Mr President, Honourable Members,
Exactly thirty years ago, today - the 27th of November, the clock strikes twelve.Church bells ring. Sirens blare. Workers down tools. Factories, mines and shops empty as the streets fill up with dance and hope.
The historic two-hour general strike in the middle of the Velvet Revolution saw people from Prague to Bratislava take part in a beautiful, peaceful wave of freedom, courage and unity.For me, these two hours go to the heart of what the European Union has always meant.It is not about parties or politics, rules or regulations, markets or currencies.It is ultimately – and above all else – about people and their aspirations.It is about people standing together. For their liberty, for their values, simply for a better future.
There is one quote from the great Vaclav Havel – one of the heroes of 1989 – that stands out for me when I look ahead at our future.“Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.”I choose this quote because over the next five years, our Union will embark together on a transformation, which will touch every part of our society and economy.And we will do it because it is the right thing to do. Not because it will be easy.We sometimes forget that our greatest achievements have always come when we are bold.