Speech at the Swedish Riksdag by the President of the Belgian House of representatives
I would like to pay tribute to a man without whom this ceremony would not have taken place: the Swedish Count and diplomat Folke Bernadotte.
We are gathered here today to celebrate, through him, a value, the Brotherhood that transcends all differences.
On the occasion of the King's celebration in our Parliament on 15 November, I had the opportunity to present our former sovereigns King Albert II and Queen Paola with this commemorative plaque and some documents relating to the heroic action of Count Folke Bernadotte, their distant relative.
Relying on his personal international network and in particular on the Swedish Red Cross, of which he was vice-president, Count Bernadotte succeeded, at the end of the Second World War, in transferring no less than 31,000 prisoners of various nationalities from German concentration camps to Sweden. It took a lot of effort, but his negotiation paid off: 31 000 men and women who were in danger of certain death during the terrible last months of the war were saved. The white buses that picked them up became legendary.
Folke Bernadotte's achievements received international acclaim, and he could have left it at that. But he did not.
When on 15 May 1948 - one day after Israel's declaration of independence - the Arab-Israeli war broke out, he, as an internationally renowned diplomat, immediately began negotiations. Five days later, on 20 May 1948, he was appointed Mediator for Palestine - becoming the very first official mediator of the newly founded United Nations.
Count Bernadotte succeeded in obtaining a ceasefire within days and drew up a genuine peace plan, which included a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a humanitarian settlement to alleviate the miserable situation of Palestinian refugees.
He laid the foundations for the creation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, which still exists today.
Unfortunately, he paid a high price for his singular courage: on 17 September 1948, he was murdered by terrorists in Jerusalem. He was 53 years old.
I believe, ladies and gentlemen, that Count Bernadotte will always be a very inspiring figure. He gave us an incredible lesson in optimism, for today and for tomorrow.
First of all, because he demonstrated more than anyone else the importance of conflict prevention, of continuing dialogue between conflicting parties and of international cooperation in crisis management and disaster relief of all kinds.
But also, and perhaps most importantly, because he believed in the power of the individual to do good, and in his ability to do so.
Of course, not everyone is in a position to launch large-scale rescue operations or to develop international peace plans.
But we can all, each at our own level and according to our own possibilities, work for good.
I thank you for your attention