|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at Event Sponsored by the Bohemia Foundation
Prague, Czech Republic, March 7, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: (In Czech) Thank you very much for the beautiful words (inaudible).
Thank you, Foreign Minister Kavan, Karel Schwarzenberg, Ivana Stefkova, excellencies from the diplomatic corps, members of the Bohemia Foundation and the Jan Masaryk Society, distinguished guests and friends. Thank you very much for your welcome. It is a great honor for me to participate in observing the 150th anniversary of Tomas Masaryk's birth. And a real pleasure to meet with everybody today.
I am especially pleased to be joined by America's Ambassador to the Czech Republic, John Shattuck and his wife, Ellen. It is only fitting that President Clinton would choose one of our nation's finest leaders on human rights to represent the United States to one of our country's closest friends. And I hope you agree he and his entire embassy are doing a truly outstanding job.
I would like to begin by expressing my thanks to the Bohemia Foundation for sponsoring this event. In just a short time, the Foundation has established a fine reputation as a forum for the exchange of views on issues that affect us all.
And I want especially to extend again my profound thanks to the Jan Masaryk Society for awarding me, along with my friend, the Foreign Minister, the Medal of Jan Masaryk. I cannot tell you how much this means to me.
Like his father, Jan Masaryk represented a philosophy that dates back in Czech history more than half a millennium to a time when much of the rest of Europe was still shrouded in darkness, but this land was alive with liberty and a commitment to a free expression.
It's a philosophy of ideals backed by actions; a philosophy similar to that which inspired the founding of the United States; and which in turn aided Tomas Masaryk in his struggle for recognition of an independent Czechoslovakia. This same tradition later helped Vaclav Havel and his many colleagues lift the Iron Curtain and raise again the flag of freedom.
This thinking is grounded in a fundamental optimism about the ability of human beings to make progress in freedom. It is characterized by a belief in the worth of every individual, regardless of race, creed, gender or ethnic background. And it is based on conviction that if free peoples are to survive, they must work together.
Members of the Jan Masaryk society can testify how hard it can be to sustain this philosophy. The plaque in the courtyard of Cernin Palace provides further eloquent witness. We will never know for certain how Jan Masaryk died. And we must never fail to remember for what and for whom he perished. He died because he would not put a price on the truth, and because he believed to his core in the right of the Czech and Slovak people to be free.
The history of the past century was replete with broken promises and broken windows, and broken bodies and broken hearts. There have been times when everything the Masaryks stood for seemed to have been forgotten, even by many in their native land.
And yet now, both the Czech Republic and the world have crossed into a new century more free than we have ever been. The reason is that, with faith such as the Masaryks', we can always summon the strength to come back and build up, and even when the world seems to have broken down.
This morning, I want to apply this theme to one of President Masaryk's most compelling conceptions, and that is the creation of a Europe without walls, wholly free and fully at peace.
The elder Masaryk was one of the first to conceive of a Europe different from the centuries when great powers settled their arguments by dividing among themselves the spoils of empire. He envisioned a new Europe in which small and large nations would co-exist; the security of all would be protected by all; and the citizens of all would be free.
Between his time and ours, we have seen Masaryk's vision--albeit just barely--survive Fascism and Communism, and global wars both hot and cold.
Then, a decade ago, the fall of the Berlin Wall brought a new birth of freedom to all of Central Europe. And it created an historic opportunity to bring Europe and America together around the very principles the Masaryks had espoused. In response, President Clinton and his counterparts from throughout the region began modernizing, adapting and expanding the region's core institutions. These jobs remain unfinished, but we have come a long way in a short time. Consider the progress made in 1999 alone.
In April, NATO leaders gathered in Washington to observe the 50th anniversary of our alliance for freedom, welcoming the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland as new members, bolstering partnerships and preparing for new threats. We kept the door open to further NATO enlargement. And the United States re-iterated support for a European Security and Defense Identity that strengthens the Trans-Atlantic relationship and allows for a balanced sharing of burdens and responsibilities.
In June in Bonn, and later in Washington, the United States and European Union met and mapped plans for acting together in fast-breaking crises, managing differences, and addressing global challenges.
In November, in Istanbul, we signed a new Charter for European Security, recognizing that stability within societies is as important as stability between states. This means that how a government treats its people, including ethnic minorities, is not only its business. It's everyone's business.
And in December, the EU expanded its policy of inclusiveness by setting a timetable for its next enlargement, asking among others the Czech Republic to accession talks, and inviting Turkey to become a candidate.
As these events show, leaders of the Euro-Atlantic Community are making progress month by month towards the Masaryks' long-denied dream.
This progress depends on true partnership between America and the new Europe, a partnership designed to promote democracy, security and prosperity, and able to meet challenges within and beyond our region.
Like any true partnership, the strength of each contributes to the strength of all. That is why we value so highly the contributions of the Czech Republic to NATO missions in the Balkans. And why we applaud the leading role your government has taken in promoting human rights and democracy around the world.
The United States wants a Europe that is united and strong; where democratic practices are deeply rooted and wars simply do not happen. Now, more than ever, that kind of Europe exists. But there remains a missing piece, in the continent's southeast corner. And there, last year in Kosovo, we took a decisive stand.
Together, our Alliance responded forcefully to Milosevic's campaign of ethnic cleansing. We stuck together despite repeated efforts to divide us. And we persisted until Belgrade's forces were withdrawn.
Those who still question whether what we did was right should consider what would have happened if we had sat back and tolerated what was so clearly wrong.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees would still be huddled in camps throughout southeast Europe. In Kosovo itself, many thousands more would be living in terror, without homes, naked to the winter's cold. And the message that ethnic cleansing pays would have spread like a galloping virus through the region.
Instead, because of NATO, the large-scale violence has ended; the vast majority of displaced have returned; rebuilding has begun; and we have conveyed a powerful message that ethnic cleansing is not only wrong, but also self-defeating--for those who practice it will be isolated and opposed.
Through determination and unity, we did what was necessary to prevail in conflict. Now we must do what it takes to prevail in peace, understanding that this will not occur in one great leap, but rather step by step.
Now, I am aware that some are pointing to the recent violence in the northern Kosovo city of Mitrovica and saying that war is back and peace in the region is not possible.
My response is three-fold. First, we should not allow the problems in one flashpoint to cause us to lose sight of larger progress. The truth is that KFOR has seen a steady decline in violence and crime in Kosovo. A Joint Administrative Council has been established. The KLA has met its commitment to demobilize. Planning for municipal elections is underway. And in most parts of Kosovo, morale is high.
Second, we should remember that this region is a magnet for the prophets of doom and gloom. A few years ago, we were told that tensions in the divided Bosnian town of Brcko would surely derail implementation of the Dayton Accords. Those predictions were wrong. Tomorrow, I will be in Brcko to meet with Serbs, Croats and Muslims and to inaugurate its new governing statute.
Third, we must be clear about our expectations and aims. After all that has happened, we do not expect the rival communities in Kosovo to immediately join hands and start singing folk songs. We do insist they stop killing each other. The spirit of tolerance and inter-ethnic cooperation will take longer to achieve. But that has begun to develop in Bosnia, and it will happen in Kosovo.
Despite key differences, the strategy being employed by the UN and KFOR bears some resemblance to the one employed earlier in Bosnia. We are giving the hardest problems our top priority. In Bosnia, the hardest problem was Brcko. In Kosovo, it is Mitrovica.
It is there that the international community is concentrating resources, beefing up security, striving to isolate the extremists on both sides, and trying to give cooler heads the help they need to prevail.
Again, we are not asking either side to forget legitimate grievances. We are saying that no grievance can be redressed by shooting up a UN bus, or driving a grandmother from her home, or hurling rocks at the international forces--or eggs, for that matter.
The only practical way for ethnic Serbs and Albanians alike to achieve their legitimate aims is to work with and through the international community and to participate in the joint structures being created. This is how representative community control can be established, civilians on all sides made safe, and the displaced enabled to come home.
I do not, however, underestimate the precarious nature of the situation in Mitrovica. Certainly, there is a danger of further violence.
There are extremists on both sides, and those in the ethnic Albanian community who perpetrate crimes against Serbs and other minorities deserve strong condemnation and are doing a profound disservice to the aspirations of their people. There is also one government, in Belgrade, which is promoting confrontation and trying to undermine the prospects for ethnic co-existence.
The policies of that government over the past decade have sparked the rise of extremism on all sides of the ethnic divide; and its policies still fan the flames. International efforts in Bosnia and Kosovo have banked the fires of intolerance, but they will not be extinguished until a democratic government has replaced the current regime in Belgrade.
Democracy is the key to our strategy throughout Southeast Europe. Democratic governments are more stable internally, more likely to encourage ethnic tolerance, and more interested in establishing closer economic and political ties with their neighbors and the West. NATO and the EU have encouraged democratic trends by creating partnerships and considering new members based on adherence to these and other democratic criteria.
Last decade, a similar strategy helped to solidify democracy and resolve lingering ethnic disputes in Central Europe. Now we are seeing this strategy validated over and over again in the former Yugoslavia. To turn an old phrase rightside up, lights are going on all over the Balkans.
Slovenia is free. Macedonia recently experienced a democratic transfer of power. Bosnia has held fair, competitive elections at every level. Montenegro has democratic leadership. And last month's elections in Croatia marked a national U-turn away from extremism and towards inter-ethnic tolerance and integration with the West.
I am convinced that the people of Serbia would make a similar choice if given the chance to do so. Today, many Serbs are actively seeking that opportunity. They deserve--and they should have--our full support.
After all, throughout history, people struggling to establish democracy in their own countries have benefited from the solidarity of others.
That was true with the American Revolution. It was true in America's backing for Czechoslovakian independence during Tomas Garrigue Masaryk's famous visit. It was true in the world community's support for ending apartheid in South Africa, and in Western encouragement for the heroes who helped bring down the Berlin Wall.
Certainly, there is no future for Serbia under Milosevic, for he is a repeat offender. He has intimidated and repressed domestic dissent. He has been indicted for crimes against humanity. He has isolated his country, made it the poorest in Europe, and betrayed the best interests of the Serb people by starting and losing four wars.
Today, Milosevic is reminiscent of Shakespeare's Macbeth--"old murders sticking on his hands," his title hanging "loosely about him, like a giant's robe upon a dwarfish thief," commanding only those who fear.
We cannot impose a democratic solution on Serbia, but we can encourage democratic change by helping the opposition to unite, assisting independent media, and making clear that a democratic Serbia would be warmly welcomed and generously assisted by the international community.
In this connection, I appreciate the support that many in the Czech Republic have provided to Serb democratic forces. I applaud your government's initiative to bring Serb opposition leaders to the last OSCE summit. And I know that leading Czech NGOs are exploring ways they can assist their Serb counterparts.
I want to note here that Montenegrin President Djukanovic has shown great wisdom and caution in pursuing economic and political reforms while continuing to seek a balanced relationship with Serbia. The United States supports these efforts, while reaffirming our continuing interest in the security of the region as a whole, including Montenegro.
Our efforts on behalf of democratic forces in Kosovo and Serbia are part of a larger challenge. And that is to integrate all of Southeast Europe into the continent's democratic mainstream.
In July, our leaders met in Sarajevo to adopt the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe. That agreement is a two way bargain. With our European partners, we will work to stabilize, transform and integrate the countries of Southeast Europe, provided they adopt the reforms required for this transformation to take place.
We are under no illusions about the difficulty of the task we have set. It's literally to transform the patterns of history; to replace whirlpools of violence leading nowhere with a steady upward tide. This won't happen unless the international community follows through on commitments to help. And unless those in the region make the hard choices required to create societies based on freedom and law.
Accordingly, we welcome European Commission President Prodi's promise to secure nearly 12 billion Euros for these goals during the next six years, and hope that this pledge will be supported by EU members.
Meanwhile, the United States is implementing its own commitments. We are submitting legislation to Congress which would provide Southeast Europe with five years of duty-free access to the U.S. market. We have made a $200 million investment credit line available to companies in the region. Our Overseas Private Investment Corporation is forming a $150 million regional investment fund.
And we will provide resources to develop enduring partnerships that contribute to the rule of law through the American Bar Association and Central and East European Law Initiative Institute here in Prague. This project will help other countries benefit from the Czech Republic's experience in making the transition from (inaudible) to democracy. (Inaudible sentence)
We look forward soon to a regional conference in Brussels, where parties will focus on commitments by donor countries to fund job-creating projects, and by countries in the region to curb corruption, improve the investment climate, build down trade barriers, and build up democracy and human rights.
It is essential that we press ahead on both sides of the Atlantic to transform promises made into promises kept. And one of my purposes here in Europe this week is to convey to all our partners the message that the United States is prepared to do its share, but Europe must not lag behind.
Our efforts in Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and throughout Southeast Europe reflect a philosophy that I believe both Tomas Garrigue Masaryk and Jan Masaryk would warmly embrace. It is not enough for nations to concentrate on creating and sustaining the conditions of freedom within their own borders. For that will still leave them vulnerable to the forces of instability and aggression that--if unaddressed--may gather strength just outside.
Our generation has been granted an historic opportunity to realize President Masaryk's original conception of a democratic and peaceful Europe linked by common interests and values to its partners across the Atlantic.
It remains too early to tell whether that opportunity will be squandered or seized. The answer will depend on decisions made from Washington to Warsaw, London to Lisbon, Paris to Prague.
It will depend on our shared resolve in preserving NATO unity and preparing it for the full range of 21st Century missions.
It will depend on our willingness to back sentiments with resources, our determination to support democratic change, our solidarity in opposing extremism, and our faith that the Masaryks were right in believing that free people working together can overcome any obstacle.
It will depend, most of all, not on the quality of our dreams, but on the resolution demonstrated by our actions.
As I look around this hall, I am convinced we will make the right decisions, and thereby do honor to the legacy of Tomas Masaryk, that most practical of philosophers, and Jan Masaryk, whose sacrifice we will never forget.
(In Czech) Thank you all very, very much.
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