Yugoslavia and the World: Realistic Visions, Pragmatic Partnerships

I would like to say something about our relations with the United States, which are neither uncomplicated nor unambiguous--both sides sometimes appear to hold onto past prejudices, to their mutual detriment.

I would like to say something about our relations with the United States, which are neither uncomplicated nor unambiguous--both sides sometimes appear to hold onto past prejudices, to their mutual detriment. However, they have been considerably less bad over the past two years than they had been throughout the 1990s. Yugoslavia absolutely wants to foster and maintain partnership with the United States, in which common interests, without conditionality, would be in the forefront. In achieving this, unfortunately, we still come across certain obstacles in America, or more precisely, within the United States Congress. It seems to me sometimes that not everyone in Washington has realized that substantial changes have taken place in Yugoslavia, and that it is now impossible that an authoritarian regime could ever return to power in Belgrade. We continue to concentrate our efforts at alleviating the consequences of a decade of civil wars, at building democratic institutions, at establishing the rule of law, at carrying out market reforms and in fulfilling our obligations to the international community. Let it be clear: Yugoslavia is a guarantor of the Dayton Accords and subscribes to their full implementation.  I hope that in time, the United States will adopt a different, more realistic view on Yugoslavia.


Europe has proven to be more understanding and more willing to accept Yugoslavia as a partner. This was clear less than a fortnight after my September 24, 2000 election victory, when I was invited to attend the EU summit in Biarritz. International sanctions were lifted, no conditions attached, and we were greeted as truly welcome guests. Europeans understand that Yugoslavia (that is to say, Serbia and Montenegro) is in Europe. Accordingly, the process of European integration is our country's natural and only logical destination. In this context, the agreement of union between Serbia and Montenegro is an opportunity for our state, restructured and reconstructed, to step up its pace of integration into the European Union.


This is a moment in which our interests have overlapped with those of Europe, and we see no reason to think that this will not continue indefinitely. Our shared concern is maintaining stability in the Balkans. The dissolution of Yugoslavia has ended. To continue changing borders, therefore, would not only be wrong, but dangerous and potentially explosive.


Our relations with the European Union have not always been aligned and in harmony. In truth, Europe failed to recognize its interests in preserving the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991 and 1992. Quite the contrary, Europe did many things to encourage the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, although, to be honest, it was not alone in this regard. The Badinter Commission (1) actually signed a verdict for Yugoslavia, concluding that the federal state had disintegrated into separate countries along the Tito-era administrative boundaries between its republics. I am not ready to say that it was Europe that caused the subsequent civil war, or assign blame to the international community for it. I do think, however, that there is ample evidence to support the claim that Europe not only had done too little to prevent the wars, but it largely encouraged it by supporting some of its actors.


The fact is, however, that after all the suffering that befell us, the situation has changed for the better. Europe now cares about the preservation of a common state between Serbia and Montenegro, even more so because such a state can be a genuine factor for stability in the Balkans, where hotbeds of crisis still exist. This is why Europe has taken an active role to endorse the Belgrade Agreement that redefines relations between Serbia and Montenegro within a state union. In addition, Europe has to continue to invest both political and economic capital in a successful restructuring of Yugoslavia. If this project fails, a tremendous blow will have been dealt to the credibility of the European Union and its efforts to harmonize a common foreign and security policy. The consequences of such a setback for Serbia and Montenegro, as well as for the Balkans as a whole, would be incomparably more serious. Such a defeat would lead to permanent instability in the Balkans. The process of disintegration would resume, giving renewed incentives to many extremist, secessionist and even terrorist factions to once again begin to operate on the basis of hatred and divisiveness. For all of these reasons, I have always been firmly committed to the preservation of the common state of Serbia and Montenegro, and I am confident that EU facilitation can accelerate and intensify this process considerably. In the end, Europe would thus show that it is indeed capable of handling problems in its own backyard.


While it is evident that the future of Serbia and Montenegro lies with the European Union, there is no clear-cut answer to the question of how integration affects national sovereignty. After all, it is clear that sovereignty has become a relative term in today's world. We learnt this the hard way during the 1999 NATO bombing, when it was made perfectly clear that, while we had no dispute with any individual country, we were nonetheless bombed by an alliance of nineteen countries. On the other hand, interstate relations are based on the principle of voluntary cooperation and even association. We feel this allows for the development of a far more balanced foreign policy. So, when you plan to enter an international organization that has precisely determined goals and a clearly defined policy, you knowingly and willingly renounce part of your sovereignty. After all, this holds true for the United Nations (or at least should be the case if we strictly abide by the letter and spirit of the UN Charter.)