Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to the Fundamental Rights Forum 2021!
The Forum could not have come at a more appropriate time.
After living with the Coronavirus for one and a half years, we have all become more aware that we cannot take our rights for granted.
The pandemic has restricted our rights and freedoms in more ways than we could have imagined possible.
It has laid bare the vast inequalities in our societies and exposed the hardships some people face because of their age, skin colour, gender or migration status.
Now is the time to stop and think: where do we go from here?
Can the pandemic give a fresh impetus to further the protection of human rights in Europe?
Can it help drive change, so we can create a fair and equal society everyone feels part of?
This is what the Forum is all about – it is about looking forward, towards a vision of hope. It is about defining what needs to be done and demanding that it really happens.
Because one thing is clear - it is not enough to have human rights well anchored in the normative frameworks of our democracies if there is no will - particularly political - to cherish them and bring them to live.
Human rights on paper need to translate to human rights in reality.
Everyone, young and old, needs to be able to get involved.
The Fundamental Rights Forum 2021 is the place where this will happen over the next two days: the many, very diverse sessions will bring to live our fundamental and human rights on which our democracies are founded.
They will highlight and discuss today’s human rights challenges, from different perspectives, and put forward the concrete actions to overcome these challenges.
With that, I wish you a successful Fundamental Rights Forum 2021!
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen