It is a great honour to speak to you today in the Romanian Parliament, and a great personal privilege to be the first British Prime Minister to do so.
I wish the circumstances of my visit were less sad. These are difficult times for you and your region. I want to speak about Kosovo. But I want also to speak on our two countries and of our future.
Kosovo is not a modern day conflict. It is a throwback to the worst memories of the 20th Century. A whole people, identified solely by their ethnicity, are being persecuted, driven from their homes, or herded onto trains, force marched day and night into another country and now living the grim, often empty existence of refugees. Others are now scarred for the rest of their lives; women raped repeatedly and systematically, relatives forced to watch. Children have been separated from their parents. Inside Kosovo itself, some half a million Kosovars are seeking temporary shelter and scratching around for food. Their existence must be terrible. But thousands, possibly tens of thousands, are dead. Murdered by the Milosevic regime. And none of us can doubt that, when our forces finally enter Kosovo, further horrors will confront us.
Decent people around the world have rallied behind the refugees and against Milosevic. He was hoping that our resolve would weaken. Lie was wrong. He did not reckon on the basic decency and the basic humanity of people the world over. The British people are engaged in this struggle because they see it as more than a fight for justice and fairness for the victims of Milosevic's policies in the former Yugoslavia. They see that our values are being abused. They see that the stability of our continent is at stake. The men and women of our armed forces are risking their lives every day in NATO's efforts to bring an end to Milosevic's policy of ethnic cleansing. Many British people are working in the refugee camps in Albania and Macedonia. The conflict has moved the British people as a whole. In the last few weeks 28 million pounds, some 45 million dollars has been donated by individual British people, while yesterday I was able to announce a doubling of the money the UK Government is giving in bilateral humanitarian aid.
But if this conflict matters to my country, then I say with all humility that you are even more deeply engaged. The instability is on our continent, but in your neighbourhood. We are moved by the crisis. Your future is threatened by it.
This is a crisis for us in NATO, but it is an even greater one for Romania and other countries on the front line. I come to you in support, in friendship and, above all, in solidarity.
The most striking impression I had from the NATO Summit ten days ago was the solid support we received for our action from the leaders of all seven front line states. Milosevic was banking on Washington as the Summit where NATO unity weakened and the frontline states put us under pressure to change course. Again, he miscalculated. Our resolve, your resolve, strengthened. The front line states made clear that Milosevic is a pariah here in his own region.
Romania's support has been that of an exemplary partner and future ally and I know this has meant difficult choices, and sacrifice. You have cut off the flow of oil to Serbia, at considerable cost. You have agreed to take some 6,000 refugees, showing the strength of Romanian commitment. Most difficult of all, Romania has made its airspace available to NATO.
When this Parliament considered that request from NATO, there was lively argument both for and against agreement. That is as it should be. Your country, my country, we are democracies. As freely elected representatives, you freely expressed differing views and then reached a conclusion. I believe you made an important decision, and the right decision, in agreeing to the Alliance's request. But for me the way in which that agreement was arrived at also symbolises our common values, which are so vital to this battle.
Romanians are valued friends not merely because they support us in the hard decisions we have been forced to take, but because we are part of the same European family, with the same respect for human dignity, democracy and freedom.
Romania has a long and rich history. Your cultural heritage was so strong, your society so alive, that we in London used to call Bucharest the "Paris of the East". But war and then Communism put an end to all that. The light of freedom went out, for fifty years. It was not until ten years ago that Romania escaped its own tyranny of dictatorship and repression.
Having so recently gone through that, it was not surprising that your Government and this Parliament have been so resolute in reacting to the terrible things now being done in Kosovo. Romania recognises, as we do, that it is a time for democracies, old and new, to stand up and be counted.
The way Romania has done so is warmly recognised and applauded by the leaders of NATO. At the Washington Summit, the Alliance and its partners set out a clear path for its aspiring members. Romania remains at the forefront of those aspirants. The door is open. I want Romania to be on a fast track to NATO membership. I am confident that Romania will be one of the next countries to become a full member of the Alliance.
Britain's largest defence co-operation programme in Europe is with Romania. We have a senior British military officer working along side you in Bucharest to help you pursue your goal. You have already embarked on the road to membership as an active participant in Europe's new security arrangements. You have become a major stabilising force throughout the region. No one questions your borders, and no one will be allowed to. You have resolved some of the historical difficulties with your neighbours, particularly Hungary and the Ukraine. Your armed forces have already played a valuable practical role in peacekeeping in Bosnia, Albania and elsewhere. You are managing your own national diversity in a way, which is a model to others.
So I also wanted to come here to salute what Romania is doing, by the fact of its courageous example to reform and rebuild, freely demonstrating that South Eastern Europe has a brighter future. And I want to add that the solidity of Romania's action in this crisis gives me confidence that when Romania joins the Alliance you will not just ensure your own security, you will contribute to the security of Europe as a whole.
This crisis on your doorstep has inflicted a heavy economic price. Oil exports halted, trade with Yugoslavia disrupted, shipping up the Danube to your big markets in Western Europe blocked by the bridges we have had to destroy. All these costs build up. I recognise that and we will do what we can internationally to help you absorb them. We will back proposals in the IMF and the EU to help you carry on your economic restructuring and your preparation for EU membership. We will carry on our national effort through the Know How Fund to provide technical expertise as you modernise your economy. Our trade is growing rapidly, and is well balanced - a two-way total of some $750 million. British companies like Smith Klein Beecham and Brittan-Norman invest here. I want more companies to do the same.
Britain wants the European Union to enlarge, and to do so soon. I want Romania to be part of that process. Let me emphasise that the British Government is committed to the earliest possible accession for Romania. We have already made clear in public that the level of EU assistance to Romania will take account of the burden created by the Kosovo crisis. We will resist any attempt to slow down the enlargement process because of Kosovo. Today I want to make a further commitment. At the Helsinki European Council in December, Britain will support an invitation to Romania to begin negotiations to accede to the European Union.
There is a heavy human price too, a price which is being paid by all the people of this region. During the years when you all suffered under Communism, but tried nonetheless to distance yourself from Soviet control, Romania and Yugoslavia found some comfort in working with one another. Shared power generation, shared industrial projects. For many years, you were each other's best neighbours and close friendships developed. It is doubly difficult for you that Yugoslavia should have torn itself apart, as a result of the wild Serb Nationalism Milosevic has pursued.
Our quarrel is not, and never has been, with the Serb people. I have no doubt that the vast majority of ordinary Serbs would be horrified if they were allowed to know what was being perpetrated in Kosovo in their name.
We do all we can in our action to avoid civilian casualties. We have no intention to harm any Serbian civilians. In any war, there are such casualties. But when you reflect on those civilians that have been killed by NATO as an unintended consequence of our action, reflect also on the thousands, often never shown on the television screen, who are Kosovar Albanians killed deliberately as an act of policy by Milosevic.
I want to go further and through you address the Serbian people. In 1945 Germany was still under Hitler. Within ten years it had re-established its democracy, rebuilt its cities, joined NATO, and was in at the birth of what is now the European Union. Germany re-constructed itself within a decade, as a peace-loving nation and an impeccable member of the international community, and today is a resolute and leading player in Operation Allied Force.
Serbia can rejoin the world community too. But that prospect will only be a reality when corrupt dictatorship is cast out, and real democracy returns to the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. That is what we want for the Serb people. A return to democracy in the Former Yugoslavia will unlock a better future for the whole region. A Democratic Serbia has a future in Europe too.
But first, we have to prevail in Kosovo: halt the killing and repression, get Serb forces out and put an international military force in so that the refugees can return in security and rebuild their lives. These demands are not excessive. They must be met
Romania is playing a full part in that international effort; and making that contribution as part of the democratic, European family. Romania has shown that it is a country and a people ready to shoulder its responsibilities.
This is a test for us all, especially for countries like Romania, on the front line. You are passing that test. I salute you. And I thank you. I pledge our support to you but more important, together we pledge our support for the innocent victims of the Milosevic policy of ethnic hatred that scars our Continent, and our history.
Yesterday, I visited the Stenkovec refugee camp. Thousand upon thousand of people, stoic and strong, but living an existence no person should be forced to endure. I visited the Blace border post. As far as the eye could see, a queue of humanity stretched through no man's land to Kosovo. Dignified in their pain and terror. Eyes glazed, mothers trying to soothe children under a blistering sun. Old men staring vacantly into a new country, and a future they could not predict. Slowly, they were processed from one queue to the next.
Their message was simple, and it was dignified. We are leaving for now, but please, please help us to go back.
I felt an anger so strong, a loathing of what Milosevic's policy stands for, so powerful, that I pledged to them, as I pledge to you now; that Milosevic and his hideous racial genocide will be defeated. NATO will prevail. And the refugees will be allowed to return in safety to their homes.
When that happens, the part played by Romania, the solidarity it has shown, the proof of its steadfastness as an ally it has given, will bring its reward. Romania, a great nation, with a proud history, will be part of the family of Europe again, a new Europe which we are building from the ashes of conflict and division in the 20th Century.
For 2000 years, years often of bitter struggle, of conquest and liberation, of subjugation and upheaval, Romania has survived. That in itself is testament to your national pride and spirit. Today even amidst the economic and political dangers, as a new democracy and an ally, there is a vision for Romania of a different future.
You can and will be part of the new Europe we are creating. At long last you will take your rightful place, confident and secure, on equal terms with the other European nations of the world. You will walk tall. And I extend the hand of friendship of my country, also a proud nation with a great history, and say we will walk with you into that brighter future. It is our common destiny.