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We are here today to remember Srebrenica, one of the darkest pages of our modern European history. Today, we pay tribute to the women of Srebrenica who lost their sons and husbands – may they find healing for their enduring pain – and to honour all the victims and all those still missing.
In July 1995 over 8000 boys and men were systematically murdered in a town in which they thought they were safe. These tragic events took place in the depths of the war that had swept across Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995, and which took the lives of around 100 000 victims all over the country.
The Srebrenica genocide is still an open wound at the heart of Europe. This atrocity continues to haunt us and reminds us of our shared responsibility to prevent genocide from ever happening again.
Today therefore reminds us of the fragility of peace, and the importance of supporting societal forces that bridge divides, bind communities together and support those in pain.
We should not look away from Srebrenica but rather look at it courageously and without blinking, acknowledging the facts and the lessons it brings. Only by doing so can we overcome its tragic legacy.
Srebrenica is significant for our past, our present and our future. A past that needs to be brought to the present in order to shape the times to come, in order to secure a brighter and more prosperous future for our children and the children of our children.
The message I want to pass today is dedicated to political leaders in the region. Reconciliation has stalled over the past years and we have even seen a resurgence in glorification of war criminals, in inflammatory, denial and revisionist rhetoric.
Srebrenica calls for accountability. Justice must be served, and all those responsible for the massacre must face the consequences of their actions. 25 years after Srebrenica, it is more urgent than ever to end impunity for the perpetrators of war crimes. The massacre was recognised as an act of genocide by international courts. These are the established facts about what happened in Srebrenica, which should today be clear to all.
25 years after Srebrenica and the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, something needs to change. All political leaders in the Western Balkans must measure the importance of the day, take time to look back and seize the opportunity to take decisive steps to bring their citizens together around a common vision of the future, built on trust, mutual understanding and respect for one another.
Leaders of the region must take full ownership of this courageous path and lead by example, making reconciliation a reality that citizens experience every day - in each street, village and city - simply because it is the future of future generations that is at stake.
The European Union project is, in its essence, a peace project aimed at overcoming the divisions and tragedies of the past. It is also about building prosperous societies and strong democracies. Integrating the Western Balkans is an essential part of this project. The European Union is not complete without Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Western Balkans. We will therefore continue to support Bosnia and Herzegovina to advance on its European path, establishing a society where pluralism, justice and human dignity prevail.
While remembering what happened in Srebrenica, the European Union stands by the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Western Balkans as a whole. We are deeply and strongly committed to doing our part to build a brighter future together in which such atrocities are made impossible, and become inconceivable.