José Manuel Barroso
President of the European Commission
Speech at the Myanmar Peace Centre
3 November 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by thanking Minister U Aung Min for welcoming me to the Myanmar Peace Centre today.
I commend Minister U Aung Min's leadership and commitment to reconciliation and the peace process. The remarkable work you develop here is laying the foundations for a future of peace, democracy and prosperity in Myanmar.
Visiting this Peace Centre now and after my meetings with President U Thein Sein, with Speaker Thura Shwe Mann and with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi earlier today, I can say that peace and reconciliation are within reach in Myanmar.
We have a great respect for Myanmar, for its rich history and culture and for the important role that the country has played in the past in this part of Asia.
Today we are witnessing historical events, which are returning Myanmar to its natural place not only in the wider region, but also in the community of nations.
My visit here today is a testimony of the European Union’s support to the momentous changes underway, a sign of encouragement to continue these reforms and a concrete expression of our wish to support you in this process.
Myanmar is now on the right track thanks to an understanding among top leaders, in the government and in the opposition, of the need to work hand in hand for the good of the country and its people.
Much has been achieved already. But democracy is an imperfect system by nature, which needs to be nurtured every day. Important tasks are still ahead. Making Myanmar a home to its entire population is probably the biggest one.
In fact there can be no democracy without peace and there can be no peace without national reconciliation.
In this sense I have encouraged the country’s authorities to continue with political and legislative reforms and with the release of the remaining political detainees. No one should be held in prison for expressing his or her views.
I have also discussed recent intra-communal violence in the Rakhine State. We are deeply concerned by these events and by the consequences for the reforms and democratisation of the country. We hope that all religious leaders will call for restraint.
Violence needs to stop and urgent humanitarian needs have to be addressed.
The EU stands ready to mobilise 4 Million Euros for immediate humanitarian needs, provided access to the affected areas is guaranteed.
Myanmar has suffered from decades of violent conflict and internal divisions. It is now time to turn the page and fully embrace the formidable opportunity of peace.
I am convinced that today the new political environment offers a historic chance to achieve lasting peace amongst the country's different ethnic communities.
Myanmar is a mosaic of identities: ethnic, religious, linguistic and many others. But this diversity should be seen as strength and not as weakness.
Shaping a common national Myanmar identity, respectful of ethnic and religious heritage, will be a challenge. But, it can be achieved.
This is where the Peace Centre comes in. I would like to commend Minister U Aung Min’s relentless efforts to advance the cause of peace. This is critically important for the country’s future journey.
This Peace Centre shall be an autonomous centre of excellence displaying the highest standards in transparency, accountability and inclusiveness.
It shall be widely open and impartial in its outreach to all groups willing to join this platform for dialogue.
And it shall be non-partisan in its activities. No single group or entity shall monopolise its agenda.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Europe has learned over its history that the road to peace and prosperity is a long and difficult one.
After the wars ended in Europe, we realised that there was one battle still to be fought, the battle for peace.
This is the battle which is at the heart of European integration: the battle for reconciliation which united former enemies in a bid for peace, democracy and respect for human dignity.
This was precisely the justification given by the Nobel Committee to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union.
Thanks to visionary leaders, driven by a culture of tolerance, compromise and cooperation; stability and prosperity have been spreading over Europe for the benefit of its citizens.
This is also what needs to be achieved in Myanmar. A lasting peace that can support a thriving democracy and increase prosperity benefiting the whole population.
Peace, democracy and inclusive development are all part of the same equation and one will always be incomplete without the other two.
Today I want to solemnly affirm that the European Union will stand with the government and the people of Myanmar as you are working for a lasting peace based on national reconciliation and mutual respect.
We commit to support the work of this Centre and to walk by your side in this quest. We want to be partners, not lecturers, we want to share our experience, advice and assistance, but the only actors are the citizens of Myanmar.
The people of Myanmar are writing history and the work of this Peace Centre will be an important part of it.
I congratulate you once again as the driving force behind this centre and I renew our commitment to work together with you in materialising this idea of peace and democracy whose time has definitely come.
I thank you for your attention