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Address by H.E. Valdas Adamkus, President of the Republic of Lithuania, at the Opening of the Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly at the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania


Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

I am delighted to have the opportunity to participate in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Session in Vilnius - an event that gives great honor to Lithuania, which is this year celebrating the millennium of the first mention of its name in written records.

 

We have gathered in the Seimas - the "Heart of Lithuania" - where hundreds of thousands of people came together in 1991 to protect it from the tanks of occupation. It is not by chance that I recall this. I would like to quote American philosopher George Santayana, who stated, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." The painful twentieth-century history of Lithuania and the whole of Europe is a lesson that we cannot forget when discussing the security challenges of the 21st century .

 

During the Cold War, when the two worlds were locked in a dangerous standoff, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe played an exclusive role in maintaining a continuous political dialogue between the East and West, unwaveringly raising the question of human rights and contributing in this way to some progress in the Soviet Union. Later on, the Conference emerged as the catalyst for a radical transformation of Europe.

 

The foundations of the totalitarian regime were also eroded by the Helsinki groups set up in Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Lithuania, and other Central and Eastern European countries. These groups voiced the will of oppressed nations to live in democratic societies and inspired hope that a day would come for this vision to become reality.

 

Today we are proud to have distinguished members of the Lithuanian Helsinki group among us. We are grateful to you for your relentless fight for Lithuanian independence. You continued to spread the ideals of civil society, fundamental human rights and freedoms, and critical thought in defiance of the pressure exerted upon you and your families by the totalitarian regime.

 

We will neither forget the contribution made by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe to the withdrawal of the occupation troops from many post-Soviet countries, including the Baltic States. The declarations issued by the Parliamentary Assembly in 1992 in Budapest, in 1993 in Helsinki, and in 1994 in Vienna are the best examples of effective parliamentary diplomacy.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

As I look back on the ten years of my presidency, I ask: "Have we become more secure now?"

 

Security cannot be separated from democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, market economy and social justice. How far have we gone in securing these principles?

 

In the past ten years, Central and Eastern European countries continued on the course of their own choice, joining the family of European nations and the transatlantic community and rapidly consolidating market economy. It increased their economic, social and physical security, and Lithuanian citizens, too, feel the positive effects of these changes.

 

We have become more secure also because we are well aware of the importance of good neighborly relations and regional cooperation. The Baltic States felt it immediately when they created a broad partnership network, linking regional government institutions, businesses and non-governmental organizations. I am proud that the Vilnius Process also contributed in an essential way to consolidating security in Central and Eastern Europe.

 

Over the past decade, major changes emerged in the Black Sea region countries where people openly declared their determination to place the values and principles of democracy, free market and the rule of law at the forefront of their life. Lithuania has consistently backed their aspirations for overcoming historical and geopolitical divisions, pulling together a team of supportive friends in Europe and across the Atlantic.

 

Although a lot has been done to unify the OSCE space, but the developm ents of the recent years in the South Caucasus once again exposed the dividing lines of the past.

 

We cannot close our eyes and ignore the fact that Georgia's territorial integrity has been grossly violated and that both the UN and OSCE missions have departed from Georgia. Why is it that international commitments are being ignored? Why is it that international instruments are not fully applied? These are not merely rhetorical questions. They require a quick response.

 

We cannot go back to the world divided into spheres of influence. We cannot accept "new realities" imposed by force. We cannot leave thousands of people, who have found themselves in conflict zones in the South Caucasus, Moldova or Southeastern Europe, to their fate. We have a shared responsibility to build trust, resolve differences and ensure the security, territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states.

Fighting the threats of terrorism, dealing with energy security, infrastructure and environmental problems, ensuring the freedom of movement - this is the legacy of unfinished work that we have inherited from the 20th century. The OSCE has done a lot to meet these challenges within the compelling framework of comprehensive security.

 

Another fundamental OSCE principle is that security is indivisible. Until there are countries in Europe where the freedom of the word, thought or choice is restricted, we will never be fully independent or secure. And we cannot confine our actions to Europe alone. We must promote mutual cooperation between Central Asian countries, increasing stability and security in the region. We have to support these countries and societies in their effort to build modern nations on the foundations of social wellbeing and respect for individual rights and freedoms. The people of Afghanistan, too, expect us to continue helping them create a secure and peaceful country.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Our fifty six participating states are united by a common vision - the vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace that is not divided by artificial borderlines. This inspiring and unique idea has a deep personal connection to me. We have to further exploit our achievements and security structures to translate it into reality. We must overcome mistrust and understand that all of us are partners seeking the same ultimate goals, not rivals over influence. Our unity, trust, determination to act, and open respect for values and international commitments are the guiding principles on the path to a more secure world.

 

I believe that these guidelines will help Lithuania in its presidency of the OSCE in 2011. We will continue the work started, further promoting OSCE commitments, expanding regional cooperation and countering new security and stability threats.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Through its diplomatic endeavors, free word and the spirit of consensus, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is making a significant contribution to international efforts to create a more secure world. I thank you for your work and I wish you a fruitful meeting and success in your future pursuits.

 

Tomas Venclova, Lithuanian poet and one of the founders of the Lithuanian Helsinki group, has said about Vilnius: "It has been and apparently will remain a city of dialogue." I hope that this spirit of dialogue will guide you in your challenging discussions.

H.E. Mr. Valdas Adamkus, President of the Republic of Lithuania

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