My dear Flemish brothers and sisters,
At the beginning I would like to thank you very much for the invitation. It is an extraordinary honor for me to speak in front of you on this special day. When I first stepped on Flemish ground four years ago, I was welcomed with great hospitality. And every further time the same connection was to be felt. This lead me to hanging the Flemish flag next to the Tyolean in my room.
Today we remember all those brave Flemings who died in the “Guldensporenslag” People of all classes, be they nobles, patricians, craftsmen or peasants, defended their freedom against France in 1302. However, the majority of the insurgents were ordinary citizens. It was them who were directly affected by the negative effects of foreign rule. The citizens stood up to defend themselves against unfair tax increases and the confiscation of their land. These people were well aware that they had rights. Inalienable rights that do not depend on their money or social status.
If we look at history, we find other such important moments. A red thread runs through the history books with such striking moments. The French Revolution is certainly one of those great hours of mankind. In 1789, the citizens of France rose up against the absolutist ruling monarch Louis XVI, demanding an end to arbitrary violence and political participation. The people were increasingly dissatisfied under the reign of the king and rebelled against the feudal system. At that time the farmers, who worked the soil daily in physically extremely strenuous manual labor, had no possessions of their own. The land and they themselves were not free, they were the property of the lord of the manor and thus completely subject to the laws of their lord. Their demands for freedom, equality and fraternity seem to us today to be completely normal, like the declaration of human and civil rights, but they were a novelty.
After a setback of this liberal freedom movement by the reorganization of Europe at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the modernization of society progressed again through the Europe-wide revolutions of 1830 and 1848. In the then German Confederation, it was mainly members of student fraternities who advocated social upheaval and co-determination of the people. The fundamental aim of these popular uprisings was, like the French Revolution, to limit the arbitrariness of the rulers and to regard each individual as equal. And despite fierce resistance, the citizens succeeded in turning some of their core demands into reality: In many European countries, the liberation of farmers and agricultural reforms were completed, the constitutional principle was enforced, individual fundamental rights were largely secured and parliamentarisation of the political order was initiated, although many resistances and counterweights remained for a long time in this area.
The parliamentarisation of the political system and the direct participation of the citizens in power that was mentioned above proved to be a hard task indeed. It took the horrors of the First World War until the encrusted system of elite rule was finally broken up in the Western European states and real co-determination of the citizens was shown. Nevertheless, it took another destructive war and the death of millions of people until the world agreed on a joint declaration: In 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On paper, every citizen had the same rights, but in practice this was not the case. That these fundamental rights were broken in practice was also felt in South Tyrol.
After the partition of Tyrol at the end of the First World War and the grey of fascist oppression, the South Tyroleans were assured of the protection of their minority in an agreement in 1948. But in everyday life the harassment and malice on the part of the Italians continued. German- and Ladin-speaking citizens were discriminated when looking for work, their right to freedom of expression was restricted and equality before the law, like the prohibition of torture, only had meaning on paper. Here, too, it was ordinary citizens who openly addressed these abuses of oppression. At the beginning the resistance was only with words. An example of this is the meeting at Sigmundskron Castle in which 35,000 people took part. But despite all words, the situation did not improve and the rights of the South Tyroleans continued to be trampled. In the night from 11 to 12 June 1961, a group of freedom fighters followed words with deeds: They blew up 37 high-voltage pylons and thus drew the attention of the world public to the South Tyrolean problem. In retrospect, this action was to be the key moment for the present autonomy of South Tyrol.
The protests in 1989 in the German Democratic Republic also represented such a key moment where the citizens stood up for their freedom rights. The people were tired of living in a surveillance state that spied on its citizens. People no longer wanted to live in a country where corruption and electoral fraud were commonplace and where freedom to travel was virtually non-existent. To realize these demands, the citizens took to the streets and demonstrated. Using the number of participants in the Leipzig Monday demonstrations as an example, we can see how in autumn 1989 more and more people in the German Democratic Republic dared to demonstrate against their political leadership. On September 4, 1989, there were still a mere 1,200 participants, but just 6-7 weeks later the number of participants in the Monday demonstrations in Leipzig rose to 250,000, eventually even to 450,000. The political system and the leadership of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany could not cope with this immense pressure and broke. The citizens had once again shown that they have the power and not the elites.
Finally, I would like to speak of a matter of my heart. It's about the situation of the Boers in South Africa. The white settlers came to the southern tip of Africa hundreds of years ago and began to cultivate fruitless and barren savannah ground. Today, however, this immensely important contribution to agriculture is not only called into question, but is seen as negative by a broad majority of the population. The overall situation of the Boers is simply devastating: they may not be hired, are massacred on their farms, are expropriated by the state, do not receive justice in court and are not protected by the police. The government adopts measures and laws aimed at the exclusion and discrimination of the Boers. One can say that a form of racism strikes against the Boers and the world looks away. Their cries for help are simply ignored by Western mainstream media. The people of the world, it seems, should not know what is going on in South Africa. But we, my dear Flemish brothers and sisters, know what suffering the Boers are going through. Let's not sit back and watch, but rather work together to improve compliance with your rights. Let us all stand up together to fight for our rights. For the right to freedom of opinion, which in our time only goes so far as long as political correctness is not violated. For the right of security, which for years has been massively threatened by religious extremists and uncontrolled immigration. And let us all speak out especially for the right of self-determination. We are responsible citizens and can decide for ourselves what’s best for us and our home country. Let's not be the anvil, let's be the hammer!
Freiheit für Südtirol! Vrijheid voor Vlaanderen!