30 Years of True European Friendship

30 Years of True European Friendship

President Boy Scholtze’s anniversary speech

Cissé meeting

1989 was a remarkable year for our continent. Almost half a decade after D-day, which means that this year we also celebrate the 75th anniversary of the start of Europe’s liberation from World War II, the spirit of freedom and unity once again wandered through Europe. The people in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania gathered for a peaceful demand for freedom by creating the Baltic Chain. Over 2 million people literally held hands from Tallinn, to Riga and Vilnius. Later, the Hungarian rulers decided to open the border with Austria, which meant that the Iron Curtain started to rust away. The final step towards a free Europe was of course the fall of the Berlin Wall in November of the same year.

28 different countries, united in diversity

And whilst these major events occurred all over Europe, a French mayor started to express his dream. A dream to create a network within the European Union by which ordinary citizens got involved in the European project. For the first time, Cissé received delegations from 11 European countries: Spain, Portugal, Italy, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Greece, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. The guests were welcomed by the well-known French hospitality and they got the honour to stay in host families. Together, they enjoyed a true European weekend. They focused on their similarities and discovered that, underneath the national pride and different languages, they were all the same: caring parents, enthusiastic youngsters, committed mayors and hard-working farmers. They learned from each other’s cultures and customs and the first Charter-friendships were born.

Since 1989, a lot has happened in Europe. The European Union was born by the Maastricht Treaty, which also led to the expansion of the European Cooperation. Sweden, Finland and Austria joined in 1995 and whilst the Balkans were battling for freedom, the newly established democracies in Central and Eastern Europe started to prepare for a European Membership. In 2004, the Union welcomed 10 new member states, followed by Rumania and Bulgaria in 2007 and Croatia in 2013. 28 different countries, united in diversity.

We became a sincere family

The expansion of the European Union caused an enlargement of our network too. As a result, in 2019, our network consists of 28 members: one rural community in every member state of the European Union. “People meet people” is our motto. It sounds quite simple, but it symbolises everything we do and everything we stand for. Over the years, the Charter of European Rural Communities  has strongly developed its goals and ideals. We are not just a group of rural communities anymore. Gradually, we became a sincere family. Some of our members are part of our Charter family from the beginning, 30 years ago. However, in our family we equally care for everyone, no matter how long you are part of it. And as I’ve mentioned before, we focus on our similarities, rather than our differences. We exchange our customs and cultures, share best practices and involve everybody. Therefore, my dear friends, I think our way of cooperating could serve as an example in many ways. I would like to mention two more recent achievements which prove the resilience of our family.

Last summer, during our annual gathering in Estonia, the mayors’ meeting decided to change the requirements of membership. From now on, membership of our network is not exclusively reserved for European Member States only. Yes, the European Union will remain our main area, but by changing our official statutes, we created a possibility to maintain our friends from Desborough as part of our Charter family, even in case the United Kingdom would leave the European Union. A second landmark I would like to point out, is the incorporation of the Youth Coordination Team in the new statutes. From the early nineties, our network always involved youngsters in its activities. Due to the increasing commitment of the youngsters, the professional projects they are working on and the strong desire of the next generation to maintain our network for more decades to come, I am proud that the youngsters are finally recognised and have been granted an official status by the statutes.

Dear friends, it is a huge honour for me to stand here today. I am proud to conclude that so many of you took efforts to travel to Cissé and to be part of the 30th anniversary celebrations of our network. So many youngsters, so many familiar faces, so many new faces too. I’m especially proud to see members of the first hour, such as mr. Allan from Desborough who was here 30 years ago as well. I would like to express my great gratitude not only to my fellow Presidium-members and the Youth Coordination Team for being here and all the work they are doing for our network, but especially to my predecessors. Mr. Grammanitsch from Lassee unfortunately couldn’t attend the celebrations this weekend, but I am happy to meet mr. Majerus from Troisvierges and the spouses of the late mr. Ronnes and Bouchet again. The efforts of you and your late husbands were the foundations of what we are doing today. As the fifth president of our network I salute you and on behalf of all our members, I would like to thank you for your commitment over the past 30 years.

Et maintenant, je vais enfreindre les règles de la Chartre, car la langue officielle est l’anglais. Mais cette fois, je voudrais faire une exception pour cette occasion spéciale. Ici, à Cissé, notre Charte était née. L’esprit européen a trouvé un nid fertile ici. Le rêve d’un homme, votre maire M. Bouchet, ainsi que sa volonté et sa persévérance, ont permis notre Charte de s’étendre pour devenir la famille que nous sommes maintenant, 30 ans plus tard. Votre hospitalité, symbolisée pour moi par le sourire éternel de votre maire actuelle, mme. Savin, est la cause pour laquelle notre réseau, notre amitié résiste à tous les revers. Je suis sûr que le fondateur de la Charter des communes rurales de l’Europe sera avec nous ce week-end avec un sentiment plus que satisfait. Un grand merci éternel à vous tous.

People meet people

To conclude, my dear friends: the fact that we’ve won the Golden Star Award (l’etoile d’or) three times or our 30th anniversary don’t release us from the obligation to promote our goals and achievements as much as we can. At home, in our countries and beyond. But must of all, I hope we will stick to our goals and motto: People meet People. It’s the most essential part within our network. We are 28 different communities from 28 different countries, with 28 different cultures. But underneath all that, we are all members of the Charter family.

Congratulations to all of your from Cissé, Bienvenida, Biévre, Bucine, Cashel, Desborough, Hepstedt, Ibănești, Kandava, Kannus, Kolindros, Lassee, Lefkara, Medzev, Moravče , Nadur, Næstved , Nagycenk, Ockelbo, Põlva, Samuel, Slivo Pole, Stary Poddvorov, Strzyżów, Tisno, Troisvierges, Žagarė and Esch on 30 years of true European friendship. Vive le Charte!