I thank the Romanian Foundation for Democracy for organizing this important event.
I also express my appreciation to all leaders and participants for their determination in the quest for independence and for your collective efforts to deepen democracy.
Twenty-five years ago, dramatic transitions in Central and Eastern European countries paved the way for more freedom and prosperity and inspired the world.
As you reflect on the similarities and differences that marked the fall of communist structures, I urge you to think as well about your similarities and differences today.
Despite the transformation of the region, let us not forget that such changes are not irreversible. Democracy requires constant nurturing and support.
When discussing democracy, there is sometimes a tendency to focus too much on multi-party elections, and too little on building the institutions necessary for well-functioning, pluralistic societies. Strong institutions include an independent judiciary, freedom of expression and association, a free and independent media – all reflected in a constitution – and political parties that build their support based on policies and programmes, rather than religion or ethnicity.
A strong democracy protects those who need it most and whose voice is not the majority. Strong institutions facilitate the participation of citizens and inclusive decision-making.
The United Nations has great expectations of your region across the global agenda.
I encourage you to continue sharing your positive experiences with countries in your own region and throughout the world. The international community has much to learn from your ongoing journey towards building free, just and democratic societies.