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José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement by President Barroso following the meeting with representatives from philosophical and non-confessional organisations

Joint press conference with the President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek and the European Council President Herman Van Rompuy

Brussels, 30 November 2011

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased about today's meeting with President Buzek and President Van Rompuy and eminent representatives of philosophical and non-confessional organisations. By now, we have achieved a well established rhythm of meetings at the top level with philosophical and non-confessional organisations each year. This shows that the European institutions are serious about implementing the legal obligation of Article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty.

The topic of today's meeting was "A partnership for democracy and shared prosperity: a common willingness to promote democratic rights and liberties". It was a very useful meeting with very important contributions. We all agreed that the promotion of democratic rights and liberties is essential in today's world, which is characterised by an extremely difficult economic situation and rapid political, economic and societal changes. And there was, I think I can say that, a clear consensus on the fact that Europe has no reason to be complacent: yes, the promotion of rights and liberties is key in countries where democracy has just started blossoming. But it is just as important in our own democracies in Europe.

Because without exaggeration, nothing today – really nothing can be taken for granted anymore. I do not need to cite examples to illustrate the real risks that cherished achievements are suddenly put into question and are now threatened by erosion and sometimes by extremist movements.

And whereas we are currently and rightly concentrating lots of energy on maintaining financial stability and restoring confidence in the euro area, it is at least as important that we engage vigorously in maintaining and promoting our values in Europe and world wide. Because without the respect of these values, including our democratic rights and liberties, the rest is not on solid ground.

We therefore have to fight against any risk of erosion – inside Europe and with our partners in our neighbourhood and in the world! We can only be successful if we team up and work hand-in-hand: among the institutions, with Member States and with civil society at large.

And we should always remember: at our borders and across the entire world many of our partners seek inspiration from our European values. We believe that those who have the choice, they choose freedom. For many we remain a source of inspiration. Let's be now in a position that we can continue to provide this guidance.

We have especially discussed the situation and transformations in the Arab world and I really want to say that many contributions were extremely important for our reflection.

Today's meeting is a clear sign of our joint commitment. I am very happy with the quality of our discussions. I would like to thank all participants and also Presidents Buzek and Van Rompuy for their contributions.

I now give the floor to the President of the European Parliament.

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