in status quos. That would be just as false illusion as the illusion so many have had about the Arab regimes today falling apart.

That¹s why the need for a European policy supporting democratic forces all over the region. The state of Israel as well as democratic forces in the Arab world. I think that some of the statements made the last days from Europe and US about the regimes that now are falling could have been made the last years.

Lets find the ways to a decisive peace process but also the ways to let the Israeli example of democracy and impressive societal development be a template for the people of other countries.  That¹s why we are here. Because we are friends of Israel and we are standing up for democracy wherever it is threatened and we are at home in a democracy. That¹s our common nation. And there is our common obligation. To stand up for democracy.