As Delivered by President José Manuel Barroso, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at the 2014 Distinguished Leadership Awards.
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Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, let me start by thanking Governor Huntsman for his very kind and spirited words. A word of thanks also to Chancellor Angela Merkel for her friendly transatlantic message from Berlin. And a final word of sincere recognition to the Atlantic Council and Fred Kempe for this honorable distinction.

 2014 Honorees

Distinguished International Leadership
Chuck Hagel
Jose Manuel Barroso

Distinguished Business Leadership
Thomas Enders

Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership
Ruslana Lyzhychko

Distinguished Military Leadership
Joseph Dunford

I was told when I was invited to come here that these are the Oscar prize for foreign policy. (LAUGHTER) In this case I’m not going to make a long list of persons to which I dedicate this prize. I can only say to you very sincerely that, yes, I am a very committed European and, yes, I am very committed to this great relationship and friendship between United States and European Union. (APPLAUSE)

Not only politically, when I was Foreign Minister and Prime Minister of Portugal, but also as President of the Commission during these last ten years I’ve done my best to make this a strong relationship. And today when I was listening to this first speeches today I was also remembering some time I spent here in Washington, D.C., ’cause I was two years, four semesters, visiting professor at Georgetown University.

And let me tell you that the students that time were even much more disciplined than this audience when this (LAUGHTER) you were listening to the different speeches. (APPLAUSE) At that time I was always suspicious when I saw students coming to my course or my seminars with Coca-Cola or Pepsi Cola.

In Europe usually that does not happen. But I assume that tonight it’s a moment of conviviality and that we can also drink to this great relationship between Europe and United States. Now, dear friends and distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed a great honor to receive this award from such a prestigious institution and in such distinguished company.

I see many friends around here. I cannot mention all of them. But thank to all of them who came and also to share this moment with me and the other– recipients of this prize. I want to congratulate Atlantic Council for the great work you do. And I also warmly applaud my fellow honorees, Secretary Hagel, Tom Enders, General Dunford and Ruslana for their leadership, example and inspiration in their different fields of activity.

Let me make a special word to Ruslana, artist and activist, whose consistent advocacy for democratic change in Ukraine is quite remarkable. I assure you that European Union is strongly committed to supported the people of Ukraine as they are striving to turn their legitimate inspira– inspiration for peace, democracy and freedom into reality. (APPLAUSE)

European Union itself– is a child of the victory of peace and democracy over the forces of destruction and oppression. In a reaction to the traumatic events of our past, human dignity, freedom and justice lie at the very heart of European integration. And from the very beginning this has been a vision going well beyond our borders. Indeed the very first words of the European Union birth certificate, the famous Schuman Declaration, are not about Europe but about world peace. The European community, the European Union as you know started after the Second World War. (CLEARING THROAT) And so, the idea, the basic concept, was to put together former enemies and through economic integration promote in fact political union, promote this space that today we have in Europe of freedom and democracy.

And the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the European Union in 2012 was certainly an acknowledgement of our great achievements in the past building a peaceful, democratic, free Europe. But this is not about an idea of the past. It’s about what remains more than ever a project for the future.

The powerful images of Ukrainian protesters waving the European flag tells us more about this than a long speech could (?) do. They show this where they feel– that they feel that they belong emotionally, culturally, politically, they belong to Europe. Those young people in Ukraine that want to be closer to us and they were not allowed to be closer to us, because someone thought that a country, a sovereign country, a sovereign member of the United Nations in the 21st century has not the right to decide its own destiny. This is why (CLEARING THROAT) I want to say that tonight my thoughts are also with millions of people within (?) Ukraine and indeed all over the world are fighting for peace, for democracy, for freedom and human dignity. We will stand by them. (APPLAUSE)

Ladies and gentlemen, the attractiveness of Europe’s values, way of life, respect for cultural diversity, is something that I directly experience myself. I was 18 years of age. It was 40 years ago when my country, a very old European country, Portugal, for centuries of history, was leaving 48 years of dictatorship.

And this year we are commemorating my country the 40 anniversary of democracy. That’s why I feel so close to the new democracies of– central and eastern European countries. For my generation in Portugal or in Spain or in Greece and for the other generations now in Poland or Czech Republic or Hungary or the Baltic countries or Romania or Bulgaria or Slovenia, Europe, European Union appeared as a promise of democracy. NATO was critically important, but in fact the way to join European Union appeared to these countries as a way also of joining the more advanced democracies in the world.

Just a figure to give you– in 2004 when– the Poland joined the European Union the GDP per capita of Poland was more or less GDP per capita of Ukraine. Now it is more than three times bigger. This shows how powerful is European Union in terms of magnet, attraction, and also with the transformative power to bring these countries together. And yes– my first mandate as President of Commission started when we went from 15 to 25 countries. We are commemorating– today and these days the anniversary, the tenth anniversary, of this big enlargement. But now, when I will leave the European Commission presidency we are 28 countries.

If I was invited by you one or two years it will not be such a festive occasion, because when I was coming to the United States one or two years the question I was receiving more often was, “Is Greece going to exit? When is Greece going to exit euro? (LAUGHTER) When is the implosion of the euro? When is disintegration of the European Union?”

And today I can tell you, no, we did not disintegrate. You may trust European Union not only as a loyal partner, but also as a strong force that is resilient, because some of those analysts and commentators that were predicting the end of the euro, and they were certainly great experts in economy and finance, but they have underestimated the political logic behind the euro.

As Chancellor Merkel and many other great leaders in Europe said, we will stand by the euro, because the euro is more than a currency. It’s a symbol of the determination of the Europeans to stand together. And this was underestimated not only in our partners, but also in Europe itself.

So, it’s representing this European Union that has shown resilience, capacity to resist, and today we can say the euro area is a haven of stability. The euro is a credible, strong and stable currency. It’s representing this European Union that I’m speaking to you tonight and tell you that we need to do more together. And I think the recent events in the Ukraine, in the other parts of the world, show that we should never take peace for granted and that we should work together, United States and Europe, for this purpose. Because if you can make the deal on the transatlantic trade and investment partnership it will be the biggest ever bilateral trade and investment agreement made. But apart from the economic dimension, it is the biggest economic relation by any– way you analyze, the American-European Union relationship. That’s why the business community of both sides of the Atlantic are so supportive. Apart from the economic dimension I was saying we have the geopolitical dimension. It means that the two of the biggest economies in the world, Europe and the United States, open economies, open societies, sharing the same values, are able to make an agreement between themselves, with an agreement that will probably set the global standard.

So, what a great historic achievement it can be? So, my message today, or this evening, to you is let’s work to make it happen, not only for the benefit of course of the citizens of the European Union and of the United States but also of the world.

Because I believe that open societies and open economies have a lot to give to the world. I don’t believe those declenologue (PH), as we say sometimes in Europe, those who are preaching the decline of the values of the West, of developed (?) economies are right. I believe they are wrong. I believe the value of freedom, be it in economy or be it in politics is stronger than any other value. That’s why we have to come to that agreement. And I’m sure that you, the Atlantic Council, are going to give a very important contribution for that. (APPLAUSE)

I was proud that sometime ago– in the margin of a G8 Summit together with President Obama I’ve launched these negotiations for the transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. It is a platform to project our shared values worldwide with regard to open markets, democracy and the rule of law.

We can say to some extent that this transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership can become the economic pillar of our political alliance. Ladies and gentlemen, our long history and very rich history teaches us that capacity for change and renewal is as much in our European DNA as it is in the American one. And today United States-Europe partnership can again adapt and thrive amidst new challenge, play a leadership role in shaping this globalized world into a fairer, safer, rules-base, human-rights-abiding place.

And in pursuing this objectives we should all remember the world– the words of Abraham Lincoln, a man who also stood to the challenge of keeping the union of its country, of this country. And he said, “Let’s have faith that right makes might. And in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it.” I’m sure the Atlantic Council and the citizens of the European Union and the United States are ready to do their duty as they understand it.

Thank you very much for your distinction.