Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Wall

Today in the European Parliament plenary we are commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This historic event led to the collapse of communism in the former eastern bloc and to a new era of democracy and prosperity and eventually to the present enlarged EU of 27 countries.

I find it truly amazing that today in the chamber I am sat side by side with good friends and colleagues from Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia who are now the democratically elected representatives from their respective countries which just 20 years ago were on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.

It is a tribute to the soft power of the European Union that these countries are now grown-up democracies with respect for human rights and individual freedoms.

I am in no doubt that this would never have been possible without the European project, which, having served to bring peace to Western Europe following two bloody world wars, also served as a pivotal force to democratise and stabilise the countries of the former eastern bloc. It is this same incentive of membership, trade and market access which still serves as a catalyst for positive reform in both Europe and around the world. It does this around the world through the insertion of human rights and democracy clauses in the EU’s trade agreements with third countries desperate for preferential access to our European market of 450 million consumers. It does this in European countries such as Croatia, Turkey and the Ukraine through the incentive of membership. These countries are desperate to join the European Union; to enjoy the same benefits as we in the UK already enjoy, where 3 million jobs depend on our EU membership and we can solve common problems together, such as climate change, the global economic downturn, international terrorism and organized crime.

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