Speech at the 9th International Conference of the Balkan Political Club

Sarajevo, 6 May, 2006

 

 

 

In the late summer of 1999, I had the privilege of participating here in Sarajevo at the reunion which launched the Stability Pact. Never in the history of our region, maybe of all Europe, had such an exceptional gathering of all the great leaders of our world been to be seen. Symbolically, your city, a martyr of the last decade, was then the very center of a new world of hopes, of peace, of reconstruction.

          Still, the accession of the Western Balkans in the European Union was at that time only a dream. The Stability Pact was a tool, and a powerful one, but its goal was stability, not integration. However, over the past seven years, the Stability Pact has made such a valuable contribution to the South East European peace and progress, that it has changed the very premises for its work. The region is gradually assuming ownership of its own institutions, policies, and future. This future is, by the will of a huge majority of its citizen, the membership and the full integration in the European Union. Since the Thessaloniki summit in 2003, it has become also the will of the EU,

          Enlargement of the European and Euro-Atlantic structures has proven to be the most powerful policy tool in the present day history of the world. The drive of the EU has helped transform Central and Eastern Europe from communist regimes to modern, well-functioning democracies. More recently, it has inspired tremendous reforms in Turkey, Croatia and the Western Balkans. After generations of division and conflict, the EU is peacefully creating a united Europe. Ten new members joined in 2004, and the EU signed an accession treaty with Bulgaria and Romania in April 2005. In October 2005, the Union opened accession negotiations with Turkey and Croatia, and negotiations on a Stabilization and Association Agreement are in progress with Serbia and Montenegro, as well as with Bosnia Herzegovina.

Each of these events was justified by the countries’ progress in meeting the relevant conditions. In this process, the EU ensures a carefully management of the enlargement, the road-map and the time-table. But the will to extend peace, stability, prosperity, democracy, human rights and the rule of law across Europe – this will is ours. It is the will of our societies, of our peoples. Without this will, the enlargement of the EU may have been a utopia. Only this powerful will can transform the project of a new an greater Europe in a reality. To re-phrase a famous idea, the enlargement is not only about what Europe can do for us, but also about what we can do for ourselves - and for Europe.

All European citizens benefit from having neighbors that are stable democracies and prosperous market economies. All Europe benefits from a space of security, for the last fifteen years of our shared history have proven without any doubt that the European security is one and indivisible. Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Occident harbored the illusion that all the potential or even real conflicts beyond the Iron Curtain were not a danger, but a benefit for the West. After 1989, this illusion was dramatically challenged. Now it is clear that European security cannot and should not be divided. This new vision was inspired mostly by our region, the South East of Europe, and it triggered a huge effort and help from our Western partners, NATO and the EU, in supporting our will to integrate the same organizations, to share the same values which have insured the democratic progress of the West.

The Western Balkans is a particular challenge for the EU. Enlargement policy needs to demonstrate its power of transformation in a region where states are still weak and societies still divided. A convincing political perspective for integration into the EU is crucial to keep their reforms on track. But it is equally clear that these countries can join only once they have met the criteria in full. Meeting the criteria is our main job.

In preparing the present conference, I studied most carefully all the relevant documents of the EU concerning the Balkans in general, and Bosnia Herzegovina in special. I have found, as you certainly did, many reasons for hope, and some reasons for concern. I am here to tell you that I share your hopes as well as your concerns. Not only because of a sense of solidarity, which I feel, but also because it is the outmost interest of Romania to have partners and friends close to its borders.

It is hopeful that the UE report of late 2005 has a positive evaluation of many reforms and efforts that you achieved. I found out that Bosnia and Herzegovina has been participating in intensive stabilization and association talks, and has made significant progress in cooperation with the International Court in The Hague, with many transfers of indictees, has aligned with the Council Decision on the freezing of assets of persons indicted. I was glad to learn that, as regards the political situation, Bosnia and Herzegovina has made progress in further consolidating the stability of its institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities. Most of the Council of Europe post accession commitments have been fulfilled. You have assumed full organizational and financial responsibility for the 2004 municipal elections; have made further progress in implementing the Law on the Council of Ministers and the Law on Ministries. The legislation supporting refugee returns has been adopted and the Refugee Return Fund has been made operational. Significant progress has been achieved regarding the return of refugees and displaced persons to their pre-war areas. The transfer of human rights bodies from international to national responsibility has seen considerable developments.

I am not only glad to find these facts; I know that, behind any of the phrases which praise your progresses lays a huge effort to think and to act differently, to reform your society, to push it in the right direction. My own country, Romania, as well as Bulgaria, had, and still have to make the same huge effort. Romania has succeeded to met the main criteria of accession that you seek today by a very painful set of reforms which started during my term, and I know perhaps better than anyone in this room the high price that the political elite as well as the citizen have to pay in exchange for these achievements. So, I am very well aware of the price that your people and you, their leaders, must pay. But our shared future lies in the EU. I am here to tell you that we know the path, and that our friendly relations and exchange of ideas may help a lot in the integration process.

As the Balkan countries are moving from stabilization and reconstruction to sustainable development, sign Stabilization and Association Agreements (SAAs), establish a sound contractual relationship with the EU, for the Balkan states it's very important to learn to cooperate better and more openly, in a European spirit. National reconciliation and a free-trade zone in the Balkans are long overdue. Increasing regional cooperation is important for further stabilization and reconciliation. It is an indication of a country’s ability to cope with more advanced relations with the EU. Romania has learnt over the years how to manage by political and economic means the potential conflicts with her neighbors, and we can share with you this experience.

The recent apology of the Serbian President for war crimes committed by his countrymen in Bosnia and Herzegovina was an encouraging sign of a deepening reconciliation process. Starting from this, a new logic, of win-win relations, can and must replace the old zero-sum games in international relations. During my term, we found that three main tools for this new kind of politics were at our reach: first, the full participation of the significant minorities at all levels of governance, which formed the basis of our friendly relations with Hungary, and established a standard in the region; second, an active integration in the regional economic exchanges, which has been achieved mostly through the CEFTA agreements, the Central European Free Trade Agreement, which was a very useful exercise for the European integration; and third, a network of tri-lateral cooperation tools, which had the flexibility and the potential needed for a win-win game.  

Another space of regional cooperation was opened in the area of justice, liberty and security, including in combating organized crime. Mainly through the trilateral agreements and the South East Europe Cooperation Initiative, SEECI, we succeeded in creating a functional network which plays an essential part in the containment and reduction of transborder crime and traffic. It is a field in which regional cooperation is not only desirable, it is essential, as the integration of the criminal organizations has preceded largely the legitimate processes of integration we are striving to achieve.

Through these and other similar initiatives, through the South-East Europe Cooperation Process – which succeeded to adopt, for the first time in Balkan’s history, a Chart of good neighborhood in the midst of a time of violent conflicts, back in 1999  - a reformed Stability Pact could gradually transfer its key functions to the region, and increase the momentum in regional cooperation. The perspective of moving to the next stage in relations with the Union is a powerful incentive for our countries to transform themselves and to adopt EU standards and values. The journey towards membership has value in itself, even if accession is many years away. In this journey, which is often difficult, the EU support is essential, but not sufficient. All the countries in the region must stay engaged throughout the whole process and committed to its successful outcome for all. In this respect, it is time for us to assume the complete ownership of our regional policies and institutions of cooperation, as well as the full responsibility of our relations. Enlargement is about sharing a project based on common principles, policies and institutions. We all share this project. We must share its burden, as well as its success. 

.         In July, 1997, just after the Madrid summit, the President of the United States was in Bucharest to launch the USA-Romania Strategic Partnership. In a huge rally, he pronounced a grand speech in which he told Romanians that their perspectives of integrating the democratic West were open and bright. “Keep the course” he said to us. Let me say the same to you. Keep the course, and we will reunite soon in the new Europe of democracy and freedom.

After the collapse of the Communist regimes, the world seemed still, and history – at its end. Instead, we see now that the world of today is tragically divided in two clashing streams: on one hand, the centripetal mainstream of the new and restored democracies in the former communist space, which seek integration, on the other, the centrifugal, chaotic, and deadly refusal of these very values and aspirations.

This clash is not about poverty and richness. Both our countries are poor, at least by European standards, but we have the will to end poverty. It is not about civilization, or faith. Both our countries experienced, each in its own way, divisions of faith and of civilization, but we have the will to transcend those divisions and to cooperate in the respect of diversity and in mutual respect. This clash is about politics in the highest sense of the word. A new form of totalitarianism, dictatorship, and tyranny, is today at war with the democratic values of the Euro-Atlantic civilization. As parts of the same civilization, we are also part of this war. The new world of hopes, of peace, of reconstruction, of which seven years ago Sarajevo was chosen to be its symbolic capital-city, is now at stake. Any progress we insure for our region, any step to integration, is a step away from chaos, towards this new and hopeful Europe which started here, in Sarajevo, in the late summer of 1999. We have the mission to ensure a stable and prosperous future for our peoples, but in doing that, we contribute to the victory of liberty, democracy, and peace in the whole world.