President Tadic, my dear friend Boris, ladies and gentlemen,
The Europe Prize for Political Culture is surely the only political prize in the world that is awarded at – not to say in connection with – a film festival.
Today’s award is also a political endorsement of the achievements of Serbian film-makers and actors like Emir Kusturica and Mirjana Karanovic in addressing key European issues through the arts.
Not only that. I have also heard that the prize money for excellent politics here in Locarno is a lot lower than that for excellent films.
That, in my opinion, is a remarkable gesture, not only on the part of Switzerland and Locarno. The self-assured modesty that underlies this gesture does credit to the initiators and donors as it does to the prizewinners: it shows that to understand politics as a contribution to the political culture of Europe is to understand its role in the service of human society, peace and justice.
And so it is a great honour for me to address a few words to Boris Tadic today, to speak of his achievements in the cause of democracy and the rule of law in his country, of his contribution to reconciliation between peoples and to peace in Europe – in short, of his achievements in promoting what we commonly call the political culture in Europe.
Mr President, Boris Tadic, the fact that Serbia has set out on the road to the European Union and, after years of cumbersome dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic, after years of isolation, war and displacement, now stands before the opening door of the European Union is due in great part to your own personal efforts.
Together with Zoran Djindjic, you have led the Democratic Party, thereby providing a political forum for the opposition against Milosevic and for those who hoped for a democratic, tolerant Serbia based on the rule of law.
In doing so, you were also following a great Serbian tradition and upholding your family’s heritage. You translated into politics the humanist approach put forward in the sixties by your father and the entire philosophical movement known as the Praxis school.
For almost ten years, together with Zoran Djindjic and the people of Serbia, you waged the political struggle against dictatorship. And since the year 2000, since the great civil protests that finally overthrew Milosevic, you have turned the hope of resistance to his dictatorship into the reality of responsibility for democracy, the rule of law and tolerance in your country and in Europe.
All of us here know how much personal courage, how much moral fibre and political conviction it takes to achieve internal reforms and reconciliation with neighbours. And all of us here know how much your great gesture of reconciliation with Croatia only a few weeks ago contributed to our common European political culture.
And let me, as the Foreign Minister of a country with a heavy historical legacy, say this to you: because we Germans received help and support on our path, we know that we must help and support others too.
After all, mutual solidarity, even in difficult times, is also part of our political culture in Europe. For me, one of the finest moments in our EU Presidency was when we resumed negotiations with Serbia a few weeks ago on an association agreement with the European Union.
That would not have been possible without your efforts. In the spring of this year, you resolved to lead your country along this European path – and I was privileged to be able to urge Europe to grasp Serbia’s outstretched hand. Let me say that this remains one of the very special moments in the record of Germany’s EU Presidency.
I am confident that we shall continue along this path together. Moreover, precisely because we know that the coming months will not be easy, precisely because we know that determining the future status of Kosovo will be one of the most difficult issues for your country, for Kosovo, for the region and for the whole of Europe, we are aware that we have to look to the political culture in Europe as we try to resolve this issue.
We now have 120 days for new negotiations. These four months could be enough time to find a solution to the Kosovo issue on which all sides can agree. That has not been possible until now. A solution which can be accepted by all sides will be found if, in the course of the negotiations, all sides focus more on what is feasible and show a greater degree of flexibility than in the past. This solution is vital if we are to shoulder the responsibility for peace and stability, not only in the Balkans region but also in Europe as a whole.
Don’t forget, my friend, that during one of our first encounters – during an international conference in Belgrade or Berlin, or perhaps in a Brussels hotel bar – you told me that whatever happens in the time ahead, Serbia belongs to Europe.
During the years we have worked together, I can testify: no other representative of Serbian politics has upheld these fundamental principles with such strong resolve.
Wherever necessary and not only in the run-up to elections, you stood up with the same determination to retrogressive nationalists and irresponsible populists, who are also becoming stronger in Serbia.
And you didn’t have an armada at your side. Your only weapons were your convictions, your credibility and your charisma. And you needed courage when, after the elections just a few weeks ago, the forces of the past and the populists threatened to throw away Serbia’s future. Hardly anyone here knows that you were only able to stop this disastrous coalition with a courageous decision, a decision which was unprecedented in Europe.
I could see how difficult it was for the winner of the elections to turn down the post of prime minister, how difficult it was for your political allies to allow the smaller coalition partner to take up this office, and how much your authority was needed to carry through this decision.
But it was decision for a democratic and European Serbia.
That deserves our respect.
That deserves our recognition!
And, what’s more, Boris, you deserve today’s prize. And, what’s more, we are not only honouring the politician and president but also an outstanding representative of the European political culture in your country.
Thank you very much!