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José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Bertelsmann 175th Anniversary - A Story of Freedom, Pluralism and Entrepreneurship Across European Borders

Bertelsmann 175th Anniversary Celebration

Berlin, 16 September 2010

Verehrte Frau Bundeskanzlerin, liebe Angela Merkel,

sehr geehrte Frau Mohn,

sehr geehrter Herr Ostrowski,

meine Damen und Herren,

Ich freue mich sehr, an diesem Festakt teilzunehmen. Ich danke vor allem der Bertelsmann-Leitung – besonders Liz Mohn und Hartmut Ostrowski – für diese freundliche Einladung. Ich tue dies mit großem Vergnügen, nur wenige Stunden nach Ende des Europäischen Gipfels in Brüssel heute Nachmittag.

Ich begrüße auch meinen Freund Elmar Brok. Ich nehme an, Sie alle wissen, warum er sich nicht nur für Europa engagiert. Helmut Kohl hat seinen Lebenslauf einmal so beschrieben: "Geboren. Verheiratet. Europäisches Parlament." Das konnte er natürlich nicht auf sich sitzen lassen.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My speaking slot is short, and we are here to celebrate, so please allow me to continue in English. We are celebrating a German, a European and a global success story. It is the story of a small German printing firm that became the European leader in the media sector. It is the story of a family business that has grown into a global empire involved in publishing, newspapers and magazines, television, music publishing and the internet. It is the tale of a group that has succeeded thanks to its outstanding entrepreneurial drive and extraordinary creativity, but also by remaining true to the principles which form its business culture. A culture of corporate social responsibility in action.

The Bertelsmann Foundation created in 1977 embodies this link between entrepreneurship and social and political commitment. Through its foundation, Bertelsmann takes an important and active part in all the great contemporary debates: politics, the economy, health, education and culture.

In a similar vein, the creation of the International Digital Academy of Journalists, as announced today, is an excellent initiative. Journalists often give us decision-makers a hard time, but high-quality journalism makes the hard time worthwhile. We know that free, independent, quality journalism is a pre-condition for democracy and the rule of law. I sincerely hope that this new Academy will contribute to this. I wish it every success, and that it attracts the most excellent journalists from all over the world.

The Academy is yet another expression of the digital revolution we have seen over the past few years. It is an opportunity to be seized. Europe's internal market needs dynamic, creative economic operators who are prepared to leap into the digital breach.

This is where Europe has to be in the lead if it wants to succeed the international competition. Europe and its Single Market are there to help its economic operators. The European Union offers the necessary dimension and legal environment in which the cultural and creative industries can fully exploit the potential of digital technologies.

Embracing digital technology will give a new impetus to creativity and innovation. And it will thereby open up new sources of sustainable growth and jobs.

Because, Ladies and Gentlement, growth is the answer. But the financial crisis taught us: not any form of growth. We need sustainable growth, and smart growth. This is what the Europe 2020 strategy is about. We are setting our sights on new forms of growth. We are investing in education, intelligence and innovation.

The culture and media sectors contribute to this goal. They are a major source of creativity and can promote economic, technological and social innovation.

The Digital Agenda for Europe, which the European Commission launched only a few weeks ago, will be an important plank of our Europe 2020 strategy. Our aim is to build a genuine digital internal market and provide internet access for all European citizens.

It is also important, of course, to preserve the independence and diversity of the media. This is vital to vigorous democracy in Europe. It is a political issue, in that it touches on two non-negotiable freedoms which lie at the very heart of our democratic societies: freedom of expression and the freedom of the press.

Just 20 years ago these freedoms did not exist in half of our continent, notably in Central and Eastern Europe. In the South of Europe of the early seventies, my generation dreamt of Europe because we dreamt of freedom. Still today, journalists in some parts of Europe are killed because such freedoms do not exist.

In the EU these freedoms have been won at a high price. Although they are engraved in our political and legal heritage they will have to be defended permanently. We have the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. I also strongly welcome the European Charter on Freedom of the Press, an initiative launched by Gruner & Jahr, signed in 2009 by 48 Editors-in-Chief and leading journalists from 19 European countries.

And of course we have the new Treaty of Lisbon which has reinforced democracy in Europe as a whole, as well as the democratic legitimacy of its institutions. Article 2 of the Lisbon Treaty cites freedom and pluralism among our common values shared by all the 27 Member States.

A competitive and pluralistic media landscape is one way of guaranteeing that these values are being upheld. The European Commission is the guardian of the Treaties, making sure that its fundamental rights and values are being respected in all the Member States.

Besides this, all of us, as European citizens, have a duty of vigilance, a responsibility towards European democracy. This is also true for our companies. The Bertelsmann group plays an important role in projecting these values – Europe's values - in Germany, Europe and the world. And the best way to fulfil this responsibility, for the creative and cultural sectors, is to incorporate the European dimension into their creativity and output. Or let me be a bit more blunt: I find that for private TV channels in Germany and in other countries there is still a lot of potential to discover the European Union. Or why not incorporate the European dimension into the curricula of the new Academy?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

European culture in all its linguistic and regional diversity must have a stronger place on the world scene. We have some fantastic artists and creators in Europe. We have outstanding intellectuals, researchers and thinkers. We have a rich vein of talent. The wealth of our common cultural heritage is unparalleled. There is an incredible thirst for knowledge, ideas and culture in Europe and the rest of the world. So let's showcase our cultures, our minds and our values through our creative industries. And let our distinctive European voice be heard in the world.

Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag, Bertelsmann! 175 – einhundert-fünf-und-siebzig Jahre sind wirklich ein stolzes Jubiläum. Vielen Dank.

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