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September 5-6, 2003
Prof. Dr. loan Mircea Pascu
Minister of Defense of Romania

Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary General,
Minister Svinarov,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Southeastern Europe is both a geographic area and a philosophy of life.

Here, in these mountains, outsiders were looked upon with suspicion for centuries and memories are long (somebody even said once, referring to the inhabitants of the area that they had "sharp knives and long memories").

Indeed, as we saw many times, here yesterday is more important than today sometimes even more important than tomorrow!

Consequently, feuds lasted long and were put aside only when outsiders tried to interfere with the lives of those inhabiting the place.

Indeed, for hundreds of years, that has been the prevailing political model for cooperation.

Now, it is changing!

For the first time in its long and complicated history, Southeastern Europe stands the chance of overcoming that narrow, confrontational mentality.

After a decade of violent dismemberment and conflict and after almost a decade of outside sustained international effort to bring about a minimum level of peace and stability, the external factor begins to be seen more as a partner rather than an adversary.

Indeed, in Southeastern Europe the end of the Cold War melted down the ice surrounding the old local conflicts.

Consequently, the area was engulfed in war.

And war triggered a violent breakdown of institutional authority, which was replaced by militarized criminality.

Building and/or re-building state institutions, this time democratically solid ones, capable of generating vigorous legitimate authority against such an environment is, let us recognize, a monumental, but unavoidable task.

The challenge ahead of us is, therefore, how to prevent the involvement of criminality into politics and economy.

The answer depends very much on the relationship between Southeastern Europe and the rest of the continent.

At first, when our area was dominated by the conflict in former Yugoslavia, containment seemed to be the preferred answer.

If that model had prevailed, the best one could hope for would have been a special regime for our area and, eventually, an arrangement with Europe and its institutions.

Today, in Southeastern Europe both NATO and the EU are responsible for security operations. The cooperation between them is, therefore, indispensable both for the success of those operations and for the symbolism of it for the new transatlantic relations in the post-Cold War era.

It would be, indeed, ironic to be otherwise, especially in an area where even the limited success in healing historic divisions is due exclusively to the cooperation between the members of those two institutions.

Thank you for your attention!
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