Ladies and gentlemen,
I express my gratitude to the UPF for organizing this conference and its commitment to the Western Balkans in overcoming its challenges and in finding the best future.
We live in a time when such conferences, dedicated to any topic, should highlight the current Covid-19 pandemic. Expressing sorrow for the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, for millions of patients and those at risk of the pandemic, we need to express our faith that humanity will overcome it. We also hope that our society has enough potential not only to overcome the huge economic losses caused by the pandemic but also to utilize all the experience gained through those difficult times in protecting itself from all other global challenges.
The Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the global problems of sustainable development and climate change issues, have confirmed that the role of multilateralism is irreplaceable. No matter how powerful and big are some countries, how important are some regions of the world, global partnership and cooperation have no alternative. That is why multilateral organizations have special value, and our obligations are to strengthen them and develop them. The current pandemic has also shown us the importance of the World Health Organization, whose values should be affirmed, and at the same time whose weaknesses need to be eliminated. All global problems and challenges have confirmed the value of the UN, expressing at the same time the necessity to ensure greater efficiency of this most important global organization.
The Western Balkan countries should accept those global interests, using their historical experiences as a lesson for the future. Unfortunately, the historical experiences of the Western Balkans are both numerous and painful. Only during the last century, the Western Balkan region went through two Balkan wars, two World wars, and the devastating war during the disintegration of Ex-Yugoslavia.
The history of the Western Balkans confirms that peace has no alternative. At the same time, it confirms that dialogue is the best way to resolve open issues. In the end, it confirms that cooperation and partnership are both precondition and guarantee for the development of the Western Balkans countries and the region as a whole.
Certainly, the special value of the Western Balkans in this regard is the membership of Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Albania in NATO, Kosovo's determination to be a part of the Alliance, and the membership of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in its Partnership for Peace program.
Additionally, the willingness of the Western Balkan countries to become members of the European Union is also of great value for the future. Montenegro has opened all negotiating chapters in this process, Serbia has opened sixteen chapters, North Macedonia and Albania have started accession negotiations and Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina has shown a clear readiness for further European integration. It must be pointed out that the Western Balkans won't have full prosperity without the EU membership, nor is the EU complete without the Western Balkans!
In addition to the European and Euro-Atlantic integration, the Western Balkan counties should also be dedicated to further strengthening the ties of regional cooperation in the field of economy, education, culture, science, research, and innovation. They have committed themselves to this by the agreement with the EU and throughout numerous regional agreements and initiatives, among which the most important are the CEFTA and the South-East European Cooperation Process. But, first of all, and above all, they are obliged to do so having in mind their individual and common interest.
Finally, in order to emphasize the importance of cooperation between the Western Balkans, the Podgorica Club, whose members are participants in this conference, was established. Members of the Club are former presidents and prime ministers of the Western Balkan countries, Croatia and Slovenia. Throughout our work, we are strongly advocating European integration of the region, supporting the regional cooperation at the same time, throughout strengthening ties in areas of mutual interest. We will resolutely continue to promote these values and the need for cooperation and good neighborly relations. I am convinced that the future of the Western Balkans lies in deeper connectivity and affirmation of European and Euro-Atlantic integration.
Thank you for your attention!
H.E. Filip Vujanović, President (2003 - 2018), MontenegroFilip Vujanović graduated from the University of Belgrade's Law School. He was Minister of Justice from 1993–1996 and then Interior Minister from 1996 to 1998. He served as the first Prime Minister of Montenegro 5 February 1998 until 8 January 2003. On 5 November 2002, he became speaker of the Montenegrin parliament, a position which, from 25 November 2002, made him Acting President of Montenegro. He was President of Montenegro from 22 May 2003 – 20 May 2018. On 14 December 2006, he signed the Framework Document for the accession to the Partnership for Peace Programme, wherewith Montenegro became a member of the NATO program "Partnership for Peace".