Distinguished attendees, esteemed Excellences, Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure for me to address this European Peace Summit in South East European Tirana, in friendly Albania. Let me thank our Albanian hosts, for their hospitality, and the organizers for the important discussion topics on the agenda. I believe that the international Summit Peace Council will become part of the regional platform of current and former politicians who will offer solutions for peace and development in our region to open a substantial dialogue.

The general topic of our panel is Peace in Southeastern Europe through interdependence, mutual prosperity and respecting universal values. These three paradigms are so frequently used that they have become part of every day political and diplomatic journal. There is no conference, forum or summit which doesn't mention at least one aspect of this triad. There is no meeting where we fail to focus on peace and stability and overall development and cooperation in the region. Hence my intention today is not to repeat what we already all know and agree on. Instead I would like to begin my address by stating that these days in the region and especially in North Macedonia and Albania, we are facing a situation that occupies our personal and professional attention and rightly leads to disappointment; not only for ourselves, but also for our partners and allies.

The failure of setting a date for the start of the accession of North Macedonia and Albania, as well as the absence of visa liberalization for Kosovo at the last EU Council, despite the delivered results, has the potential to undermine support for the European values in our countries and societies. Starting from this point today, I would like to talk about the responsibility we, as politicians and leaders, have in these moments, both in terms of peace and in terms of prosperity and respect of universal values in the region.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m deeply convinced that the trends to peace and stability start at home, in our societies. When institutions cannot respond to the needs of their citizens, and only then, they induce fear into our foreign policies and security. Over the years, the countries in the region have often been held hostage by corrupt and disoriented political leaders, in association with oligarchic business groups. We were confronted with anti-liberal and basically anti-democratic tendencies, and trapped between the citizens’ aspiration for democratization and totalitarian practices still alive among certain segments of the administrations. Such regimes and leaders have lead to disastrous consequences for the region and have become an obstacle to the normal development of good neighborly relations.

For me, as I have witnessed many events in the recent past, the leadership crises that we have faced in many years are overwhelming. There is virtually no peace project in the Balkans that is an authentic product of the Balkan leaders without the serious involvement of the international community. Peace in Bosnia, Kosovo, the Auchik agreement of Kosovo independence, the Prespa agreement in my country, were all achieved the with serious involvement of international actors. Although the picture is slightly and slowly changing, the challenges remain.

In the last few years, the civil society in Southeast Europe has become real and resilient and represents the pluralism of different interests, identities and ideas for peace and policies. Today, we have political needs in the region with an undeniable democratic capacity but, on the other hand, we must not forget that the wave of populism and radical nationalism that Europe is facing is still finding a fruitful ground in the Balkans.

Therefore, as leaders taught by historical experiences, we have a huge responsibility to resist the current negative trends and to lead our societies based on European values. I strongly believe that for the further democratization of the societies and states in the region, we increasingly need interactions between the political leaders, as well as between individuals and groups in all spheres, to produce lasting peace in the region, as well as the conditions for further sustainable economic and democratic development, which will result later in more comprehensive connectivity.

From my point of view, the basic narrative that we should continue to propagate in the Balkans as responsible leaders is that democracy and universal values must prevail over populism, inflammable rhetoric and ethnic exclusion. With such a narrative, we should continue to create an atmosphere of trust, friendship and understanding that will be enable us to make steps to realistically solve problems. The first step is the readiness for a rational response to the outstanding open issues in the region, rather that going for further tensions and divisions.

My persevering in promoting such an approach towards the problems: we are actually introducing the European standards into our societies, despite the fact that, for many, the European perspective for the region, in the light of Brussels’ latest decision, is fading away. A very important segment on which peace and stability depend is investing in young populations, enabling them to play a greater role in creating their own future.

The young generations in the region have expectations and dreams and there’s a growing number of those who pursue their expectations and dreams in European societies. Unemployment and youth frustration with the lack of a future is a time bomb for all of our societies and certainly a fertile ground for actors with radical agendas. Our constant task must be to educate young people that respecting and understanding one another and coexistence are an investment in a more prosperous future.

Third and no less important, and I would say the most topical, is commitment to stay on the Euro-Atlantic path, which for our region has no credible alternative. I’d like to give strong support to the NATO and EU integration processes of all countries in the region and once again thank the European leaders who have not stopped supporting us in the past few days to start negotiations with the European Union. In my opinion, the integration processes are transforming our states, creating partners that have clear, open, transparent, democratic, accountable and most importantly predictable policies.

Hence, our vital interest, as the geographically central state in the region, regardless of the latest developments, is to begin negotiations with the European Union, just as some of our neighbors did not so long ago. Whether or not we succeed in our endeavors, I’m convinced will depend primarily on ourselves. We will succeeed only if we make peace our primary responsibility and the prosperity of all of us and of our region the primary goal of all the responsible politicians. Thank you for your attention.

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