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Anförande vid Riga Cicero Awards

Anförande i Riga, Lettland

Let me start with the most important point: how honoured I am to receive your award.

And I am particularly honoured as I know the list of distinguished personalities that have preceded me.

They have all made most significant contributions to the development of your country, Latvia, during the past few decades.

In no way can my contributions be seen as being on the same level as theirs.

What perhaps unites us all is that we have been living through a very significant period of profound European transformation. A period that was certainly not without its perils - but which opened up dramatic new possibilities for our nations, most certainly for Latvia, and also for my country, Sweden.

2014 will be an extremely important European year.

Approximately 375 million Europeans will have the chance to elect their representatives to the European Parliament that is common to 28 different nations. We are democracies, and through democracy we are working together to shape our European future.

But it will also be an important year of reflection.

A century has passed since the collapse of a European order that had lasted for nearly a century, and the descent of our Europe into decades of destruction, division and despair.

The old empires all collapsed, but new totalitarian ideologies emerged, and on the ruins of one of them, the other forged a new empire that was able to conquer and suppress half of our continent for more than a generation.

All of our continent suffered during those long, dark decades.

But Latvia suffered more than most during this period of European history.

It saw armies come and go through the streets of Riga before it could establish its brief period of independence. And it could do little to resist occupation and incorporation into the red Soviet empire when Stalin shamefully joined hands with Hitler.

But this year it is not only a century since 1914. It is also a quarter of a century since 1989.

The year of that remarkable Baltic Way demonstrating your peaceful determination to regain the rights that you had along with all other nations.

And the year that saw the crumbling of the wall in Berlin that was the very foundation of the brutal division of our continent.

In retrospect it is easy to see the demise of the Soviet Union as a peaceful process.

Those of us that lived through those days remember only too well the dangers and the difficulties. There were days of drama. Even days of despair.

But what at the end won the day was the determination of courageous individuals - in Riga, in Tallinn, in Vilnius and - let us never forget - in Moscow too.

Russia also wanted out of the Soviet prison. Boris Yeltsin also belongs to the heroes of those days. There were two true miracles during those days of transformation.

The peaceful reunification of Germany. I was in Berlin only this morning.

And the peaceful re-establishment of the independence of the three Baltic states. But there was also tragedies. They should not be forgotten.

A full decade of wars as what once had been Yugoslavia bit by bit, with bitterness and brutality, tore itself apart.

And we should not forget the smaller tragedies. Transnistria. Abchazia. Nagorno-Karabach. We are still living with the consequences.

And we should recognise that what happened there could also have happened here. But it did not.

The global diplomacy of those days might have been of some importance in that respect as well. But more important was another fact.

When you re-established your independence, you were determined to build societies based on the values and principles of democratic Europe.

And you sought your countries' inclusion in the Council of Europe and, later, the European Union, with the uniquely high level of protection for the rights of each and every one that this meant.

Neither should we forget the important role played by the OSCE and its institutions in the important issues of national minorities.

As we, from the other side of our common Baltic Sea, sought to support you, and sometimes help you to navigate some of the shoals of the rough seas, we sometimes had our discussions.

On the pace of withdrawal of the old Soviet military forces and establishment. On the pensioners left behind. On the rights and obligations of citizenship.

These were far from easy issues. You struggled with them. There were controversies. Compromises were sometimes as difficult as they were necessary.

But at the end of the day you found solutions that I think everyone today recognises were truly wise. I salute the wisdom that guided your policies during those demanding times.

Your path since then has been the path of democratic consolidation, of profound economic transformation and of complete Euro-Atlantic integration.

Who could have believed, in those days, that just a couple of decades down the road Latvia would be more integrated in the Euro-Atlantic structures than Sweden.

We are both in the EU, but you are also in Nato. And you now also have the euro. It all strengthens your security and improves your prospects for the future.

The contacts between our two countries have deep roots in history.

Outside of Liepaja, at Grobin, you can find the remnants of links that go back more than a thousand years in history.

And some centuries ago Riga was the largest and richest of the cities under the King of Sweden.

But during the last few decades our ties have strengthened even more. It was symbolic that it was our then Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds who reopened our Embassy here after the decades of occupation.

Today there are numerous flights every day. A huge and normally fully booked ferry every night - owned and run by an Estonian company. The Stockholm School of Economics in Riga.

And soon new steps will be taken.

We are close partners in the European Union. And I believe we are both determined to develop the integration and cooperation between our European countries further.

This comes both out of the lessons drawn from the past. And the recognition of the challenges of the future.

A key lesson of 1914 is that a Europe of fragmentation and rivalries is a Europe that opens itself up to new dangers - not to mention old ones.

And a key conclusion looking forward is that a Europe coming together has vastly better prospects for both peace and prosperity - and will be a true partner to the rest of the world.

In Berlin yesterday I noted that in the world of today all European nations - Germany, Sweden, Latvia - are small nations. It is only by joining hands and coming together that we can meet the challenges of the future.

These days it is sometimes said that the idea of Europe no longer inspires in the ways it used to.

That peace and prosperity are taken for granted. That the true problem is no longer the barbarism of the past but rather the bureaucracy of Brussels.

And in some European countries we see new parties waving banners of the past and wanting to erect new barriers and borders between individuals and nations.

This is dangerous.

And those voices certainly haven't been to, or perhaps haven't even noticed, the tens or even hundreds of thousands coming together, week after week, in snow and in rain, on the Maidan in Kiev.

I don't think they necessarily know everything about the detailed work of the European Union.

And I am convinced that they do not believe that just some agreements with the EU will solve all the political, economic and social issues of their - let's be honest - misgoverned country.

But what they do know is the alternative. They have seen the past.

And they don't want it to be their future.

The message of the Maidan is a message to all of us. It is a message that needs to be heard all across Europe. There was a past.

And our task together is to build a better future.

We should seek to build a Europe that can bring rule of law, representative government and open economies and societies for each and every one.

For our own countries. For Ukraine. But also for Belarus. And definitely for Russia. We want a Europe where barriers and borders are reduced.

A Europe where there should certainly be free trade between Russia and the Ukraine. But where no one should have the right to deny the Ukraine its right to free trade also with the European Union.

A Europe where we take down barriers and borders is a Europe where we will all be the winners. It is not a zero-sum game where one wins and the other loses.

We want a Russia that truly embraces modernisation - not just in the military sphere - and that truly becomes part of our Europe of freedom, of rule of law, of representative government and of open economies.

I am convinced that one day this will happen.

The message of the Maidan is heard not only in the more western parts of Europe. It is certainly heard also in the more eastern part of our continent.

Our Baltic world was always a world between the East and the West.

And Riga was certainly always a city between the East and the West in Europe. The trade routes along the river were for thousands of years a vital part of the arteries between the different parts of Europe.

Riga was always a city of many languages.

Latvian. German. Russian. Yiddish. Polish. Swedish.

There were certainly problems. But there were far more possibilities.

Riga was always the rich metropolis of the Baltic world. And what it was yesterday I am convinced it will be even more tomorrow.

As we move forward together, we are wise to reflect on the lessons of the past.

This year on the lessons of the fragmentation and the rivalries that in 1914 ushered Europe into a long dark period of destruction and despair.

And this year also on the lessons of the profound courage, the peaceful determination and the political wisdom of the momentous year of 1989 and the transformation of our continent that began then.

We have been fortunate to live in a period of bright new possibilities for Europe.

In spite of the economic and financial strains and difficulties of the last few years - which you have mastered in a way that has won you admiration around the world - the last quarter of a century has been among the very best in the entire history of our continent.

But now there are new tasks ahead.

Forces of the past trying to come back. Fragmentation again becoming a possibility. The danger of new borders and barriers.

We live in a world of profound change.

There are now more internet users in China than in any other country.

The billion people of Africa are now rising faster than any other billion in our world.

Within five years nearly three quarters of the population of our world will have access to mobile broadband connections.

Science is uncovering the foundation stones of matter, and reaching out to count the endless billions of stars and galaxies in our universe.

It is a world of immense possibilities. A world where the values of Europe should stand even stronger than today.

But it is only by truly seeing the lessons of the past, and by working together, that we as Europe can grasp all of these possibilities.

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