Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2000-02-16-Speech-3-227"

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"Mr President in office, ladies and gentlemen, I have great honour in extending a warm welcome, on behalf of the House, to the President of the Czech Republic, Mr Vaclav Havel. For ten years you represented democratic Czechoslovakia and, later, the Czech Republic, as its president. Reconciliation with your neighbours was, and still is, a basic objective which you have defended with vigour and perseverance. You are a first class European. Today, the Czech Republic is preparing to join our Union. I am sure that you will agree, Mr President, and experience has shown us, that the process of enlargement of the Union is not without its pitfalls for both parties and the Czech Republic will need to make a great deal of effort in order to meet the accession criteria. The European Union, for its part, will need to adapt its institutions and policies in order to prepare for enlargement. It has already taken a big step forward with Agenda 2000. The next step, i.e. institutional reform, will be taken following the inauguration of the new Intergovernmental Conference, in which the European Parliament will be fully involved. Our responsibility as members of the European Parliament is to ensure that the process of enlargement takes place in an climate of optimum openness and transparency so that, when the time comes, the citizens of the European Union and the citizens of the Czech Republic will approve the accession of the Czech Republic to the European Union through their elected representatives. Mr President, it gives me great pleasure to give you the floor. I should also like to welcome Mrs Havel, who is sitting in the gallery. You are most welcome. This is not your first visit to our Parliament, Mr President. You addressed plenary in Strasbourg nearly six years ago, in March 1994, and many of us, who were already European Members of Parliament at that time, still have a vivid recollection of your speech. In fact, shortly after the Maastricht Treaty was ratified, you spoke in favour of strengthening European values, creating a European ethical dimension and opening the Union to the countries of central and eastern Europe. In other words, for many citizens, and not just in your country, you personify the European values to which we constantly voice our attachment. There have been extremely dynamic developments in relations between the Union and the Czech Republic following two European elections and a major new reform of the European Treaties. An association agreement has been signed and a joint parliamentary committee has been set up by the European Parliament and the Czech Parliament. Your country filed an official application to join the Union in 1996 and accession negotiations were finally officially opened in 1998. The process of European integration and enlargement has speeded up impressively since the fall of the iron curtain. The end of this artificial separation of Europe marked the start of a new era. We now face an historical challenge with multiple prospects for all the citizens of Europe. Mr President, you are a symbol of these changes. You founded and signed Charter 77, the human rights movement which represented and called for fundamental values during a dark period in the history of your people. A Communist regime sentenced you to five years in prison for defending human freedom and dignity. But you never lost hope and history proved you right. Ten years ago, the “velvet revolution” proclaimed ."@en1
"Havel na HRAD"1

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