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Speeches

E. Hennicot-Schoepges: Address to World Summit 2014

Address to World Summit 2014, Seoul, Korea, August 9-13, 2014

My home country is the tiny Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in the heart of the European Union. Created as a neutral buffer state between France and Germany at the Vienna Congress in 1814, it has survived as an independent nation, in spite of many dangerous moments that challenged its existence.

During World War I the country was not a member of the Triple Entente, but it was occupied by German troops, in spite of being neutral. The same thing happened in World War II with the Nazis, who enrolled by force all the Luxembourgers into the German Army. Our liberation by the American troops during the Battle of the Bulge is not forgotten; we know what we owe to American veterans.

Today we are a member of the United Nations Security Council, and our former Prime Minister Jean Claude Juncker has been nominated future President of the European Commission. As a small nation, we share responsibilities for peace in the world. Actually 45% of the resident population are non-Luxembourgers, people of a hundred different nationalities living together in respect for each other’s cultures.

It is not my task to speak about my country but to draw some guidelines from a European point of view concerning peace among nations.

Nations are sometimes the result of a deal between winners and losers of armed conflicts. Had borders been drawn along ethnic and cultural principles, the map of the European continent would be different. In this respect the founding of the European Union was a unique act of forgiveness and peaceful outcome of armed conflicts between powerful states.

After World War II, the founding fathers of the European Union started by establishing in 1953 a common authority for Coal and Steel, binding industries that could have produced weapons into agreements of cooperation and mutual information.

When in 1957 the Treaty of Rome established the European Community among its six founding members, Germany and France, Italy and the three members of Benelux (Belgium the Netherlands and Luxembourg), the main ambition was to preserve peace on the continent.

I have to abbreviate the historical background that took us from 6 to 28 member states. The enlargement by ten member states in 2004, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, was seen as the beginning of a new era, shaping a new map for Europe after the agreements in Yalta, the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War. Or so we thought!

After the compulsory movement of millions of people during and after the two wars, followed by the assimilation and humiliation of the displaced persons, the legacy of Hitler and Stalin is still haunting European policy today.

It was surely one of the most crucial decisions taken by the leaders of the European Union not to change borders, although this was not satisfactory to many and has led to great debates in many member states.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights, submitted in 2007 with the Lisbon Treaty to agreement by the member states, enables all the citizens of the European Union to live in a space of free jurisdiction, ensuring each person’s individual rights with respect to religious and cultural beliefs.

The acceptance by 28 governments to submit to a supra-national union, aiming at a union of citizens while preserving the shape of nation states, has not been promoted well enough.

Could this serve as a model for world wide peace, as it is until now a unique way of governance?

The numerous recent conflicts tell us that not only governments and dictators are deciding the course of events but also the people. Remember Tahrir Square in Cairo, Taksim Square in Istanbul, and Maidan Square in Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine is a painful moment in the history of the European continent. Since 2004 and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, no diplomatic efforts, including talks with Russia, have achieved success.

The weakness of the EU resulting from the commercial interests of some of the member states has not enabled the Union to adopt a unanimous position. The energetic dependence on Russian gas as well as the export of goods and technology have made the EU a hostage of President Putin.

Integration cannot become synonymous with assimilation; cultural diversity is the true wealth of the EU. Our challenge is to say that a better knowledge of the history and the culture, the language, the music and the religion of the other -- accompanied by respect for traditions and values -- should make it possible to live together peacefully.

Fifty million refugees worldwide are the challenge of a century that started as the first century without State colonizers.

The most crucial and deeply distressing question, however, is the ongoing development of militarism.

Who sold and continues to sell all the weapons killing thousands of people today in Ukraine, in Gaza, in Syria and in so many places in Africa?

Winston Churchill said: "The empires of the future will be empires of the mind."

Investment in soft power, cultural diplomacy and peacebuilding missions as tools for reconciliation should be the worldwide initiative for religious and state leaders, for universities, and for each person on the globe.

For more information about the World Summit, click here.