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Speech by Dr.Laima Andrikiene at the ceremony awarding of Honorary Doctorate of the Kingston University

Dr Laima Andrikiene, MEP
Awarding of Honorary Doctorate of the Kingston University
Barbican Centre, London
January 17, 2007

Dear Deputy Vice Chancellor Prof. Mary Stuart,
Excellency Lithuanian Ambassador Vygaudas Usackas,
Honourable Professors, dear students,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour and great privilege for me to take part in this ceremony of Kingston University in which an impressive group of postgraduate students of this university will receive their diplomas. I understand very well how important this day is to you, diploma recipients, and also to your parents and other members of your families. I congratulate you and wish you great success in your careers, courage in facing challenges and happiness in your private lives.

This day is also a very important festive day for me, my family, friends and colleagues and will remain in my memory all my life. Your University has rewarded my humble efforts with the title and regalia of an honorary doctorate. This is the first such occasion in my life, so I am really excited and feel that I have received a huge credit which I shall endeavour to repay. I am truly grateful to the Vice Chancellor of the Kingston University Prof. Sir Peter Scott, to you, Honourable Prof. Mary Stuart, but first of all to Prof. Richard Ennals, whom I know as a great friend of Lithuania. For many years he has been a shining example of the British love for freedom, respect for democracy and human rights. His father, the Honourable Lord Ennals, and members of his family have been my inspiration in choosing one of my life’s goals – to protect human rights, to prevent in all circumstances the denigration of one’s dignity or its sacrifice for other aims, and to apply it equally to all nations from Tibetans to Byelorussians, Lithuania’s next door neighbours who used to be citizens of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and now are ruled by the last dictator in Europe.

I made the acquaintance of Prof. Ennals in 1991, when Lithuania – having declared its independence – was seeking international diplomatic recognition. Later it developed into co-operation between the Law University of Lithuania (now Mykolas Romeris University) and Kingston University in working on common European projects, Prof. Ennals becoming a visiting professor of the Law University of Lithuania. All this has led to my appearance on this podium here today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I represent New Europe. Europe, which was erased from the map of democratic Europe and free world for several long decades by force following secret agreements of the powers of that day. I am one of those who were born in Lithuania already occupied on the other side of the Iron Curtain, but we are proud today that by the enormous efforts of Lithuanian people our country is free and democratic, full fledged member of the European Union and NATO, able to use opportunities provided by these memberships, enjoying one of the fastest economic growth in the EU.

I am from the new Europe, which certainly differs from the old one. The differences are many – different languages, traditions, historical experiences. But by naming our differences I would like to point out that there are many more things that connect us rather than divide us from one another. Secondly, it is exactly due to differences we are interesting to each other so much. Thirdly, I have no doubt that in those differences, in the integration and networking of those differences our common power lies. Integration of different knowledge and experiences can bear unexpected and very positive results. That is why I see EU enlargement and European integration not only as deleting dividing lines drawn by the politicians of the past, but first of all as the creation of new opportunities, new push forward, better possibilities to handle the challenges of globalisation, abilities to find better solutions to the problems of Europe that is getting older and failing in the global competition.

The students of this University are businessmen, current and future. By addressing you I understand that I am speaking to the business community of this country, its future business elite. I would like to encourage you to discover the New Europe in the widest sense as well as in very concrete terms – as, for example, a new market with attractive investment opportunities and dynamic growth rates. Your scientific, academic community, universities can find worthy partners to encourage exchanges of students and staff, improvement of study programmes, participation in common European projects. This could lead to other interesting developments, such as introduction of joint diplomas/degrees, when postgraduates receive a joint diploma of several universities, obtaining much better career prospects.

I am convinced that one of the most important aims we should seek is an effective relationship between science and business, promotion of universities entrepreneurial skills, strengthening of the interaction between universities and businesses. Without that, I doubt that Europe will be able to achieve a breakthrough, but I am sure that the graduates of this university need little persuasion – this simply has to be made a reality.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
My Lithuania is small in comparison to Great Britain. Small, but proud.  As they say about Luxembourg which is several times smaller still – small, but famous. Many in Britain do not know where Lithuania is – in the Balkans or by the Baltic Sea. The Queen, Elizabeth the Second having honoured my country with her visit late last year, discovered Lithuania too – Lithuania that in the 15th century spread from the Baltic to the Black Sea. And Her Majesty kept asking how one should pronounce the name of that big European country - LIETUVA.

I know also that many subjects of her Majesty do not know that one of the oldest European universities, established in 1579 by the Jesuits, is in Vilnius. This University is also my Alma Mater. The walls of the old Alma Mater Vilnensis Observatory bear an old inscription in Latin dating back to the times of Rector Pocobutas: TEMNNITUR HIC HUMILIS TELLUS: HINC ITUR AD ASTRA. – “Stay behind, earthly cares, the road from herewith rises to the stars”.

For several centuries already, to the students of Vilnius University this inscription represents much more than just a mere invitation to gaze at the skies over Lithuania lit with stars. It is a call to dream, to strive for the goals which seem unattainable. In the darkest years of oppression and occupation this inscription was a living invitation to seek the freedom of our Homeland and the people despite any dangers and obstacles. Since very few things supersede such values as a free man, free nation and free Homeland.

It is possible that my words will sound too idealistic for you, as if from another world. Yes, they are from the New Europe, the one that is looked upon with carefulness, as every new person in our surroundings, a new invention, something not yet known very well. I bravely affirm to you that in the new Europe you will find good things, many of which were lost a long time ago by the old Europe, things it cannot get back.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Finishing, again I would like to express my gratitude for the honorary doctorate awarded by the University of Kingston and the privilege to speak at this grand ceremony.