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Intervention of H.E. Stepan Mesić at the Balkans Leadership Conference

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, respected friends,

Every step that leads Southeast Europe towards peace is welcome. Any connection like this one that the Podgorica club has with the Universal Peace Federation is welcome.

Any establishment of an institution that paves the way for peace, security, and stability in this area is more than good.

The Peace Embassy is an ambitious project whose name incorporates both desire and hope. But it is also something else: it is imperative, because, after all that the nations of this region have gone through in their turbulent and bloody past, after all the wars and conflicts, and least of all in the function of their own interests, peace is what we all need. And not peace as a period between wars, but peace as a permanent state to which both consciousness and political will shall lead.

I repeat - consciousness and political will. Awareness of the need for lasting peace, built on the principles of complete equality, mutual respect, satisfying common interests and non-interference in the internal affairs of others, we must first develop this awareness in all nations. And that means we must wage a resolute fight against all those who spread intolerance and xenophobia, who preach hatred and want to turn nations into captives of a falsified past.

I am fully aware that this struggle will be neither easy, nor simple, nor short. The seeds of evil have been sown and diligently watered for decades. And to eradicate it will take effort and time. But it will also need political will. The ruling political parties, some of which owe their power and survival almost exclusively to the homogenization of their own peoples by presenting ‘these others’ as age-old enemies, and at the same time less valuable, will have to give up their model of governance, based on the fear of others.

I say, they will have to!

Unfortunately, the situation in the world is not in our favor. After the end of the Cold War and the confrontation of the different blocs, when we hoped that a new chapter in international relations had opened, we witnessed the unfounded triumphalism of one side, the roughest trampling of the basic principles on which international relations are based, we witnessed an era of unilateral actions, often armed, the marginalization of the United Nations and finally the beginning of something that is not without reason called the new cold war.

All this was followed by our falling into the shadow of the great world Non-Aligned Movement, which is to be thanked for the fact that the world at the time of the blocs’ division did not move from the phase of the Cold War to that of open conflict. The non-aligned nations, though, still exist, but on the world stage, with the exception of the United Nations General Assembly, they are barely present or visible.

The confrontation between the West, in fact between the United States and Russia, was followed by the confrontation of the same group of countries with China. The European Union is consistent in its inability to speak the same language and with one voice when it comes to the pressing problems of today. The arms race has resumed, the differences between developing and developed countries are widening, the global agreement on combating climate change, as we were supposed to reach it, was impossible to achieve, to a pandemic that is a global threat, the world has failed to respond in a coordinated and joint action.

I had to list all this, at least briefly, to make it clear why I say that world conditions are not in our favor to direct the Balkans, or Southeast Europe, call it as you wish, towards a path of peace, cooperation, mutual understanding and trust. Which, it is almost superfluous to say, implies the inclusion of all countries in the region in the European Union, regardless of all its shortcomings. That is exactly what we need.

Without that, without a key deviation from the current situation, there is no future for this region. When I say that, I refer to the relations between my country Croatia and Serbia, the attitude of both Croatia and Serbia towards Bosnia and Herzegovina, the internal situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the role of the international factors in that. Moreover, in some neighboring larger countries, we hear voices that irresistibly lead to the conclusion that the appetites there, the old appetites for parts of the territory of certain counties that grew up on the territory of Yugoslavia, have not been extinguished.

Does that mean I’m a pessimist, that I think we should give up? Indeed not, quite the opposite. The adverse conditions in the international environment and circumstances in the countries of this area can and must lead us to even more energetic, clearer, and even more decisive moves whose goal is only one - peace!

I dare say that in that struggle for peace, because it is a struggle, a special role can be played by people who are no longer active on the political scene, people who do not act under the pressure of knowing that elections are coming, which imposes the need to calculate and compromise with their own beliefs. But such people are not and will not be enough. We must rely on non-governmental organizations, on the civil sector, on institutions like the Universal Peace Federation, on all those who are not motivated by a desire for profit and personal gain in their activities.

We must break down the framework of the dominant myths about the free market as a mechanism that solves all problems, about neoliberal capitalism as a system set for all times, a system that is not and cannot be better. We must also break through the framework of the myth of the Western type of democracy as the best and suitable to impose it, if necessary by force, on nations and states that have chosen their own, different path, in accordance with their needs and specifics. And we must, extremely energetically and without the slightest hesitation, oppose historical revisionism.

We must fight for the ‘’citizenship right’’ for indisputable facts, whether one likes it or not, and we must end the hypocritical call for freedom of speech and expression as a cover to promote the ideas and worldviews that brought persecution, suffering and death to tens of millions of people in the 20th century, both in camps and on fronts.

We must suppress the interpretation to which some incline out of calculation, and some out of ignorance and misunderstanding, that democracy is nothing but anarchy, that by invoking the right to choose can jeopardize the general interest of all, with impunity. This is because that majority, which unfortunately are often silent, think of both themselves and others, while those who wave their right to choose think only of themselves.

I would say they don’t really think at all. How else ca we characterize all those who consider it their right to ignore, or even deny notorious facts, to spread lies, literally, to endanger the lives of others? This can only be done by someone who does not think at all.

So, the burden that lies on our shoulders is huge and difficult. Its disintegration will be contrary to the interests of many powerful people, but it is in the interest of the people.

The task of creating the preconditions for lasting peace, security and stability in the Balkans will certainly not be achieved by our generation, I mean everyone over the age of 50. But it's up to us to point the way, to direct young people on that path toward the right goals and right values. It's up to us to start the fight, or to continue it, and it is up to the young to take over from us. And in doing so, not to let us or themselves down.

Meetings like today, creating bonds of cooperation, establishing institutions such as the Peace Embassy, are all small but necessary steps in a united struggle to turn the Balkans into a comfortable place to live; into a place where nations will not be held hostage to historical myths and lies about the past, into a place where people will again, because they seem to have forgotten, look at each other as people and not as members of this or that nation, this or that religion.

To put it in one sentence: we need a Balkans tailored to man. And in our efforts to create such a Balkans, we must not give up. I came here today to be able to say that.

Thank you for your kind attention!

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