For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No:  UNIS/SG/2558
Release Date:   10 May 2000
Secretary-General Joins in Celebrating Vision of Robert Schuman
Who Laid Foundation for Idea of European Union

NEW YORK, 9 May (UN Headquarters) – Following are the remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan at a ceremony commemorating Schuman Day, in New York on 9 May:

 I am pleased to join you to celebrate the vision and achievement of Robert Schuman.  On this day fifty years ago, Schuman laid the foundation for the idea for a European Union -- an idea, which today has become a proud reality.  Europe today is at peace and prosperous as never before in its history.  It is fulfilling Schuman’s dream of creating a continent characterized not by conflict or competition, but by friendly relations and a unity of purpose.  Europe today owes a tremendous debt to Robert Schuman.

 But so, I believe, does the rest of the world.  Schuman proved to other continents and regions that even after the most bloody and most destructive war in history, former enemies could set aside the past, and work together for a future of peace and prosperity.

 It is an example that is well worth heeding in many parts of the world today, including in South-Eastern Europe -– where conflict still persists, and where too many people believe that “ancient hatreds” are forever.  The fact is, they are not.  They can be overcome -- through a mutual recognition of the common interest in peace; through joint efforts to build a free and common market; and through the promotion of tolerance and understanding of other cultures and beliefs.

 Of course, no political model can be simply transplanted from one part of the world to another.  Each region has its own traditions and its own challenges.  Each must find its own solutions.  But every region can build on the values of cooperation, tolerance and good governance on which the European Union is founded.  Every region, if it devotes the necessary will, patience and hard work, can attain the benefits of higher standards of living and education, and of democratic systems under the rule of law.

The decisive innovation of post-war Europe has been the integration of separate nations within a single economic space, under a framework of shared law, inspired by shared democratic values.  This has been achieved by a sustained effort of political vision and will.

But let me suggest today that Europe’s work is not done -– not yet; not as long as the countries to its south and east remain mired in economic and political stagnation.  It is to Europe’s credit that it has sought to expand the circle of peace and prosperity, by holding out the prospect of membership in the European Union.  This has given its neighbours the courage and self-confidence to reform their economies.  And it has given them a strong incentive to build democratic institutions, with entrenched respect for human and civil rights.  The desire to achieve “European” standards has been a strong force for democracy.

What I wish to suggest today is that these standards are universal, not only European, and that the United Nations will continue to seek to make them a reality in every part of the world.  Our cooperation in Kosovo is but one example of the potential for our joint efforts to help a people, and a region, follow in the footsteps of Schuman’s Europe, and create lasting peace and stability.

The United Nations can play its full part in the world only if Europe plays its full part in the United Nations.  Already the European Union, taken as a whole, is by far the largest single contributor to the United Nations budget.  Two of its members are permanent members of the Security Council.  Europe exerts great influence at the United Nations when its members not only speak with a single voice, but also concert their actions to achieve a common purpose. 

You have made our union of nations stronger, but I believe you can make it stronger still.  I am closely following the European Union's efforts to forge a common foreign and security policy, and look forward to many more instances where the European Union will act with and through the United Nations, in the cause not only of peace in Europe, but of peace and prosperity worldwide.

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