Ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for the invitation. I very much appreciate this opportunity to open the European Light Art exhibition LUX Europae.
Let me first compliment the organisers on a very ambitious and inspiring art project. Light as an artistic expression is fascinating. I also noticed that the project is the result of a fruitful dialogue between public and private partners.
Lux Europae sends a signal of optimism with ”enlightenment” as its artistic vision. And today, there is indeed good reason for sending such a signal of optimism.
The reason is that we are about to make a unique historic decision of enlarging the European Union with up to ten new member states from Central and Eastern Europe.
The 20th century was a disaster for Europe. Two tragic World Wars that almost tore the continent apart were followed by more than 40 years of communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe. For nearly half a century, the people of Central and Eastern Europe lived in isolation and fear under totalitarian rulers.
The fall of the Berlin Wall symbolised the end of this tragic and artificial division of Europe. People should no longer be deprived of their most fundamental rights. A corrupt and suppressive political system should no longer prevail to the detriment of the People.
In those exciting weeks and months when freedom and democracy spread throughout Central and Eastern Europe, the European Union was called upon to finally close this dark chapter of European history. We began the transformation from political and military competition to a wide ranging cooperation between democratic countries.
For more than 10 years the candidate countries have undertaken great efforts and gone through a complete overhaul of their former communist structures. It has been a tremendous task for the candidate countries - often at large short term economic and social costs. I greatly admire the courage and determination in these efforts.
The candidate countries have done their home work. Now it is up to us to live up to our historic responsibility. Now we have to deliver on our political promises.
An Austrian newspaper recently wrote that the summit in Copenhagen in December will be one of the most difficult in the history of the European Union. This is probably a realistic assessment. But I am convinced that the Heads of State and Government will live up to their moral and historic responsibility and create One Europe.
Even though we have a vision of creating One Europe, it is important, that we maintain and cherish our cultural diversity. It is freedom of thought and expression, which separate democratic countries from those of totalitarian rule.
Artists from both existing member states and candidate countries contribute to the art project Lux Europae. In that way the project puts into practice the virtues of cultural diversity. A large number of different cultural experiences will give us the opportunity to look at ourselves in new ways and to mutually learn from each other.
The theme and the different artistic expressions of LUX Europae capture the visions of both creating One Europe and maintaining a Europe characterised by cultural diversity. In that way, the exhibition very elegantly symbolises our visions for a reunited Europe.
With these words, I hereby declare Lux Europae for open.