Speech by President von der Leyen at the ceremony on the occasion of the European Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Terrorism

(Source: European Commission)

“Check against delivery”

Dear President Macron,

Dear President Michel,

Dear families and friends, gathered with us today to pay our respects to those who were dear to us.

There is a mural in the German town of Hanau, where nine people lost their lives in a terror attack two years ago, urging us to ‘Say their names’. We are here today to say the names of all victims of terrorism. Today, we remember their stories and celebrate their lives, cut short too soon. It is impossible to say all their names out loud, but please allow me to mention just three: Sonia, Misha and Nesar.

Sonia Cano Campos was 24 years old. She was Spanish, and she loved dancing. Sonia worked in an old people’s home, where she paid particular attention to the loneliest residents, those who were never visited by their children or grandchildren. Sonia would dance with them, sharing her zest for life with them. On the morning of 11 March 2004, she set off to work, having agreed to replace a colleague and do an extra shift. She died in a train in Madrid, along with 192 other innocent people.

Misha Bazelevskyy was 22 years old, a brilliant young Ukrainian. He came from an ordinary family, and his parents had worked hard so that he could realise his dream of designing electric cars, for which he was studying engineering. Misha was in Nice for a study visit when he lost his life, together with 85 other people.

Nesar Hashemi was a worker in Germany, the child of parents who had fled Afghanistan. One February morning, he had decided to have the name of the place where he had grown up, Hanau, tattooed on his arm, because he loved his town and was proud of it. A few hours later, he was shot together with two friends in the town that he loved, because of the colour of his skin.

Today we are mourning Sonia, Misha and Nesar, as well as all other victims of terrorism in Europe. Each of their lives was different and unique. They came from different places and backgrounds. Yet they all suffered the same absurd fate. Like hundreds of others, in the streets of London or Barcelona, at a concert in Paris, or on a small, quiet island in Norway. Today we remember each of them. But remembrance must lead to action every day. After every terrorist attack, we all try to go back to our normal lives. Yet for the victims, for their families, for the survivors, that is just impossible. That is why we must all stand in solidarity with them and support their needs, while continuing to work to ensure that these tragedies do not happen again.

First of all, we must stand by the survivors and their families. Those who have to live with the scars of terrorist acts need special support. That is why we are working with the Member States to help them in this work. We want to give them support, to facilitate compensation when possible, and to help them get back to a normal life.

Secondly, no one is born a terrorist. Radicalisation can be fought through inclusion and education. And this work must be done every day, in our communities, in our schools, in our public debates.

Thirdly, and crucially, every person in our Union has the right to feel safe in their streets and in their homes. And this requires cooperation within Europe. We need to work together to tackle terrorist networks across borders, to deny them access to weapons and to cut off their cashflow. By joining forces, we can maintain our Union as an area of freedom and security.

Both of you, dear Emmanuel and Charles, have dealt with terrorist attacks during your time in office. And you have worked incessantly to make your countries and your citizens safer. So you understand this better than anyone else. The time to fight terrorism is not in the aftermath of an attack. It is every day. On this Remembrance Day, we remember the victims’ names and stories. But we also take a solemn vow to eradicate terrorism from our societies, and to build a Europe that is freer and more secure.

Long live Europe!

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