Sumario: March 5, 2004: Speech by Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission. A tribute to Boris Trajkovski, President Trajkovski's funeral (Skopje)
When I learned the news of the tragic crash that cut short Boris Trajkovski's life, an image flashed to my mind -- the memory of our meeting in Thessaloniki at the European Council in June last year.
It was an important day for the Balkans. It was an important day for Europe. It was the day we decided together that the European Union's enlargement would not be complete until all the countries of this region were full members of the Union. It was the day we set a joint agenda together to achieve that objective.
When we met, we embraced and rejoiced at the fact we were seated at the same table. It was a foretaste of what the full European family would look like.
I remember thanking Boris for all the enthusiasm and commitment he had shown in bringing the whole region -- not just his own country -- along the road to European integration. His reply was a smile and an even warmer embrace.
That is the image of Boris Trajkovski that will always stay with me. His passion, his commitment, his love for Europe and for his region.
Europe was the guiding star on Boris's journey. The values of tolerance and respect on which our Union is founded were an inspiration to him in the very difficult times this country and all its people have seen.
Pulling together, not apart. Being open, not closed. Including, not excluding. Like our Europe, a Union of minorities, united by the ideals of cooperation and peace.
Those were my thoughts on my recent visit to Skopje, as together we crossed the old bridge over the Vardar -- that symbol of union so full of meaning for this city's -- and this country's -- past and present.
This country, this region, all Europe has lost an enlightened, far-sighted leader, a statesman who saw beyond the narrow horizon of everyday politics, a man who put the individual at the centre.
As we pay tribute to the memory of Boris Trajkovski today, we all share the pain and grief felt by his beloved wife Wilma, his children Stefan and Sara, his family and friends, and all his fellow Macedonians.
But as we mourn his loss -- and it is a great loss -- we must not lose sight of the deeper meaning of his work, the work he sacrificed his life to accomplish.
Honouring Boris Trajkovski's memory means taking up the challenge -- meeting the objectives he believed in and completing the work he started.
Honouring Boris's memory today means thinking of the future of the people of Macedonia -- these people he cherished so dearly, who were his foremost concern, with whom he felt utterly at one.
For the country's leaders, it means continuing -- resolutely, united in purpose -- along the path of European integration. Aware that this is an irreversible process, a process that has the whole country behind it. With all its ethnic and political components fully supporting the choices, shouldering the responsibilities and protecting the rights of each.
For the international community, it means continued backing for the efforts this country has already made. We must support Macedonia's bold reform programme to become a full member of the European Union.
So we look forward to receiving your application to join the Union. And if that application were dedicated to anyone, it would be to Boris Trajkovski.
We believe in this country, we believe in its will and determination to become a full member of the European institutions. And we are certain it will succeed.
This will demand patience and, above all, perseverance. And it can only be achieved if it is truly desired, as Boris Trajkovski desired it so passionately.
Today we mourn Boris Trajkovski, but we have faith in this country's political future. Any other attitude would fall short of the ideals Boris fought for all his life.
His tragic death is a loss to us all. But his memory gives us heart to work even harder, to keep alive his political heritage and the principles that guided him, and to meet the objectives he set himself.
26 February will be remembered as a sad day, but also as a day to commemorate Boris Trajkovski's commitment and enthusiasm. So his dream of Macedonia as a full member of a prosperous and peaceful Europe comes true.