The 2012 Atlantic Council Freedom Awards honored Władysław Bartoszewski, chairman of the International Auschwitz Council, The National Endowment for Democracy, represented by NED President Carl Gershman; Emma Bonino, vice president of the Italian Senate and trustee of the Arab Democracy Foundation; and Moncef Marzouki, president of Tunisia on behalf of the people of Tunisia (award presented in absentia).
2012 Freedom Awards
Mayor of Wroclaw
President and CEO,
Lee A. Feinstein,
U.S. Ambassador to Poland
Vice President of the Italian Senate, Trustee of the Arab Democracy Foundation
President and Chief Executive Officer,
Telekomunikacja Polska SA;
Former President of the European Parliament and Former Prime Minister of Poland Jerzy Buzek;
National Endowment for Democracy;
Wife of Human Rights Activist Ales Bialiatski;
Belarus Free Theater;
Actor and Director;
Former President of Poland;
President of Tunisia
Hédi Ben Abbes,
Secretary of State to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tunisia, Americas and Asia;
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland;
Location: Wroclaw, Poland
Federal News Service
RAFAL DUTKIEWICZ: I wanted to ask Lee (sp) to be seated. Thanks. Ladies and gentlemen, that so many important people – I just wanted to say, welcome, everybody. Thank you very much. (Applause.) It happened few years ago in Visegrad President Walesa was asked to whom we owe the fall of communism. Who maked communist collapsed? And his answer was pretty funny, because he said, you know, 50 percent the pope John Paul II, 70 percent – no, no, 75 percent me – (laughter) – and maybe 15 percent Gorbachev. And then there was a journalist who asked him: Mr. President, what about President Reagan? You’re definitely right; Mr. Gorbachev must move aside a little. (Laughter.)
Ladies and gentlemen, there are people they were fighting for freedom. And then they made it happen. We have to honor those people. And there are people that are still fighting for freedom. And we have to support those people. This is what the Freedom Award is about. I am very honored; I am very proud. We really appreciate the Freedom Award is somehow connected with the city of Wroclaw. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
FREDERICK KEMPE: Thank you. As you know by now, I’m Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. And Mayor Dutkiewicz, thank you so much for your opening remarks and setting the tone for this evening. I want to just say a couple of words about a hippopotamus. (Laughter.) Ambassador Feinstein was too diplomatic to answer Foreign Minister Sikorski’s reference to the U.S. as a hippopotamus. And we are nationally insulted by this. (Laughter.)
Actually I’m just joking. But let me just say this – I want to answer the hippopotamus reference by capturing the essence of the Atlantic Council. Stay with me. First of all, it’s the Atlantic Council’s purpose to drain the water out of the mud and create a very nice meadow in which – so the hippopotamus, as you know – for those of you who weren’t there, Foreign Minister Sikorski said, to be an ally of the U.S. is like being a hippopotamus in the mud. And then when it turns on its side, you’re crushed. And Poland would scream, and that would be policy. So I’m answering that right now.
First of all, I think he captured in a way the essence of this whole meeting, Wroclaw Global Forum Freedom Awards and the Atlantic Council, because our job is to turn the mud into a lush meadow of democracy and human rights. And the United States doesn’t really aspire to be a hippo turning around. We’re really trying to be more nimble and more wise but no less impressive. And we realize in this meadow, with this impressive, nimble and wise beast, that it would not be nearly as inviting if it were not for Poland’s role in the history of changing Europe and widening democracy and expanding Europe eastward. And to a large extent, we are also recognizing Europe’s meaning for the free world. So not a hippopotamus in the mud; a nimble, wise beast on the meadow, dancing around with Poland and our European allies. That’s my image. (Applause.)
First, a couple of rules. Feel free to begin eating. Though it may be against protocol in Poland, it very much works here tonight. There’ll also be a break at the half point of this evening for dinner, when you can talk and engage with your table mates with less restraint. When we conclude the awards ceremony tonight, also please allow our staff to guide you to the terrace, where we will have a very special treat for you. The mayor says I can’t tell you what it will be; only that it will be enormously special, and you can continue to engage in conversations with your fellow guests afterwards.
I do want you to join me in a round of applause for one of the most dramatic demonstrations of U.S.-Polish cooperation and success, and that’s the combination of the local team here in Wroclaw and my Atlantic Council team. You’ve really done a terrific job. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, I am just honored to welcome you to the fourth annual Freedom Awards dinner and the third in Wroclaw. On behalf of the Atlantic Council, I want to thank you for coming to this always-important occasion when we honor not only those courageous figures who battle for freedom – individual freedom, democratic freedom, economic freedom, religious freedom – but rather we also celebrate what we stand for as the trans-Atlantic world and friends, which is ultimately a community of values.
Some believe it was an unfortunate distraction that President Obama made his misstatement this week. I’m actually of another view. Whatever the cause of the misstatement, I believe the misunderstandings of this week – the apparent insensitivity on one side, the apparent perhaps oversensitivity on the other side – show that we’re not communicating well enough together. We’re not understanding each other well enough together. And it demonstrates the usefulness of the Wroclaw Global Forum and our Freedom Awards and has reconfirmed us in our passion to go forward.
We need to bring more Americans to this part of the world so that we remain engaged and educated in the new generation. And we have to bring Americans together with Central and East Europeans, with their Polish neighbors, to reconfirm our commitment to democracy and progress on the world stage. Nothing could more dramatically remind Poles and Americans that we have a relationship that has helped change the history of Europe than the awards ceremony tonight. And we can continue to make common cause to help change history.
But we dare not forget, in a misunderstanding like this week’s, that the underlying values and opportunities are the most important part of this. It’s an interesting news story this week, but we as a community of influence – all of us here tonight – owe it to ourselves to say, what do we wish to make of it? I would suggest an even more pronounced U.S.-Polish commitment to the work of the Wroclaw Global Forum and our annual Freedom Awards, which we put in Poland because we do know that Gdansk was a Polish shipyard. (Applause.)
Mr. Mayor, it’s a privilege for us to host this dinner for the third time in the vibrant and charming city of Wroclaw. Thank you and to your team for this three-time success. I also want to thank the U.S. Embassy and Ambassador Lee Feinstein – dear friend, outstanding diplomat and one of this evening’s co-chairs, in many respects one of the co-founders of this initiative. Thanks also to the other co-chair of this evening, Ambassador Robert Kupiecki, who could not join us tonight but is a valuable supporter of the Atlantic Council. We work together with him very closely in Washington.
Indeed, at this point I’d like to have all board members and international board members of the Atlantic Council who are here to stand as they are named. And then please hold your applause until I’m through with the list. President Aleksander Kwaśniewski; (Continuous applause.) Dr. Jan Kolchuk (sp). Ana Palacio – (applause) – the former Spanish foreign minister. Ellen Tauscher, previous congresswoman, undersecretary of state special envoy. Tsvetan Vasilev, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Corporate Commercial Bank. Rick Burt, former Ambassador to Germany. Bob Abernathy, California entrepreneur. Maciej Witucki our only Polish board member. And Rafael Dutkiewicz, our great friend and one of our few lifetime honorary members honored last evening.
Warm thanks must also go out to the Polish foreign ministry and Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski – (applause) – as well as our think tank partners in Poland, the Polish Institute for International Affairs, the Center for International Relations, and the Institute for Public Affairs. (Applause.)
The Freedom Awards were inaugurated in 2009 on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. These awards are meant to honor exceptional individuals, organizations and people that fight for freedom around the world. Tonight we are recognizing key figures and institutions who have changed the course of history with their courageous defense of democracy and human rights.
We do have several previous awardees in the room, and I ask them to stand as we name them. And by the way, we intend in future years to invite all the previous awardees here next year in Wroclaw.
Please stand. Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski. (Applause.) President Aleksander Kwasniewski, former prime minister – (applause) – former Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek. Tonight we also have in our audience Natalia Kaliada of the Belarus Free Theater. (Applause.) Natalia Kaliada could not be with us last year to accept her organization’s award in person, but we are thrilled that she has joined us tonight. Thank you, Natalia, for being here, and we wish you and your country the best. (Applause.)
When we sat in this room last year, we were in awe of the incredible transitions taking place in the Arab world. And today we can look back at what has been achieved and know that, as Minister Sikorski so aptly put it, at last year’s Wroclaw Global Forum, quote, “There is a democracy gene that all people have.” Everyone has the fundamental desire to control their destiny. We just saw Egypt undergo its first democratic presidential election with record voter turnout. The Tunisian people, who we will honor tonight, participated in an election last October and now find themselves led by a president who has committed his life to advancing human rights and democratic values. We will honor him.
But there is still work to be done, not only in the Middle East, where the people of Syria continue to suffer under a brutal and vile regime, but also here in Europe. Belarus remains repressed by Lukashenko’s tyrannical leadership, leaving countless citizens deprived of their civil rights and freedom. Ukraine has taken an unhappy turn. We would like to lure Russia closer to Europe, but instead it distances itself. These unfortunate realities – and we must say them straight, and we must deal with them here – remind us all of our responsibility to demand freedom for all the people around the world.
The city of Wroclaw and the Polish people know the importance of solidarity in times of turmoil and transformation. They know the risks that accompany a courageous stand against oppression. Tonight’s honorees stand out for their fearless perseverance against tyranny and corruption.
This evening, we will honor the people of Tunisia for boldly initiating a historic wave of change throughout North Africa and the Middle East. President Moncef Marzouki, Tunisia’s president, will accept the award on their behalf via video message. He has played a crucial role in guiding his country through its democratic transition.
We are delighted to honor Emma Bonino, Vice President of the Italian Senate and trustee of the Arab Democracy Foundation, as an awardee this year. Never afraid to take a stand on delicate but important issues, she has been a trailblazer in defending civil liberties and is one of the first supporters of democracy in the Arab world.
We will also honor Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, an Auschwitz survivor, former minister of foreign affairs, and current chairman – (applause) – an Auschwitz survivor, former minister of foreign affairs and current chairman – (applause) – of the Council for the Protection of the Memory for the Struggle of Martyrdom, who will accept a Freedom Award for his incredible lifelong service – lifelong means 90 years – to Polish freedom.
A Freedom Award will also be presented to the National Endowment for Democracy – (applause) – represented by its president, Carl Gershman. The National Endowment for Democracy has tirelessly championed the growth of democracy by strengthening civil society in nearly every corner of the world. This work needs to be consistent; it needs to take place over years. They’ve been there all the way. You’ll hear some remarkable stories from him and see photos tonight that I hope will appear in every Wroclaw and Polish and perhaps other newspapers.
And to conclude this evening, we will pay special tribute to Ales Byalyatski, Belarusians’ human rights defender, chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” and a 2011 Atlantic Council Freedom Awardee. In August 2011, just two months after we honored him, Ales was arrested by Belarusian authorities and was sentenced to 4 ½ years in prison. We are saddened but also honored to highlight his struggle this evening with the help of a couple of very special guests, actor and director Andrzej Seweryn and Ales’ wife, Natalia Pinchuk (sp). (Applause.)
Each year we are always proud to have such an impressive lineup of introducers to present the awards to our honorees, which also signals their support for this cause. This year is no different. Thank you again to President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, Foreign Minister Sikorski, Prime Minister Buzek and Atlantic Council board director Maciej Witucki as – for acting as introducers for this special evening. It’s a huge pleasure to see you all here tonight. And I’m thrilled we have been able to engage so many past Freedom Award honorees in this year’s dinner. I expect that we will all leave here tonight with a renewed resolve to support those standing up for freedom around the world.
Let me now give the floor to my friend, Ambassador Lee Feinstein, one of this evening’s distinguished co-chairs. (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR LEE FEINSTEIN: Good evening, everyone. And Mayor Dutkiewicz, congratulations on another spectacular event here in Wroclaw, making us feel all welcome and stimulating us to think about the importance of the trans-Atlantic relationship. (In Polish.) (Applause.)
It’s a great privilege to be to the co-host of the Atlantic Council’s Freedom Awards. These Freedom Awards were brought to Wroclaw for an obvious reason. They are here in Poland because of Poland’s historical transition, perhaps the most successful transition of the second half of the 20th century. And it’s magic that the Freedom Awards take place together with the trans-Atlantic forum. The Freedom Awards and the Wroclaw Global Forum reinforce one another and remind us why we’re all here together.
The Freedom Awards recognize the effort of courageous individuals and institutions to channel and focus the universal desire for freedom into real-world results. In practical terms, these efforts include not only inspiring other countries to reform, but actually sharing with them practical lessons we have learned about empowering civil society and building democratic institutions. Today, promoting democracy around the world is not a boutique item in our foreign policy; it’s at the heart of our foreign policy.
Poland was in fact the inspiration for many U.S. and global democracy promotion efforts. In response to the solidarity movement struggle, President Reagan called on the U.S. Congress to establish the National Endowment for Democracy, which we honor tonight. In his speech to the British parliament, President Reagan called for the creation of an institution to foster the infrastructure of democracy, the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities, which allows a people to choose their own way, to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means.
Today, Poland is at the heart of the trans-Atlantic effort to promote democracy. And I’m proud to say that Poland and the United States are also close partners in promoting democracy. As Foreign Minister Sikorski said recently, “The United States and Poland get on especially well whenever and wherever we decide to join forces and foster the ideals of freedom and democracy.” And indeed, together we have worked closely on promoting democracy around the globe from Belarus to Benghazi.
Last spring, the United States and Poland launched a U.S.-Poland democracy dialogue, and now we have several joint initiatives not only in the eastern neighborhood, but also in North Africa and the Middle East. And we’re very, very proud and honored and we congratulate the foreign ministry for establishing the European Endowment for Democracy, modeled on America’s National Endowment for Democracy.
Poland’s leading role in the reinvigorated community of democracies, which was founded in Warsaw in this country by Professor Bronislaw Geremek and Secretary Albright, has ensured that this global platform for promoting democracy and freedom continues to give hope and voice to millions around the world. And Carl Gershman assures me that the community of democracies continues to be effective and is well on its way to playing an important role in the developments we’re seeing around the world. These institutions and initiatives are only a few powerful examples of the role Poland has assumed as one of the premier advocates of democracy, human rights and freedom around the world.
When President Obama was here last May, he said in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Tusk that Poland brings special credibility and urgency to democracy promotion because of the success of its example and because of the – how recent its example was. And he was right. I’m therefore honored now to introduce a leader who has worked tirelessly to cement the trans-Atlantic relationship and to strengthen the ties between the United States and Poland. In a country of many friends of the United States, there is none more steadfast than President Aleksander Kwaśniewski. (Applause.)
You know the story. President Kwaśniewski led Poland during a critical decade in its history. Thanks to his inspired and act of leadership, Poland was the first in the group of Central and East European countries to join NATO. Five years later, he successfully chartered Poland’s entry into the EU. And he remains committed to building a Europe whole and free. And as Fred said, for these efforts, President Kwaśniewski was awarded a Freedom Award in 2010.
On President Kwaśniewski’s watch, Poland also continued its political and economic transformation, laying the groundwork for Poland’s current economic strength and dynamism.
As Polish president, he led by example. He was, as we say in the United States, a uniter, not a divider, always looking for common ground and ways to bring people together. I was just in Washington, and I just was talking to the president of Georgetown University. And we were talking about President Kwaśniewski and his ability to inspire students.
President Kwaśniewski has been a vocal advocate for democratic reform and tolerance worldwide. You know about the role he played in Ukraine in 2004. And today, he still champions those Ukrainians who seek a greater voice in their daily lives. And he talked about that today earlier during the Wroclaw Global Forum.
Today he is bringing the experiences of Poland’s successful transition to North Africa and the Middle East. President Kwaśniewski support has given hope, know-how and practical tools to democracy activists. In doing so, he helps to bring fledgling societies into the broader Community of Democracies, providing examples and models and giving people the confidence to believe that if Poland can do it, so can you.
At the most recent meeting of the Community of Democracies, President Kwaśniewski told his audience: No democracy can be an island. Democracy is not only something you believe in, but also something you do. You do it at home and you support it elsewhere. This is a duty – call it civic or moral duty. The French used to say “noblesse oblige,” I say democracy oblige (ph).
Thank you, Mr. President, for your commitment to promoting democracy and freedom in Poland’s neighborhood and beyond. (Applause.) (Inaudible) – the floor is yours.
ALEKSANDER KWASNIEWSKI: Ambassador Feinstein, thank you for that kind, splendid introduction. Ladies and gentlemen, excellencies, dear friends, it is an honor to join you all here this evening to recognize such a remarkable group of honorees. I am particularly delighted to introduce our first honoree tonight, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, who is accepting a freedom award on behalf of the people of Tunisia.
Of course – (applause) – of course presidents have very difficult schedules, particularly presidents of nations in transition. I know something about it. (Laughter.) President Marzouki was not able to join us in person this evening. We will, however, be able to enjoy his remarks via video message.
To the people of Tunisia, President Marzouki’s far more than a head of state. He’s personification of their brave fight for democracy – a fight that sparked a historic wave of change throughout North Africa and the Middle East, because long before being elected president in December of 2011, President Marzouki was one of them – a physician who dedicated his life to human rights and political activism.
An active organizer of many key human rights institutions in Tunisia, Marzouki faced constant harassment from the Ben Ali regime as his determination and courage threatened the government’s corrupt rule. Yet even after being arrested several times for his political dissidence, he did not shy away from standing up to Tunisian authorities. President Marzouki was forced into exile in 2002 after his political party, the Congress for the Republic, was banned by the regime. However, his exile to Paris did not impede his fight from a democratic Tunisia. He remained an outspoken critic of the autocratic government, using social media to reach – stay connected with other activists.
Meanwhile, the citizens of Tunisia had had enough. One young man in particular, a bright, young vegetable seller with a university degree expressed his frustration by setting himself on fire as a final desperate attempt to exhibit his free will. Clearly enough was enough. The citizens of Tunisia knew it was time to take a stand. They fearlessly united against the government and, in early 2011, overthrew the Ben Ali regime. At such a fragile moment for Tunisia’s stability, citizens needed a leader they could trust to put the country’s well-being before his own interests. President Marzouki had dedicated his entire life to the achievement of this very moment, making him the perfect person to take on the daunting tasks.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the Tunisian revolution – there are many – is the influence it has had on the rest of North Africa and the Middle East. Oppressed societies have witnessed Tunisia’s incredible transition and now know that such a triumph is possible.
This triumph of freedom over corruption, democracy over autocracy, would not have been possible without the bravery of the Tunisian people. They have proven to the world that citizens have the power to make their governments accountable for their citizens’ human rights. This was an unprecedented accomplishment in the region and has beaten a path of revolution in countries where the world never thought it would see democracy.
While the path remains bumpy, the past year has witnessed remarkable transition in North Africa and the Middle East, and the democratic electoral process is already being overwhelmingly embraced by citizens in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Tunisia’s coalition government proves what can be achieved when political parties put citizens’ needs first and to cooperate for the betterment of society. Recent Egyptian elections encouraged people to vote for the very first time in their lives, finally knowing that the vote would count. And in Libya, millions have already registered to vote in anticipation of an upcoming election.
One of the other great victories of the Arab Awakening has been the explosion of a flourishing civil society in the region where it had previously been forced into the margins of society if it even existed at all. By working directly with these local organizations, the U.S. and Europe can revitalize their development cooperation with the region.
And while there have been so, so many triumphs, there is still much to be done. The challenge now is to ensure that these new democracies are supported by strong economies. The United States and Europe must rise to meet this challenge, for the success of this remarkable transition will be lost if the people who fought so bravely are denied the opportunity to participate in a growing economy and improved education systems and infrastructures.
Dear friends, that is why evenings such as this are so important. We must remember that this is only the beginning. The fight for freedom is long, and we cannot grow tired.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being here. Let me now bring your attention to the screen for the important video from the Tunisian president, Moncef Marzouki. (Applause.)
(Begin video segment.)
PRESIDENT MONCEF MARZOUKI: Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Kempe, it is with great pleasure today to convey to you on my own behalf – (inaudible) – my warmest thanks – (inaudible) – 2012 Atlantic Council Freedom Award. Your kind and generous – (off mic) – to succeed in our democratic transition and – (inaudible) – of the Tunisian revolution, which – or rather, the Arab awakening, a truly positive and inspiring experience.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Kempe, while I profoundly treasure the precious token of gratitude and generosity, I sincerely wish for the success to your outstanding organization for its tremendous work in the service of freedom and peace and express the hope that our endeavors would be up to the expectations you are pressing in us and the recognition to which this auspicious ceremony testifies.
Thank you all.
MR. : Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Mr. Hedi Ben Abbes, secretary of state to the minister of foreign affairs in charge of the Americas and Asia, to accept the award on behalf of President Marzouki and the people of Tunisia. Applause, please. (Applause.)
HEDI BEN ABBES: Thank you all.
Mr. President, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the president of Tunisia, His Excellency President Mohamed Moncef Marzouki, and on behalf of the Tunisian people, I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this distinguished award granted to the president and to the people at this very special period of our history. I also feel very grateful to the efforts made in order to be recognition to the Tunisian people for the efforts they have made, for the achievements they also have made in order to gain their freedom. And they did pay a dear price for that.
Now it is up to the representatives of this great and courageous people to write a constitution. And in that constitution, we wish them to write and to engrave with golden letters the word “freedom,” which is a central word in our lives. Please – (applause) – please be assured that today in Tunisia, democracy is a one-way road. There will be no returning back. Freedom once, freedom twice, freedom thrice will breathe you when we wake up in the morning. We will embrace you all day long. We will feel your warmth when we go to sleep. And whatever may happen, we will always cherish you.
Thank you so much. (Applause.)
FREDERICK KEMPE: Thank you for that poetic acceptance.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is an enormous honor to welcome our next introducer to the stage, Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski. Minister Sikorski, as we all know, has a lifetime of experience working for democracy and freedom. As foreign minister, he has led Poland with incredible ambition, launching the Eastern Partnership Initiative and pushing for the establishment of a European Endowment for Democracy. The Atlantic Council has been honored to host Minister Sikorski at our events in Washington, including our annual Bronislaw Geremek Lecture, where he appeared with Senator John McCain, also a freedom awardee.
Last year Radoslaw – he accepted the Freedom Award on behalf of the people of Poland and reminded us all, as he spoke of Poland’s remarkable history and bright future, that, quote, “ideas and values can be stronger than the chains of tyranny.”
Radek, my friend, the stage is yours. (Applause.)
MINISTER RADOSLAW SIKORSKI: Ladies and gentlemen, when it comes to human rights, the honorable Emma Bonino, vice president of the Italian Senate, is no armchair activist. Whether behind the erstwhile Iron Curtain, in black Africa, the Arab world, Central Asia or the Far East, she always rolled up her sleeves and walked the walk. Arrests in Poland under martial law, the communist Prague or the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan did not deter her.
As a Pole, I’m particularly grateful to you that in the dreamy days of Western Europe’s Ostpolitik, you reminded Italian politicians that the rights of the Solidarity trade unions were not a triviality, in the context of their business dealings with the Eastern bloc. I’m glad that back then when it took courage, as a member of the European Parliament, you mobilized your colleagues to stand up for the rights of conscientious objectors. And the collapse of communism, you were aware, did not bring about a universal triumph of democracy.
Your strategic foresight is legendary. Appointed to become the EU commissioner for health, consumer protection and humanitarian affairs, instead of heading straight to Brussels, Emma Bonino first went to Tuzla, just as the fires of Srebrenica were burning out. We are facing genocide, she correctly diagnosed, at a time when few had the audacity to call spade a spade. Soon she would start urging the international community to indict Milosevic. And partly thanks to her effort, he ended up at The Hague for good. Today, thanks to the International Criminal Court, which Emma Bonino helped to bring about, dictators who engage in genocide can no longer assume that their crimes will go unpunished.
In 1997 Emma Bonino had Kalashnikov assault rifles pointed at her by the Taliban, who were not exactly thrilled by her flier for Women of Kabul campaign. Yet in Kabul, she made the point that the West is not an uninvolved bystander in the Afghan conflict and should bring political pressure to bear on the Taliban. Today a colleague of hers in the Radical Party claims that perhaps we wouldn’t have had 9/11 if we had listened to Emma Bonino and taken action. As a longtime friend of the Afghan people, I share the sentiment.
I met Emma seven years ago in Washington. She was speaking at the institute I worked at the time, the American Enterprise Institute, about women as a revolutionary force in the Arab world – seven years ago. At that time, few would have thought that women, long disenfranchised, especially in the Arab world, could be a vanguard for change. But now, in the wake of Arab Spring, we are all in awe at the contribution that women like Ezra Abdul-Fatah (ph), honored at this forum last year, or Lina Benmini (ph), have brought to the struggle for reforms. Whether in Cuba through the nonviolent resistance of the Dames in White, also celebrated here, or in Burma, thanks to the moral compass set by Aung San Suu Kyi, no one anymore has the slightest doubt that women are a force of change.
Emma, I wish most men were as effective as you are. (Applause.) Oh, I cannot do justice to your many accomplishments. I’m glad that you have given such a strong backing to the community of democracies, which we launched in Warsaw in 2000. Democratic governance should, and indeed as you advocate, is a criterion for membership in good standing at the United Nations. Like everybody in this room, I know that just in the past, you will never tire of advocating democracy, because as you said, any achievement in human rights, and women’s rights in particular, is not forever, and that it is has to be preserved and struggled for time and again. I am delighted to be able to present to you this freedom award. Please accept it. (Applause.)
EMMA BONINO: Don’t go away. I will be short. (Laughter.) Friends, ladies and gentlemen, ambassador, authorities, et cetera, et cetera, I understand – (inaudible) – I went to the website and et cetera, and so I understand that extraordinary individuals and eminent organization that have championed the cause of freedom around the world receive these awards in the past. So I’m really deeply honored to join such an outstanding group, and I’m sincerely thankful to the Atlantic Council for this important and prestigious recognition. Thank you for your kind and touching words. Sometimes I feel out in the cold.
MR. : Don’t we all.
MS. BONINO: So thank you. And I hope to continue being up to them.
By the way, in the letter I received from Fred Kempe telling me that I was among the recipients of the Freedom Awards, I kept running into this rather Wild West something term, trailblazer – (laughter) – that I’d never heard before. So why I spend so much time in learning foreign languages? This I don’t know. (Laughter.) But anyhow, so – (applause) – nobody learns Italian but we are obliged to learn foreign languages, and then you discover you don’t understand, but anyhow. (Laughter.)
So I was rather relieved to find out that it refers to someone that is an innovator, a forerunner; in short, a pioneer – and exactly and precisely because human rights, civil liberties and fundamental freedoms have no boundaries and an ever-shifting horizon that the expression trailblazer, now that I know what it means, is indeed particularly appropriate.
You cannot be a forerunner in this field if you don’t have the passion, the determination and also the imagination. It needs to push ahead and go forward more often than not in very difficult circumstances and hostile environments, most of the time from your own friends. (Laughter, applause.)
In many countries, mine, for example, during these two days of debate, the issue of democracy being at risk in our society was at the center of our discussions. And in my country’s (example ?), this is an issue of great concern. Democracy has been taken for granted for too long, as if democracy did not need to be continuously nurtured and protected. So we are preaching democracy to the outside world; sometimes we forget our own situation.
On the contrary, I think as we have witnessed in a fast-changing world, fear of the unknown, uncertainty over the future have opened the door to a wave of populism, intolerance, xenophobia, with a sweeping effect throughout the continent. Populism in particular is a disease that threatens the checks and balance of liberal democracy.
And strengthening trans-Atlantic leadership of global values is the council mission, and if so, finding a way on how to live together, combining freedom and diversity within the rule of law is our big challenge for the still-young 21st century, a challenge to which we must respond in a more effective and trailblazing way – (laughter) – whether on this side or on the other side of the Atlantic.
(Inaudible) – I’m Italian by birth, by love, by culture. I’m a European by determination and by passion. I am a global citizen because human rights are no different from Siberia to South Africa, from Asia to Latin America.
And I’m glad that I’m here today with you with good friends, with Ana Palacio and President Brok (ph). I saw we just spent two days (exciting ?) debating in Berlin inside the European Council on Foreign Relations exactly what to do.
And I simply hope that whatever the complexity – people keep telling you, oh, the situation are very complex, very complex, which is the (departing ?) point of doing almost nothing. (Laughter.) I’ve never seen in my life a simple situation anyhow. (Laughter.)
But yes, behind this very complicated issue, there are very simple point. For instance – and I’m talking to my Arab friends and African friends – it’s high time that you stop cutting your children, right? Stop female genital mutilation. It has no sense, no value. It’s just a torture. (Applause.) So in the meantime, we look for any kind of broad revolution; a simple, very simple point, I want a worldwide ban against female genital mutilation. Please join us. (Applause.) (Inaudible.)
FREDERICK KEMPE: Emma Bonino, that was very inspiring. Thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s my pleasure to welcome our next introducer, Maciej Witucki. Let me just say two things quickly about Maciej Witucki. First of all, let me talk about him as an Atlantic Council – perhaps one of our most dedicated, creative board members.
A good board member is someone who, behind the scenes and without embarrassing its president and CEO, tells him when he’s getting things wrong. Maciej does do that. A great board member is a person who comes up with absolutely brilliant ideas and initiatives and never takes the credit and lets the president and CEO take the credit. I really appreciate that side of you even more, Maciej. The Wroclaw Global Forum was one of our crazy brainstorm ideas where Maciej said there is this absolutely brilliant, innovative mayor in a city called Wroclaw, and I think he may be really interested in brainstorming something really creative, global and innovative, and so that’s where it all started.
Maciej, as a business executive, is not just a business leader, chief executive of Polish Telecom, he’s an innovator who understands that his influence can reach far beyond the board room, and it was that mentality that inspired us here. So let me join – let me – please join me in welcoming him to the stage, a role he doesn’t always eagerly play, but I think it’s time to take you from behind the scenes to here as an introducer this evening. Again, thank you. (Applause.)
MACIEJ WITUCKI: Thank you, Fred, for this, as usual, too short and over-exaggerated introduction.
So ladies and gentlemen, we have seen those days how dangerous it’s to follow this – the prompters, so I will support myself with a piece of paper – (laughter) – and to tell you how great pleasure and honor it’s to me to introduce Wladyslaw Bartoszewski.
It seldom happens that one person lives tells the story of the whole century, of the 20th century. When Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, here present, was 17, he was stretcher-bearer during the German siege of Warsaw in 1939. When he was 21, he was a member of the Polish resistance and a member of the Polish Council to Aid Jews, Zegota. When the war ended and he confessed to have taken fight for the Polish Home Army, he was imprisoned by the communist regime for many years. When he was finally freed and rehabilitated with the help of the former member of Zegota, Zofia Rudnicka, he was awarded the award Righteous Among the Nations.
When he was 35 he had been jailed for both – by both Nazis and communists for almost a decade. He would go on to dismiss this by saying quite simply, the dictators didn’t like me. The feeling was, and is, reciprocated. (Laughter.) He said it in 1995, when as a foreign minister, he was the first Pole to speak between the joint assemblies, in front of the joint assemblies of Bundestag and Bundesrat at the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of the second world war. For many, this would be the autumn of their years. For Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, it was not even the middle of his political career, which still continues. He went on to again become the foreign minister in Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek’s government in 2000 and oversaw the key moment of the Polish EU accession negotiations.
If ever there was a person who symbolized the difficult history of the 20th century, it would be Wladyslaw Bartoszewski. He has had the misfortune to have witnessed the tragedy and the atrocities of the second world war and the (bleak sadness ?) of freedomless everyday life behind the Iron Curtain. At the same time, the same person was a pioneer of the Polish-German reconciliation and the Polish-Jewish friendship. He has been and still is bringing together nation and peoples, despite their difficult histories. When I think of my youngest son and I want to tell him what hope is, I think that his life, Wladyslaw’s life, could be the best and the most beautiful example of that.
Freedom Award are given to extraordinary people who defended and advanced the cause of freedom around the world. This in itself is more than enough from one’s lifetime. For Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, it is just a fraction of what he has given to this land and to his people. Professor Bartoszewski has often underlined that he owes very much to the fact that he was born in a free Poland and schooled in ethos of patriotism of – and a love of freedom. This dedication was put by test by two terrible totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. And his life – he has been graduating with honors. Ladies and gentlemen, please salute Wladyslaw Bartoszewski. (Applause.)
WLADYSLAW BARTOSZEWSKI: (Through interpreter.) Ladies and gentlemen, when, a few months ago, I was celebrating in the Royal Castle in Warsaw my 90thanniversary, I was told, at 90 years, you have a right to speak for nine minutes. Today I shan’t apply the same principle, and therefore I will speak a bit shorter, perhaps with less diplomacy, at least, and perhaps with less diplomacy than the secretary of the state of the current prime minister, because I am Wladyslaw Bartoszewski.
Yes, I’m Catholic, the citizen of Europe, and similar as my Italian colleague Emma Bonino, I’m also the citizen of the world because I am always on the side of persecuted and punished and oppressed.
It’s not because I chose this particular road. No, this road was chosen for me because I was 18 years old when I became one of the first few thousand – one of the first few thousand prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp, which was created by Nazis on Polish territory. I managed to survive spring – autumn, winter and spring in the camp. And as a result of the efforts of the Red Cross, for which I worked before the war, and they had no materials against me, they were able to free me because there were no charges against me. I was only a schoolboy before the war.
And therefore I became a member of the group that was condemned for being somebody and something, and was persecuted. War changed everything and ruined my life because I was the son of a bank clerk and I was expecting a prosperous and easy life, and instead the matter of freedom, this freedom became obsession to me, and I started acting in a group called Zegota, which was trying to defend Jewish community prosecuted and condemned to death. And thanks to that activity, for the last 40-odd years, I’m one of the just among the citizens of the world and I’ve become an honorary citizen of the state of Israel. (Applause.) And as far as I know, no country in the world had a foreign affairs minister who is at the same time honorary of the – Israel. In the scope of my work, it became some kind of benefit.
And suddenly in my 90th year, an ecumenical with supranational miracle happened. On the same day I got simultaneously two letters from two eminent figures – the pope, Benedict XVI, who expressed in a very gratifying and important way, as – for me as a Catholic, expressing respect to my efforts on the reconciliation between the Polish, Jewish and German nations. At the same time, I have a letter from Shimon Peres, addressing me as “dear Wladyslaw.” Can you tell me another politician in this world, another person in this world who can receive such two letters on a birthday?
But it doesn’t matter for me. It matters for Poland. The fact that I am here today is particularly moving to me because, despite receiving several orders’ medals and rewards for my efforts, I can only say that among the most important ones for me is the title of honorary citizen of the state of Israel because it is an expression of my efforts for trying to save other people, even under completely hopeless conditions.
It – so it happens that in the last few weeks in 1942, Jan Karski spent his time with me and – before he left Poland, and sometimes I think if he was able to look down on us – because for the last 12 years he’s not with us anymore – what would he think about today’s world? Is it a world that is free of threats that he was challenged with in his day? Is it different to the time when he was taking out microfilms and documents which were meant to warn the world that in the conditions of the organized hatred, the crime happens, and trying to prevent crime?
And of course, in the conditions of conspiracy and fight for democracy in my country, and for 18 years after the war, I was a conscious (ph) but undercover collaborator with Radio Free Europe, and I gained a very high opinion of my American allies, of my colleagues from Radio Free Europe. And here I will also add a literary anecdote, because I’m also a journalist and a writer. I was chairman of the Pen (sp) Club for several years. I can just remember that when Mr. Kozaminski (ph) was the Polish ambassador in Washington and he had great achievements for the cause of contacts and relations between Poland and the United States, I was really his boss and I went to the States as part of official visits.
And the two of us were invited to the headquarters of CIA, which are located outside Washington. And when we were arriving there, we saw, oh, look – (inaudible) — are waiting for people below the position of the prime minister? And we met, obviously, Mr. Studerman (ph), who was the head of CIA at that time. And we were introduced, and I said, perhaps I’ll say something about myself? No, he says, we know everything about you. Luckily, others didn’t know everything about me, and thanks to that, for those 18 years I was able to work for Radio Free Europe.
Ladies and gentlemen, my fate, God, rewarded me in such a way for my efforts that I was able to see the improvement and the reconciliation between the Polish and German nation. And in my speech in German Parliament, I was able to make unprecedented – it was an unprecedented event. I was able to make a speech of 90 minutes to the German nation. And next day – I wouldn’t be a writer if I wasn’t curious—next day I found out from the media that the German television noted a 20 million audience share because there was a very high interest in my speech. In Poland there was no such reflection. However, there was a very strong response in other countries.
Soon after, I was invited to the Goethe Institute in Tokyo to share my experience in reconciliation with the enemy. I didn’t know much about Japan at the time; however, I knew a lot about enemy, about contempt, about dehumanization. And therefore, to follow, in this audience I would like to mention some of my friends. Among the dead is obviously Mr. Havel; among the living, Mr. Varenza (ph), Mr. Budzig (ph), and some supposedly significant people, such as Alder Mitnik (ph) or Halla Wudziwa (ph). It’s a great joy to me and great honor that I am numbered among such people and of course dear friends.
May — the enemies are not here, and perhaps they are somewhere else. We don’t have to be friendly and be pleasant to them because love of the other human being, that we’d have to go that far. I think that we should raise once again this issue: There is no freedom without responsibility. There is no responsibility without respect for the dignity of every person, never mind what’s religion, race or creed they belong to. There is no way for group qualification of people, qualifying them according to some key. You can do it with dogs. People from any race , gender, age, country, continent are the same and have equal rights. And I don’t think we have such problems in this audience; however, I’m going to raise my voice and raise my voice again, as I always did, against xenophobia, anti-Semitism covered up as anti-Zionism, against racism. You shouldn’t be this or the other; you should simply be a human being.
I can just say – and this is the ending anecdote – in February 2011, I was on a business trip as a part of a government delegation in Israel, and at some point Mr. Netanyahu publicly kissed me while we were on the stage. And then later on I heard comments from German and American Jews: And you allowed Netanyahu to kiss you? Well, am I supposed to still participate in the conflicts in my people in one small country?
Let’s respect all the people, and let’s try to like them. It is not always nice. Those people don’t always make it easy for us. But those who like people live longer. (Laughter.) It is a very practical advice. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. : It’s my great pleasure tonight to have the opportunity to introduce another introducer, one of Poland’s greatest proponents of spreading democracy and freedom in Eastern Europe and around the world, Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek. (Applause.)
Prime Minister Buzek has demonstrated his dedication to the cause of freedom in many ways beginning with his early membership in the nascent Solidarity trade union movement in 1980. He quickly rose through the union’s top ranks and chaired the national congress in 1981. During martial law, he was one of Solidarity’s key underground leaders and he remained active in Solidarity as it grew and ultimately brought an end to the communist regime not only in this country but across the region.
As head of the Polish government from 1997 to 2001, Prime Minister Buzek worked together with President Kwaśniewski to bring Poland into NATO and to set Poland on the path to membership in the European Union. And as the first Central European president of the European Parliament, Prime Minister Buzek was a champion of human rights around the world, calling for reforms in China, in North Africa and Central Asia. During his presidency, Prime Minister Buzek was a strong defender and supporter of all people fighting for freedom, democracy and human dignity, whether in Tahrir Square in Cairo or Martyrs’ Square in Tripoli.
In 2010 I sat in this room as both Prime Minister Buzek and President Kwasniewski were among the first to receive Atlantic Council Freedom Awards here in Wroclaw. Those of us who were here will never forget their speeches. At the time, Prime Minister Buzek said he accepted the award on behalf of the Polish people, who together had struggled for freedom. But he also pointed out that Poland was not alone in this struggle and it was able to rely on the support of the entire Atlantic community. Today there are many countries around the world who, thanks for Prime Minister Buzek, are grateful to Poland and the West for its moral and material support as they struggle for freedom.
Prime Minister Buzek, the floor is yours.
PRESIDENT JERZY BUZEK: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends. Now we would like to turn to democracy as a main point. In Poland, we value democracy very much. We have been fighting for democracy for several decades, and we know that it is not easy to implement democracy. So today we are ready for assistance in each place all over the world where democracy is built – Northern Africa, Western Balkans, Eastern Europe – because we know very well how important it was, your assistance, dear friends from the United States, during our struggle for democracy.
But anyone who think that you were the first with the idea of democracy is wrong. As the first, we recognize Greeks. They taught us what being citizens mean. They discovered how important it is to argue, to dispute, even to quarrel, and at the end to decide by majority and to act together. They also created agora – we should remember about that – the special place for white (sic), deep and tough discussion with full protection of everybody’s dignity. Well, I think it’s a very good time to think from time to time slightly warmer about the Greeks.
Dear friends, it’s my preface about democracy in general, because we know in our modern history, you are the champions in this field, our dear friends from the United States. And it is thanks to your first-ever democratic model constitution and also to your fantastic idea of National Endowment for Democracy. I can tell you that your support for Solidarity in the darknest (sic) times of martial law was enormous. We wouldn’t achieved so much without your constant assistance; without such a feeling that we can be sure of your help; without such a feeling that you would never left us behind. And we can say today that in many places all over the world, many people, many nations can say absolutely the same: You would never left us behind. Is a great achievement, your National Endowment for Democracy.
But if we talk about great organizations, incredible organizations, we also think about great and incredible people. This time it is, as a matter of fact, mainly one man: Mr. Carl Gershman, who is together with us tonight. I would like to ask you to come here on the podium, Mr. Gershman.
Now, let me say your commitment to human rights, to peace, to democracy earned you a place in history. All of us, we are very sure of that. We cannot even imagine NED without you as the president. We honored you in this country with the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Marriage in the 1998. Let me say that is a great honor for me to present this Atlantic Council Freedom Award to Mr. Carl Gershman and National Endowment for Democracy. Let us make together the world a better place. Congratulations.
CARL GERSHMAN: Well, I’m very, very grateful to the Atlantic Council and to Fred Kempe for honoring the National Endowment for Democracy with this Freedom Award, and of course to Jerzy Buzek for presenting this tribute to the NED. We are really humbled by all that he has done for democracy over more than three decades, starting in 1980 when he was a Solidarity organizer here in Silesia, which is also his native region. And I also want to thank him for arriving late tonight because had he not arrived late, I would have had to have gone on immediately after Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, and that would have been very unfortunate. (Laughter, applause.)
Next Friday, June the 8th, will mark the 30th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s Westminster Address that launched the NED and the growing global effort to aid democracy. As important as that speech was – and NED will be commemorating this anniversary next week at the Reagan library in California – the real beginning of this work was the birth and eventually the momentous success of Solidarity. NED was privileged to aid the solidarity struggle. (Applause.) And I want to take this opportunity – I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to three people – Bronislaw Geremek, Jacek Kuron, and Leszek Kolakowski – three Polish heroes, all of them dear friends who now rest side by side in the Powaski Cemetery in Warsaw. They brought so much to the struggle for democracy – courage and determination, knowledge of history, the understanding of ideas and ideology, strategic vision, humor, comradeship, solidarity. NED is a stronger organization today, and its support for democrats all over the world is more effective because our roots are connected to these great democrats.
You see up there some pictures of grantees, and I’m going to speak briefly about them. One of them is – that’s Tawakel Karman who is the current Nobel Peace laureate. You’ll see a picture also – that’s from Azerbaijan, some bloggers. There’s a picture there also of the empty Nobel chair of Liu Xiaobo, 2010 Nobel laureate. The last two Nobel Peace laureates were NED grantees. And the third in a row is going to be Ales Byalyatski, who we’re going to be honoring in a moment. When he gets the Nobel Peace Prize – and I hope that he does come this October – it will be an expression of solidarity with the struggle of Belarus. (Applause.)
But there’s one picture there – and we’ll come back to it – we’ll come back to it – NED not only had a special relationship and has a special relationship with Poland and solidarity, but also with Wroclaw. I came to Wroclaw for the first time in 1989 to attend the conference on Central Europe at the crossroads. That’s Liu Xiaobo – the empty Nobel Peace chair – Peace Prize chair, because Liu Xiaobo is still in prison, and we express our solidarity with him tonight.
This meeting that I came to was organized by the Polish-Czechoslovak solidarity foundation. And speaking to the Polish parliament in 1990, Václav Havel called this meeting one of the prologues to our Czechoslovak revolution. And I’ve always felt that this grant that we made – it was a very small grant; to be precise, it was $7,500 – that that grant that we made for that meeting was dollar-for-dollar the best grant that the NED ever made.
By the way, that individual is Floribert Chebeya. Floribert Chebeya was head of an organization in the Congo called Voice of the Voiceless. These are the kind of people we support. This is the kind of solidarity we have with Poland and with these people. It was two years ago this day that Floribert was murdered by the police in the Congo for being a human rights activist, and we memorialized him with our democracy service medal. So these are very, very great people.
And there’s one photograph if we – I don’t know if we can come back to it, but maybe you can come back to that photograph of all the activists shot in the – it was one of the first ones. I think it was the first one that was shown. And I’ll say a word about it when it appears back on the screen.
The grant that we made for this meeting was especially important because it was part of something larger. That’s the photograph. That photograph was standing outside the meeting room when I came to Wroclaw in 1989. And those are the Polish and Czechoslovak dissident activists that met on the prohibited border between Poland and Czechoslovakia. And you’ll – you can look through the picture. You’ll see Václav Havel sort of kneeling in the middle. You’ll see Adam Michnik two people to his left. You’ll see Zbigniew Janas who was the founder of the Polish-Czechoslovak Solidarity Foundation. Immediately to his Havel’s right, Romaszewski down there on the bottom. Kuron – see that smiling face in the middle there right at the bottom? That’s Jacev Kuron. Those – all those people – Jan Czarnogursky, others, Jan Urban – they’re all great heroes. And that is the group that we were supporting which then helped bring democracy to Czechoslovakia.
But this was part of a larger idea, this multinational fund for friendship and collaboration, because it was this region – Central Europe’s first initiative committed exclusively to transnational cooperation and cross-border democracy assistance. Such aid is now provided by most of the new democracies in the region. Poland’s recent establishment of the Foundation for International Solidarity and its leadership in the effort to create the European Endowment for Democracy – and Radek Sikorski, of course, took the lead on this – they are a continuation of this commitment to international democratic solidarity.
The principles upon which the multinational fund was based – open frontiers, the renunciation of territorial claims and respect for minority rights – were the foundation of the eastern policy, which was developed in exile by Jerzy Giedroyc in the pages of the Paris-based journal Kultura. This policy eventually became the basis of the foreign policy of democratic Poland. Its essence, as explained by Geremek, was the belief, and I quote, “that the Polish national idea could only be the idea of liberty for all the other nations in the region.” It was a way of overcoming the bitter conflicts of the past through transnational democratic solidarity.
Wroclaw, a multicultural city in Silesia, which historian Norman Davies, whom we’ve been honored to have with us at this conference, has called a region of passage between east and west: It’s the natural home of the idea of cross-border democratic solidarity. This idea has been embraced by Wroclaw’s mayor, the distinguished Rafal Dutkiewiczz. And it is also what brought Jan Novak-Jezioranski to Wroclaw at the end of his life to found the collegium of Central Europe. Jan, who was my mentor on all things Polish – he told me what to do; you know, you can give me the credit for this, but Jan said do this and I did it – very characteristically called Wroclaw a strategic outpost in the struggle for a better and a safer future for Poland.
Poland has learned from the harsh lessons of history – of its history how important it is to build institutions of peace and stability. Freedom is always vulnerable and its cause is never safe, is the message that Leszek Kolakowski brought to a NED gathering in Washington at an unusually hopeful moment – more hopeful than today – in 1989. With those very sobering words in this difficult period and at this less certain time, let us remain vigilant in the defense of freedom and let us press forward together. Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. : Thanks, Carl.
You mentioned Norman Davies. And as you know, there is the famous book in history about Wroclaw written by Norman Davies, who was traveling – (inaudible). Have you ever read this book? Raise your hands. (Laughter.) (Applause.) I would say the majority does, but still the book is still available in a bookstore in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Laughter.) Norman told me.
Applause for Norman Davies. (Applause.)
And now I will be talking Polish, because it seems to be important to be said in the Polish language.
(Through interpreter.) Democracy is not given to us once and for all. Freedom of speech and civil rights can be still under threat. Those values have to be protected. These values have to be protected in an intelligent but decisive way because also we have to remember that we have to pay a high price for defending them.
And that is very well-known, especially by the leaders of Belarusian opposition, Aleksandar Milinkievic or Natalia Kaliada from the Belarus Free Theater. Natalia received a Freedom Award last year, but she was not able to see us. Today she’s with us, and in person she will be able to receive her award. (Applause.)
Natalia, I would like to invite you onstage. Please applaud Natalia. (Applause continues.)
(Presentation of award.) (Applause.)
NATALIA KALIADA: You know, last year it was my video (appeal ?) here. But as a theater, make – we need to hit the stage, obviously. So here I am again, and speaking to you not from a video but in person. It’s a great honor and great responsibility to get such – the award on behalf of the people of Belarus.
And you know, today it was a session on digitizing democracy, so my remarks are here, if I forget something to say.
But those two days that the Atlantic Council and Wroclaw Global Forum takes place, in Belarus yesterday, in different cities of Belarus, people were arrested. Today 20 Polish people from national minority in Belarus in Grodno, because they were against of – Russification of Polish school in Belarus, were arrested. All of it is happening now in Belarus, just one hour flight from Wroclaw.
On the 16th of December of 2010, Vaclav Havel, together with 20 other artists – Ai Weiwei, Tom Stoppard – and it was initiated by Belarus Free Theater – declared a state of emergency in Belarus by signing artistic manifesto. It was the 16th of December of 2011.
In two days, Vaclav Havel passed away. The last thing that he did, he signed that manifesto. He was dedicated to morality in politics, and to people of Belarus, to the last days of his life.
Today I want to appeal to people of Belarus and ask them to act now and raise their voices, because nobody will do it for them. And they’re ready for those changes. Today I appeal to all of you, leaders of European Union and United States government, just to prove to all dictators in Iran, North Korea, Syria that you are global superpower, not fading giants, by just getting rid of the last dictator of Europe. Otherwise, we will appeal to Emma Bonino, so it looks like she could deal with the last dictator – (applause) – if EU and U.S. government cannot do it.
I want to dedicate this award to all independent artists in Belarus because they could make voices of Belarusian people stronger, but this award belongs to all political prisoners of Belarus, to their families, to those who are still in jail today. Sixteen people are still in jail. There were two people executed without any legal background there. Ales Byalyatski was standing here on this stage one year ago, but he is in jail.
Let’s move now, let’s act now, because we need to bring these changes and to prove to dictators that one human being’s life has its value.
Thank you so much for this great honor to be here. (Applause.)
MS. : (Inaudible.) Whoo! (Applause.)
MR. : (Through interpreter.) (Representatives ?) of Belarusian revolution – opposition are heroes, and they impress us with the courage and independence of their views. They think critically and independently because the – this is the only way that it makes sense. They show us how to separate lies from truth, important things from things that are trivial and how to maintain dignity of the people and how to listen to the consciousness and the inner voice telling them how to behave.
A year ago, which we remind you of several times, Belarus Free Theater, Center of Human Rights “Viasna” and Belarus Association of Journalists received the award last year. And Ales Byalyatski, the leader of opposition, Viasna Center, was here, and he collected the award in person. Today he’s in a penal colony of very extreme conditions, and therefore I bow my head in front of Mrs. Natalya Pinchuk, his wife, who’s here with us today.
Carl was talking about just a moment ago – let’s hope that the 12th of October 2012 will be a great feast of Belarus opposition, because this will be the day that the Council of Nobel Prize will declare the winner of Nobel Peace Prize, and we hope that – (applause) – Ales Byalyatski will be the – be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
And I would like to ask eminent Polish actor Andrzej Seweryn to present his (silhouette ?). His position as a prominent actor who worked with most famous directors such as Andrzej Wajda, Peter Brook or Steven Spielberg, and he will tell us about Ales Byalyatski and – instead of acting in “Schindler’s List” of Spielberg. He began his career in Comedie-Francaise, which is indeed great honor to an actor. Andrzej Seweryn, since his student days in the ’60s throughout ’70s, until the Solidarity days in the ’80s, actively participated in the works of democratic opposition in Poland. (Applause.)
Andrzej, I would like to invite you on the stage. (Applause.)
ANDRZEJ SEWERYN: Ladies and gentlemen, in some countries there is a widespread belief that civil and social protests do not make a difference. Frankly, I do not believe those against whom we stand today, whose views and actions we condemn, would feel shocked or even affected by this very meeting and by our honoring Mr. Ales Byalyatski with the Freedom Award for the year 2011. However, I sincerely hope that it is of great importance to Mr. Ales Byalyatski and to many others who are denied their right to freedom of speech, who are denied the right to act, think, and express their beliefs in their own country.
We live in time deprived of a genuine system of values, in times when for some people, the only real value is the actual lack of values. Word such as sympathy, empathy, compassion, responsibility, solidarity, sacrifice are not in common use. In addition if we happen to hear these words, we do not believe they can actually make a difference. We do not believe in their power and the ideas that stand behind them and we doubt them. So why are we here today? Why do we do what we do? What is the purpose of our meeting? I think – no, I am deeply convinced that defending the weak and the vulnerable is our inalienable and fundamental duty which we are obliged to fulfill regardless of the circumstances and of the price we may pay.
For me, a sort of a Yatzakurin (ph) child, helping others is not only duty, but also a true need resulting from the ethos in which I was raised and nothing will ever change that. I have no doubt that Poles, due to their long and difficult path to freedom, should encourage and support other nations in their fight for freedom. And it is not our privilege as we often tend to think; it is our fundamental duty. This is what we owe them. This is our debt to Europe. Once supported, now we do need to support.
I do believe that the protests can bring significant changes if only they are consistently encouraged and persistently repeated. Maybe not at once, maybe not today, but the time will definitely come. I honestly believe that even in the situation where there is no chance for effective action, we should remain – we should not remain silent and indifferent. Silence is nothing else than a sign of our approval. This is why I’m so glad that there are so many people gathered here with whom I can share my views, so many who speak with one voice and stand for this belief that there is no approval and there will never be any kind of approval for totalitarian – for totalitarian regimes in Europe.
For this reason, I admire those who have enough strength and courage to put their beliefs into action as Mr. Ales Byalyatski did. I am honored to introduce to you a unique person, Mrs. Natalya Pinchuk, the wife of Mr. Ales Byalyatski. (Applause.)
NATALYA PINCHUK: (Through interpreter) – he is under arrest in prison and, because his letters are getting shorter and shorter, I can only imagine that he – his failure to free time. I was able to tell him that I will participate in this meeting, because on the 17th of May, I received the official permission to meet Ales. He got this permission to meet. It was so-called longer visit. I can’t say honestly that it was a very long meeting because the management of prison, using any excuse, restricted our meeting to 24 hours out of three days. The representatives of prison authorities control Ales, and that means of course restricting his contacts also with other arrested people, and they are advised against meeting with a political prisoner. What happens in case of other accused people – that is not such problem. However, in case of Ales, these are very serious restrictions. It’s a psychological pressure he’s undergoing.
He lives in a very difficult psychological conditions. During our meeting he was not complaining. He doesn’t complain about his health and unfortunately so, because I noticed that he’s too skinny. Sometime in the autumn, during the court cases and other meetings, which were not very frequent, nevertheless they took place, I was able to notice that he was constantly coughing. He didn’t have such symptoms before. I noticed that, at Kovalka (ph), he answers that he feels well; it’s nothing to worry about. Simply he doesn’t complain. But it is obvious that – it’s obvious to me and to other people that his stay in prison is very detrimental to his health, and I don’t know what will be the consequences for his state of health in future. Situation is very difficult. It seems that at any point it can get worst.
Officially media blacken his image all the time, as if it’s not enough that he’s – that he couldn’t say goodbye to his very ill father; he wasn’t able to meet his father before his father died. The court case is extended and carries on for a very long time. He’s been accused and charged with fine, and he just received another fine, and the authorities continue confiscating assets including the seat of organization Viasna. But he’s still fighting and, thanks to his activity, a great national organization was created, Viasna, despite the fact that its leader has been imprisoned for some time will not result in disappearance of – (audio break) – (inaudible) – with Ales. But we would like to stress, nevertheless, that international support is crucial here. And I hope that democratic countries for whom the human rights and civil rights are most important, that these countries would put every effort to free Ales and other political prisoners. (Applause.)
MR. KEMPE: Thank you, Natalya Pinchuk, for reminding us even – and please stay on the stage – even as we celebrate heroes of freedom that this battle is not done. To quote Carl Gershman: Freedom is always vulnerable; the cause is never safe. Again, let us remain vigilant. In the cause of freedom, let us together press forward.
Through the Freedom Award dinners, we try to do our small part in creating a real community of freedom defenders, a community that is bridging both national and cultural boundaries. I’m inspired – we are inspired by your husband, by this community, and we are proud to try to do our part in growing this community.
So now, to conclude the evening, I’d like all of tonight’s awardees and introducers to join us on the stage for a group picture as you applaud these great people. (Applause.) (Music.) I hope you’ve all – I hope you’ve all enjoyed tonight’s ceremony as much as I have. Thank you, everyone, for being here. (Sustained applause.) (Music.)
MR. : Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes tonight’s ceremony of the Atlantic Council Freedom Awards 2012. Now, on behalf of the mayor of Wroclaw, you are invited to watch the fountain show that will be presented to you outside of the Congress Center. You will be guided to the place where it will be showing.