Seventy years ago today, the world dived head down into the hell of sx years of war. On 1 September 1939, in Westerplatte – near the Polish city of Gdansk – World War II began and Poland was invaded. In the years that followed, Europe witnessed the bloodiest war in its history. It saw the loss of millions of lives and immense grief. It saw the destruction of cities and communities. The war turned friends into foes and neighbours into strangers. The world still bears the scars of that war and has not yet faced anything to compare with the violence and suffering that it caused.
Today, Nations that were harsh and blood-thirst enemies those days are living side-by-side every day, in a commonwealth of Nations called the European Union. A long way has been traveled, since then.A lot more to go lies ahead, before we eventually come to a really unified Europe. What follows is the statement by the Swedish Presidency of the European Union at the ceremony held in Westerplatte.
World War II taught Europe and its citizens a very painful lesson: how fragile peace between nations is and how much solidarity and effort is needed to preserve it. With the end of the war and the division of our continent, we learned not to take freedom and democracy for granted. We owe it to the victims, the survivors and future generations not only to remember these lessons, but also to act to make sure such dark times never come again.
Today, we are glad to see the uniting of Europe, building its common destiny on cooperation between nations and citizens.
By signing the treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Luxembourg forged the process of European integration by giving priority to what unites rather than divides. For the first time ever, Europeans came together not against but for each other – for the vision of a continent where people of different cultures and nations with varied interests work together for peace, prosperity and democracy.
On this foundation a European integration has been built that over time has grown stronger and deeper. It has played a crucial role in tearing down the obstacles and symbols that have denied people democracy and freedom. It includes new areas of cooperation and new Member States. It brings our continent together. Today, the European Union is home to almost 500 million citizens from 27 states.
On the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, we wish to underline the role of the European Union in building world peace. We should remember that the underlying imperative of European integration was to prevent a new war on our continent. Thanks to the yearning for freedom of the peoples of central and eastern Europe, the unnatural division of our continent has now been overcome. We have a duty not to let the memory of the experience of this most terrifying of all wars fall into oblivion. Today, we Europeans share the responsibility for peace in the world. This is both a moral and a political responsibility.
As a keeper of this common memory, the European Union contributes to building democracy and welfare, peace and freedom, tolerance and solidarity, and respect for human rights. Cooperation driven by these values is the guarantee of our Community and an invaluable asset that must be safeguarded for the generations to come. We will not forget.