His Excellency Árpád Göncz
President of Hungary
Patron of the XVIth International Workshop
POSITIVE CHANGES IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
It is a special joy for me to welcome you, both participants and guests, to the XVIth NATO Workshop. I am particularly pleased to host this prestigious meeting for the second time since 1993. Six years is a very short time period in the history of Europe, yet the six years since 1993 have brought many changes in our lives, changes that in earlier times would have taken much longer to occur. The changes that have taken place in most countries in Central Europe have returned these countries to the political and economic fold to which they belong both historically and culturally.
Three of our regions countries have already become members of NATO; the European Union has also started talks with the others about their joining in the future. The strategic importance of these events cannot be underestimated, and their successful outcomes extend far beyond the borders of NATO and the EU. The peoples of Central and Eastern Europe, who share common values and interests, are bringing with them a wealth of traditions, possibilities, knowledge, and enthusiasm as they join the ranks of the developed democracies.
THE NEED FOR DEMOCRACY AND COOPERATION
Unfortunately some leaders of Central and Eastern European nations did not choose the path of modernization, democracy, and respect for human rights. When those political leaders have occasionally found solutions at the expense of the people and their problems, history has proven to be a very hard teacher and the grades it has handed out have not been very satisfactory.
The experience in Kosovo has proven that security in some parts of Europe is very closely connected to the security of the whole continent. If a country chooses confrontation as a way to reach its goals, and thus endangers the security of the region, it should take responsibility for the outcome. But history has shown us that it is hard to return to internal equanimity after a military conflict. This is particularly true in the case of the Balkan conflict, but such equanimity could be found with the promise of an economic upturn. This, of course, is affected by the kind of help that arrives from the outside, but it is equally affected by cooperation within the region. Cooperation is perhaps the strongest guarantee of security for the region, and must therefore be the basis for the solution to Kosovo.
We in Hungary welcome the birth of the Southeastern European Stability Pact. Its success will require serious effort from all of us, but failure is not an option. If we do not do everything possible in order to guarantee security and progress in the respect of values in Southeastern Europe, then we are allowing the people of the region to face a precarious future.
I believe that the Budapest NATO Workshop, which will examine the many questions around the issue of cooperation, could not have been more timely. I wish you all much success in this endeavor.