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Remarks by President Donald Tusk after his meeting with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Raad, gepubliceerd op woensdag 8 mei 2019.

Good morning. Thank you, Prime Minister, for your hospitality and our good meeting ahead of the Sibiu summit where we will discuss the EU's future priorities and challenges. It is good to be back in Prague - the city is as beautiful as ever. I haven’t told you this yet, dear Andrej, but me and my wife spent our honeymoon here in Prague, forty years ago. It was two crazy weeks of camping in Strahov.

Coming here as we celebrate the Victory Day in Europe is symbolic and emotional for me as a European and a Pole. The same is true for the 15th anniversary of the enlargement of the EU. It is impossible for me not to think back and recall the journey we have all travelled - and not to think of our future.

Czechs thinkers and civic or moral leaders have always been a source of inspiration to us in Poland and to the rest of Europe. When Milan Kundera wrote his influential political essay, A Kidnapped West, one of the most insightful and revealing texts about Central Europe, he touched the conscience of audiences across Europe's divides. And when your president and my good colleague Vaclav Havel said that in Europe freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin, he nailed exactly what it means to be European. Let us remember and celebrate those visionary voices that have drawn on Europe's best traditions and have further shaped them.

Czechs have always rejected the inauthentic and refused to follow doctrines or dogmas blindly. They have always shown self-distance, a wise sense of humour, and a little bit of scepticism. My message to you is: don’t change. Such an approach is perhaps the best response to populism and radicalism emerging in Europe. Especially when this approach combines with the motto from your presidential banner: “truth prevails.”

This year you celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Velvet revolution. The then Czechoslovakia of 1989 gave the world a powerful lesson about calm, determined and peaceful pro-European change. It drew inspiration among others from Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk — his European and humanist messages, which cherished the prospect of a united Europe where nations are equal.

The Velvet Revolution also built on the legacy of Charter 77, in whose foundation lay 'a sense of co-responsibility and a belief in the importance of civic engagement and a willingness to contribute to it, as well as a shared need to seek its new and more effective expression'. I still remember those words, because Charter 77 was one of the first samizdat publications in Poland which I distributed illegally as a student at my university.

Let me once more recall Václav Havel, whose words I will take with me to Sibiu tomorrow. He wrote of Europe: Her only meaningful task for the next century is to be herself, in the best possible way; that means to resurrect and project into her life her own best spiritual traditions, and through that to creatively co-develop a new way of global cohabitation.

I will conclude by recalling my beloved Bohumil Hrabal. He said 'the most important is to write life'. Let us write together the life of Europe. I know that there were too many quotations, but I have always preferred repeating the thoughts of people who are wiser than me. Thank you.

(delivered in Czech)


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