Excellencies, respected members of the Podgorica Club, Ambassadors for Peace, ladies and gentlemen!
It is an honor for me to address this assembly and stand among this panel of respected former heads of state.
Let me first briefly share a few words of greetings from Dr Otsuka, the Co-chairman of UPF Europe and Middle East, who was not able to attend this meeting today.
This is the message he asked me to share with you: “Many people in the world are deeply aware of the importance of peace in the current turmoil, particularly with the critical situation in Ukraine. No matter how difficult and time-consuming it may be, my conviction is that peace will eventually be reached through mutual understanding and dialogue. In this regard, a message of peace from the Balkans will attract attention in the world. Therefore, your conference is very meaningful, and from here in Tokyo, I wish you great success and good health!”
And now, let me add a few thoughts of my own.
Indeed, this meeting is significant, in several ways:
It is our first joint meeting with the Podgorica Club since we signed together a memorandum of cooperation last November.
We are holding it in the context of a tragic war in Eastern Europe, and I thank you for the enlightening analyses you shared this morning on the impact of the war in your region.
There is another element that sheds light on today’s theme: Last February, as you know, our Founder Dr Hak Ja Han Moon convened a Summit in Korea on the theme of Peace on the Korean Peninsula. It was co-chaired by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Many world leaders were invited, including respected current and former heads of state from the Balkans region, such as President Meta of Albania, Prime Minister Kurti of Kosovo, and representatives from the Podgorica Club.
The strong restrictions on travel suddenly imposed by South Korea due to the Covid pandemic eventually prevented most participants from physically attending the Summit, so the great majority recorded speeches which were sent to Korea.
I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all of you for doing so. Your contributions were deeply appreciated by the Korean people, as you clearly expressed your support for the fact that, after more than 70 years, the time has come to end the division on the Peninsula.
Yet, one week after the end of the Summit, unexpectedly and shockingly, Russian troops entered Ukraine.
We recognize how important it is for Europe – and the Balkans region - to stand united in confronting this challenge, and we appreciate the great efforts made over the years in that direction by leaders of nations, including many of you in this assembly.
But then, what about the reunification of the Korean Peninsula? Are we returning to a new era of division in the world? This is not something to be satisfied with!
The conflicts in Eastern Europe and Northeast Asia have obvious connections, involving the same superpowers. In parallel to the war in Ukraine today, the tension is rising around the Korean Peninsula.
Indeed, both conflicts, at their root, have what President Vujanovic calls “the tragic intention of forming great national countries”, which already caused catastrophic consequences in this region.
But there is one aspect of these conflicts that may not be given enough attention. It is the conflict of values, which is central to the peacebuilding approach of the Universal Peace Federation.
A core principle of our organization is the principle of interdependence, mutual prosperity, and universal values. Very simply speaking, interdependence and mutual prosperity refer to a fairer sharing of wealth and a more balanced participation in the political process.
We consider an economic approach to be crucial for rapprochement between enemy nations, as demonstrated by the car factory initiated by our Founders in North Korea, or by their vision of a series of highways and tunnels connecting stakeholder nations in the Korean conflict – Russia and the United States, North and South Korea, Japan, and China.
However, experience shows that economic development and political agreements alone cannot replace the sharing of common fundamental values and secure the foundation for sustainable peace.
We know that this is one of the stated reasons for the conflict that pits Russia against the West today. And the European Union itself, despite its great achievements, is divided on these issues.
Here comes the central significance, for sustainable peace, of interreligious dialogue, and, particularly, of family values. The role that religion plays for peace or for war cannot be made clearer than in today’s conflict in Eastern Europe.
And this is where the role of UPF comes into focus, since as you know, this has been the foundation of our activities worldwide.
Before we left Korea after the recent Summit, UPF’s Founder, Dr Moon, foreseeing the looming crisis, challenged us Europeans to engage Russia and China with a view to overcoming conflict and division, and to keep our minds set on peace and reconciliation.
As I have personally worked in these two countries for many years, I know how much the values which I referred to above mean to the people in these nations.
Indeed, the Western Balkans nations rightly see their future within the European Union. Moreover, as a historic crossroad of cultures and religions, where traditional values of family and social cohesion still inspire respect and support, the Balkans do have a lot to contribute to the European Union.
In fact, we in UPF believe that the Balkans should play a crucial role for peacebuilding in Europe. This explains why we invested in building this Peace Embassy.
We are looking forward to our cooperation with the Podgorica club, and sincerely hope that it will contribute to peace and reconciliation, not only in the Balkans, but in Eastern Europe, in Northeast Asia, and around the world.
Thank you very much!