Vilnius, National Opera and Ballet Theatre, 9 May 2004
Distinguished Chairman of the Seimas,
Distinguished Mr. Prime Minister
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Having restored independence, our state has added Europe Day to its calendar of public holidays.
Yet this evening I dare to say that for the first time today we celebrate it as true Europeans, as full and equal members of a united European Union.
This evening our National Opera and Ballet Theatre is filled with the spirit of Robert Schuman, the great German composer. But it is also filled with the ideas of Robert Schuman, the French foreign minister, who on 9 May 1950 said to politicians and diplomats that it was no longer the question of vain words but of a bold act, a constructive act.
On that day that time French foreign minister Robert Schuman took a truly bold step: he called for the elimination of the age-old antagonism of Germany and France.
On that day Robert Schuman came up with a truly constructive and revolutionary plan: to pool in confirmation of reconciliation the coal and steel production of both countries.
The message was simple and far-reaching: to reconcile and join efforts. Schumans message has not lost its relevance today. It is relevant for any state and for Lithuania, especially today.
At that time, in the 1950s, the main driving force behind this step that marked the start of European integration, was the desire to make war in Europe not only unthinkable but also impossible.
Thus Schumans plan that has laid down the foundation for the present Union of 25 nations led to the establishment of the first European institution the European Coal and Steel Community.
Today we can state with full certainty that the original idea has surpassed all expectations. That time political vision has translated into a creative power that has changed in principle the political face of Europe and determined the economic and social development of European nations.
For the first time in the history of Europe a new model of relations between states was successfully implemented and new goals of co-operation were successfully pursued.
Until that day empires that dominated Europe had been changing the map of the continent by sword.
Until that day the history of Europe was decide by an established balance of power.
Efforts between the two wars to set up an international organisation for ensuring peace and stability worldwide resulted in a failure of the League of Nations.
But the idea of European integration that was born in the aftermath of the Second World War has successfully translated into the European Union that is based on the values of peace, democracy, equality, justice and the rule of law.
European integration has created favourable conditions for the promotion of the shared values and for European unity. Therefore, choosing the 9th of May, when Schuman had put forward his vision of new Europe, as Europe Day was only natural.
On this day the spirit of Robert Schuman is felt not only in places of celebration but also across Europe. And this is the spirit of a united Europe.
The road to this unity was hard and long. Robert Schuman said in his declaration that Europe will not be made at once or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements.
Indeed, much was achieved in fifty years: peace and democracy, single market, monetary union, visa-free area and close co-operation across a broad range of areas.
But the most important achievement is that now Europe unites all or almost all nations that aspire to this unity, and we are among them.
By the whim of history our country was severed from Europe against its will and could not participate in its accomplishments. We were deprived of a possibility to build together with other nations a secure and prospering Europe. Therefore today, when we seek to make the best use of advantages offered by membership of the European Union, we are fully aware of our responsibility to build together with other nations a new Europe, to deliver our share and to enhance the boundaries of security and stability further to the East.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Though achievements of the European Union are numerous, many tasks are ahead of it. The Union that has emerged in new quality faces new global challenges. One of them is to create in a decade the most competitive and dynamically developing knowledge economy in the world which is capable to deliver sustainable growth, employment and social cohesion.
Europe has set a task of becoming a strong global actor. The changing world and the transformed united Europe calls for new forms of constitutional and institutional interface.
The European Constitution should deal with internal and external challenges and help us achieve a greater political unity and economic and social well being in Europe.
Lithuania stands ready to contribute to this goal.
We are aware that without an effective European Union there will be no effective Lithuania.
Unity in diversity is a spring from which the European Union takes strength, and each member nation enriches this spring with new vigorous streams.
The distinctiveness of Lithuania is a genuine value that will enrich Europe.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
If asked what benefits the European Union will bring to Lithuania, I would answer that the European Union will bring a secure future for Lithuania, its children and grandchildren, and ensure a higher reward for each effort.
If asked what Lithuania will bring to the European Union, I would answer that Lithuania will bring all the best that its nation has created over long centuries and that could benefit Europe.
May I congratulate all of you on Europe Day and wish prosperity for Lithuania in a united prospering Europe.
I congratulate you on Europe day that for the first time we celebrate as our Day.
I congratulate you on Europe Day that for the first time we celebrate as full and equal members of the European Union.
I hope and believe that our efforts and determination will bring us to the day when we would be able to celebrate it not only as equal in rights but also equal in quality.
H.E. Mr. Artūras Paulauskas, acting President of the Republic of Lithuania