Greeting by Federal Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Southeast Europe Association 2002

"For more than half a century, the Southeast Europe Association has understood how to build political and personal bridges between Germany and its Southeast European neighbors: as a forum for dialogue, as a source of impulses for regional cooperation and as a source of ideas for German policy.

After the upheaval of 1989, integrated Europe kept its distance from the emerging crises and conflicts in its neighborhood for too long. Today, the European Union, and with it the Federal Republic of Germany, is comprehensively committed in the region: politically, economically, but also - where necessary - in the military safeguarding of peaceful and stable development.

Much has already been achieved. Today, aggressive nationalism no longer has a place anywhere in Europe. Nevertheless, the challenges in Southeast Europe remain enormous: How can the tension between the nation-state principle and multiethnicity be resolved permanently without violence? What protection and what rights of participation should and must minorities receive? How can the countries of the region connect to economic modernization?

Europe's dedication to the region will continue to require patience and a broad approach combining regional cooperation and a European perspective. This combination was and is the core of the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe; it is a component for a good future for the states and peoples of the region. To shape such a policy of long-term presence and cooperation, allies are required.

I am pleased to have found such an ally in the Southeast Europe Association for the future as well, who will continue to accompany German and European policy with its great expertise and its persistent efforts to promote understanding and rapprochement."

Joschka Fischer