As a long-time member of the Helsinki Commission, which I now have the honor to chair, I can recall many earlier hearings where we learned the horrific details of ethnic cleansing, senseless attacks on civilians, other crimes against humanity and genocide associated with Yugoslavia’s demise. I can also recall our persistent efforts to see the United States and Europe decisively respond to this violence, and to bring those responsible for it to justice.
Fortunately, that period is now history. It is in the past. The region is more stable now, and while incomplete, there has been accountability. Hopefully, there have also been lessons learned.
It is important for those of here in Washington, as well as in European capitals, nevertheless to understand the challenges the people of the region face in putting the past behind them. It is hard to move on when you were the victim, when you lost friends and loved ones and a home. For those who managed to survive the conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo in particular, a decade or two is not so long ago. That is why the Balkans remains a concern to the international community today, even as global events may shift our attention elsewhere.
Given this fact, it is important that the international community make sure that the region is on as stable a footing as possible before it relinquishes its power, presence and authority. First and foremost, I want to see the last people indicted by the international tribunal in The Hague who are still at large, in particular Ratko Mladic, apprehended and transferred to the court. I also want to see a far greater commitment by political leaders in the region to abandon the ethnic exclusivity found in their policies and platforms. I want to see government leaders more responsive to the genuine needs of the people, particularly by providing the youth of the region opportunities for a more prosperous future.
I want the Helsinki Commission to do more to encourage dialogue between the governments and the people of all the countries concerned. The presentations made at today’s hearing will be useful in moving this effort forward, and I want to welcome and thank our four witnesses for their presence and remarks.