Speech: Human rights and fundamental freedoms – the silver thread running through our actions
European Commission - SPEECH/14/248 25/03/2014
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European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
Human rights and fundamental freedoms – the silver thread running through our actions
One World Documentary Film Festival, Brussels
Brussels, 24 March 2014
Ladies, gentlemen, dear friends,
Allow me to start by thanking the organisers of the annual One World Documentary Film Festival for inviting me to address the opening ceremony. It is really an honour to be here.
Your festival is a testament to the necessity and importance of raising awareness, stimulating debate and advocating for democracy, human and fundamental rights. For the European Union, human rights and fundamental freedoms are the "silver thread" running through our actions both at home and in our external relations.
I have been asked to mention the Eastern Partnership and the situation in Ukraine. So, allow me to do it through the three remarks:
First, if you ask me what was the biggest contribution of the new European Neighbourhood Policy (and the Eastern Partnership in particular) I would say it was the move from Bismarck and Kissinger to Václav Havel – the move from the extremes of 'real politics' concentrated into a Kissinger's definition reflecting politics as the art of possible. While Havel found politics to be an art of the impossible, i.e. putting emphasis on common values, counterbalancing the interests oriented approach.
Second, this documentary film festival is taking place at a time when we are trying to save Europe as defined through the Helsinki process 40 years ago; a continent where territorial integrity matters and where international commitments are fully implemented and borders are not redrawn by the use of military force.
Questioning these principles of Helsinki brings the distant conflict in Crimea to the heart of our continent. It matters to all of us.
Third, that is why we strongly condemn the illegal annexation of Crimea to the Russian Federation, and we will not recognize it. We have responded with a firm and united stance, including targeted measures against individuals responsible for undermining the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
The aim of our actions is to achieve a meaningful dialogue between Ukraine and Russia with a view to finding a political solution.
History teaches us that, when faced with restrictions or obstacles to enjoying our rights, individuals and nations need to become more ambitious and at the same time sticking to our principles or roots. Only on that basis can new opportunities be created. That is the approach of the European Union, on which our long-term goal for the Eastern Partnership is based.
The main principle of the Eastern Partnership is that we engage on the basis of common values – the respect for and promotion of human rights and freedoms, democracy, and the rule of law.
Fully in balance with our common interests, we work to build with our eastern neighbours a zone of prosperity and stability in our continent. We rely on the support of parliamentarians, local authorities, business community and especially broader society as a whole. Governments cannot act alone. They need the support of all sectors of society.
I am looking forward to this evening's "Putin's Games" documentary because when I switch on Russian TV lately, I see again propaganda on a scale that I haven't seen for years. Propaganda that is:
like so many times in the past.
That is why the power of a festival like this is so important when it comes to challenging fabricated distortions.
Let me thank you for your particular contribution in this respect.
Enjoy today's documentary as well as the whole Festival.