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Mr. Jacques Marion, the regional UPF co-chair for Europe and the Middle East, moderated the session.
H.E. Albin Kurti, Prime Minister (2020), Kosovo, addresses the audience
H.E. Albin Kurti, Prime Minister (2020), Kosovo
The room was full for the Europe and Middle East session.
H.E. Alfred Moisiu, president of Albania (2002-2007) and current chairman for the Balkans of UPF’s Summit Council for Peace
H.E. Filip Vujanović, president of Montenegro (2003-2018) and founder of the Podgorica Club
H.E. Mladen Ivanić, president of Bosnia & Herzegovina (2014-2015, 2016-2017)
Hon. Dr. Werner Fasslabend, Austrian minister of defense (1990 to 2000) and president of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy
H.E. Zlatko Lagumdžija, prime minister of Bosnia & Herzegovina (2001 to 2002)
H.E. Boris Tadić, president of Serbia (2004 to 2012)
H.E. Boris Tadić, president of Serbia (2004 to 2012)
The panelists with their spouses
The panelists and audience

Seoul, South Korea—Current and former leaders of the Balkan Peninsula offered their views on creating a peaceful future for their region.

“Prospects for Peace in Southeast Europe,” which took place on May 4, 2023, was one of the regional peacebuilding sessions of Peace Summit 2023, organized by UPF International.

The summit was held from May 2 to 5 at the Lotte Hotel World under the title “Contemporary Challenges to Global Order: Toward a World Culture of Peace.”

Mr. Jacques Marion, Co-chair, UPF Europe & Middle East, FranceMr. Jacques Marion, Co-chair, UPF Europe & Middle East, FranceMr. Jacques Marion, the regional UPF co-chair for Europe and the Middle East, moderated Session VI-A, which featured a very distinguished group of speakers.

“Our region is strongly affected by the war in Ukraine and by growing tensions between East and West,” he said. “Southeast Europe, particularly the Western Balkan nations, stands at a frontline in this struggle. The impact of this conflict is deeply felt in that region, where memories of war at the turn of the century are still vivid in many people’s minds.”

Mr. Marion said that all of the session’s speakers “have been directly involved as heads of state and government leaders in the process of conflict resolution and transformation on the Balkan Peninsula.”


 

H.E. Albin Kurti, Prime Minister (2020), KosovoH.E. Albin Kurti, Prime Minister (2020), KosovoH.E. Albin Kurti, who since March 2021 has been the prime minister of Kosovo, said: “We [in Kosovo] are trying our best to have, on the one hand, peace and security but, on the other hand, freedom and democracy. We believe we do not have to sacrifice freedom for the sake of security, or vice versa.”

The prime minister emphasized that the two years of his leadership have been “years of growth and anti-corruption” in which democratic government and institutional stability have resulted in economic growth.

“When people see that there is no corruption in the government, they are far more ready to pay taxes and contribute to the society,” he said. “Likewise, when they have hope for the future, they rather spend than save, which is better for the lives of the people but also for the overall economy.”

At the outbreak of the COVID pandemic, Kosovo refused to accept vaccines from non-democratic nations, even though the government received severe criticism for ignoring the welfare of the people.

“We knew very well that whatever help you get from someone who is not democratic, it will have strings attached, and at the same time it will be used as an instrument to pressure you elsewhere. That’s why we suffered at the beginning, but we gathered all our strength and we nonetheless did well,” the prime minister said.

“We are optimistic about the future, we want to cooperate for peace, and we believe that democracy is not just an instrument to get elected into power but also a value to which we should adhere every day,” he said.

Click here for the full address of H.E. Albin Kurti


H.E. Alfred Moisiu, President of Albania (2002 – 2007)H.E. Alfred Moisiu, President of Albania (2002 – 2007)H.E. Alfred Moisiu, the president of Albania (2002-2007), was not able to participate in person due to health issues. Instead, he sent a written speech which Gani H.E. Alfred Moisiu, the president of Albania (2002-2007) and the current chairman for the Balkans of UPF’s Summit Council for Peace, warned, “We stand in front of a very difficult and dangerous situation, in which even a sporadic event may lead to a mad collision of the world which could be World War III.”

Whereas in World War II there were nearly 50 million casualties in six years, with today’s lethal means available to the world’s major powers, this amount of casualties might happen within a few hours, he said.

“By nature I am not a pessimistic person,” the former president said, “but I have used this language because in reality things are going from bad to worse.”

Listing some of the world’s trouble spots, President Moisiu said, “Consequently, we all should be concerned—both those of us who are in our retirement and those who currently hold the fate of peace in our hands.”

For example, he said, “In the Balkan region, where the flames of war have been swirling for a long time, they are currently becoming more real.” He said that “the risk of a confrontation between the Serbs and the Albanians has become more actual than ever.”

President Moisiu said: “It is the duty of all peace-loving people and those who understand the magnitude of these possible dangers not to remain indifferent to what is approaching the world. …

“It is our urgent duty, as Ambassadors for Peace, to sharpen our vigilance and work, each one where he is and where he can, to prevent a human catastrophe.”

Click here for the full address of H.E. Alfred Moisiu


H.E. Filip Vujanović, president of Montenegro (2003-2018) and the founder of the Podgorica ClubH.E. Filip Vujanović, president of Montenegro (2003-2018)H.E. Filip Vujanović, president of Montenegro (2003-2018) and the founder of the Podgorica Club, a group of former heads of state and government from the Balkan nations, said he “would like to point out only three things.”

First: During the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, Montenegro accepted many refugees and displaced people. This is one of the reasons that Montenegro enjoys a good relationship with all the neighboring countries.

Second: After the conflicts, Montenegro democratically restored its state independence, became a member of NATO and a leader in the European integration process.

Third: Montenegro is strongly dedicated to affirming values of peace, stability and prosperity.

President Vujanović said that dialogue, compromise and the citizens’ common interest should be used to resolve the relationship between Serbia and Kosovo. He said that Montenegro is a good neighbor of both countries and wishes for a quick end to their disagreements.

“Promoting a world culture of peace and emphasizing dialogue, cooperation, and respect for human rights is essential. This culture of peace should be grounded in the principles of the UN Charter and the rule of law. These are the principles that UPF strongly advocates, and I sincerely support them,” he said.

Click here for the full address of H.E. Filip Vujanović


H.E. Mladen Ivanić, president of Bosnia & Herzegovina (2014-2015, 2016-2017)H.E. Mladen Ivanić, president of Bosnia & Herzegovina (2014-2015, 2016-2017)H.E. Mladen Ivanić, president of Bosnia & Herzegovina (2014-2015, 2016-2017), began by joking: “Former presidents have a lot of disadvantages, because they're not as significant as they were before, but they have one big privilege: They can finally speak honestly, without thinking, will they be re-elected?”

Mentioning that in the current situation in Ukraine, to suggest peace or compromise is to risk being called pro-Russian, President Ivanić recalled that before the war in Bosnia & Herzegovina started in 1992, people who proposed peace or compromise were seen as traitors to their people. At that time many people in the country were confident that their side would win, so they felt there was no need to seek peace.

Four years later, however, after at least 100,000 people had been killed and almost half the population had been displaced, the two sides finally sat down and reached an agreement—which he said was more or less the same agreement that had existed before the war.

President Ivanić speculated that in the current Ukraine-Russia conflict, the two sides may not sit down to build an agreement until 5 million people have been killed.

“Hundreds, if not thousands, of fathers, brothers, sons will be killed there.” He proposed that the two sides should not wait but should sit down now and work for an agreement.

Click here for the full address of H.E. Mladen Ivanić


Dr. Werner Fasslabend, President of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, Minister of Defence (1990- 2000), AustriaDr. Werner Fasslabend, President of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, Minister of Defence (1990- 2000), AustriaHon. Dr. Werner Fasslabend, the Austrian minister of defense (1990 to 2000) and president of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, explained that just before he was sworn in as defense minister in December 1990, he gave a short list to his future chief of cabinet about preparations of the defense ministry. “And at the top of the list was preparations in Austria for a crisis in Yugoslavia.”

He did that, he said, not because of receiving any intelligence about the Balkans, but rather “just due to my personal experience, as so often I had spent my vacation in Yugoslavia. I went through Slovenia and Croatia and Bosnia and Serbia. I talked to people. And when I came back, I had this strong feeling that something was going on, that a crisis would come.”

Dr. Fasslabend said: “The lesson I learned was that … it is not enough just to make an analysis with your logical mind. But also try to sense the situation. Because in politics, it's not only interests that are the motor of developments. Very often it is sentiments. Hopes and fears. It is dreams, it is vision,” he said.

Even though the six Western Balkan countries are surrounded by European Union nations, until now it has not been possible to speed up the process of the Western Balkan nations joining the EU.

The biggest obstacle is the relationship between Serbia and Kosovo, he said. On the one hand, there is the issue of recognition of Kosovo; on the other hand, the divided country of Bosnia with three ethnicities and two political entities: Republika Srpska and the combination of Croats and Bosniaks.

Because around 90 percent of the Western Balkan trade is with the European Union, to have the Western Balkan nations join the EU should be very simple. “But still it is extremely difficult to find solutions.”

“We cannot only look at the rational side, but also we have to look to the emotional side,” he said. There is hesitance from Serbia and Serbian-speaking populations to join the EU and the Western world, not only because of strong cultural links with Russia but also because of the NATO bombardment of Belgrade in 1999 to stop Serbia’s involvement in the war in Kosovo.

“It certainly will be necessary to have an open dialogue about what happened in the ’90s … to speak openly, not only with the politicians but also have public discussions with the civil society,” Dr. Fasslabend said.

He predicted that after the war between Ukraine and Russia ends, the relationship between the Western Balkan countries and Russia will be even more difficult. Therefore, the links between the Western Balkans and the EU will be more important.

Strong Serbian nationalism and strong Albanian nationalism exist. But because both nations are losing their populations, they need to unite and work together in order to survive. They need to speak deeply about the problems and find a solution.

“There will be no other solution than to sit together and not only have a dialogue, but really go into the depths of the problem, speak it out openly, clearly and try to find the solution between the Western Balkans and the European Union.”

Click here for the full address of Hon. Dr. Werner Fasslabend


H.E. Zlatko Lagumdžija, prime minister of Bosnia & Herzegovina (2001 to 2002)H.E. Zlatko Lagumdžija, prime minister of Bosnia & Herzegovina (2001-2002)H.E. Zlatko Lagumdžija, prime minister of Bosnia & Herzegovina (2001 to 2002) and the newly appointed ambassador of his country to the United Nations, focused on the Doomsday Clock, which the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created in 1947 to symbolize humanity’s proximity to a global catastrophe, represented by midnight on the clock. Whereas in 1947, the clock was set at 7 minutes to midnight, in January 2023 the clock was moved to 90 seconds to midnight—“closer to midnight than ever,” Prime Minister Lagumdžija said.

The reason for the dire warning, he explained, is the simultaneous presence of four global threats: nuclear risk, climate change, biological threats, and disruptive technology (artificial intelligence).

“Those four doomsday threats are growing, and the question is: Is there a pilot in the plane?”

When it comes to the first three threats, there are indeed organizations and alliances that exist to deal with them. However, when it comes to artificial intelligence, there is no pilot in the plane, he said.

He reminded the audience of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ recent statement that we must think about the artificial intelligence threat more and more, especially since one of the Google founders who had been dealing with artificial intelligence “decided to quit and to tell the world that we are entering a no-man’s-land or twilight zone.”

Dealing with these four doomsday threats from the European perspective requires a new level of cooperation among European nations, both EU and non-EU members. “We should be trying to reach out to the European Political Community” of 44 nations that was established in 2022, he said.

He concluded by saying that in 1932 Albert Einstein wrote to Sigmund Freud, asking, “Is there any way of delivering mankind from the menace of war? It is common knowledge that, with the advance of modern science, this issue has come to mean a matter of life and death for civilization as we know it; nevertheless, for all the zeal displayed, every attempt at its solution has ended in a lamentable breakdown.” After a year of corresponding with each other, they concluded that the only solution was global cooperation, starting on the regional level.

Click here for the full address of H.E. Zlatko Lagumdžija


H.E. Boris Tadić, president of Serbia (2004 to 2012)H.E. Boris Tadić, president of Serbia (2004 to 2012)H.E. Boris Tadić, president of Serbia (2004 to 2012), said that the situation in which we find ourselves today is totally unpredictable, “and unfortunately I have to say the situation will be even more unpredictable in the future. … Many, many unsolvable problems and disputes occupy all of us all around the world.”

He said: “The issue of identity is lying at the foundation of many disputes all around the world, especially in the European Union. Many wars that happened in Europe were because of not respecting different identities.”

He remarked that many significant events of recent years took the world by surprise, with almost no one able to predict them. He gave the examples of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, Donald Trump being elected U.S. president, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“We are living in an interconnected world,” President Tadić said. “We can compare the world with the human body. What is happening in one cell in the human body has an impact on the others. Everything that is happening in Ukraine is creating an impact in the South China Sea. We cannot isolate one aggression, one war from other potential aggressions. In that respect, Europe is not secure anymore.”

He said: “The last time when I was participating in this forum, I said that prevention of conflict is much more important than solution. Whoever is preventing conflict is saving human lives. Whoever is preventing conflict is doing a lot in terms of peace in the future.”

Those who focus on solving existing conflicts are doing extremely important work, he said. “But this is not enough. Prevention of conflict is much more important in that respect.”

President Tadić then stated that the Kosovo issue triggered the war in Ukraine. He said this was an example of his earlier statement that when we don’t focus on a problem we are facing, we will pay an extremely high price after a few years.

When Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia, he said, it set a precedent for separatists in other countries. The former president gave the examples of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia and the Crimea and Donbas in Ukraine.

He said it was “really ridiculous” when global powers supported Kosovo’s independence, “which was, in fact, the partition of my country, which was a member state of United Nations. … They at the same time supported the partition of my country, Serbia, but now they are totally against the partition of Ukraine.”

President Tadić pointed out: “There are many, many Kosovos in the world … not only in Europe. … For example, there are many, many territorial districts in Africa, even more than Europe, even more than Asia.”

“Dear friends. I think this is a UPF conference about peace. This is a conference in which we can deliver our different thoughts, different views, because we are all very much focused on global peace, reconciliation and security. …

“As a young student, I was supporting the right of Albanian students in the 1980s to ask for independence from Serbia within the former Yugoslavia, but I didn't support that idea of independence. I was defending their rights because I truly believe that everyone has to be free to explain what his thoughts and intentions are, but we have to keep a principled position and to think about the outcome of our work and about our decisions.”

Click here for the full address of H.E. Boris Tadić


Question-and-Answer Session

Question: My question concerns prevention of further escalation and conflict. I think the presentation of former President Tadić showed that point. Where do we go from here? Because also the morning session showed that it can trigger all kinds of things. The war in Ukraine could have been prevented. That's a real good point. But where do we go from here in, let's say, the Balkans area and or in the greater European area to have peace and security?

H.E. Filip Vujanović answered that it is necessary to be a member of the European Union. He expressed the frustration of Western Balkan nations at being denied membership in the EU. “We are ready to do everything that is necessary to achieve the standards of European Union, then we are in position to achieve it. What's the reason for waiting?” He said that EU membership is a precondition for stability in the region and for meeting all challenges.

Question: Do you ever think about what a difference it could make if women were in leadership roles in your countries?

H.E. Zlatko Lagumdžija: “Recent history is showing us in different parts of the world that women are leading their countries in the best way.” He gave the examples of women leaders in New Zealand, Denmark and Finland. “There is no failure among the. women leaders in the last five to 10 years. When it comes to men, there are a lot of failures.

“And going back to the first question about prevention, connecting to what President Vujanović said, I'm absolutely sure the best way to prevent the further mess in Europe is actually that we become like you [in the European Union]. That you do not become like us. So in 2030, the Western Balkans and the European Union will be the same. We will look the same. Either you are going to be like us or we are going to be like you. So the best way to do prevention is to share and extend the community based on the values that we all pray and preach and go for, which is Europe united in diversity.”

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