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The EU, Serbia, and the Balkans

BRUSSELS: On September 24, despite a system heavily rigged against them, Serbia’s people voted – in huge numbers – for spring after a long political winter. They demanded a new start for their country – the chance to consign to history the economic and political misery endured in recent years. Today, they have that new start. Ten years after the rest of postcommunist Europe, Serbia must begin establishing an open, democratic society. The EU has made clear its willingness to help a democratic Serbia re-join the family of Europe.

The EU symbolizes one of history’s most successful attempts by countries and peoples to overcome division through partnership and co-operation, where competition on a level playing field replaces battlefield conflict. Fifty years ago, few thought that possible. Much of Western Europe was rubble. Enmities smoldered. With generous support from America, we built a robust community of democracies, whose economic wealth and political liberty helped us stand firm in the face of tyranny. Yugoslavia’s enmities, and the ruins of its economy, need to be addressed in a similar spirit.

The EU’s record is clear. When Communism collapsed, we set about helping the countries of Eastern Europe to establish democracy and make the transition to the market economy. We did so with the same commitment and faith in their ability to succeed that the US devoted to re-building Western Europe after WWII.

In the ten years since the Berlin Wall’s fall these countries have been transformed and are on the way to joining the EU. War in Europe, we told ourselves, could never happen again. But it did, in the Balkans. All Europe’s demons had not been exorcised.