Intervention of H.E. Mladen Ivanić at the Balkans Leadership Conference (2)

Thank you very much, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends. Talking about peace in the Balkans is not so easy. I come from Bosnia and Herzegovina which is probably the most complicated place in the region, where the country itself is complicated, so you can imagine it is the most complicated part of the most complicated area!

When I was president, I always joked that I was not a real president, because I was one of three members of the presidency, so I was one third of the president. However, believe me, sometimes this is more difficult than being the only president.

As I am very optimistic about the long-term future of the country, let me tell you a story about a meeting that the presidency had with Pope Francis when he came to Sarajevo. Typically, these are face-to-face meetings which means with four eyes, in our case there were eight eyes, we were three presidents and the Pope asked, “How do you work?” And I said, “sometimes we have disagreements, but we decided not to speak in public about these disagreements, because we do not want to divide the citizens. We will only go public if we agree”. And he asked, “Do you agree from time to time?” “Yes”, we replied. Then the Pope said, “Then you are the real proof that the Holy Trinity is possible!”

Let us talk about the Balkans now. First of all, many people do not like the word Balkans. I like it very much personally, because I believe this word shows what this region really is. If we used terms such as Southeast Europe and the like, I think we are losing our souls. We are the Balkans, and I am proud to be someone from the Balkans. We are complicated of course, but not only because of the way we are. We are always part of the larger politics of geopolitical warfare, and this is the case even these days. We have many actors playing their games on this battlefield, on this stage, and, from time to time, we locally are part of these great wars.

I'm never happy when big players play in a small garden, because we cannot be good in these circumstances. And these days we have had these big wars, matches, and there is a kind of conflict between Russia and the United States in the long run between the NATO countries. We have a new economic war between China and their involvement in the region and the European Union in particular, because we are the part where the big players play their game. Therefore, I am not very happy when we have these kinds of circumstances. If they are together then I am happy. In the case of Bosnia, it is the last successful case of international intervention, and it was done because of the agreement between the Great Powers. They were together, they agreed, and I think this is the last time in contemporary history when the big players got together. So, in the Dayton Accords they were together and, because of that, yes, Bosnia is now probably not the most perfect country but, still very successful, compared to the difficulties that this country was facing 25 years ago.

For years, we have not had any major ethnic problems; we have many political tensions, but life goes on, daily life is good. I would like to look at the situation when the big players are together. When the great powers are together, we can count on peace and a peaceful situation around the world. And, as long as one great power supports one side, and the other great power supports the other side, we will have conflicts and the suffering of the people, and I think all of us, including the Universal Peace Federation, need to put pressure on the great powers to come together. If we let them decide on their own, they will never get together, but if all actors and institutions pressure them to come together, and they do indeed come together, we can expect much better situations around the world. And we must continue to insist on this. I agree with my colleagues who said that we must solve our own problems, only we, no one else. Whenever these great players are together it is good, but to expect them to come together is not realistic these days.

There are problems, and we have to solve them, and to solve them we have to understand the other side. Maybe not to accept everything, but to understand the logic, the feelings, the frustration, and this is the course for the normal situation. I hope this will happen; I hope the European Union will finally be honest when it comes to the region. For a long time, I have had experience with politics, and I remember the time when the Europeans told the region that you have the opportunity to be a member of the European Union. And I was in informal meetings of top European leaders, it was 15 years ago that they said that after Croatia there will be no enlargement of the EU. So, they had two faces, one face in formal meetings and the other one in informal closed-door meetings was not optimistic.

Unfortunately, I think we are still in the second phase, which means that we still have a long way to go to join the EU. Officially we hear a lot of nice words but, in practice it is “stop, stop, stop”, because of their inner circumstances. But, despite this we have to cooperate, to produce a better panorama of ourselves. Despite all this, we have to demonstrate that we want to be there and we deserve to be there, and we have to be more optimistic. Simply, this is the reality and I hope that this cooperation between the Podgorica Club and the Universal Peace Federation will be successful and we can all make small contributions to this issue.

Thank you very much.

 

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