The Necessity of Peace and Security in the Western Balkans in the Light of Current Events
"I am sure I will die soon. It is a matter of a few days. In this city, everyone is constantly waiting for death. I just want it not to be too scary" - this quote I just read, is a note of this time, namely March 21, 2022, by a woman from Mariupol, who is a photojournalist.
As we stand here today and discuss many topics that are in the service of and in the interest of global peace, I am convinced that the conscience of each of us is deeply moved by such a message. This message must awaken everyone, each of us, so that such messages are not repeated, so that such stories are not repeated.
None of us would want to hear those words today. However, already this is a reality as painful as it is terrifying. It’s a reality that demands an answer, which primarily should be a reflection of our own human conscience.
Inside ourselves emotions are very intensive in the face of the external and painful developments that a people is facing.
With or without intent, such events affect each of us, affect our present and our future. The impact of what is happening in Ukraine is inevitably being felt in every country, in every family and in every individual.
Today, we are facing a reality which, not only we are observing, but we must also recognize, that is, we’re in front of a New World Order, which nowadays has no alternative left.
This does not mean that we are at the End of History. Yet, we are at the Beginning of a New History, which must be resolutely oriented in the right way, that is just, that is serving peace, serving stability, serving the common good.
Or, on the contrary, we will see the beginning of another, also new, history, which will revive the efforts for new tensions, crises and invasions, and not only will it threaten peace, but it will also undo it.
Today, when I see the images coming from Ukraine, with or without being aware I return to what happened 24 years ago in my country.
The killings and expatriations of innocent civilians, women, the elderly, and children, are almost the same images that are being repeated 24 years later, now in another country, and by another invader, but with the same mentality and almost identical strategies.
They are, with full awareness, hitting urban and rural centers exactly where the civilians reside. They’re bombing schools and subways, while being aware that it is in these places that the civilian population is being hit. They are also hitting business, small and big, to threaten the existence of the population.
The exodus of 3 to 5 million Ukrainians is another attempt of the general threat to all those innocent residents living in fear and intimidation. The irony of Russia's behavior is that it is forcing hundreds of thousands of refugees to leave their homes and settle in Russian territory, which in parallel reminds us of the displacement of millions of people of the then USSR from their homes, in order to force them to lose their identity.
Despite all this violence, the resistance of all those who are defending their doorstep, who are morally motivated by the strong patriotic resistance of the President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is more than encouraging. But, in order to keep this spirit, to maintain this resistance and, above all, to save the lives of all those people there, it is necessary to take actual steps that would serve peace and stability, well-being and the future, and thus the opposite of this would become impossible.
Today, this conference is being held in special circumstances. This particularity also imposes on everyone to reflect and give an answer to such a situation.
I consider that the Universal Peace Federation and important personalities within it, strategic partners in different countries, leaders of religious faiths have the duty to intensify their activity in every possible segment to overcome this situation by creating opportunities for real talks and without prejudice.
For none of our countries is Ukraine far away. The ending of the bloody war there parallelly means the ending of the planned killings of its people, along with the destruction of its potential and, at the same time, the afront to the hopes of all peoples around the globe, who today are justly more than concerned by what is happening in Ukraine.
I cannot fail to mention here another fact, which is extremely important. This is the internal rejection that has started in Russia. We see well-known figures from political, cultural and academic life who, aware of the dire consequences that this reality is producing, and having reflected on them, oppose such a war, oppose such a policy, which cannot be justified in the name of anyone or anything.
The inner consciousness of these public leaders underpins further the external efforts required to provide a solution to this issue.
Naturally, this also comes as a result of the multitude of sanctions that have been undertaken by various countries against Russia.
All of us are witnesses today that this whole situation has disrupted the old order, thus building a new order.
However, humanity today does not need to see either imposed solutions, or final solutions. A comprehensive occasion must be created, where all options are available, given that each solution starts and ends at the negotiating table, and that negotiations are the ones that produce the real solution.
Ladies and gentleman,
This situation does not start and end only in Ukraine. Its scope has the potential to affect many other countries as well. However, I will make a stop here in the Balkans, where the influence and danger from Russia is evident.
We are witnessing many developments in the very spaces of the former Soviet Union in which Russia for many years now, feeling "nostalgia for the former glory", is constantly striving to humiliate, suppress and violate their sovereignty by brutally interfering them within, as now in Ukraine, and in Georgia before. It has also sought the conversion of some other countries around it into its satellites, as well as threatening others who, with dignity, are keeping their sovereignty.
Russia is fomenting these efforts at destabilization, through Serbia, its ally in the Western Balkans, by not recognizing the realities formed by the will of the citizens of the respective countries, in order to remain according to it "potential hotbeds" to promote instability from within. It did so through Serbian nationalist forces, unfortunately also through the Serbian Orthodox Church, which still look for instability and bloodshed. In this regard, remember the ongoing tensions in Bosnia, the attempt to intervene in Montenegro and the various scenarios for the destabilization of Kosovo.
Today is late compared to yesterday, but tomorrow will be much later than today, so it is important that such spaces are closed once and for all, and in addition to being more careful, we should pay more attention to these problems, so as not to leave room for a new reality, which could bring back the wars in the Balkans.
Our countries deserve to be treated with more dignity, and with the same dignity to be accepted in the European family, so that we are not only importers of peace, but also its exporters.
Geographically we belong to Europe, but we must be part of it politically. We have NATO in Kosovo, but we must also have Kosovo in NATO. Because, only in this way, can we manage to close the roads that will otherwise be used by those who do not want order, do not want peace, do not want stability.
None of us should fear countries that are fully put in the service of Peace. Together with them, creating space and perspective for them, we should make sure that destabilizing efforts have no future.
Such influence is by no means smaller in Bosnia. Moreover, the circumstances should be clearly read, that neither Kosovo, nor Bosnia, and no other country should be seen as a way out to this situation that has been forged.
But, in order not to consider these as such, a new momentum must be created at the international level, which would serve to bring an end to the open topics and protracted dialogue resulting from the careful treatment given to those who don’t care, to those who through threats keep old ideas and friendships alive.
Therefore, besides finding it reasonable, I consider it a necessity that NATO, the Council of Europe and international organizations should open their doors to Kosovo immediately, because in this way peace and stability in the Balkans would be facilitated.
We can talk for long about this, since the lessons as well as the sufferings from such situations are numerous. However, it is not time for words. It is the ending time for the beginning of a new one, of a new order, which first and foremost, would have peace as its mission.
A new order, which would include all the countries that are in service of Peace, and all the peoples who have become its servants.
At the same time, this is the best and fairest answer to those countries that want to create the new order according to them, lining up side by side and uniting in a mission, which does not desire Peace at all.
Finally, I tell you one thing. Future generations will judge all those who will Peace as a fragile legacy. However, in the face of this, one should seize the chance to be thankful, if there are those left with the memory of the threats of the past!