Sunday, January 14, 2007

From Belgrade to Rome

Late yesterday evening I returned home from an eventful day in Vilnius.

It was Freedom Defenders Day, and apart from the special session in parliament where I was among the speakers we all attended the special commemorative mass in Vilnius Cathedral in the evening. I walked down the aisle of the cathedral filled with people together with Vytautas Landsbergis, who remains the hero of Lithuania's struggle for independence.

But later today I'm off to Belgrade in Serbia for political talks, and tomorrow I'm heading together with the President of Serbia Boris Tadic to Southern Serbia in order to visit different development projects.

Serbia faces important parliamentary elections January 21st, and it is of course of critical importance to demonstrate that there is a European option for the country. The stability of Serbia is a key to the stability of the entire region, and there are significant challenges - Kosovo certainly among them - to be handled in the next few months.

I will have talks - apart from with the President - also with Prime Minister Kostunica and Foreign Minister Draskovic.

From Nis in Southern Serbia I'm flying tomorrow evening to Rome to have dinner with the European Commissioner Olli Rehn who is responsible both for enlargement and Balkan policy.

And on Tuesday both he and I are taking part in a public debate on the future challenges in the Balkans together with, among others, Italian Foreign Minister D'Alema.

We will also discuss the approach we need to take in the coming weeks and months towards these issues. They will be high up on the European agenda during the spring, and my quick trip now is part of the preparations for those policy decisions on the European level.