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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Speech to the National Endowment for Democracy's Conference on "Promoting Democracy in Southeast Europe -- Experiences and New Approaches"
Berlin, Germany, June 29, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Blue Line

"Democracy in the Balkans"

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Mr. Voigt, thank you so much for that introduction and I remember so many years of being at various meetings with you, and it is very good to be introduced by you now in that very generous way.

Foreign Minister Fischer, Special Coordinator Hombach, and I'm grateful to you for waiting, because I, unfortunately, am going to have to leave to go back to Washington to report to the President, so I am very grateful to you. Chairman Brademas, my very good friend through many activities; President Gershman, who has been a great leader of the National Endowment for Democracy; Chairman Klose; President Rinsche; Ambassador Kornblum; democracy-builders from around the world, good morning. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to address this conference, and pleased to be here in Berlin, the united capital of a united, democratic Germany.

At least, I hope this is Berlin. I'm now on the last leg of a trip that began a week ago in Beijing and has since taken me to Seoul, Gdansk, Warsaw, Jerusalem and the West Bank. And this morning when I got up at 3 a.m., I thought about Konrad Adenauer who once said "a thick skin is a gift from God." I'm inclined to say the same thing about cosmetics.

Sleep aside, this is a perfect way to complete what has been a very good week for democracy. I spent the earlier part of it in Poland with Foreign Minister Fischer and representatives from more than 100 countries, at the first-ever Community of Democracies Conference, and at the nongovernmental World Forum on Democracy.

The outcome of our discussions there is quite relevant to our deliberations here. For the Warsaw Declaration makes clear what democracy requires and of what it consists. And every national government in Southeast Europe, except one that wasn't invited, endorsed that Declaration. Those working for democracy in these nations can use the document as a yardstick, measuring both what has been achieved in their countries and what remains to be done.

We also discussed in Warsaw two paradoxes that are evident worldwide, and especially in Southeast Europe.

First, democracy may be the most stable form of government in the long run, but in the short run it is among the most fragile. The leaders of new democracies are often required to implement dramatic economic and political reforms in countries with little democratic tradition and a host of inherited problems. In such situations, democratic processes must be relentlessly nurtured, for their success cannot be assumed.

Second, as democracy has spread, truly global cooperation on its behalf has become possible. However, this has also made democracy more vulnerable in more places. Southeast Europe is a prime example. So our new Community of Democracies will begin life with much work to do.

A decade ago, I participated in a conference cosponsored by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung concerning the future of Central and Eastern Europe. And may I say in this gathering that it is the German Stiftungs that really were the major example for all of us and there are a lot of people in this audience that I recognize as we put together the National Endowment for Democracy and the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute. So it is the model of your Stiftungs that has really made all the difference. When I was at that particular meeting I predicted then that much would depend on the willingness of political parties not only to compete for power, but also to cooperate in strengthening the democratic processes.

The multi-party sponsorship of this conference illustrates that point and reflects the vigor of German and American democracy. I really do thank the German foundations and the National Endowment for Democracy for bringing us together.

Assembled here are many of the real experts in developing and implementing best democratic practices. In Warsaw, we discussed the importance of bringing those trying to build democracy together with those able to actually provide help. That's precisely what this conference does and I salute you all for it.

This morning, for this audience, I don't need to review what's at stake in Southeast Europe, because you know it. I don't have to recall the region's tumultuous past, because many of you have lived it. And I don't have to recount how we reached the present moment of hope, because you helped to achieve it.

Through the efforts of many people in and outside of the region, the military conflicts that raged during the past decade have ended. Democracy has almost everywhere become the system of choice. And Europe, the United States, and our partners have forged a pact, ably administered by Bodo Hombach, and aimed at transforming the region into a full partner and participant in a new Europe. Obviously, this is no easy task, and we have not entered into it lightly.

As Goethe once said, "The great part of all the mischief in the world arises from the fact that men do not sufficiently understand their own aims. They undertake to build a tower, and spend no more labor on the foundation than would be necessary to build a hut."

If the tower of democracy is really to rise above all of Southeast Europe, we must be prepared to devote substantial resources to the region over a substantial period of time. We must be patient, but also determined to get assistance on the ground quickly so that the benefits of participation are apparent to the local populations. We must be firm in our commitment to democratic principles and practices.

And the region's governments must keep their side of the bargain by implementing economic reforms that attract private investment, and democratic reforms that encourage tolerance and respect for human rights. Though only a year old, the pact has already generated strong support among the nations of Southeast Europe. For example, Turkey and Greece are investing, aiding development, and promoting integration throughout the region.

Hungary and Slovenia are helping their neighbors profit from their experience in how to make democratic transitions work. Leaders in Bucharest, Skopje, Sofia and Tirana are participating in the pact with enthusiasm and offering creative ideas for promoting regional growth. And even in this decade's former battlegrounds, there have been significant gains.

For example, the elections in Croatia last winter produced a new government dedicated to reform and supportive of the Dayton Accords. Its task is made far harder, however, by the economic black hole it inherited from the corrupt and ultra-nationalist Tudjman regime. The new leaders merit our full support as they strive to restore prosperity and to make their country fully part of the Trans-Atlantic Community.

In Bosnia, the trends are also positive. Moderate parties did well in last April's elections, which were free and fair. The security situation continues to improve, as the appeal of extreme nationalism continues to fade. Forty-nine indicted war criminals have been brought into custody at The Hague. And refugee returns are up sharply.

Unfortunately, Bosnia's leaders have been slow to implement the economic policies required to attract investment, create jobs and sustain growth. As a result, corruption, not conflict, has become Bosnia's biggest immediate challenge.

In Kosovo, democracy's capacity to achieve coexistence among rival factions is facing a severe test. Democracy's great advantage is that it enables those with differences to resolve them peacefully. This is good, because Kosovo Albanians and Serbs have a wealth of differences to resolve.

It is clear, however, that this will not happen overnight, and so the international community is pursuing a step-by-step approach. An Interim Joint Administrative Council, with moderate Serb participation, has been established. More than 200 village community councils have been created. And registration is well underway for October's scheduled municipal elections.

Since the start of the year, the overall level of violence in Kosovo has declined dramatically, but inter-ethnic tensions remain high. It is important for the extremists on both sides to understand that their undemocratic agendas will not be achieved. Kosovo is not going to be partitioned, and neither is it going to be purged of its ethnic minorities.

Moderate Serb leaders are doing the right thing for their people by agreeing to participate in the joint administrative structures. Moderate Albanians are saying the right thing when they include minorities in their description of the stable and peaceful Kosovo they hope to create. Ultimately, democratic development in Kosovo will depend on how willing the region's people are to embrace democratic norms, including the respect for law.

To enhance that prospect, however, it is imperative that the international community provide enough resources now to maintain order, facilitate refugee returns, and proceed with plans to build indigenous, multi-ethnic institutions. And may I say as an aside, I did spend two hours in the middle of this night talking to our members of Congress to try to get our part of this money there.

Of course, the largest impediment to democratic progress in Southeast Europe is the Milosevic regime in Belgrade. Having already pushed his nation into four losing wars, Milosevic is now waging war against the democratic aspirations of his own people -- a people that deserve far, far better.

If one were to sit down and write out a list of what's needed to make a democracy work, you would end up with the list of Serb institutions the Milosevic government is avidly trying to corrupt, intimidate or destroy.

  • It has abandoned constitutional procedures. Its special police have invaded, searched, and sealed offices of leading NGOs.
  • It has brought false and trumped up charges against political opponents and student leaders.
  • It has tried to muzzle Serbia's independent media by seizing or shutting down facilities, expelling foreign journalists, and threatening or beating those brave enough to report the truth.
  • It has forced scores of Kosovo Albanians to endure show trials worthy of Stalin, and sentenced them for crimes they did not commit.
  • It has launched a campaign of intimidation against the democratically elected government of Serbia's sister republic, Montenegro.
  • And as we speak, Milosevic is poised to ram so-called anti-terrorism legislation through Serbia's puppet parliament. Unfortunately for him, an anti-terrorism statute authored by a terrorist regime will have no credibility. Its transparent purpose is to provide a respectable cover for repressive policies.

If Milosevic cared at all about the rule of law, he would turn himself over to The Hague and stand trial for the war crimes for which he has been indicted. As far as U.S. policy is concerned, we want to see Milsoevic out of power, out of Serbia and in The Hague.

And make no mistake; Serbia is impoverished today not by economic sanctions but by the mismanagement and thievery of a regime that has enriched Milosevic's cronies, while leaving everyone else the scraps. And Serbia is isolated today less by the international community than by Milosevic's own determination to keep the free flow of information -- so deadly to him, but so necessary to democracy -- from reaching his people.

Not everyone in the Serb government deserves the condemnation Milosevic has brought on himself. But when the day of decision comes, the Serb people are sure to remember who supported the democratic process and who went along with the efforts to destroy it.

We cannot impose a democratic solution on Serbia from the outside in, but we can help Serbs build one from the inside out.

I know that one of the subjects you will be discussing today is how best to assist the institutions of civil society. This is especially vital in Serbia, where we see courageous political and municipal leaders, journalists, students and other activists trying to assemble the nuts and bolts of freedom. We are honored by the presence of some of those brave leaders here today.

The United States and many of our friends in Europe are providing material assistance to the forces of Serbian democracy, and will continue doing so until -- and long after -- those forces have prevailed.

Those of you from Central and Southeast Europe have a unique role to play. For you have personally experienced struggles to replace command economies with free markets, and one-party dictatorships with multi-party democracies. Your knowledge, commitment, and connections can be of great value now to your compatriots in Serbia. I encourage you to do all you can to assist as they strive to bring democracy to their land, and with it peace, prosperity and a place of pride at Europe's table. It is important, after all, for the Serb people to know that they are surrounded not by rivals and enemies, but by colleagues and friends.

I want to highlight, in closing, my belief that those who value democracy in their own lands should support, in appropriate ways, the establishment of democracy in Serbia and other countries where people are struggling to be free. I know there are some who say that such support only leads to trouble. But trouble is what Milosevic deserves. Moreover, Vaclav Havel has told me how important it was for dissidents during the Cold War to know there were many outside who supported their cause.

Nelson Mandela has expressed gratitude for the international sanctions which helped bring apartheid to an end. German leaders have paid tribute to the Allied airlift that helped the courageous people of Berlin survive in freedom half a century ago.

And further back still, America has never ceased to honor the assistance given to our fight for freedom by our first and still cherished ally -- France, who pursues democracy in its own way.

The Community of Democracies meeting in Warsaw this week highlighted the importance of global cooperation in support of democracy. The primary focus of our efforts should be to strengthen new democracies as they strive to build their institutions and meet the expectations of their people. As this Conference reflects, Southeast Europe will provide a major testing ground for these efforts. It will also provide the ultimate answer to the question we wrestled with throughout the past century, and that is whether we can finally create a Europe without walls, wholly at peace, and fully free.

As I look around this hall at democratic activists from throughout the region and beyond, I am convinced that the answer is "yes." And to this high mission, I pledge my own best efforts as long as I am in office, and frankly for the rest of my life.

Thank you very much.

[End of Document]
Blue Line

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