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Brussels, 17 November 2011

Video message by President Barroso at Golden Victoria Award Ceremony

Dear Prime Minister,

Dear Donald,

Dear Mr. Bartoszewski,

Lieber Herr Professor Burda,

Your excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

I cannot be with you this year and I sincerely regret this. Nevertheless, it is a great honour for me, and a great pleasure, to hold these laudatory remarks for my friend Donald Tusk. I want to congratulate him wholeheartedly for being the "European of the Year". Dear Donald, you truly deserve the Golden Victoria. For me, you are more then the European of the Year. Because, ladies and gentlemen, from the very beginning of his political life Donald Tusk was inspired by two fundamental goals: dismantling the communist dictatorship and putting an end to the divisions of our common Europe.

During his long political career Donald Tusk has always fought for core European values. Already as a student in Gdańsk he was active in the Independent Students Association supporting the Solidarność movement. Unfortunately, the Communist regime had detected his activism, and did not allow him to work in public enterprises. For 6 years he had the doubtful pleasure to practice his great courage by climbing industrial chimneys and to paint them. As from the very beginning of the free Poland after 1989 Donald Tusk stood firmly for a free market economy within a united Europe.

His 1991 elections' slogan was: "Neither the right nor the left, just straight to Europe."

Donald Tusk, ladies and gentlemen, is the first Prime Minister of Poland after 1989 who was re-elected by the Polish people. In the second half of this year, Poland under his leadership holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union at an extremely difficult moment for Europe. The financial crisis is indeed the greatest challenge to European integration since the foundation of the European communities.

Some people say that too much Europe is the cause of our difficulties. The opposite is true and Donald Tusk's response to this has been crystal clear. He said that we need "more Europe and more integration", when presenting the Polish Presidency to the European Parliament last July and from my many political and personal contacts with Donald Tusk, I know how sincere he is when he speaks about Europe an about his European commitment.

Donald Tusk is absolutely right in stressing that the current crisis concerns all Europeans and the EU as a whole. Of course, we must further deepen the integration of the Euro area. But the Euro must remain open. We must not allow new divisions to emerging Europe. This would mean ignoring the lessons of history. We don't need division we need more unity in Europe. The Polish population is today one of the most pro-European in our Union and this is also thanks to the work of Donald Tusk. Poland has fully grasped the European idea. While it benefits politically and economically from European integration and the single market, it lends its new dynamism and leadership to the common Europe and it does it in the interest of all.

Dear Donald, I congratulate you to be the European of the Year, ladies and gentlemen, I also want to congratulate Germany for having the new Poland as its neighbour country. Thank you very much.

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