Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be here with you and to take part in a meeting which will consider not only past achievements and prospects in regional economic cooperation but also the impact of global trends on the region.
I find the latter particularly important in the light of the crises we currently face precisely at the global level. I shall not be claiming anything new if I say that cooperation among the countries in the region, the greater region in particular, is a compelling factor of stabilization not only in southeast Europe but also in Europe in general. Because of the very character of our present-day world, because we are so linked and, therefore, so dependent on one another, everything that takes place in the region is necessarily reflected beyond its boundaries.
And all those who may still be turning over in their minds whether there is any sense and need to sustain the enlargement of the European Union ought to bear that in mind! However, regional cooperation must be stimulated ever anew, just because no country is or can be a lone island, and because no region can be an isolated island cut off from the rest of the world.
It is true, of course, that global developments affect any region, including our own, but it is also true - let me reiterate - that trends in the region are also reflected in the world. Therefore, we are talking about mutual and intertwined influences. We live in a globalized world. This is a fact we cannot avoid.
But the question is whether this globalized world should look just as it does, and whether the very rules governing our present-day world ought to prevail in the globalized world. My answer is: no!
The crises we all face, to a greater or lesser extent, and which inevitably reach us sooner or later, demonstrate and confirm something I have been trying to bring to public attention for years.
The neoliberal model has been used up. The elevation of the market to the unquestionable pedestal has failed. And even the imposition of a single, quasi-universal democratic structure on all countries, as we have seen, is not only unacceptable but also unimplementable.
I perceive the impact of global developments on the region first of all in terms of the question of how soon we shall grasp and accept the fact that the world we have known is definitively becoming a thing of the past but also in terms of the answer to it. If the big ones cannot reconcile themselves to the collapse of the structures they worked out and set up, can states in individual regions, our own included, help them to face realities?
Statements such as, “the current financial crisis is like a tsunami which occurs once in a hundred years”, will help us little. Neither will claims according to which a significant growth of unemployment will be inevitable in current circumstances.
The same goes for statements that it would be disastrous to renounce the market, and that at the same time we cannot progress in a way in which we are always faced with the same things and the same attempts to restore them back to health.
As we have seen: only temporarily and with less and less success! What we need is a new view, a new vision, a new philosophy and a new concept of international relations - primarily economic relations, but others as well.
Please do not get me wrong: I am not appealing for the return of any failed past experiment, and I do not see the road to the future as a return to the past. But I do believe that we must find the strength for a bold breakthrough from a system which is shackling and hampering us at an ever increasing rate, and collapsing at the same time, threatening to pull us all into the abyss. As we have seen, the unrestrained and uncontrolled market is incapable of avoiding crises affecting us.
The rescue of the neoliberal model, which the developed countries swore by until yesterday, through moves which are nothing else but the introduction of state capitalism, associated with unconvincing assurances that these are only temporary measures, cannot but convince everybody willing and capable of long-term consideration that we simply cannot go on this way.
After all, and I am not making this point for the first time, the entire history of the human society is a history of evolution, of development. Can anyone seriously even think that development would stop at the currently achieved stage? And why should it stop just here - even with no clear signs of collapse?
In my mind, the region is faced at present with two tasks - a short-term and a long-term one. In the short run, we must devise a way for surviving without major shocks the crises upsetting the world - the financial, energy, food crisis. In the long run, we must provide our own contribution to contriving the world of tomorrow which will certainly differ very much from the current one in many elements.
The implementation of both tasks ought to start immediately. Let me stress: both and immediately, for there is no time for waiting! We are witnessing meetings or announced meetings at the highest level intended to provide answers to current crisis conditions. However, it is a fact that all these will be meetings of the elect, of a restricted number of countries, and this holds true even for meetings to be held under the umbrella of the United Nations. I am not denying, and will never deny, that there are countries whose influence on global trends is exceptionally high. This at the same time implies their equally high responsibility fort global conditions, but not any monopoly to decide about everybody else by themselves or in a narrow circle.
I would like this meeting to send out the following message: the right but also the duty of every country is to take part in conceiving the world of tomorrow.
It is my firm belief that such a world cannot be built, or built successfully, unless its concept includes a firmly expressed social note. Moreover, we must renounce an attitude which is constantly put into effect although it is rarely formulated in public in such terms - the view that people exist because of the system and must subordinate their destinies to the task of rescuing the system instead of the opposite: the system must exist because of the people and their benefit should be the prime mover of whatever takes place within the system, and of the system itself, whatever its name.
As I have already said, we live in a globalized, interconnected and interdependent world. This is a fact and nothing about it can be changed. However, it is precisely because of this fact that we ought to, indeed must build a world with no crises; of course, crises originate in one country or maybe a group of countries, but they then spill over the whole world. Interconnection can be a blessing, but also a curse - if it is reduced to the dependence of some countries on other countries, dependence of the majority on the minority.
This is why a new stimulus to the achievement of the millennial goals of the United Nations is an imperative. And so is the achievement of a key advance towards the solution of problems which have faced the world for decades - to the overcoming of the gap between the rich and the poor.
In other words, I see the way out in development and in the welfare state. As far as the political model is concerned - because politics cannot be left out of the game - we must be aware of the fact that there will be no progress as long as there are attempts to transplant, even by force, what is positive in one country to another setting. We all have our own history, our own development, our own culture and our own tradition.
Let us turn that into wealth, let us build a world which will profit from the blending of different cultures and traditions and in which nobody will force his model on others.
Of course, there are universal values such as fundamental human rights. Soon we shall celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal UN Declaration of Human Rights. That is not debatable at all.
However, the scope within which such rights are enjoyed is a matter of each country. Therefore, the question is not “shall we?” but “how shall we do it?”.
Finally, to return to the region at the end of my presentation, let me repeat that we must first of all avoid the most severe consequences of the crises affecting the world.
After that, actually at the same time, we must win a place within the circle of those who decide on the world of tomorrow, because we shall all live in it. By strengthening our mutual cooperation we shall be able, I think, to mitigate the consequences of the current crises. I even believe that it would be worthwhile to think about how we could help one another.
In this regard, let me just suggest one catchword for your consideration: solidarity. The foundations are already there. We must not permit crisis shocks to shake them. Let us reinforce them through our cooperation and think of how to expand them and make them sturdier, capable of carrying the new building we shall have to erect on them - unless we want to spend the cold winter night in the open. I hope I have made my point.
Thank you for your attention!