Ahmet Davutoğlu 25.08.2011

Distinguished Ministers,
Dear Mr. President of the University,
Honorable Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to address all distinguished guests and dear students who are with us today.

As an academician I always feel happy to smell the scent of “knowledge and academic thought”. Being able to do this in Sarajevo, in the very heart of the Balkans, where so many scholars have nourished the intellectual world with their ideas, is another priviledge. For me, this beautiful city has always been a source of inspiration for multi-culture, tolerance and peaceful co-habitation. Therefore, allow me first to express my thanks and delight to you all for giving me this opportunity to be here with you.

Today, I would like to share my views about the objectives of the Turkish foreign folicy in general, but the Balkans and Bosnia and Herzegovina, in particular.

Distinguished guests,
Dear Students,

First a few words on the Turkish foreign policy.

The key objective of the Turkish foreign policy has always been to contribute to peace, stability and prosperity in the world. We spare no effort to develop our relations with our neighborhood and beyond. We are deploying every possible effort to encourage the consolidation of democracy as well as the settlement of disputes, which directly or indirectly concern Turkey.

Two fundamental tenets constitute the rationale behind this effort.

Firstly, there is a clear need to pursue a proactive diplomacy with the aim of strengthening prosperity, stability and security in a neighborhood, which, among others, spans also the Balkans.

Secondly, Turkey enjoys multiple regional identities and thus has the capability as well as the responsibility to follow an integrated and multi-dimensional foreign policy. The unique combination of our history and geography brings with it a sense of responsibility.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Students,

Being herself a Balkan country, Turkey is committed to being a force for peace, stability and wellfare in our common neighborhood.

We are pursuing a foreign policy fashioned around the vision of averting crisis, developing a sense of ownership of regional problems, promoting dialogue and mutual confidence, and giving everyone a stake in cooperating with each other.

I must add that regional cooperation and partnership schemes also serve as potent vehicles in achieving these goals. They help us transcend borders, build a larger sense of belonging and create a more secure area of interaction.

History, I think, has been unjust to the Balkans; for this region in the past has had much more than its fair share of turmoil, ethnic unrest and war. For the Balkans to emancipate itself from its past yet take a lesson from history, heal its wounds and establish peace, regional cooperation efforts that involve all the countries of the Balkans are needed.

Therefore, the question I keep on asking myself, and today will ask you is:

How can we foster a joint vision that will unite the Balkan countries around common objectives as we prepare to cope with the challenges of the 21st century?

Unfortunately, in the first half of the 20th century, the region witnessed three wars: the Balkan Wars, World War I and World War II. And in the second half of the 20th century, there was the long Cold War. These wars, drew lines of demarcation in the region and created uncertainties, instabilities and prejudices.

The Balkan nations are at a point of critical choice as to whether they will perpetuate the mentality of the previous decades based on enmity and conflict or whether they will adopt a new political language that places emphasis on shared destiny and cooperation.

Distinguished Guest,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

This new approach can only emerge from a shared understanding about the Balkan people’s expectations for the future of the region. More importantly, such a forward-looking vision implies that we should devote our intellectual efforts to imagine how the Balkans would look like in, let’s say, the year 2015 or 2050, instead of engaging in vicious debates on what happened in the 1950s or 1990s.

We desperately need an approach which is vision-oriented rather than crisis-oriented, forward-looking rather than backward-looking, and value-based rather than ideology-based understanding.

If the 20th century was a century of division, we have to declare that the 21st century must be a century of re-integration. This is particularly applicable to our region. The necessary tools for this re-integration are already there: First of all, political dialogue; than, economic interdependence, and finally, cultural and intellectual interaction.

With political dialogue, I mean more bilateral and multilateral meetings like in the EU mechanisms.

We, the politicians need to get together more often and discuss the issues of mutual concern in a frank and transparant manner. Joint cabinet meetings proved to be quite useful in this respect. However, there is no need always for organizing formal Summits. We must be able also to sit and talk together in informal gatherings.

Cities are driving forces for economnic activities. In the past, many of our cities suffered because of divisions. Now it is high time to revive. Transport is very important in this sense. Regular airline connections, more highways, fast speed tarins are essential tools to link people. In the way ahead, we must focus on this aspect, especially.

As I said, there must be also more cultural intellectual interaction. Let’s be honost: We are relatives, friends and neighbors for centuries long, however do not know each other’s historical and cultural depth very well. Therefore, we must strive more to know each other more.

And there is also need for more intellectual and educational interaction in order to disprove the ideas of some narrow-minded and inward-looking intellectulas who are provoking anti-sentiments.

Turkey’s suggestion is to approach this new era as a period of restoration, construction and cooperation: restoration in the sense of restoring the shared cultural, economic and political ties; cooperation in the sense of developing a new spirit of joint action; and construction in the sense of a way to both overcome the legacy of the past decades and respond to the challenges of the new decades to come.

Dear Guests,

Allow me here to outline Turkey’s perspective for the Balkans in a nutshell:

- We wish to see the Balkans as a region generating peace, stability and prosperity at the heart of Europe, and not at its periphery.
- We wish to see a neighborhood where cooperation, solidarity and mutual support prevail over destruction, revenge and selfishness.
- We wish to see the Balkans as the young, dynamic and energetic driving force of Europe.
- We wish to see a region which becomes a hub for infrastructure, transportation and energy projects as well as financial transaction.
- Last but not least, we wish to see all countries of the region integrated soon as I have indicated before under the EU and NATO umbrella as an ultimate goal.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is the litmus case for the whole region and therefore stands in the very heart of it. Strengthening the reconciliation spirit among Bosnia and Herzegovina’s three constituent peoples is of vital importance for the future of the Balkans.

If the three constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina could defeat, irreversibly, the bitter legacy of the war through cooperation and reconciliation and focusing on a common and brighter future, your country will set an excellent example for the region as well as for the rest of the world. This is the main expectation of Turkey and the international community.

There must be no doubt that we wish to see BiH as a future EU member state solving its own problems gradually. We wish to see BiH standing on its feet as a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious state where Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats live as equal citizens in harmony and peace.

We wish to see BiH generating peace, stability and wellfare in the very heart of our region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Students,

The nations of the Balkan region are not only neighbors living side by side, but they also form one family with dense societal and cultural ties that bind them. This region is like a shorba, and it will be tasteful only if salt and all the ingredients are properly there. If one takes any of these out, that shorba will be tasteless; hence, the importance of regional ownership. Serbs, Albanians, Turks, Greeks, Bosnians, Bulgarians, Croats, Romanians, among others, all will live together in the next century, bringing their own richness to the table. But, in order to demonstrate it to the international community resolutely, we must display more solidarity, and try to take common stand and common positions in international fora.

For this to happen, we can conduct, for instance, intra-Balkan consultations within NATO to promote the membership of the other Balkan countries. Likewise, in G-20, for example, Turkey could represent the region as the only Balkan country since this structure gains more relevance. So we must embrace new methodoligies and new approaches so that we benefit from each other’s comparative advantages.

Briefly, the answer to the question “How can we foster a joint vision that will unite the Balkan countries around common objectives as we prepare to cope with the challenges of the 21st century?” lies in the principle of respecting the differences of one another, and considering these differences as an enriching ingredient which adds further taste and richness to our common cultural heritage. As a matter of fact, this principle is not novel to the Balkans. The people of this region enjoyed it in the past centuries. And I am asking “Why not now?”

Why Sarajevo, Skopje, Thessaloniki, Edirne, Plovdiv could not flourish again and become centers of commerce, transport, tourism, art and science.

We must not forget that it is exactly this multi-cultural structure which has created this enormous cultural wealth that has illuminated many intellectuals in the past and today. And it is our common responsibility today to build a Balkan region based on this understanding.

Thank you

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