Sommaire: July 23, 2004: The Rt. Hon Chris Patten, Commissioner for External Relations, on the Re-Opening of the Stari Most Bridge (Mostar, Bosnia Herzegovina)
Excellencies, Your Royal Highness, Foreign Ministers, Your Eminence, and distinguished guests,
I am very pleased to be here on a day so rich in symbolism and in hope for the new Bosnia Herzegovina.
All of us have etched into our memories ghastly snapshots of Bosnia's past. The human grief and misery; the murder and mayhem; the destruction of homes and of the relics of a more civilised history - like Stari Most. What is it about the smashing of this bridge which so horrified us all? Maybe it was its long history. Built by skilled 16th century engineers it was smashed in minutes by a modern day killing machine. Its Turkish Architect didn't think it would last four days. In fact it lasted more than four centuries. In a country which lost over 200,000 people it may seem shocking that we should focus so much on the destruction of buildings. Yet the quality of our buildings tells us a lot about ourselves. People construct buildings to last because they have confidence in the future. People construct beautiful places of worship because their societies have developed far beyond the point when day to day survival is their only pre-occupation. And people build bridges for the same reason; they have long outgrown an obsession with their own immediate surroundings.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this year has seen a number of apologies made for crimes committed in the Balkans. That is a healthy process. But the European Union cannot escape its share of blame. We should have done more to help you. More - and earlier - I deeply regret that we didn't.
That's the past. We have seen enough of Europe's demons. Abraham Lincoln once talked of "the better angels of our nature". It is time to let them have full play. Europe will play its full part. This is the tenth anniversary of the European Union Mission in Mostar. It has done much to bring this beautiful town back from the dead. Lord Ashdown, the High Representative, has shown a deep personal commitment to the people of Bosnia in his time here. His energy, determination and leadership have been hugely important in moving the country forward. Bosnia has also been well served by an excellent Delegation, ably led, and strongly supported in Brussels. Next year the new European military force will start up operations joining the European Union Police Mission which is doing excellent work. I should also pay tribute to the generous commitment of our international partners from all over the world; the United States, Russia, Turkey, Canada, and Japan.
But Bosnia's future will depend above all on its own people - on their willingness to make the country work. This is a tough challenge, I know that. I spent a good part of my political life in Northern Ireland so I understand how hard it is to overcome a history of ethnic conflict. But there is no sensible alternative. Here in Mostar the opening of Stari Most is a clear strong statement about the town's future. A future living and working together as one in one country.
There is another bridge as clearly visible as Stari Most. A bridge which Bosnia needs to cross. On the other side one can clearly see Bosnia's future. A European future. Your country will cross that bridge one day soon, I hope, to join us in the wider European family. And we will walk with you on that passage every step of the way.