Let me welcome you to this historic meeting of the Stability Pact, a meeting that will bring us closer to the creation of a sustainable regional co-operation framework in South Eastern Europe.
This meeting of the Regional Table of the Stability Pact is the first to be held back to back with the South East European Co-operation Process Foreign Ministers and Summit meetings and a clear indication of the changed environment we are facing in the region today.
Not only is it a sign of the increasing ownership that the countries of the region are taking and the ever closer co-operation between the Stability Pact and the SEECP, but today we are taking far-reaching decisions about the future architecture for regional co-operation in South Eastern Europe.
We have before us for endorsement by the Regional Table the proposals of the SEECP countries for decisions on nominating Sarajevo as the seat of the Secretariat of the RCC and Hido Biscevic as the first Secretary General and Sarajevo. The SEECP Participating States have come to a consensus on these nominations and I would like to congratulate the SEECP Participating States on the constructive fashion in which this consensus was reached. I call on the Regional Table to fully endorse them.
Furthermore, we have before us the Statute of the RCC, which has been agreed in the context of the Institutional Working Group between the SEECP Participating States, UNMIK/Kosovo, the European Commission and those donors, who will continue their engagement as well as the Stability Pact Secretariat. I think this document puts the RCC on a firm basis and should be fully endorsed by this Table as part of the Conclusions of this meeting.
With these decisions the stage is set – enter the Regional Co-operation Council.
Support will be available, but it is now up to you as the countries of the region to fill this RCC with life, to make it a success story and thereby show that South Eastern Europe is a different region today than it was in the 1990s. This will require the commitment of all South East European parties and any divisions will not only damage the process but the image of the region as a whole.
I will not dwell on the past today, but feel I have to highlight some of the achievements of the past months and years. Regional Co-operation today is a concept fully accepted by all parties as essential for addressing common problems in the region. Compared to the situation in 1999, when the Pact was founded and relationships between many of the South East European countries were very strained and contacts limited, this is an impressive development in a relatively short period of time.
A key reason for this success can be found in the approach used by the Pact to facilitate co-operation in specific thematic or technical areas, where all partners can only gain from working together.
Trade is an obvious example. And even though there was a lot of reluctance in the early years, the new enlarged CEFTA 2006 agreement was signed in December 2006 and will come into force in the coming months after its ratification. The Energy Community Treaty is another prominent example of a process, which will allow all parties to jointly reap the benefits of closer co-operation.
Let me also highlight RACVIAC, the Regional Arms Control Verification and Implementation Assistance Centre, located just outside of town. Only a few years after the wars, military personnel from armies, which had fought against each other, came together for training, exchange of information and essentially confidence building. This was possible, because there was a neutral umbrella – the Pact – and a common interest.
These extremely positive developments sparked the discussion on enhancing regional ownership of the Stability Pact overall. These started two years ago at the Regional Table in Sofia, which saw a very engaged discussion on the requirement and challenges of greater ownership.
The intensive consultation period of the following year made possible the decisions at the Regional Table in Belgrade on the overall architecture for regional co-operation in South Eastern Europe and the commitment to establish the RCC. I have to once again thank the Senior Review Group for their valuable work in this phase – Alpo Rusi, Vladimir Drobnjak, Goran Svilanovic and Franz-Lothar Altmann.
These past months saw the challenge of further developing this 'agreement in principle' on the establishment of the RCC into a detailed Statute, which will govern the RCC in the future. Furthermore, the financial basis for the RCC had to be secured and procedures defined on how to decide on the location of the seat of the RCC Secretariat and the first Secretary General.
This would not have been possible without the excellent co-operation with the European Commission and the Croatian SEECP Chairmanship during this period, as well as the continued support of several international partners.
But this is not a farewell just yet. We still have quite a few tasks before us, before we can in good conscience hand over the keys to the RCC in February 2008 and fully complete the mission of the Pact by mid 2008.
In order to handover to the RCC a coherent and sustainable set of co-operation processes in priority areas, we have to continue and finalise the process of streamlining and building ownership in the Stability Pact task forces and initiatives.
A Progress Report on this process is before you. Implementing this transition on the level of task forces and initiatives will require much of our attention for the rest of the year. The final meetings of the Working Tables in late November or early December will be the culminating point of this process.
Success will require the commitment of the individual task forces and initiatives as well as the countries of the region. In addition, the support of the donor community will be necessary – reducing, never mind eliminating support prematurely might endanger the results achieved so far.
Furthermore – and even though this is a rather bureaucratic endeavour, it is quite time consuming and challenging – we have to ensure that the Pact is phased out in an administratively sound fashion. We owe that to all the partners that have put considerable efforts and financial resources into the Pact. There are not too many examples of an organisation voluntarily phasing itself out.
And finally, we of course need to provide the required support to the new Secretary General to allow for the necessary preparations to ensure that the RCC can actually start up its operations as scheduled.
But the most important endowment the Stability Pact can transfer to the RCC is the constructive and co-operative spirit, which has developed over the course of the past eight years. The discussions in the framework of the Institutional Working Group are a good basis for this.
The fashion in which the Group has come to consensus on the Statute of the RCC, the nomination process for the Secretary General as well as the Seat of the RCC Secretariat are very promising. This constructive and co-operative engagement of the countries of the region as well as those international partners, which have agreed to continue to support the process in the future, has been very promising for the future spirit of the RCC.
This consensus exists in large parts because of our shared success over the past years and throughout the range of Stability Pact initiatives. The region has shown that it can work well at problem solving within the working groups and task forces, and has now shown that it works very well together at the most senior political level.
It is this shared experience at all levels, which has now made it possible for the region to have its own mechanism to address the regional challenges of the future. And it is this mechanism – the RCC – which, I am convinced, will ensure the region’s success by reinforcing and building on the clear political and economic successes achieved in recent years.
The tasks of the coming months – the preparation of the Stability Pact for the final handover; ensuring the sustainability of co-operation processes in the agreed priority areas; as well as the build-up of the RCC – will require all our efforts. I have to thank the European Commission and Commissioner Olli Rehn personally as well as many of our international donor partners for making available the required financial resources to successfully conclude this transition and successfully launch the RCC. The Stability Pact has in fact been an excellent example of trans-Atlantic co-operation and I am most grateful that this trans-Atlantic link also continues in support of the RCC.
But I also have to thank my staff in the Stability Pact Secretariat for their hard work and commitment in getting us where we are today.
Thank you for your attention and I am looking forward to a fruitful and constructive discussion.