Summary – Closing Speech
held by Gerald Häfner
The official end of the conference was reached with an outstanding closing speech, delivered by Gerald Häfner, board member of Democracy International.
Mr. Häfner began his speech with a brief history of the European continent.
“There is something unique in Europe”, he noted, talking about the geographical significance, historical background and cultural fortune of the continent. In comparison with the African or Asian part of the world, Europe is territorially a small piece of land, however having extreme richness and diversity in each and every field. Mr. Häfner continued speaking about the unique case of Europe, at first evolving and progressing and then due to difficult periods of conflicts and wars, becoming deeply fragmented. Nevertheless, the ability of Europeans to overcome problems of separation has been proven through time, as being evident from the collapse of the Berlin wall. In this context, he further stressed how “there is no weapon against candles, people and the power of citizens” and people must not forget how Europe has the potential to combine freedom, society and progress. This can be done when citizens start seeing Europe as their own, feeling that their voice has a real value. Currently, Europe has not yet revealed its full potential, because people still lack the understanding of what the continent can really be. Due to past challenges of communism and current problems of capitalism, Europeans are strongly divided, still thinking in “West-East” terms, without realizing that Europe is one whole, explained Gerald Häfner.
He further underlined the need for political change in Europe, which will allow citizens to have the first and last word in the decision-making process. Inclusion of society’s opinion is imperative, as this is the only way to show that “people are Europe”. The idea of a free European individual has to become a key concept for the future and people need to work together for a political shift that will allow achieving this ideal. Currently, the political institutions are less and less ready to consult citizens, especially after the Brexit referendum, continued Gerald Häfner. The case of Brexit, however, is a strong sign for people being driven away and good lessons can be learned from it, he expanded. A new type of democracy, based on free public discourse can be the right medicine for current socio-political problems. Direct democratical models, following the example of Switzerland, can contribute to building a strong Europe that belongs to liberated European citizens.
There are valuable civil initiatives, which follow this path, Gerald Häfner noted. ELIANT presents a unique case of an alliance, which has developed different branches, acquiring focus on diverse set of topics. Yet, putting the person in the center of all concepts and initiatives is a key factor for ELIANT. A vision of Europe, grounded in tolerance, solidarity and interest in the opinion of others is strongly supported by the alliance and by their partner organizations. Therefore, citizens should not lose hope to create a new vision of Europe, based on these principles.
Precisely by believing that the world can be changed for good, ELIANT came to existence 10 years ago, elaborated Gerald Häfner in the end of his speech. In conclusion, he urged the citizens to follow this belief, because “the power of a free human individual is this power Europe and the whole world awaits.”
Summary by Lora Ivanova