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Anförande vid mottagandet av Bosporen-priset

Anförande i Ankara, Turkiet

Let me start by expressing my sincere gratitude to you Mr Prime Minister as well as to TUSIAD for the great honour you have given me by awarding me this year's Bosporus Prize for European Understanding.

I come from a country in a somewhat distant corner of Europe - but a country that has always looked upon Turkey with interest as well as friendship.

And I come from a country that today sees it as one of its most important tasks to contribute to the building of a new order of peace and prosperity throughout Europe - a Europe whole and free, democratic and dynamic - so as also to be able to defend our interests and promote our values in the wider world.

It was only in 1995 that my country was able to join the European Union - indeed I had the honour of signing the Treaty of Accession in June 1994.

But since thenwe have become one of the most active countriesin promoting the concept of an open Europe - of the support for open societies in all parts of Europe, of a Union open to all the democracies of Europe that want to join, and open in its approach to the outside world.

There might still be those wanting to see a more closed Europe - more rigid and regulated societies, doors closed to nations that are seen as different and a more protectionist and defensive attitude towards the outside world - but increasingly it is this vision of an open Europe that is guiding what we are trying to do in the European Union.

It can be said that the European integration project is about building the future by overcoming the past.

A part of the world more ridden by conflicts and wars than perhaps any other is trying to build a new model for the peaceful integration of nations and societies.

When the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957, many drew inspiration from the old Empire of Charlemagne in the West of Europe, and still the city of Aachen is somewhat of a Mecca and Rome for the original idea of European unification.

But the power of the idea of integration has long outgrown the boundaries and bonds of that tradition of Charlemagne.

Bringing in the United Kingdom was a very major step - and it should be remembered that France blocked it for a decade out of fear of the consequences - the British Isles had never been part of the Empire of Charlemagne.

And since then one step after the other has been taken. The European Union of today comprises nations and states that only a century ago were more or less integral parts of both the Habsburg and the Russian Empires.

We bring together nations that, like my own, have been formed by the Protestant tradition of rebellion against Rome with those that have been shaped by the Catholic tradition of the counter-reformation, and we are now a Union that also respects that Orthodox tradition of Christianity that for thousands of years looked towards the Bosporus for its inspiration.

And we are a Union in which people of the Muslim faith are playing an increasingly important role.

The last few years have seen ten nations with approximately 100 million people - from Estonia to Bulgaria - that until recently were part of the Soviet Empire - or even of the Soviet Union itself - coming into our Union. Their prospects for peace and prosperity have been enhanced - but so have those of the Union as a whole.

The next large stage of enlargement will be the one covering the approximately 100 million peoples of southeastern Europe - with Turkey obviously being the most important of those countries.

The importance for Europe as a whole of the entire region of the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea is obvious to even the most superficial student of history, and in this age of accelerating globalisation and energy interdependence, this is perhaps even more so.

Here, Turkey is continuing its process of reform and modernisation. We have all been impressed by what has been achieved not only since 2002, but perhaps even more when you look at it in the somewhat longer perspective.

The reform processes - as well as the urge to be wholly a part of Europe - have their roots in the late Ottoman period, but particularly in that astonishing period of modernisation driven by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

There was little doubt about the direction in which he wanted to take the Turkey that he had created - an open, modern,secular, democratic and European nation.

And there can in truth be little doubt that this is the direction in which the Turkey of today - step by step - is also moving. Your election last year was an impressive confirmation of the democratic support that this process has.

Your country was a founding member of the Council of Europe in the late 1940s, and since 2005 you have been negotiating - chapter by chapter - for accession into our Union.

I am a strong supporter of that process.

You are, of course, the ones that should determine what is good for your country, and vigorous debates in which different views are exposed are part of that process. The decision - at the end of the process - as to whether membership of the European Union is in the interests of Turkey is yours and yours alone.

I'm a strong supporter because I am convinced that a Union that also takes in these 100 million people of south-easternEurope will be a farstronger Union in virtually every respect.

Apart from the obvious geopolitical advantages, I am convinced that the democratic and dynamic Turkey you are seeking to build would add vitality and vibrancy to the Union, and that your particular perspective would also enrich the policies of the Union.

This perhaps applies in particular to our common foreign and security policies where your deep knowledge of, and involvement with the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East would strengthen our common policies and our possibilities of impacting on the development of these so important areas.

But it would also demonstrate - once again -that overcoming the differences of the past isthe Europeanway of building the future, and that the differences that exist in the cultural or religious traditions of our respective societies - be they Christian or Muslim - can be a source of creativity rather than - as so often in the past - of conflict.

It would send the most powerful message possible to the rest of the world about the nature of our open Europe - and about our deep wish to be a force for overcoming the conflicts of the past and the confrontations of the present in order to build a future based on dialogue, respect and understanding.

We all know the hurdles that are there on the way towards this goal.

You will have to continue your reform process - and let me use the opportunity to welcome the important step that was just taken with the modification of the infamous paragraph 301.

But you know better than I do that more must be done. Your pace of accession to the Union is a function of your pace of reform in your own country.

We in the countries of the European Union will have to reinforce our efforts to truly gain support for the concept of an open Europe in each of our societies. There are those that believe differently - that want doors closed rather than open, and see the future with fear rather than with hope.

Ours is the task to convince them - and the success of European integration and understanding during the past decades clearly demonstrates that it can be done.

And there must be efforts by all concerned to use the new opportunity that is there now to overcome the painful division of the island of Cyprus. To miss, once again, this opportunity to achieve a solution would be nothing less than an historic calamity - the consequences would endanger the far wider objectives we are seeking.

In the last few weeks I have visited countries as diverse as India, Indonesia and Egypt.

Two things were striking in all the discussions I had in these countries.

First the need to do more to promote dialogue and understanding between and within the different religious beliefs and cultural traditions. For some countries, this is nothing less than a condition for survival in this age when the politics of identity has replaced the politics of ideology.

And second was the urge for Europe to be a stronger voice also on the wider global stage.

The continued reform process of Turkey as well as your accession to the European Union will be central to this for the years and decades to come. We should recognise that we are involved in a process that is not only of national or European significance - but which will resonate across the world.

So we must continue our work.

And I sincerely hope that the day will not be too distant when the different churches, mosques and synagogues of Sarajevo could be seen as a true symbol of the Europe of cultural richness and diversity we have achieved - and when the great city on the Bosporus will be the largest of the cities in a European Union, not only securing the peace and prosperity of our part of the world but increasingly being able to shape the destiny of our world.

I thank you for the Bosporus Prize for European understanding

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