- Documents on Democracy
On March 25, the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaties of Rome establishing the European Economic Community, the European Union released the Berlin Declaration. Excerpts appear below:
For centuries Europe has been an idea, holding out hope of peace and understanding. That hope has been fulfilled. European unification has made peace and prosperity possible. It has brought about a sense of community and overcome differences. Each Member State has helped to unite Europe and to strengthen democracy and the rule of law. Thanks to the yearning for freedom of the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe the unnatural division of Europe is now consigned to the past. European integration shows that we have learnt the painful lessons of a history marked by bloody conflict. Today we live together as was never possible before.
We, the citizens of the European Union, have united for the better. In the European Union, we are turning our common ideals into reality: for us, the individual is paramount. His dignity is inviolable. His rights are inalienable. Women and men enjoy equal rights. We are striving for peace and freedom, for democracy and the rule of law, for mutual respect and shared responsibility, for prosperity and security, for tolerance and participation, for justice and solidarity. . . .
The European Union will continue to thrive both on openness and on the will of its Member States to consolidate the Union's internal development. The European Union will continue to promote democracy, stability and prosperity beyond its borders. With European unification a dream of earlier generations has become a reality. Our history reminds us that we must protect this for the good of future generations. For that reason we must always renew the political shape of Europe in keeping with the times. That is why today, 50 years after the signing of the Treaties of Rome, we are united in our aim of placing the European Union on a renewed common basis before the European Parliament elections in 2009. For we know, Europe is our common future. [End Page 183]
The Venerable Thich Quang Do was awarded the 2006 Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize for Human Rights Defenders, but was prevented by the Vietnamese government from traveling to Norway to receive the prize. On March 15, Therese Jebsen of the Rafto Foundation visited Thanh Minh Monastery in Saigon to hand him the award certificate, but was arrested immediately upon arrival at the monastery. In an interview broadcast on March 16 by Radio Free Asia's Vietnamese Service, Thich Quang Do responded to Jebsen's arrest. Excerpts appear below:
When you see how Security Police treat a visitor from overseas, you understand under what kind of regime the 80 million Vietnamese are living today. That is why democracy and freedom are absolutely vital. They are the medicine that we need to save our lives.
Today, many people around the world care only about economy and trade. They pour money and investment into our country and help to consolidate the power [of the communist regime]. They don't care about the plight of 80 million people who are living in this vast prison we call Vietnam. It's terrible. Oh, I am deeply, deeply ashamed. There is no culture left here. Not even the very minimal trace of culture. I am sad, outraged and ashamed for my country and my people. I think of this foreign guest who traveled so far to visit our country, and was subjected to such abominable treatment. What impressions will she take home of the Vietnamese Communist regime?
Therefore, I call upon people from around the world, especially those who are investing or giving development aid to Vietnam, to draw lessons from today's events. Instead of helping to strengthen the communist regime and prolong its survival, try to use your economic aid to save 80 million Vietnamese, and liberate them from the great prison in which they languish today.
If the [authorities] treat overseas guests in such a barbaric and cruel way, how do you think they treat their own people ? That is what makes me so sad and ashamed. I am ashamed for the culture, the customs, traditions, ethics and thinking of...