The European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR) presented to Croatian President Ivo Josipovic and former Serbian President Boris Tadic with the European Medal of Tolerance at a ceremony in the European Parliament in Brussels which was attended by over 200 participants including many ambassadors, MEPs and journalists.
Josipovic and Tadic were awarded for promoting truth, tolerance and reconciliation and for public recognition and expression of regret over suffering caused by citizens of their countries.
President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz and Co-Chairmen of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation Aleksander Kwasniewski and Moshe Kantor stressed Tadic’s and Josipovic’s role in promoting reconciliation in the Western Balkans and opening possibilities for the region’s progress on the way to EU membership. They all emphasised the courage of the two political leaders for the steps they had taken in promoting reconciliation.
Voicing his gratitude for the award both, Josopovic and Tadic said that the medal was a recognition of tolerance and dialog not just in Serbia and Croatia, but in the rest of the Western Balkans, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats live alongside each other.
“The two of us, as directly elected presidents of our countries, had a direct responsibility to replace the burden of war and conflict with a possibility of cooperation and partnership. First and foremost for our own sake, but also for the sake of others. That was not easy because a portion of the public in both countries was against it. There is always a small, but noisy group of populists who want to live on prejudice and hatred. It is easier for them that way because they do not have to think about themselves and their own mistakes because the culprit is always on the other side”, Josipovic said in his speech.
Tadic said that he had been trying for years to take steps forward in reconciliation, both in Serbia and in the region, but that by promoting reconciliation during his term in office he had increased the chances of his opponents winning the election. President Josipovic and I have demonstrated an understanding that is not typical of relations in the region.