EU Membership the Democratic Glue for Balkans

September 21, 2007
Sarah Abrams

Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Vuk Jeremic, an MPA/ID 2003 graduate of the Kennedy School and Kokkalis Fellow, told a Forum audience Friday that much is at stake for the world in establishing a stable region in the western Balkans. As the pivotal country in the western Balkans, he said, much depends on the success of Serbia.

Jeremic, a member of Serbia’s reform movement in the 1990s that helped bring about the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic in 1999, described the western Balkans as a region with particular challenges.

“The success of one [country] is accompanied by the envy of the others,” he said.  “This means that we all have to succeed at the same time—all the western Balkans together joining the very hands that just a few years ago had been at each others throats.”

For this to occur, said Jeremic, the European Union needs to offer membership to all the countries in the western Balkans. Such an offer, he said, would fundamentally transform the debate in the region, providing a safe democratic framework within which a cooperative future of the Balkans could be built.

“I strongly believe,” he said,  “that this could become the democratic glue that would bind the region's countries to one another as never before in our tumultuous history, so that we can rise up together and succeed together and in this way we can contribute to the construction of Europe that is truly whole, free, and at  peace.”

In response to a question later in the program about Serbia’s opposition to Kosovo’s desire for independence, Jeremic said under international law established in 1999, Kosovo has never been a republic and consequently was not given the right to secede.

“Those were the terms,” he said, “of a peace imposed on a defeated tyrant. Now, fast forward eight years, there’s a very different Serbia. There’s a democratic Serbia . . . that has done everything right since the overthrow of Milosevic up to now. There’s a Serbia that’s democratic, that has rule of law, that has a market economy, that has regional reconciliation at the top of its agenda that wants to join the European Union,” said Jeremic. 

“If the independence of Kosovo was not imposed on a pariah Serbia, there is no way you can explain why it would be imposed on a democratic Serbia, especially given that we’re prepared to go a long way, a very long way working with Albanians on making sure that the peace treaty . . . is defined in the most generous way you can imagine.”

Jeremic noted that his visit Friday came exactly five years to the day after Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic spoke at the Kennedy School. Djindjic, a leader in the revolt that helped overthrew Milosevic, was assassinated in 2003 by members of Serbia’s paramilitary.

But the vision of a democratic and prosperous European Serbia did not die with Djindjic, said Jeremic.

“Zoran planted the seeds of hope for Serbia and it is our solemn duty to water those seedlings — to nurture them and cultivate them. Anything less and Zoran’s murderers and [their] followers will have won the battle that remains and that is the battle for the soul of the Balkans.”

The afternoon event, held in the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, was sponsored by the Kokkalis Program on Southeastern and East-Central Europe, which this year is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and the Institute of Politics.

To watch a video of the event, visit the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum archive.

Photos: Martha Stewart

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H.E. Vuk Jeremic image

H.E. Vuk Jeremic, Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Kennedy School Alumnus (MPA/ID 2003), spoke at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum on Friday evening.