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Published on April 4, 2008
Joint article by M. Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, and Mr Carl Bildt, Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, published in the "Le Figaro", "El Pais", "The Times"¹ and "La Republica" newspapers

Paris, March 12, 2008

Letter to our Serbian friends on Zoran Djindjic, Kosovo and Europe

Five years already! We both knew Zoran Djindjic, the Prime Minister of Serbia, well. We remember his deeply felt convictions, his love for his beautiful country, and his certainty that it had to accelerate its progress towards the EU. At that time, the European Union had only 15 members and Zoran knew his country would soon join it. Today, like many others we mourn his death. We still feel as stunned as we did on 12 March 2003 at his assassination and the extinguishing of the hope and energy he embodied. Today, we both have a special commitment to the Balkans, and Serbia in particular. Five years after the death of Zoran Djindjic, we want to pay him homage and express our friendship for Serbia.

Serbia is going through another difficult period. We know the shock Serbia feels at the loss of Kosovo. We are also conscious of the incomprehension of our Serbian friends when France, then Sweden, both friends of Serbia, recognised Kosovo’s independence. As we have said so many times – including to the Kosovans – our two countries, like many others, would have preferred the continuation of the union between the Western Balkan states. But the horrific wars of the 1990s, and the massacres their peoples suffered, dealt Yugoslavia a fatal blow. The source of those wars was in Kosovo, and it was in Kosovo three weeks ago that the former Yugoslavia’s dismemberment was completed. Our countries recognised Kosovo’s independence because, after almost two years of negotiations which had shown everyone the impossibility of reaching an agreement, it had become clear that there was no other solution. How much longer could the uncertainty have been allowed to go on? So, yes, we took the responsibility of recognising Kosovo’s independence, convinced that this would help Serbia move forward.

It is probably hard for our Serbian friends today to imagine that they will soon be European citizens. And yet in our view it is certain that Serbia will soon be a member of the EU, because there is no alternative. This is in tune with the march of history, because the Serbian people are a great European people, a pillar of history; Serbia, everyone agrees, is the backbone of the whole region. Of course, it is up to Serbia to choose the pace of this rapprochement. We want Serbia to be given official European Union candidate country status as soon as possible, and we are prepared to help Serbia to move towards accession. We have not forgotten the historic friendship binding our peoples to the Serbian people, nor our common battles. We will stand beside a Serbia that is proud of its history and focused on the future.

We want the European Union to be able to work with Serbia to help it catch up. In particular, we want the citizens of Serbia to be able to travel freely within the Schengen Area. For us, the visa facilitation agreement, that has benefited many Serbians since 1 January of this year, is not enough. It is time for the EU to open a process with Serbia with a view to lifting visa requirements altogether.

Zoran Djindjic died five years ago today, believing in his country’s ability to join the European Union. Let us work together, hand in hand, to turn his hope into reality./.


[1¹ A shorter version under a different title.