Media Library

Audio

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT McALEESE THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE EUROPEAN YOUTH PARLIAMENT

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT McALEESE AT THE OPENING OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE 56TH INTL SESSION OF THE EUROPEAN YOUTH PARLIAMENT

Céad míle fáilte - one hundred thousand welcomes to Dublin and to the General Assembly of the 56th International Session of the European Youth Parliament. We are living the dream of those who founded the European Union as we mix easily together here and in a spirit of camaraderie with citizens drawn from almost thirty European states. No two cultures gathered here are the same, no two identities, no two histories, and most do not share a common language. Yet we gather knowing that whatever about our pasts, our futures are entwined and the more we get to know one another the greater will be the potential of that shared future.

Since the creation and rapid expansion of the European Union the peoples of Europe have begun to get to know one another better and better. Programmes like Comenius have introduced schoolchildren to one another across Europe’s many borders and programmes like Erasmus have allowed the Union’s University students to live and study together as friends and colleagues. EYP has broadened the scope for those friendships and human networks by giving young people from many countries the chance to grow in friendship while at the same time debating and analysing the problems and the politics of their day. We are particularly delighted to see delegates here from the far borders of the East and Southeast of Europe, from countries such as Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Serbia and FYROM. History and geography have so often in the past made it difficult for us to truly get to know one another. Our hope is that the future will be characterised by growing good neighbourliness between all of us and much greater understanding of one another. There is no shortcut to building such close relationships - you have to do it the way you are doing it: by meeting, talking, befriending, listening, year in and year out.

Those who organise EYP are generally up to their necks in studies and exams and a million other things but they commit to EYP because they believe in it so passionately and I wish to pay special tribute to all those who undertake the work of organising and sustaining the work of EYP across the participating countries. In particular I thank the Dublin 2007 Organising Committee so ably led by Andrew Byrne and Seamus Carey.

This opening session takes place in the very historic heartland of Irish politics, the place where our Parliament debated membership of the European Union which started our journey to prosperity and the Good Friday Agreement which started our island’s journey to peace. It is in this very chamber that the EU Reform Treaty will shortly be scrutinised before it is put to the people of Ireland.

In 1963 President John F. Kennedy addressed the Oireachtas here. On the same trip, he visited Berlin and there delivered one of the finest speeches ever made about European freedom. In words that resonate even today, Kennedy defiantly reminded a then divided Europe that “freedom is indivisible”, and looked forward to the day when the “great Continent of Europe” would be joined as one. Today’s European Union has drawn more and more of Europe’s peoples into the most exciting adventure in democratic partnership ever undertaken by humankind and it was Dublin’s great privilege back in 2004 to host the Day of Welcomes in celebration of the historic enlargement of the European Union, which brought so many once-estranged Europeans back into their natural family and home.

In this, the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, we have to acknowledge that Europe has never been so secure, so prosperous or so free. It is of course far from being a problem-free zone but the challenges it faces, it now faces together.

Two generations ago, a war-ravaged Europe stared into the abyss of total political, civic and economic failure. In despair the founders of the Union, dreamt of another kind of Europe, one based on partnership, prosperity and peace. This is it, this is that Europe, not perfect, but infinitely better than any Europe there has ever been at any time in all of history.

It is a work in progress this Europe of ours and so each generation has to take seriously its responsibility to bequeath to its children a better Europe than the one it inherited. That will be your task in the years ahead, and it is really very heartening to see that you are starting work so early!

A strong Europe grounded in equality, human rights and democracy will not just be a safe place for its own citizens but an important champion of those values in a very unequal and troubled world. A strong Europe can bring hope and help to the world’s poor, it can help lead the debate on global problems from climate change, to economic globalisation, from international criminality to terrorism, from conflict resolution to disease eradication. These issues do not respect borders. They need international cooperation and debate.

The work of the EYP is part of that global debating forum, a place where everyone’s voice is heard, respectfully and where consensus is built around best practice solutions to the common problems our countries face. The work of EYP is vital at another level too. The life of politicians is probably about as difficult and stressful as you can get but it is also deeply rewarding for it is about service to the public and about making life the best it can be for that public. You encourage young people to take an active interest in politics and I hope the experience deepens your commitment enough to make you want to stick with politics for life. Good people make for good politics and the best people make for the best politics. Here in EYP you are finding your feet and your voice in the world of international politics. We hope in a few short years to see your names high among the leaders of the very best Europe ever.

It is my great pleasure to declare the 56th international session of the European Youth Parliament open. Thank you for your attention and, as we say in Irish, bail ó Dhia ar an obair.