H. E. Dr. Vojislav Kostunica
President of the Republic of Yugoslavia
12 September 2002, New York


Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor and privilege for me as the first democratically elected President of Yugoslavia in nearly sixty years to address this august and distinguished gathering of world leaders. Against the solemn background of yesterday's commemoration and the challenges that confront us, I would like to share with you my views on developments in South Eastern Europe. Before I begin my remarks allow me to express my deep satisfaction at the election of his Excellency Jan Kavan to head the 57th General Assembly of the United Nations. His leadership and experience make him uniquely qualified to guide the extremely important work of this body.

Nearly two years have elapsed since democracy returned to Yugoslavia - two years of my country's concerted efforts to alleviate the consequences of a decade of civil wars, to build democratic institutions, establish the rule of law, carry-out market reforms and fulfill its obligations to the international community. With a ten-year delay, Yugoslavia has joined a large group of European countries in transition which build their future on the common values on the respect for human rights, democracy, free market economies and a commitment to European and Euro-Atlantic integration. What distinguishes my country from most Central and Eastern European states is that Yugoslavia experienced the largest armed conflict in Europe since World War II in this same decade. The dissolution of the -former Yugoslavia, the civil wars waged on its soil and the subsequent NATO bombing have left continuing effects on the well being of the citizens of my country and on the citizens of most of South Eastern Europe. These conflicts have left a tragic legacy - hundreds of thousands forced from their homes, economies in shambles and new borders that divide our citizens. My country's problems are compounded by over 700,000-refugee and IDPs which means that every tenth resident is a refugee. Moreover, Yugoslavia's infrastructure is yet to recover, particularly from the 1999 bombing. This is what makes the process of economic, social and political transitions in Yugoslavia far more difficult than elsewhere.

The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia knows only too well that peace in the region, attained at a great sacrifice, must never be threatened again. The efforts we have made to this end over the past two years and good political relations we have established with our neighbors have strengthened my hope that an inter­state armed conflict in our region is unlikely to happen either today or in the foreseeable future. There are still threats to lasting peace in the world and the region alike. These threats come from ideological, religious, ethnic and political extremisms that fuel hatred and sow fear among our peoples. Organized crime is often linked with these extremisms and is the lifeblood of terrorism. Even though terrorism and organized crime in South Eastern Europe are rather specific, there are many links to leading terrorist and criminal groups throughout the world. From this rostrum I am here to reaffirm my country's firm commitment to the struggle against this threat. I am also confident that the United Nations is the right place for coordination of international efforts to rid the world of this evil.

The stabilization of our region requires continuous action not only by the states of the region, but also by the entire international community. This effort must not cease until we reach full stability and become an integral part of contemporary integrations. Allow me to share with you a couple of issues of utmost importance for the success of this process.

My country has finally undertaken constitutional transformation with facilitation by the EU, in order to define relations between its, two member republics, Serbia and Montenegro. Our goal is to produce a state union based on respect for human rights and cultural diversity, the rule of law, good governance and a socially responsible market economy. This will make our integration with the rest of Europe easier and quicker.

Today, the states of our region are led by democratically elected governments, which are committed to solve all problems, including the most daunting ones they inherited, peacefully and by diplomatic means. It is important to understand that South Eastern European problems do not differ from those found in Europe and throughout the world. Lasting solutions are not to be found in divisions, but rather in the establishment of civil societies and democratic states.

Our success requires the success of our neighbors. When it comes to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Yugoslavia is a fervent advocate of the full implementation of the Dayton Accords. In fact we are a guarantor of these Accords. As in all other cases, our goal is to open borders, not to change them. We want to promote the flow of people and goods, thus restoring the broken that bond us to each other. I am pleased to see that such a policy has produced significant results. Although I have to say that slow economic recovery hinders our efforts, especially in the area of refugee returns. Yugoslavia in cooperation with Croatia and Bosnia­Herzegovina will continue to do our part in establishing the trust and cooperation between our three states continues to progress. - I am proud that Yugoslavia will host the next summit of these states scheduled to be held in Belgrade, this autumn.

I am saddened that the situation in Kosovo is far- less encouraging. Some progress has been made since U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244 was adopted and since the arrival of UNMIK arrived in this province. A bright spot was reached through the Agreement on Cooperation between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and UNMIK reached in November 2001 with Special Representative Hans Haekerup and with the enormous help and understanding of the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. Unfortunately, Kosovo remains a factor of political instability and a center for organized criminal networks that transit our region and stretch from Central Asia to South America. There is little doubt that these networks cooperate with extremist and terrorist groups in our region as well as beyond.

Another problem with Kosovo is the desperate plight of close to 250,000 Serbs, Montenegrins and other non-Albanians who desire to return to their homes but who remain displaced mostly in central Serbia. Unlike in Bosnia-Herzegovina, less than one percent of Kosovo's IDP population has returned. To make matters worse, the fate of more than 5,000 abducted and missing persons is yet to be uncovered. During the last two years, Kosovo's instability spilled over into neighboring areas twice - first into the Presevo Valley in southern Serbia and then into the western part of FYROM. Regardless of the fact that Serbs and others participate in Kosovo's provisional institutions this has not led to an improvement in the security situation and has not led to the establishment of a complete freedom of movement.   Without an immediate and noticeable improvement in these two areas then the prospect for a more massive return of IDPs is unlikely. -All of this, along with the reluctance of Kosovo Albanian  political leaders to enter into dialogue with us, makes it impossible to begin a serious discussion on the final status of Kosovo and Metohija.

The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will continue to do its part in establishing the conditions for a democratic and peaceful solution to this open issue. "to this end, I am pleased that we will upgrade to the ambassadorial level, diplomatic relations with our neighbor, the Republic of Albania. I am confident that the cooperation between our two countries will continue and that we will jointly be in a better position to find solutions to outstanding problems.

Let me stress that we are fully aware of our international commitments, and that we will meet them not because this is demanded of us but because we desire to establish a democratic society based: on the rule of law.

In conclusion I would like to say a few words in French.

Enflin, et je crois qu'au niveau de la conception cela est le plus important, déterminant tout le reste, il importe que le monde comprenne qu'un changement est vraiment intervenu enYougoslavie et qu'aucun régime autoritaire n'y a plus de chances. La méfiance témoignée parfois à mon pays paraît quasiment incroyable. Les préjugés sont toujours là; comme si rien n'avait changé. Alors que beaucoup de choses ont changé, et cela de manière substantielle. Notre scène politique est encore en train de se profiler, elle présente encore des contestations entre ses acteurs, mais tout cela est parfaitement normal pour la période de transition.   Et rien ne devrait désormais servir de prétexte pour la poursuite, à son égard, de la politique de conditionnement ni pour les tentatives d'ingérence dans ses affaires internes. Du reste, il s'est avéré jusqu'à présent à maintes reprises que cette attitude provoquait généralement des effets contraires. Sans parler du temps perdu de cette façon.

Je vous remercie de votre attention.