Thank you very much, Mr. President. And thank you for the warm welcome that you have extended and the opportunity we’ve had to discuss in depth and at length a number of issues, many of which you mentioned in your statement.
For me personally, it is a great honor to be here in Serbia ten years after the people of this country began to reclaim their own future. That victory of the people’s will was a milestone in the long struggle to build Serbia’s democracy. And in the decade that has followed, Serbia has made great progress, and we, speaking on behalf of the United States, owe a debt of gratitude to all of those who helped create that progress: members of Serbia’s civil society; its political leaders, Mr. President; and of course, the citizens themselves.
It is not any mystery why democracy is the preferred political system in the 21st
century, because it does give individuals the opportunity to pursue their own dreams within a political system that recognizes the need for supporting the individual and yet moving forward with determination of a nation.
Serbia, of course, like any country, still faces challenges today, but it is very clear to me that Serbia is on a path toward greater partnership with the Euro-Atlantic community and stronger relations with its neighbors. The United States is committed to working with Serbia as you advance toward these goals.
When President Tadic and I have spoken on previous occasions – by telephone, in person, and particularly today – I have underscored that we have an interest in the peace and prosperity of this region. And we are encouraged that many countries are moving toward greater integration with the European Union. But no country has more to gain than Serbia. EU membership could help transform Serbia’s economy and anchor the entire region in Europe.
Achieving the goal of EU integration requires leadership. And Mr. President, you have been providing that leadership. Now, there are areas where, as the President said, we will not agree, and foremost among them is Kosovo. But we believe that the September 9th United Nations General Assembly resolution provides a good basis for a meaningful, forward-looking dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. That dialogue can and will benefit people in Kosovo and Serbia by addressing practical, day-to-day issues and the long-term relationship between you. It will also have a positive impact on the relationship between Serbia, your neighbors, Europe, and the United States.
I also want publicly to thank Serbia for your strong cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. I appreciate all that has been done by your government, particularly your law enforcement officials, and I appreciate again hearing from President Tadic the high priority that Serbia places on fulfilling its remaining obligations to the Tribunal. I have stated publicly and I will state again that Serbia is making a good-faith effort on behalf of arresting (inaudible) fugitive, and that effort should be recognized by others.
I also thank President Tadic and your government for your commitment to protect the human rights of all the citizens of your country. I especially want to commend the bravery of the police who provided security for the event for last Sunday’s pride parade. It was not easy, and yet we watched as the official law enforcement forces demonstrated unequivocally your support for the rights of all.
Let me close by reaffirming our admiration for the progress that has taken place here in Serbia over the last decade. As Vice President Biden said when he was here, the United States values Serbia as a country with not only a tremendous history, but more importantly a vast potential. We believe in the potential of Serbia. Serbian Americans have made many contributions to the growth and development of the United States, and we are absolutely convinced that Serbia can become not only a member of the European Union but a leader in Europe, an example in Europe. And the United States is committed to working with you to help you build a better future for this country, for your people, and for this region.
Mr. President, thank you for not only your words today, but more importantly, your vision and your leadership and your actions in pursuit of that vision over the past years; and know that you will have a partner as you continue down this path toward European integration and toward building the kind of Serbia that the children of Serbia deserve to have. Thank you very much.