For a peaceful, stable and integrated Balkans: The social democratic approach

ATHENS COUNCIL - Peace, Democracy, Solidarity: among peoples, across cultures, 30-31 January 2006

The Socialist International reaffirms its complete support and solidarity with the people of the Balkans as they strive for lasting peace, stability and a positive role within the European Union.

The International reiterates that to ensure peace and stability in the Balkans all countries must work to strengthen their democratic institutions, particularly independent judicial systems, and to guarantee under the law and in practice equality for all citizens - women and men, regardless of their ethnic origin -and full respect for cultural and religious freedoms.

The International emphasises that for multi-ethnic societies to be stable and to prosper, all groups must embrace democratic values and recognise that real security is the result of inclusive policies that can benefit all.

To achieve this, the development of a common European perspective and the role of the European Union are essential, and the International continues to encourage Balkan states to develop all possible means of regional cooperation among bordering nations to create the necessary conditions for the integration of the Balkans in the EU. In this sense the Socialist International welcomes the decisions of the European Union to open up prospects for membership to the countries of South Eastern Europe and believes that the accession of Bulgaria and Romania as of 1 January 2007 will contribute to the stability and security of the region. In this sense the Socialist International supports the acceleration of the accession process of the whole region into the European Union.

In line with the successful round of consultations on the future of Kosovo held by the Socialist International in Sofia in November, the International underlines the significance of ongoing developments in Kosovo for the region as a whole and notes that Kosovo has reached a critical moment.

With regard to the challenges faced within the process of negotiations on the future status of Kosovo and its neighbours, the International emphasises the importance of the parties themselves who are directly involved being the ones to find the solutions that can chart a positive road ahead.

The International believes that it is essential for the region to be fully democratic, multi-ethnic and with complete respect for the human rights of all its citizens; and that Kosovo be integrated in this region and within Europe, with opportunities for employment and economic improvement for all its citizens, and with the means and capability to combat organised crime.

The International emphasises the need to avoid instability in Serbia and Montenegro and in Kosovo; to avoid imposed solutions that could lead to renewed conflict over the issues of the future Constitution and final status; and to oppose the multiplication of secessions and the creation of "greater" nations that could lead to extreme politics, further instability, violations of human rights and ethnic cleansing.

The International sends its condolences to the people of Kosovo following the recent and untimely death of their president, Ibrahim Rugova, and expresses its hope that new leadership in Kosovo will continue his commitment to democracy and non-violence.

Noting that the United Nations-mediated talks on the future status of Kosovo are now scheduled for February, the International expresses its full backing for UN mediator Martti Ahtisaari and the United Nations overall in their work to find a settlement acceptable to all.

The International will continue working to foster a climate of confidence and trust in the region; to encourage and further provide opportunities for dialogue where necessary, with and between the parties concerned; and to promote social democratic values, recognising that these have been central in building democracy and in promoting conflict resolution and stability in the Balkans.

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