Europe Day – the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration – is a wonderful occasion to celebrate how the European Union helped overcome age-old differences to shape a common future. On May 9, 1950, Robert Schuman called for the unification of Europe to spread peace and prosperity on the continent and across the world. Whether in Cairo or Kiev, people aspire to the same values: personal rights and freedoms, democratic governance, rule of law and a decent living.
Recent events in Ukraine show that we cannot take these values for granted. Around the globe, we see that democracy is a constant work in progress; we share a responsibility to safeguard and nurture it. And we will stand by those who strive for it.
As I have said in many fora in Lebanon before, the EU has become a truly global player, able to promote our values and interests around the world. We have made human rights the silver thread that runs through EU foreign policy, assisting democratic transitions around the globe, helping develop democratic institutions, and supporting oppressed minorities, social groups, journalists and NGOs to voice their concerns.
The EU also has an important role to play in bringing together partners around the world to achieve lasting peace and stability. Our High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, leads the talks between the EU 3+3 (Germany, France and the United Kingdom as well as the U.S., China and Russia) with Iran. They resulted in an interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program last November – a crucial step toward a comprehensive agreement making this world a safer and more secure place.
In the Horn of Africa, thanks to a combination of political dialogue with the government of Somalia, the EU naval mission Atalanta, and targeted development aid and humanitarian assistance, piracy has been reduced by 95 percent. Today the youth that manned pirate ships go to school and learn the skills that will help them lead their country toward a more prosperous future.
2014 is a special year for the EU. Ten years ago 10 new members joined our Union. The 2004 enlargement was a historical development in overcoming decades of division on our continent. Since then, three new members have joined; a testament to the continuing power of attraction of closer ties to the EU. Twenty-four, and soon twenty-five member states, are accredited to Lebanon.
This year is also special for European citizens. From May 22-25, voters will go to the polls to cast their ballot in the elections to the next European Parliament. This means citizens will have a clear say in who should represent them and what should be the EU’s priorities for the next five years.
The EU is Lebanon’s main partner and the largest donor of development and humanitarian assistance to the country. We attach great importance to our partnership with Lebanon and its people. We will continue to promote security for all, strong democratic institutions, and sustainable economic and social development. Our support to Lebanon increased significantly in the last few years to help the country and its people cope with the impact of the Syrian crisis. We trust that with all joint efforts the unity and stability of this beautiful country will remain in force.
Sixty-four years ago, Robert Schuman took a decisive step toward what we know as the European Union today. Europe Day is an opportunity for all of us to commemorate past achievements, but also to look ahead at how we can shape our European future together and promote peace and prosperity at home and in the world.
Ambassador Angelina Eichhorst is the head of the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon.