|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Secretary-General, at Strasbourg City Hall, Calls for ‘Tunes of Tolerance,
Symphonies of Sense’ to Drown Out ‘Ugly Voices of Prejudice’
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the City Hall of Strasbourg, today, 19 October:
I am very happy to be here in Strasbourg. Thank you for your warm welcome. I am delighted to be here, in this historic Grand Salon, where the Council of Europe was born.
This morning I was privileged to address both the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. At the European Parliament, I spoke of some of the great challenges of our era — poverty, climate change, nuclear disarmament. Europe is providing critical leadership on all these issues.
I also talked about solidarity of rejecting the politics of polarization, of respecting the rights and aspirations of all people. At the Council of Europe, I joined in celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Europe remains a beacon for the fundamental universal values that are the bedrock of civilization and progress. It is essential that we never relent in their defence.
Mayor [Roland] Ries, I commend your strong stand against racism and intolerance. As Mayor of a city so steeped in history, your words carry special weight.
Close to this hall is a statue. A mother grieving for her two fallen sons — killed fighting on opposite sides. It is a poignant reminder of the price we pay when we allow division to undermine concord. Let us never forget that hatred of the other lay behind the last great upheaval in Europe.
The ugly voices of prejudice are still around us, amplified by the economic crisis, broadcast by extremists and people with closed minds. We must drown them out with sweeter sounds — tunes of tolerance, symphonies of sense.
Where better to conduct this orchestra than Strasbourg — Europe’s legislative and democratic capital. This city, that has always known strife, was chosen as the seat of the Council of Europe as a symbol of reconciliation. It stands for harmony, for human rights, countries and cultures working together for a common goal.
These are the goals and values of the United Nations. Our great Organization was born from the ashes of the Second World War, a war that destroyed Europe.
Europe should be proud of what it has built since those dark days. A society built on acceptance; a community that is still reaching out and expanding. Strasbourg lies at the heart.
More than half a millennium ago, Strasbourg was home to Johannes Gutenberg. His printing press helped spread knowledge, ideas, values, to a public far and wide. It changed history.
Today Strasbourg — home of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament — still has the power to transform our world for the better.
I thank you for your gracious hospitality. This is my first-ever visit to Alsace, my first time in your beautiful city. It is plain to see why UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] designated the entire city centre a World Heritage Site.
Shortly, I will leave to meet the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament. I hope before I leave I can taste some of the famous traditional food of the region, such as a good sauerkraut. I had a preview of how good Alsace cuisine can be just recently in New York. I met a chef from Alsace — Jean-Georges Vongerichten. You might have heard of him. Well, people say he is quite good.
Mrs. Ban and I were very privileged. He cooked for us in our kitchen when I invited President [Nicolas] Sarkozy last year. That chef has talent, and it is through him that I realized that the whole region of Alsace is talented.
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