THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OF MONGOLIA, PRESS & COMMUNICATIONS DIVISION

www.president.mn

2015-06-09




ADDRESS BY H.E. TSAKHIAGIIN ELBEGDORJ, PRESIDENT OF MONGOLIA TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT



Strasbourg, France, Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Mr. President,
Distinguished Members of the European Parliament,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to begin with something simple: thank you.

Thank you, Mr. President, for inviting me.

Thank you, Members of the European Parliament, for giving me this opportunity to share my views with you, the distinguished representatives of 28 sovereign states of this great continent - Europe.

I am the youngest of eight sons. For generations, my family lived as nomadic herdsmen in the western highlands of my country, in the ranges of the Altai Mountains.

My mother and father never dreamt that, one day, their youngest son would speak from this respected podium to the most caring hearts of democracy: the European Parliament.

But this is not about me. I am here to speak for my people and about my country.

Mongolia’s Journey to Democracy

Mr. President, Distinguished Members, I am proud of my motherland, Mongolia. I am proud of our history, our culture, our traditions, and the natural beauty that surrounds us. But most of all, I am proud of our spirit and our values.

The brief story of my country’s modern history and our journey to democracy will sound familiar to many of you. In the early 1920s, Mongolia came under communist rule, which lasted for seven decades.

During the Stalinist purges one out of every six adult men was killed. More than 700 Buddhist temples were burnt to ash. The foreign and domestic agents of the communist experiment targeted the very spirit of our nation. But they were not destined to win, not destined to last forever. In the end, our will to live free prevailed.

After many years, our defining moment finally arrived. On the cold morning of December 10th, 1989, we organized the first unauthorized public street meeting in our capital city Ulaanbaatar.

I was fortunate enough to be chosen by my fellow democracy fighters to moderate that historic event.
“We have remained silent for a long time. This is our time to work. This is the time for reform.” These were my opening remarks.

That morning, we demanded our rights – of freedom of assembly, of speech, of religion and of freedom of press. We demanded to create a multiparty system, conduct democratic elections, and begin market reforms. It was the beginning of my country’s journey to liberty, justice and openness.

That was a tough journey to embark upon.

During that time, our neighbor - the Soviet Union - was intact. Its grip and control was still tight, powerful and overwhelming.

In our other neighbor’s capital the Tiananmen Square massacre had happened. Its shockwave was still fresh and influential.

In Mongolia, the old regime was stubborn. The old mindset was strongly resistant to change.
We organized many meetings, demonstrations and hunger strikes. We tried to eliminate every reason for violence. We always called for compromises, for peaceful solutions.
Indeed, Mongolia’s democratic revolution was totally peaceful.

No single shot was fired.
No single window was shattered.
No single drop of blood was shed.

A month from now, Mongolia will celebrate the 25th anniversary of its first full democratic, multiparty election. Since that historic day on July 29, 1990, we have had full scale democratic elections for parliament seven times, for President, six.

And since that day a quarter century ago, we have transformed from a dictatorship to a democracy, from being one of the most isolated, closed communist regimes in the world, to one of the most open.

Today, we have a dynamic market economy, and a vibrant, plural, creative society. Our per capita GDP has increased more than 20-fold. Our private sector is producing now more than 80 percent of our gross domestic product.

The Meaning of Democracy in Mongolia

Mr. President, Distinguished Members, I want to talk about some of the virtues at the core of our young democracy - virtues we hope to strengthen in the coming years through cooperation with our partners in Europe and elsewhere.

Freedom

Individual freedom is the cornerstone of our democracy. Mongolians love freedom because we have earned it through hard work.

Government in a free country is not the property of any specific group of people. In order to sustain a healthy society, we must keep nurturing and challenging it every day.

The beauty of freedom is that it is a learning process. It is the healing system of human society.

We can make mistakes. But mistakes will not cost us our lives as in dictatorship. That’s why we love freedom.

Mongolia is among the top countries in the world by the number of media tools used per capita. We only have three million citizens, but it feels like there are three million journalists too!
This is great – most of the time. People have the right to question authority. Transparency and interaction make us stronger.

That is why Mongolia is proud to be chairing the Freedom Online Coalition. We will use this opportunity to promote access to the internet for all. We will support the UN’s effort to create a comprehensive convention on internet freedom.

As our society becomes more open, we increasingly hear concerned voices for safety. But we should not depart from universal values in response to today’s security concerns. We see that violent extremism continues to evolve and threaten. But in contrast, our commitment to freedom, tolerance and peace must stay unbending.

I therefore applaud the European Parliament for its brilliant initiative to adopt a charter of fundamental digital rights in the 21st century. Let’s continue to work together to advance this great digital revolution.

Elections, government and accountability

New technologies have been vital to the health of our democracy.

In our last three elections we used electronic voting machines and a biometric voter registration system. These fraud-prevention measures assure voters that their participation will make a difference.

Of course, instilling confidence in government goes beyond elections. Mongolians are deeply interested in how the government spends their hard-earned tax money. To ensure transparency, we have developed a very effective monitoring system – the “Glass Account Law” - that mandates online disclosure of public expenditures.

One challenge we face is the growing size of government. In response to new challenges, government functions tend to increase. It becomes bigger, more bureaucratic, and more distant.

Technology has the opposite tendency: it becomes smaller, more functional, and more user-friendly over time.

To tackle this I put forward a smart government initiative, which incorporates new technologies to allow our government to constantly adapt to new challenges.

Corruption

Corruption is an infectious disease that grows in darkness. It destroys the fundamentals of a fair, just and secure society. It scares away honest partners and investors. It robs people of opportunity, devours the fruits of their hard work.

To exterminate this evil, we must shine a light on corruption -- ensuring that it is exposed and those responsible for it do not escape justice.

I am proud to say that in just four years, Mongolia has risen from 120 to 80 in Transparency International’s corruption index. We still have work to do, but we are making good progress in cleaning up our beloved country.

Capital punishment and human rights

We have also made progress in the sphere of human rights. The foundation of justice is a respect for human dignity, central to which is the sanctity of human life. Under no circumstances is capital punishment acceptable.

Before June 18, 2009, Mongolia was regarded by Amnesty International as one of the worst countries in terms of capital punishment. That was the day I took my oath to become President of Mongolia. That same day I saw on my desk two draft decrees. I had to make the choice on whether or not to have two men executed.

I chose life. And I kept to my decision. And I began delivering that message to the public and to our decision-makers. It was not easy to exercise leadership on this issue, but in 2012 my country ratified the UN’s International Covenant which aims at the abolition of the death penalty.

There have been no executions in Mongolia since June 2009.

Let me be clear - capital punishment is ineffective and barbaric. From this podium I would like to thank the EU and all our European friends who support and encourage us on this important cause.

Excellencies,

Reform of the judiciary is imperative for us.
Reforming our legislative and judicial frameworks is an important part of the efforts to build a free and fair society.

It has been one of my priorities, and we have taken great steps to modernize all aspects of the justice system, from police and prosecutors to courts and judges. People’s confidence in a fair court of law is being restored.

Empowerment of women

A free society must also be an inclusive one. Women are the backbone of the family and the bedrock of a nation. They bring life into the world. Often, it is they who care for the old, the sick, and those in need.

They are our mothers, our sisters and our daughters. For society to advance, we need more women in public service at all levels, from local to global. I’m proud to report that in our last election, we tripled the number of women in our Parliament.

With more women in power, I think we would have more harmony, more engagement, less suffering, and less conflict.

Education

I would also like to say a word about education. Education is the ground for our future success. I went from a family of herdsmen to Harvard. I want other young people to have the same opportunity.

We are working hard to build our capacity in schools, universities and other academic institutions. We are particularly thankful to draw on the expertise of the Council of Europe’s education programs to strengthen our institutions.

Excellencies,

I understand that all democracies should not look the same. We have to respect differences. Democracy is a representative form of government. In any nation it should reflect their cultures and traditions. But in every decent society you will see a common trend:

- They limit the power of the state.
- They tend to be responsive to their peoples grievances.
- They protect human rights, with impartial and consistent rule of law.
- They support healthy civic institutions, independent media and judiciary.
- They fight corruption, invest in human capital and recognize gender equality.
- They allow people to choose their leaders in free and fair elections.

Strengthening Mongolia-EU partnership

Mr. President, Distinguished Members, these are all issues where Mongolia and Europe share common values and where we value your cooperation. Mongolia and Europe are old friends, as shown by a letter from the Mongol Khaan Ulziit to Philippe le Bel, which dates back 710 years.

It says: “How can we consign to oblivion the friendship our forefathers, grandfathers, fathers and brothers so cherished, who, being far apart yet feeling near, exchanged words of wisdom and gifts of peace?”

It is in this same spirit that I speak today of opening a new chapter in Mongolian -European relations.

With the fall of communism, relations between Mongolia and Europe have again blossomed. Your financial, technical and humanitarian assistance and cooperation greatly aided our efforts to build a free, democratic society.

And for that, we are grateful.

Excellencies,

In 2014, Mongolia and the EU celebrated the 25th anniversary of our diplomatic relations.

I see the cooperation between the European Parliament and the Mongolian State Great Khural, as being crucial to the continued strengthening of our partnership.

We have already made great strides together, including the establishment of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Mongolia and the EU. I would like to thank the Member States that have ratified the Agreement.

Indeed, there are now more opportunities than ever for European investment. First-rate European companies are coming to Mongolia to invest, often in partnership with our companies. As the government takes steps to improve the investment climate, such opportunities are rapidly increasing.

We hope many of you will see our country’s beauties and potentials firsthand in 2016 when Mongolia proudly hosts the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting . I sincerely look forward to welcoming the leaders of the EU and of Member States to my country and assure you it will be a memorable Summit.

Mongolia’s constructive international role

Mr. President, Distinguished Members,

Mongolia’s commitment to international cooperation is strong. We recently launched an initiative called The Forum of Asia. We hope this will serve as a much-needed mechanism to promote regional integration of all sovereign nations in Asia, promoting equal representation of their diverse interests. My government is now working to finalize this concept, and is inviting interested parties to contribute ideas that will aid its realization.

Friends,

Mongolia does not have an intention to lecture others about democracy. Yet we do have lessons to share.

With Kyrgyzstan, we are sharing our lessons learned in building effective parliamentary democracy and enacting legal reforms;

With Afghanistan, we are conducting training for diplomats and public servants;

With Myanmar, we are hosting media workers, journalists and civil society members;

With North Korea, we are engaging in economic and security dialogues.

We strongly believe Mongolia can make a substantial contribution to regional security in North East Asia, and beyond.

We understand the consequences of the Cold War. Because of our experiences under both communism and democracy, we are uniquely suited to serve as an honest broker in promoting peace and security in that region.

As part of our efforts to build regional understanding, in 2013 I announced the Ulaanbaatar Dialogue on North East Asian Security, an initiative similar to the Helsinki dialogue.

We have hosted a number of meetings and conferences on topics beyond security matters, such as energy, women and nuclear issues.

My country has been pursuing nuclear-weapon-free status for 23 years.
In 2012, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council signed a joint declaration reaffirming our nuclear-weapon-free status.

While nuclear power may remain a viable energy option for some, any nation seeking to build nuclear power must not endanger the peace and security of their independent neighbors.

We take seriously our common responsibility to promote peace. Mongolian military proudly wear blue helmets and serve along with fellow UN peacekeepers to maintain international order and security.

Mongolia has become one of the 20 largest peacekeeping contributors in the world. So far, more than 12,000 Mongolian peacekeepers have served on active duty in hotspots around the world. This is a significant number if you compare it with the small size of our population.

We Mongols, are proud to serve, proud to contribute.

Concluding remarks

Mr. President, Distinguished Members, once again, I would like to thank the European Council, European Union, European Commission, and you - the European Parliament, as well as the nations of Europe, for constantly supporting my country, Mongolia.

The Mongols say: “The finest of men is tested in need. The finest of horses is tested in ride.”

You were with us when we needed your support the most. You were with us, when we needed your voice of encouragement. You are always with Mongolia, complimenting us on our success, and helping in our challenges.

The EU is the world’s premier invention for advancing global prosperity, peace and harmony. Mongolia will be a strategic anchor for the EU in the East, helping advance our shared values and interests, and for building peace, democracy and engagement in Asia.

Friends, let us continue working together. Thank you.