April 02, 2022

Former President of Montenegro Filip Vujanovic at the Conference in Tirana
Former president of Montenegro Filip Vujanovic participated in the conference “Peace, Security and Economic Development in the Western Balkans” in Tirana, organized by the Podgorica Club and the Universal Peace Federation (UPF). Apart from the former Montenegrin President Vujanovic, on the panel named “The Importance of Peace and Security in the Western Balkans in the Light of Current Developments,” other panelists were: Former President of Albania Alfred Moisiu, Former President of Croatia Stjepan Mesic, Former Acting President of Serbia Natasa Micic, Former President of North Macedonia Branko Crvenkovski, Former President of Kosovo Fatmir Sejdiu, former Member of Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mladen Ivanic, Vice President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Mimi Kodhelli, and Chairman of the UPF Europe & Middle East Jacques Marion. The panel moderator was the former Deputy Chairwoman of the Parliament of Albania, Vasilika Hysi. In his address, Former President Vujanovic stressed:

Your Excellences,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear panelists,

The Podgorica Club and the Universal Peace Federation organized this important conference only four months after signing the Memorandum of cooperation here in Tirana. The conference is organized here in the Peace Embassy, with which the UPF sent a message to the Balkan and Korean peninsula on the lasting and irreplaceable value of peace.

Why are war and instability still not archived topics in the Western Balkans? It is not archived for historical and contemporary reasons. Historical – because of the position of the Western Balkans as a crossroad of globally powerful empires always striving to make this area a part of their territories. Contemporary – because after the fall of great empires, here in the Western Balkans, we still have regional imperialism with the dangerous intention of changing current state borders and building greater national countries.

The tragic intentions of forming great national countries caused a war with catastrophic consequences during the fall of Yugoslavia. Decades after the war, we are still far from each other, differently interpreting history.

We need to reject the ambition to interpret history only and exclusively in our personal experience of victims and culprits. We shall not endanger our present and future with the continuous investigation of the past, with the unavoidable imposition of our stances and negation of different experiences of others. We need to accept that everyone has their interpretation of history. In that regard, we need to cooperate in coexisting our differences for the sake of a peaceful and prosperous future. The reality shows that the wounds from the last war during the collapse of Yugoslavia – and even those before it – are still fresh and that complete reconciliation is not a reality. The future will bring reconciliation, and a precondition to have it is to accept the present reality of different interpretations of history.

In securing peace and stability in the Western Balkans, an immeasurable and irreplaceable role belongs to the EU.

Only as equal and full members of the EU the Western Balkan countries can reach standards and the quality of life of the EU citizens. Just in the EU – current or reformed – the Western Balkan countries can be in a union of countries where borders don’t have value and importance. The state borders are why the history of the Western Balkans was this tragic.

Commemorating the centenary of the beginning of World War One, affirming the value of peace, the EU has introduced the Berlin Process, which maintained a strategic partnership with the Western Balkan countries.

On the annual summits of leaders of the EU and the Western Balkans, from Berlin in 2014 to Sofia in 2020, strong cornerstones of the partnership between the two sides were maintained. The Western Balkans get strong support for developing the infrastructure and further cooperation in economy, education, science, and research. That cooperation is an additional and strong recommendation for the membership of the Western Balkan countries in the EU.

Indeed, the most outstanding achievement of such cooperation would be establishing the common regional economic area of the Western Balkans. This area shall ease, speed up and reduce the trade price, regional investments, free movement of persons, goods, services, capital, and digital interconnectivity. By signing the Sofia Declaration on Common Regional Market, leaders of the Western Balkan countries obliged them to establish a common economic area, and the Regional Cooperation Council of the South-East Europe Cooperation Process and the CEFTA will coordinate the process.

Instead of a common economic area, Serbia, Albania, and North Macedonia have introduced the Open Balkan initiative. Indeed, the initiative was started up with good intentions. Obviously, the economic and overall cooperation within the Western Balkans is necessary, and its low level is a severe deficiency.

Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo haven’t joined the Open Balkan. This has nothing in common with their relationship with the great project of establishing a common regional economic area. The common economic area of the Western Balkans certainly has its value and justification. As an impetus, not a substitute for European integration. As an area of all, not just particular countries of the region. By the model proposed by the EU, and our countries already accepted. But only with the coordination of already mentioned regional initiatives, which eliminate the risk of unequal or non-objective interstate governance. Interstate governance with which we have negative experiences and memories.

Certainly, of paramount value and importance for the Western Balkan security is the membership of Montenegro, Albania, and North Macedonia in NATO and Kosovo’s striving to become a part of the alliance. Within the coalition and its overall security, we strongly support securing the Western Balkans.

In conclusion, it is necessary to remember that we can have a peaceful future and stability in the Western Balkans only through cooperation, mutual respect, equality, and dialogue on open issues.

Thank you for your attention.

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