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This year, Europe Day comes in the same week when we also celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the Council of Europe.
Today I am in Sibiu for the European summit, and I am truly sorry I cannot be with you in Strasbourg – a capital city for both the European Union and the Council of Europe.
Our two organisations are different, but they were born out of the same idea and the same necessity. After centuries of wars, and the most devastating war of all times, we all realised that peace in Europe depended on cooperation among European nations.
Seventy years ago, the founding fathers of modern Europe gathered to set the basic norms underpinning our common future.
They recognised that we all shared a common European identity, and that such identity was defined by certain rights and liberties. They also agreed that democracy was the only form of government that could protect and advance all these values.
What seemed a leap of faith seventy years ago, today is an unparalleled space of rights, freedom and cooperation for over 800 million people.
The Council of Europe brings together an entire continent, beyond our differences. And its founding values are cherished by all the peoples of Europe.
These rules and values need to be supported with action to turn into reality. The Council of Europe and all its institutions exist precisely to serve our citizens. They exist to protect and promote their individual rights and their fundamental freedoms. The European Union and the Council of Europe have been and will continue to be close partners, working together to promote our shared values.
The Council of Europe is not just a great achievement of our past. It is essential to our present and our future. It protects our democracies and our liberties. It protects peace and security in Europe, for all the peoples of Europe. Its values are at the core of our European identity. It is who we are, it is where we come from, and most importantly, it is where we want to go.
So Happy anniversary to the Council of Europe, and Happy Europe Day.