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Anförande vid Central European University

Anförande i Budapest, Ungern

Thank you for inviting me.

It is a great honour to be here, and a pleasure to see old friends from the European Union and the Balkans.

The Central European University is a prestigious and important institution. Its contribution to the democratic development of this part of Europe over the last two decades has been most important, and we all know that the work has not been completed.

I came to Budapest for the first time a long time ago.

It was immediately after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968.

'Normalisation', as it was called, had begun to be imposed, not least on the universities and students of that country. Hungary had seen its 'normalisation' after 1956.

But I remember being guided around by Hungarian students to see the bullet holes and the scars still left from the heavy fighting that crushed Hungary's aspirations for freedom.

I have visited many times since then.

A couple of years ago I joined Peter Balazs to celebrate 20 years since the opening of the Iron Curtain and met some of those who made their dash for freedom on the very first day the barbed wire was cut.

But today I am here for another reason.

On this day in the horrible winter of 1945, Raoul Wallenberg disappeared at the hands of Soviet authorities. And this year we will celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Wallenberg's birth.

In January 1945, Hitler's Third Reich was coming to an end.

But his divisions were fighting a fierce battle to retain control of first Pest and then Buda as the massive Soviet forces closed in on Germany itself.

And in the midst of this drama, the Nazi regime was eager to bring the extermination of the Jews of Europe to its conclusion. The Jews of Budapest had to be transferred to Auschwitz and exterminated as soon as possible.

Raoul Wallenberg could easily have remained in Sweden safely and comfortably throughout the war - as in fact most of his contemporaries did. But he chose otherwise.

Talks between Stockholm and the War Refugee Board in Washington led to Wallenberg being appointed First Secretary of the Swedish Legation in Budapest. His task: to save as many people in danger as possible.

And he began saving Jewish lives by distributing Swedish protective passports and by offering shelter in an increasing number of buildings around Szent István Park designated as Swedish territory.

There are traces of his work all over this city today.

There is a memorial sign at the old Swedish Legation on Gellért Hill.

There is a street named after Wallenberg where the old international ghetto used to be.

And there is a plaque at Józsefváros railway station, where Wallenberg is said to have personally intervened to stop the deportation of Hungarian Jews to the concentration camps.

Monuments to the memory of Wallenberg have been raised in Tel Aviv, in New York and in a dozen other places around the world.

And this has often been at the initiative of people who owed their survival to the Wallenberg passports or the Swedish protected buildings. We will never know the exact number of men and women, children and elderly who were saved during those days of horror.

But with his colleagues at the Swedish Legation, Hungarian associates and diplomats from other neutral states, Raoul Wallenberg certainly helped tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews survive those days of horror.

We all know that for Budapest, liberation from the Nazi regime did not result in true liberation. It soon became obvious that one terror regime had been replaced by another terror regime.

And Raoul Wallenberg, who had fought one of the major 20th century totalitarian dictatorships, fell victim to the other as he was taken away to the darkness of Stalinist prison systems.

Raoul Wallenberg was a true hero.

This word is sometimes used loosely. But when it comes to Wallenberg, there is no reason to hesitate. He was a hero.

Historians will certainly continue to debate the exact role and responsibility of the 32-year-old Swedish amateur diplomat in Budapest in those crucial autumn and winter months of 1944 and 1945.

But the basics do not change: no other Swede in modern times has made so great, so tangible and so daring a contribution to humanity as Raoul Wallenberg did in that dark and decisive period.

For me, as a Swede, the name 'Raoul Wallenberg' evokes different feelings.

One of them is pride - over what he did for so many. Another is shame - over what was not done for him.

The Swedish Government's lack of involvement after Raoul Wallenberg was captured and taken to the infamous Lubyanka prison in Moscow is both embarrassing and painful.

We are still not absolutely certain about what happened in the months and years that followed Wallenberg's arrest, but we do know that too little was done to save him while it might still have been possible.

In January 2001 - after almost a decade of detective work, involving interviews with former key officials in the Soviet security apparatus and Gulag survivors, as well as extensive archives searches - a joint working group of Swedish and Russian experts presented its conclusions.

The Russians said Wallenberg died, or more likely was killed, on 17 June 1947 in Soviet custody.

The Swedish side did not contest this version, but maintained that there was insufficient evidence to draw any firm conclusions as to Wallenberg's ultimate fate.

That is the closest we have come to an answer, and perhaps as close as we ever will.

But as historians continue to unearth details relevant to the Wallenberg file, I have now asked the former Swedish Chairman of that joint working group to look into whether any new material has emerged that could shed additional light on what happened to Wallenberg after he was taken to Moscow.

These were dark times - and we must never forget.

And that is why I am here in Budapest today, with representatives of the Swedish Parliament and members of the Wallenberg family. There are not many people left who still remember 1945.

And direct memories of 1956 are also fading.

I belong to the generation that vividly remembers and witnessed the liberations between 1989 and 1991, and I have certainly seen it as one of the most important tasks of our generation to build a system of integration and cooperation in Europe that can guarantee that the horrors of the past will never be repeated.

A Europe whole and free - democratic and dynamic. Of open societies and open economies.

These days, the European Union does not always get a good press. It is seen as having one crisis after the other. But we should not forget what has been achieved.

The two decades since those years of liberation - when the evil Soviet empire collapsed - have been a near-miraculous success. Yes, there have been failures.

I'm thinking in particular of the decade of war when Yugoslavia was torn apart bit by bit, millions of people were forced to flee waves of ethnic cleansing, and more than one hundred thousand people lost their lives.

But one hundred million people in the Baltic States and Central Europe - from the Gulf of Finland almost down to the Bosphorus - could anchor their future in the solidarity of the European Union and the Atlantic Alliance.

And these were nations that far too often had been invaded and cut to pieces as the greater powers of Europe clashed time after time. Central Europe was often the area "in between" - and paid a bitter price for it.

This was achieved at the same time as the successive Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon treaties took the process of integration substantially forward in important areas.

We widened and deepened the crucial process of integration as a response to the fundamentally new challenges after the demise of the Soviet Union and its outer empire.

These were - truly - decades of miraculous success.

Building a democratic structure for the integration of what is today 27 nations (Croatia's referendum this Sunday may make it the 28th member) and approximately 500 million people and the largest integrated economy of the world is not easy.

Nothing like this has ever been done before. Ever.

We are still nations proud of our own history, keen on our traditions and eager to bring the best of our past into our future. As we build anew, there is much we don't want to give up.

And this certainly applies now as we are discussing the road ahead. In my opinion, two aspects are of fundamental importance.

First, our task of building a Europe whole and free has certainly not been completed. We have a further 100 million people knocking on our door.

All of Southeastern Europe: a Serbia that has demonstrated its commitment to democratic reforms, a Bosnia that certainly needs our help to move forward, and a dynamic Turkey further consolidating its democracy.

You know what the lighthouse of the European Union meant for guiding your democratic transition.

If we were to close our doors and that light started to fade, there would be bound to be repercussions for the development of all of these countries. And this would also apply in the wide area covered by our Eastern Partnership.

In the darkness of the Belarus of today, there is still hope.

And Ukraine knows that it has a choice, and that the European option is open to it.

Moldova and Georgia are following the way shown by the lighthouse, and they deserve our wholehearted support.

But as I say that, I am keenly aware of the fact that our magnetism - the strength of the light - is dependent upon how we manage our current economic and other challenges.

The second aspect (apart from the fact that the task of building a Europe whole and free, democratic and dynamic isn't completed) is the need to increasingly see our tasks in a global perspective.

By the middle of this century, we Europeans will account for about 7 per cent of the global population of approximately 9 billion people. We will still have a large share of the global economy, but substantially smaller than today's.

It is only by working more closely together that we can promote our values and protect our interests in the world of tomorrow.

"The next 50 years" stated some time ago a reflection group led by former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzales "could be about Europe's role as an assertive global actor or, alternatively, the Union and its member states could slide into marginalisation, becoming an increasingly irrelevant western peninsula of the Asian continent".

And I would argue that the way we work together might turn out to be our greatest asset in the world of tomorrow. If we succeed, we can be certain that others will strive to follow the same path.

Our commitment must be to open societies, to an open Europe and to an open world.

If there is one danger I see, it is that the forces advocating closing the doors, narrowing the horizons and building barriers are also gaining ground in our European nations.

This is truly dangerous.

If we stop going forward and start sliding backwards, we may very well end up back in the divisions, the strife and the conflicts of the past.

As we remember the life and legacy of Raoul Wallenberg, and Hungary looks back on its history of terror of totalitarian regimes, we should remember that these were times when nations confronted nations, when classes were supposed to struggle violently against each other, or when the supremacy of one race over others was proclaimed.

During the first half of the last century, Europe produced two devastating wars that swept across the globe and two totalitarian ideologies that killed millions and millions across the continents.

It even became necessary to establish the concept of genocide to fully describe the horrible policies that Raoul Wallenberg, and many others, gave their life to fight.

Nothing can ever be compared with the Holocaust, which deprived Europe of one of the richest and most viable cultures in human history.

But there are still minorities that are discriminated against.

Anti-Semitism still exists. Islamophobia and xenophobia still exist. And still - and once again - there are parties and movements using hate speech to further their political aims.

Telling the story of Wallenberg is a way of reminding ourselves of the importance of the values that we seek to protect and promote - the true values of Europe.

And of the fact, demonstrated time after time throughout history, that the true quality of a society can often be measured by its tolerance of those who are different from the majority.

Creativity is often the consequence of differences coming together. Uniform societies run the risk of stagnation.

Budapest, with its history, ought to echo that message. This is a place where different people and cultures have met. The shores of the Danube have always been a cultural crossroads.

Budapest was, and is, a city of churches, mosques and synagogues. This is the country of 1956, and of 1989.

Hungary should continue to be a strong voice for European principles.

Finally, there is one additional reason why the Wallenberg story continues to matter.

Today, the Raoul Wallenberg Year 2012 will be inaugurated - in Stockholm, at the Parliament, in Berlin, and here in Budapest, where I will later take part in the opening of the exhibition "To me there's no other choice" at the National Museum.

As the exhibition travels around the world, it will highlight how one single individual can make a difference. A huge difference, in fact.

And this must be a call to all of us, as individuals and as nations. Thank you.

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