Dear Excellencies, Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends.
Our duty is not finished.
We are the generation that fought the difficult battles. We are the generation that agreed the difficult peace agreements. We have democratically handed power over to a new generation.
Like many of you, I know the suffering and tragedy of war. Like many of you, I know the challenges of compromise and reconciliation. I had to make difficult compromises in the summer of 1999. I had to make very difficult compromises in 2007 and 2008. I did my duty, because I knew it was best for my children and my people. I made the compromises, I worked hard for reconciliation. Many of you, my friends and colleagues here, have the same experience.
Our duty is not finished. The work is not finished. Our region is not finished.
We have finished the fighting. We have finished redrawing the map. We have finished the creation of new countries.
But we have not finished building a stable, sustainable democracy. Some people in our countries expect the rewards of freedom and capitalism before they have fulfilled their responsibilities. We have all seen the problems of corruption; the problems of lack of investment in education; the problems of courtrooms which our citizens do not trust. In too many places, we have 21st century government offices and 19th century school buildings.
And we have not finished building a cooperative region. We know what the region looks like, but we have not made it work; we have not learned to work together. The international community has lost interest. The European Union is looking inwards. Other actors intervene in our region only for their own interests, or to stir up trouble between us.
We cannot wait for the foreigners. The longer we wait for someone else to solve our problems, the longer we will wait for EU membership.
We must be more than consumers of other people’s diplomacy and foreign policy. We must be more than beggars of security. Yes, most of us are committed to EU membership. Yes, I am proud of everything I did as Minister and Prime Minister to strengthen my country’s alliance with NATO. But if we are passive, we will remain the subjects of foreign empires and foreign rivalries, as we were a century ago.
It is up to us to develop strong economic co-operation, including trade and tourism and foreign direct investment, that are not restricted by borders. It is up to us to develop an integrated transport network across the region. It is up to us to develop cross-border relationships between schools and sports teams. It is up to us to define what security means in our region, and how we will achieve security together. It is up to us to show that the possibilities of peace are stronger than the memories of war.
We are all senior leaders who have left our rivalries behind us. So, it is up to us to offer an example of looking forwards, an example of co-operation. Our duty is not yet finished. But we all know that together we can finish it.