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A service for global professionals · Wednesday, April 21, 2021 · 539,062,918 Articles · 3+ Million Readers

Hoyer Remarks at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly

WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered remarks today at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery: 

"Thank you, President Tsereteli and Secretary-General Montella.  Senator Wicker and Congresswoman Moore, I am proud to join you here from the United States.  Prime Minister Bettel and President Etgen, thank you for hosting this assembly in beautiful and historic Luxembourg. 

"When I joined parliamentarians from across North America and Europe to launch this assembly in April 1991, peaceful revolutions had just removed dictatorships from the Baltic to the Adriatic.  The power of the people had proven itself far greater than the powerful few who ruled through division and fear.   

"From the halls of Versailles in 1919 to the beaches of Normandy in 1944 to the streets of Berlin in 1989, throughout the twentieth century, democracy prevailed in the face of authoritarianism.  It did so because of the people.  Because of those who debated, who fought, who marched, and who never wavered in their faith that ‘government by, of, and for the people’ would secure a brighter future for themselves and their descendants. 

"In 1991, democracy was ascendant.  Its eventual triumph throughout the world seemed inevitable. 

"In 2019, however, democracies are back on the defensive, challenged from within and from without. 

"I just came from Budapest, where the Orban government has curtailed freedom of the press and the independence of Hungary’s judiciary.  Judicial independence has been under assault in neighboring Poland as well.  In Turkey, a mayoral election was initially overturned when the governing party’s candidate lost.  A journalist was murdered last year in Slovakia for exposing corruption.  In Russia, where democracy arrived with such promise in 1991, autocracy and oligarchy have returned in full force.  

"In my own country, extreme partisanship and polarization have opened chasms where there ought to be cooperation.  Too many of my fellow Americans are losing faith in democratic institutions because, for several years, those institutions failed to deliver justice and a better life for the many as they saw the few enriched. 

"President Ronald Reagan, visiting the British Parliament in 1982, warned: 'Democracy is no fragile flower.  Still, it needs cultivating.'

"That is true today, as we witness democracy dimming in places where it once seemed so welcomed and so inevitable. 

"Autocrats have grown bolder in their assault against global democracy.  They have honed their tools of division, distraction, and dehumanization.  They unleash their hackers, bots, and fake news to nurture doubt and fear among our citizens. 

"I remain optimistic, however, because I have seen democracy’s vigor.  Throughout my life, I have witnessed the power of the people in action.

"I saw it thirty years ago, when I visited a crumbling wall and heard the singing of liberated people on the streets of Berlin. 

"And I saw it on Tuesday in Budapest, when I met with Hungarian democracy activists and those from a growing opposition. 

"In their energy and their faith in democracy I was reminded of the great freedom fighter Lajos Kossuth, who is commemorated with a bust in the United States Capitol, just outside my office.  It was Kossuth who, after the failed democratic uprisings from Brussels to Budapest 170 years ago, came to my country and warned Americans that '[liberty’s] community is its security; exclusion is its doom.'

"That was the founding ethos of this assembly: that elected representatives can learn from one another and hold each other accountable to our common principles.  We were building on the foundation set down in the Helsinki Final Act in 1975, which recognized 'the close link between peace and security in Europe and in the world as a whole.'

"As I look around this hall today, I see a Parliamentary Assembly composed of many new faces ‘tempered by recession, disciplined by rapid and unsettling change’ – to adapt the line from President Kennedy’s inaugural address.  In it he spoke of the torch being passed to a new generation 'unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which …we are committed today at home and around the world.'

"The success of this assembly – and, indeed, the success of democracy – will depend not on what we did in 1991 but on what you will do today and in the years ahead.

"It will depend on whether elected representatives deliver for the people and prove that representative institutions work.  Or whether ‘government by, of, and for the people’ will transform into ‘government by, of, and for’ the powerful few. 

"As President Emanuel Macron of France reminded our Congress last year: 'We – elected officials – all share the responsibility to demonstrate that democracy remains the best answer to the questions and doubts that arise today.' 

"The antidote to the forces arrayed against democracy from within and from without is to show that democracy works for our constituents, restoring and preserving their faith in electoral government.  Create jobs and opportunity, safeguard our environment, build roads and schools, and make health care affordable and accessible to all. 

"But we cannot do it alone. 

"The end of the Cold War saw a commitment to strengthen and expand the multilateral institutions that preserve, protect, and defend democracy.  We founded this assembly to provide a forum for cooperation.  NATO grew in membership to defend new democracies from external threats.  And the European Union strengthened and expanded to deepen the roots of democracy and common enterprise on a continent long scarred by conflict and confrontation.  America has been proud to stand with our democratic partners in these efforts. 

"Before our Congress last April, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared: 'The strength of a nation is not only measured by the size of its economy.  Or the number of its soldiers.  But also by the number of its friends.' 

"Today, on America’s Independence Day, I will visit the hallowed ground where more than 5,000 of my fallen countrymen rest in eternity, less than two miles from this hall.  They died liberating Europe from fascism during the Second World War.  In the cemetery’s chapel, I will stand before an altar inscribed with a passage from the Gospel of John: 'I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.'

"It is up to us to ensure that their sacrifice – and the sacrifices of so many of your citizens – was not made in vain.  That 'government by the people, of the people, and for the people,' so painfully secured in the twentieth century, does not perish in the twenty-first. 

"As President Kennedy said, the torch passes.  Our time to defend and extend democracy is now.  This assembly must not fail the generation to which it will pass the torch of freedom, justice, and democracy."

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