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16.11.2004 Svetozar Marovic, Serbia ja Montenegron presidentti: Serbia and Montenegro on the road towards European Union

Svetozar Marovic, President of Serbia and Montenegro
November 16, 2004
Serbia and Montenegro on the road towards European Union

The State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, formed democratically, by agreement, marked, when it was formed, a definite victory over the times of misunderstanding, partiality and intolerance. It opened a new page in European thought, the pro-European search of compromise respecting reality and seeking to adapt the goals to the reality rather than adapting reality to the goals. Altough it was always very difficult to strike a proper balance, the State Union was formed by the will of both of the member states in order to promote their European goals, speed up European integration and prove that precisely the maintenance of such a union is the fastest road to Europe both for Serbia and for Montenegro.

As the President of the State Union I can say that over the past period it has fulfilled many positive objectives. To start with, it played a positive role in new regional confidence building in the Western Balkans. Serbia and Montenegro took the lead in making liberal, democratic, pro-European moves, was the first to decide to abolish visas for 40 countries, took the initiative to sign Free Trade Agreements in the region resulting in the completion of a market for 60 million people and a free trade regime throughout in. In addition, Serbia and Montenegro has been the promoter of the process of facing up to the past in our country in the course of which everybody had to shoulder a part of their responsibility for all the evils, tragedies and misfortunes that had taken the toll of tens of thousands of human lives and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless.

Serbia and Montenegro took the decision to remove the military from their borders. By opting for economic reforms, they opened the door wide to major foreign investors. LAst year the biggest investor was the most developed country of the world - the United States of America. The volume of trade with neighbouring countries went up SCG decisively initiated the military reform process placing the army under full democratic and civilian control and making sweeping personnel changes. Last year alone it retired 26 Generals. It is to be expected that this year the number of Generals will be further reduced and adapted too meet the standards of the NATO Partnership for Peace Programme. I could enumerate many other positive developments but essentially it follows from all this that SCG as a community has made a contribution to political life by introducing more rationalism into the ralations between Serbia and Montenegro while on the other hand helping the overall European process and stabilisation in the Western Balkan region. Quite certainly, you will ask me, just as I wonder myself, why, notwithstanding all this, instead of being the leaders in European integration on the strength of their geopolitical and strategic position, the size of their market, their political energy and political stability, SCG are at this moment still not moving forward on the path of European integration at the same pace as their neighbouring countries. By all other parametres, SCG are on a par with or ahead of these countries, although these are the countries taht are already due to join the European Union in 2007 or have candidate states like Croatia for instance. The only answer, apart from many internal deals with which I do not wish to overburden your attention, is the fact that in several fields SCG have so far not achieved the required level of efficiency or have not found answers to the question of how to fulfill their international obligations.

The first issue is that of The Hague International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The Hague is a big door in front of which Serbia and Montenegro are standing. All are ready to open that door and are saying that we have to cooperate with The Hague but we are still not implementing our commitment to The Hague. The cooperation with The Hague can be broken down into two main issues, the case of Mladic, fully internationalized with the participation of national and international forces and the case of other persons wanted by The Hague who, we can say with certainty, are to be found on the territory of SCG. With all due respect for the efforts being made by the institutions to prevail upon these persons to voluntarily surrender, I think that we can expect with certainty that this effort will either by fraught with difficulties or even end up in failure and that the state must give some answer. Namely, the Law of Cooperation with the ICTy, passed by the State Union PArliament, must be binding on all, not only citizens but also the institutions. Therefore, for us The Hague isthe NO. 1 issue at present and if we fulfill our obligations to The Hague, I think that the State Union can, realistically speking, soon become a member of the Partnership for PEace, expect the feasibility study to be finalized sooner and faster and early on in the mid-2005 start stabilisation and association negotiations with the European Union and have them completed soon.

That would be a major success for the European future of both Serbia and Montenegro irrespective of all the other factors influencing their right to freely choose their own future. However, in the same way, if there is lack of compliance, one should expect the process of SCG's disintegration to gather momentum. Precisely the people who are today saying that it is very difficult to turn the Hague indietees over to the Hague as that could jeopardise stability must be aware that it is exactly this lack of cooperation that is directly putting SCG's European stability at risk. We may be stable at the Balkans but that is what is behind us, that is phony stability that accommodates the autistic narute of society but not the open prospects and European opportunities and the future of Serbia and Montenegro.

The Hague is the issue to which every politician in SCG, no matter whether he lives in Belgrade or Podgorica, necessarily has an active approach. I personally, I wish to confirm, have repeatedly sought, as I am doing today, to ensure the full unity of the leaders and authorities in Serbia and Montenegro in order to take joint action in this field with full responsibility. You have seen, all in SCG pay lip service to The Hague cooperation commitment but we have still not done what is required so that some people are actually not doing what they preach or are preaching what they don't do. I do not know when we will become united but I know that it is on this that the European future of Serbia and Montenegro and the purpose behind the maintenance of the State Union and its final prospects directly depend.

I know that the next issue that has certainly attracted your attentionis what will become of the State Union, is just an experiment that will prove its weakness not only because of The Hague but for a whole range of other reasons indicating that The State Union issued could be simpler either in Serbia or in Montenegro if the member states parted ways. On the fate of the state union and the right to independence I only wish to say that to my mind, taht is a democratic issue. The Belgrade Agreement gives the rightto both member states to hold a referendum in three years' time, in keeping with European rules, to decide individuelly on the best course of action to take. That, of course, does not mean that the decision to be taken will a priori be one agaist the State Unio nor in favour of independence. We certainly have to recognize and respect referendum as a democratic institution for it will create conditions for generating additional enthusiasm and the wish among our people to embrace European values. To my mind, just as it should not be an obstacle on our path, the referendum should not be the reason for us to wait for European integrations. Until it is held, we have to work for European integration although there are still people who believe that the State Union is an unneccessary model imposed on Serbia and Montenegro by Brussels. We simply do not have the right to lose time respondint to such accusations of people who want to slow us down for we have before us a realistic time frame which we should use in the interest of citizens for, after all, the state and power exist for the sake of citizens and not vice versa.

As a democratic institution, referendum should certainly be arranged in conditions of a high-level consensus in accordance with the rules that will ensure respect for the democratic will of the people and guarantee the stability of both Montenegro and the region. The decision at the referendum must be turned to the future. I do not have any fears about this but certainly wish to point out that a referendum turned to the past is not a good referendum. The struggle fo an independent Montenegro or an independent Serbia must have the features of European goals, European values, European culture, European political jargon and actions rather than see the atavistic recurrence of past events, past divisions, past ideologies or revisiting some typically Balkan rifts of the past. Against this background, I repeat, the State Union, no matter whether it will be maintained after these 3 years, whether there will be a new arrangement or none at all, certainly illustrates the fact that even the decision of independence does not mean an end to integrastions. We have to build integration structures in Western Balkans even if the outcome of the referendum indicates that the majority of people in SCG want independence and to travel their own, separate roads. Our choice must be interconnectivity, our choice must be association, our choice must be especially regional relations and ties. In this context, an issue that interests everybody is that of Kosovo.

The state union is often mentioned as the union formed for the sake of Kosovo among other to allow manouvering space for finding a solution for the political future of Kosovo. On the other hand, some see the State Union as a hostage to Kosovo. Namely there are those people that say that the State Union has no right to a demise for that would precipitate the independence of Kosovo, or anticipate a political settlement for Kosovo even before the start of the dialogue. Regardless of all those different approaches and views, I think that the issue of Kosovo is a special issue, an issue that is not only an issue for Belgrade and Serbia and Pristina to address but one for the wider region. It has four aspects.

First, Kosovo must look for a solution through multiethnicity and the building of democratic institutions for only a multiethnic Kosovo has prospects.

Secondly, Kosovo must find a solution for its development, its future based on dialogy between the majority Albanian population and the minority communities.

Third, Kosovo must be open to economic and social development. It must recognize the fact that its key problem is not only interethnic conflict and ethnic dispute but primarily a social conflict disallowing the required and expected stability that we all wish to see. The unemployment rate is over 70 per cent, but that is another issue.

Fourth, a significant part of the Albanian population live in the neighbouring countries so that it is very important for Kosovo's future and prospects to ensure open and tolerant discussion to reach encouraging compromises with all the relevant partners in the region and the international community. In this way, the Balkan region that has always been a potential powder keg and is currently on a path of political stability and European integration will finally defeat itself and say a big NO to its past and open the door wide to its future. That future belongs to Europe and Europea with the Balkans as its part will not face the Balkan problem and the Balkan region will not have problem with itself.

These are the reasons why I am saying with much optimism that I see only democratic prospects for Serbia and Montenegro ahead of me regardless of whether the State Union is maintained after 3 years or a different decision is taken. For, Serbia and Montenegro will remain, they must remain interlinked not only in terms of economy, by family, religious and other ties but also by their shared European objectives.

I am an optimist because I see that the problem of Kosovo is impossible to tackle without the European path, European values.

As for the neighbouring countries, already now we are maintaining very good relations with them and just yesterday, I talked to the Croatian Prime Minister, Mr Ivo Sanader. A new spirit is being fostored and this indicates that we are on the right track. The support of Europe, that we have seen here in Finland too, is certainly welcome and is reflected in your understanding and advice, suggestions and, finally, in your experience. Fo our part, we have no reason to hide our specities or our differences. Every region will have them and they should be nurtured. What we all together have to recognize is certain common European values, the goals that bring us closer together, unite us and make us all happy, sure of our commitment and closer toa better society that will be mere just.

Thank you.