WELCOME OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY,

MR RENÉ VAN DER LINDEN,

TO MR VOJISLAV KOSTUNICA,

PRIME MINISTER OF SERBIA

(Strasbourg, Tuesday, 2 October 2007)


Dear Prime Minister,

I believe that your presence here today is a positive sign not only for your region but also for Europe as a whole.

I also believe that this reflects the important role of the Council of Europe in ensuring peace and stability across the continent.

The terrible conflicts that devastated the countries of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s are often seen as a failure on the part of the rest of Europe – a failure to anticipate, a failure to react and a failure to prevent.

But to me, the very terms of that analysis betray a far greater problem of those times – the suggestion that there is Europe on the one hand and the Balkans on the other.

I firmly believe that the process of integration of the countries of the Balkans into European institutions is the best protection against renewed instability and violence.

The most important part of this process, of course, is full implementation of the obligations and commitments that your country freely accepted on accession to the Council of Europe.

I strongly encourage you to continue your close cooperation with the Assembly’s monitoring procedure, whose work must be seen not as a form of negative criticism but as a source of positive assistance towards fulfilling your country’s European vocation.

In May, I made a public statement welcoming the coalition agreement and, in particular, the renewed commitment to European integration that it embodied.

Since then, I have been very pleased to note the progress that your government has made, including resumption of negotiations on a Stability and Association Agreement and improved cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

In this latter respect, I must repeat my call for the fugitives from justice, Karadzic and Mladic, to be brought to trial immediately.

It is a source of great disappointment to us all that they remain at large even whilst your country holds the chairmanship of our Committee of Ministers.

Above all, because through the priorities and activities of your Chairmanship, Serbia has shown its growing democratic maturity, its increasingly evident commitment to our common values and its ability to play a full and constructive role in the international community.

I now look forward to hearing more about these and other issues from you.

President Kostunica, welcome to the Assembly: the floor is yours.