Parliamentary Assembly session : 31 March – 4 April 2003 

Speech by Joseph Borg,Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malta, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers on the occasion of the ceremony of accession of Serbia and Montenegro to the Council of Europe

Strasbourg, 3 April 2003

President Marović,
President Schieder,
Mr Secretary General,
Minister Svilanović,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome Serbia and Montenegro as the 45th member State of the Council of Europe. Your presence here today is an historic event, bearing witness to the capacity of Europe to overcome its worst ordeals and continue to work tirelessly for the union of the whole continent.

Who would have thought, twelve or so years ago when the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia erupted into violence and bloodshed, that the five countries that would emerge from this implosion would come together again barely one decade later in the Council of Europe, united around the values of democracy and human rights.

Because you have been through the worst and found the courage to overcome the heritage of the past, you know better than anyone else the price of co-operation and peace.

Serbia and Montenegro, which rid itself of a tyrannical regime barely three years ago, has made considerable progress in a very short time. It is no easy task to confront the past when it is as painful as that of Serbia and Montenegro, but the new authorities have tackled it most courageously. They have implemented a series of sorely needed reforms, radically changed the structure of the State and laid the foundations of a democratic system. These efforts have encountered opposition and resistance because of the reluctance of those who flourished under the old regime to part with their spoils. The former Serbian Prime Minister, Zoran Djindjic, was a victim of his own courage and determination to reform. I would like to pay tribute to him here because he ought to have been among us today.

However, this unspeakable act also showed that a great deal remains to be done along the road to democracy. By deciding to invite Serbia and Montenegro to join the Council of Europe, the Committee of Ministers is pressing on with the strategy implemented ever since the Vienna Summit. It is acting on the conviction that inclusiveness is the most suitable response if the Organisation is to provide effective support to the new democracies, many of which are facing a difficult process of transition.

Like other member states before it, Serbia and Montenegro will benefit from a post-accession programme. This programme aims at guiding and assisting it in its efforts to honour the commitments solemnly entered into today, which also closely monitoring the progress which it has to make. As you know, a number of these commitments are especially important for the Committee of Ministers, and I would just like to highlight one of them.

We are relying on your firm political will to guarantee full and unqualified co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal on former Yugoslavia, such co-operation being an essential condition for promoting justice, respect for human rights and the rule of law. In so doing you will be finally and conclusively ushering Serbia and Montenegro along the road to reconciliation, enabling it to confront the recent past with dignity and construct a joint future based on peace and prosperity.

The Council of Europe will place all its experience and support at your disposal for this difficult task.

We welcome this open, democratic and pluralistic Serbia and Montenegro into our great European family. We welcome our new partner, ready to provide its enthusiastic contribution to the efforts of the Organisation and its members in the service of stability and peace. Together we shall build ever stronger European structures based on the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.