Updated: 09-Dec-2004 NATO Speeches


9 Dec. 2004

”The Balkans in 2005 and beyond“

Statement by Mr. Eduard Kukan
Foreign Minister of the Slovak Republic
EAPC Ministerial Meeting

08/12/2004 - NATO
NATO Foreign Ministers meet in Brussels
Programme of the Foreign Ministers meeting at NATO HQ on 8 and 9 December 2004

Dear Mr. Secretary General,
Dear Colleagues, Friends,

It is an honour to introduce this panel with my excellent co-speakers – Ministers Freivalds and Mitreva. I am convinced that the topic is of great interest to the EAPC countries, who have a great deal to say about it. Active participation of the Partner countries in all the NATO-led missions in the western Balkan confirms your interest and engagement.

2005 will be a year of challenges and tests not only for the international community, but also and above all for the political leaders and publics of the western Balkan countries. Today, Kosovo dominates our considerations. Not only because in mid-2005 the evaluation report on the key standards implementation will be available, but also because of recent signals coming from the province. These are mixed, and some of them very disquieting. The Kosovar Serbs boycotted the parliamentary elections. High unemployment, lack of social guarantees and prospects, minimal foreign investment, and low standard of living create the conditions for tensions and interethnic clashes. We cannot exclude the possibility that under certain circumstances the events of last March might be repeated. Unfortunately, the potential for violence in Kosovo has not been eliminated yet. In this context the KFOR mission, which is today much better prepared than in March, can contain a possible outbreak of violence, but cannot prevent it. Therefore it is absolutely necessary to maintain the current level of KFOR forces also in the upcoming crucial period.

The search for a solution to the status question will require the sharpest focus and the utmost sensitivity on the part of the international community. The same applies to defining the place and role of Belgrade in the process. We should strive to avoid steps and solutions that might foster feelings of injustice in any ethnic group. In the past, whenever a development led to such a result, the solution was never enduring and did not bring mutual tolerance. The Kosovars have the right to aspire to a European future. However, to be a part of a democratic Europe means also to guarantee all citizen equal standards and rights, as well as to assume and meet one’s obligations. The Provisional Institutions of Self-Government have been taking over more and more powers, but a further transfer has to be conditional on assumption of corresponding responsibility.

Another key political and also ethical issue with far-reaching economic, security and social consequences is the ability of the countries of the region to face up to the legacy of their recent history through the full co-operation with the ICTY. This applies to Serbia and Montenegro, to Bosnia and Herzegovina, but still also to Croatia, even though progress has been noted here, and in a specific way also to the Kosovar governing elites. Eventhough the relationship between politics and justice is a complex one and justice functions in a particular political context, we believe that political considerations should not stand in the way of justice. Indicted persons from whatever side of past conflicts should face a trial before the Tribunal that will consider the question of guilt. Let there be no doubt in this crucial issue: there shall be no compromises, no double standards.

Next year, Serbia and Montenegro will face another great challenge. Soon, three years will have passed since the signing of the Belgrade Agreement. Despite the internal effort and international assistance, the institutions of the Union are not formed in such a way as to allow it to focus on real priorities. Overcoming fully the legacy of the Miloševič regime and catching up with the integration processes are certainly such priorities. The upcoming elections to the Parliament of the Union will indicate a lot, among other things whether the ideas of a modern European perspective prevail over the powers pulling the country back to the past. We trust the potential of the local democratic forces.

Macedonia has experienced a politically difficult year – as our friend and colleague, Minister Mitreva could confirm. However, the country was able to overcome successfully the tragic loss of its President as well as repeated change of its Prime Minister. In the recent referendum, Macedonian citizens confirmed again their commitment to Euro-Atlantic values. Next steps in the same direction should follow: continuing implementation of the Ohrid Agreement, including decentralisation legislation and local elections. It is impossible not to note the right direction of the government policies which deserves the international community’s appreciation.

Albania also faces the task of further proving its ability to implement commitments that it has made within the MAP and SAP frameworks, especially in the context of the upcoming parliamentary elections. The elections, which I trust will meet European standards, would send a clear message that Albania is determined to fulfil its integration ambitions.

In spite of difficulties, the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina today is probably the most promising since the state was established. By its decisive action, the Alliance helped to bring peace to the country. After nine years of the successful IFOR and SFOR peacekeeping missions led by NATO, and with a significant contribution from the Partners, the main responsibility for maintaining the secure environment has been handed over to EUFOR. Of course, the Alliance will remain engaged in Bosnia and Herzegovina, concentrating on defence reform assistance. As you, Mr. Secretary General, have rightly pointed out, the recent interaction between NATO, the UN and other international institutions in the country provides a highly successful demonstration of the effectiveness and potential of close co-operation. Now, we expect the representatives of both entities to make full use of the possibilities opened to Bosnia and Herzegovina, leading to a democratic Europe.

Dear colleagues,

I think all of us realise that in the western Balkans all processes are closely intertwined, maybe more than elsewhere. One area significantly influences another, in a positive as well as negative sense. The role of the international community is therefore of a paramount importance and very delicate. Several negative factors from the recent past are still at work. We can eliminate them only through a co-ordinated approach by all the actors of the international community. The key motivation for all the states of the region is the prospect of European and transatlantic integration. Besides its security role, NATO as one of the most important international actors in the region can also act as a motivating and integrating force, especially vis-à-vis the countries that are not yet members of the Partnership for Peace.

As I mentioned earlier, 2005 represents a challenge for the western Balkans as well as for the international community. Shedding the clichés and stereotypes in looking at the region and its challenges would enables us to make right decisions that in turn will stimulate the right responses and processes in the region. The wrong ones would lead to the opposite.

Thank you


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