Prime-minister of the Netherlands: H.E. Dr J.P. Balkenende
Your Excellencies, Mr Sosabowski, honoured veterans, Madam Mayor, Mr Baltussen, ladies and gentlemen,

Sixty-five years ago they suddenly dropped from the sky over Driel: the men of the First Independent Polish Parachute Brigade, commanded by Stanisław Sosabowski.

Far from home, they drifted through the air, both saviours and targets. They were keyed up for the fierce battle that lay ahead. And they fought that battle with total devotion. Unyielding. Brave. Resolute.

These soldiers served loyally in Operation Market Garden. And today on Poland Square, we pay tribute to their struggle. We remember with gratitude the Polish parachutists and their leader, who did not flinch in the face of danger. And we honour the Polish and other Allied soldiers who gave their lives at the Battle of Arnhem.

Sixty-five years ago hundreds of heroes dropped from the sky over Driel. Heroes who had to wait many years for recognition. I am glad to say that in 2006, we did justice to their role in history. In conferring the Military Order of William on the First Independent, we gave the brave deeds of this Polish brigade the recognition they deserved. And by awarding the Bronze Lion to the late Major-General Sosabowski, we gave him the high honour he personally was due.

The Netherlands owes Poland a great debt of gratitude. The Poles showed their solidarity with us in the darkest period of our national history. We can never forget that they gave us the most precious of gifts: freedom.

On 1 September I was on the Polish peninsula of Westerplatte in Gdansk. I joined the Polish people there in commemorating the outbreak of the Second World War, seventy years ago. The Polish people suffered terribly in the years that followed: not only during the war but afterwards as well. It was especially cruel that Poland’s military heroes, who had helped free the Netherlands, could not taste the sweetness of freedom when they went home to their own country. The end to repression, fear and terror did not come to Poland until 1989. That is something else we should never forget.

The struggle for freedom in the Netherlands and in Poland were chapters from the same book. The book of war and peace on our diverse continent. The book of Europe.

Europe was divided, literally cut in two, for decades. With the accession of Poland and other former Warsaw Pact countries to the European Union, Europe took a big step towards unity. That is something to celebrate. For there is so much that binds us. Values like democracy, freedom and human rights. And tolerance, justice and solidarity.

These are the values that Major-General Sosabowski and his men fought for sixty-five years ago. Here in Driel today, we pause to remember their struggle. In eternal gratitude.