On 23 August 1939, a pact was signed between Nazi Germany under Hitler and the Soviet Union under Stalin, paving the way to World War II and its devastating consequences across Europe. These two regimes were responsible for the imprisonment, torture and murder of millions of people. 70 years ago World War II ended with the defeat of one of these regimes, but with the continued rule of another across much of Eastern and Central Europe.
It is important on this day that we remember and pay tribute to all those who, during the 20th century, were the victims of the totalitarian and authoritarian regimes in Europe, from East to West and North to South. We must preserve their memory and use this day to reflect upon the lessons of these dark chapters in the political history of our continent.
Democracy, freedom, respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights are the pillars of our European Union. We must never forget that these values are fragile and must be nurtured and defended.
Remembering the past is important to shape the future of Europe. Most young people in Europe today never had to make the experience of living under a totalitarian regime. We must never take this for granted. Today Europe reaffirms its commitment to democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law. Our common European values must be protected, promoted and passed on to our children and future generations.