Delegation of the European Union to Myanmar

Recognising Myanmar citizens who ‘carry the flame for others’

Yangon, 14/02/2019 - 17:24, UNIQUE ID: 190214_18
Speeches of the Ambassador

Speech of EU Ambassador to Myanmar Kristian Schmidt at the 2019 Schuman Awards ceremony

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening and mingalabar!

On behalf of the European Union and all my fellow Ambassadors here with me, welcome and thank you for joining us for the 2019 Schuman Awards ceremony.

Allow me to start with five quotes that I think express what tonight is all about:

First quote, from a man, speaking about the genocide in Europe against six million Jews including his mother and two sisters; "The opposite of good is not evil, the opposite of good is indifference."

Second, a woman, struggling against a military dictatorship said "You should never let your fears prevent you from doing what you know is right."

Third, a man, who marched with Martin Luther King, spoke of racism and said: "In a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible."

Fourth, a man being led to a police van in handcuffs said “I have no fear. I have not done anything wrong … I believe in justice, democracy and freedom.”

And finally, a stateless young girl who died 15 years old of disease in a concentration camp in Europe said in her diary: "Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart".

These are strong words drawn from dramatic and tragic events. But of course, we cannot all be heroes. We don't all have the courage, the conviction or the calling to a cause.

But I believe we all have the ability to recognise those who do.

In fact, I believe we all have the responsibility, the duty indeed, to cast away indifference and fear, and to acknowledge those who dare to lead.

If you want light, you must protect those who carry the flame – those whose light shines brightly from inside a prison cell or in house arrest. The people of Myanmar know this better than I do.

If you wish to end war and violence, you must have the courage to stand with those who rise against it. They should not walk alone.

The opposite of good is not evil – it is indifference.

In Europe, we have enjoyed peace and growing prosperity for more than 70 years. But we are above all, from our founding moment, a community of values.

At the foundation of our unity stand human rights.

With Burma, European nations were among the founding nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

Seventy years later, the people of Myanmar are still fighting for these rights, for their dignity and freedom from fear.

The Schuman Award is given every year as recognition of those who dare carry the flame for others.

Robert Schuman was a French politician, who believed history could be changed. He believed it was possible to look beyond sectarian bigotry and militant nationalism.

He believed that a Union of peace, prosperity and democracy could be created in Europe from the ashes of bombed cities and burned-down villages.

He was right. It can be done. And it was done.

Today, we know our societies are not perfect. In Europe, racism, anti-Semitism, populism and xenophobia are on the rise, and so is nationalism, which in our past always led to war.

No, this award is not a sign that we Europeans believe that our societies are better than anyone else's.

Rather, we give this award because, as European envoys to Myanmar, we are not indifferent.

We are not indifferent to the families in IDP camps in Kachin or Kayin state, or across the border in Thailand.

We are not indifferent to the suffering of the stateless Rohingya, confined to camps inside Rakhine state or facing the next monsoon and disease in Bangladeshi refugee camps.

We are not indifferent to the ethnic minorities asking for equal rights to be recognised under the Constitution.

We are not indifferent to those who overcome their fear to do what they know is right –speaking up for justice , for freedom of expression, for journalists reporting the truth, for rule of law and for standing up against discrimination.

The award we give tonight is in admiration for such courage. Tonight is a celebration of universal values and our shared humanity. It is a token of the European Union's solidarity with the people of Myanmar.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Tonight's winners: three outstanding personalities who have decided to speak up for those who have no voice; those who are vulnerable; those demanding respect for basic human rights, not for themselves, but for their fellow human beings.

We are delighted to present to you today the 2019 Schuman Awardees: To do so, I am proud to leave the floor to my fellow ambassadors!

Thank you!

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