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EU Western Balkans Conference

Sarajevo , 

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Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I should like to thank our hosts, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Spanish Presidency of the European Union for the invitation to attend this Conference. The broad participation, which includes all the countries and international organisations most directly concerned with the security, democratic stability, and European perspective of the countries in the Western Balkans, is a good sign that the international community, when it really matters, can pool its forces and act as a team.

I am particularly pleased by that fact because closer co-operation and co-ordination with the Council of Europe's main European and international partners is one of the key priorities of my mandate as Secretary General of the Council of Europe. I believe we can all agree that there have been far too many examples in the past when the absence of co-ordination prevented the international community to act effectively or to act in time. This also applies to this region, and to the country in which we meet today.

We are all here because we have a common objective: more stability, more security and more prosperity for the countries in the region. The way to achieve this is through more democracy, more human rights, better rule of law and better neighbourly relations between all the countries in the region. And this is not the price to pay to be a part of Europe, this is what being a part of Europe is all about.

All the countries in the region are members of the Council of Europe, and are subject to the same rights and same obligations as all the other member states, including the 27 EU countries. The countries of the Western Balkans benefit from the wide panoply of Council of Europe instruments – including the Venice Commission, also present at this Conference – and co-operation programmes, often carried out jointly with the EU.

I encourage you to take full advantage of your membership. This is your organisation, and it always will be. Compliance with our standards is compliance with the rules which apply to everyone in Europe and which you have yourself helped to create.