Chirac was the first EU and NATO president to visit SRJ after the aggression, and make one demand
Chirac arrived in Belgrade at the invitation of then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SRJ, "FRY") President Vojislav Kostunica, on a two-day official visit
Former French President Jacques Chirac died today at the age of 86. He will be remembered among the Serbs as a man who advocated the bombing of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but also vetoed the destruction of Belgrade bridges. He will also remain known as the first president of an EU and NATO member state to visit SRJ after NATO's aggression.
Chirac arrived in Belgrade at the invitation of then SRJ President Vojislav Kostunica on a two-day official visit.
The visit began with the laying flowers at the Monument of Gratitude to France in Belgrade's Kalemegdan, while his envoy laid a wreath at the Monument to the Unknown Hero on Avala.
DEMAND: COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE
The presidents of Yugoslavia and France assessed after their meeting in what is today the Palace of Serbia, at the time the Federation Palace, that Yugoslavia joining the EU was a "natural path."
"The first step for this has already been done, by discussing the Stabilization and Association Agreement - which will hopefully be signed very soon," Chirac said in a joint press conference after the meeting with Kostunica.
"Yugoslavia must return to a place that clearly belongs to it - a place in the European family," said Chirac, recalling that a number of conditions must be fulfilled for joining the Union, including respect of borders, development of regional cooperation, reforms in the country.
Chirac conveyed to Kostunica the position of France on the necessity of cooperation with The Hague and stressed that, regardless of nationality, all those who committed war crimes must be held accountable before this court. He nevertheless praised the headway made by our country in this field.
FEDERATION PALACE DINNER DINNER AND KOSTUNICA'S TOAST
On this occasion Kostunica hosted a dinner in honor of the President of the Republic of France and the members of his delegation.
The dinner was attended by the presidents of both houses of then Federal Assembly - Dragoljub Micunovic and Srdja Bozovic, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, members of the federal and Serbian governments, Church dignitaries and other officials.
President Kostunica commended France for lifting sanctions against SRJ, and toasted to its swift return to Europe and the international community.
Chirac, in response to the toast, urged Serbia andMontenegro to remain united on the issue of rebuilding the federation and to stop the fragmentation process of the Balkan region.
THE MEETING WITH DJINDJIC
Then Prime Minister of Serbia Zoran Djindjic also spoke with Chirac, from whom he received a promise that France would support Yugoslavia's demand to become an EU candidate in 2004.
After the meeting with Chirac, Djindjic told reporters that he received support from the French president for reforms.
The Serbian prime minister said that he asked Chirac to encourage French investors to invest in Yugoslavia.
On the issue of relations between Serbia and Montenegro, Djindjic said it was important for the common state to have institutions as does the EU, and stressed that their number would be higher than today.
"Some of the joint institutions would be customs, inspection services, and taxes," Djindjic said, adding that this was a proposal of the Serbian government that was "met with the French president's understanding."
The Serbian government's delegation that spoke with the French president included Vice President Zarko Korac, as well as the ministers of justice and economy and privatization, Vladan Batic and Aleksandar Vlahovic.
COVIC HAD A SEPARATE MEETING WITH CHIRAC
Another member of Djindjic's cabinet had a meeting with Chirac. And separately. Namely, Deputy Prime Minister and President of the Coordination Center for Kosovo and Metohija Nebojsa Covic said at the time that he had a "frank conversation" with the French president about resolving problems in the southern Serbian province and respecting UN Security Council Resolution 1244.
"Chirac said he would help to not make any rash moves regarding Kosovska Mitrovica, in which 2,600 Serbs and 6,000 Roma once lived in the southern part, where none live today," said the then deputy prime minister, speaking in front of the French embassy.
DJUKANOVIC FLIES TO BELGRADE FOR A MEETING WITH CHIRAC
Montenegro's president at the time and now, Milo Djukanovic, said in Belgrade that he conveyed to Chirac that Montenegro accepts EU's initiative to continue dialogue with Serbia on regulating relations in the Yugoslav federation.
After the meeting at the French embassy, Djukanovic specified that the talks, if Serbia was ready, would resume during December and that he expected an end to "a stalemate" and a final solution in the first months of the following year.
Montenegro agreed to discuss all options - a common state, but also ties between two separate states, i.e., an alliance of independent states, which, according to Djukanovic, could represent an "embryo of new European-type regional integrations."
CHIRAC PREDICTS SERBIA'S FATE IN FRONT OF STUDENTS
In addition to the official meetings, French President Jacques Chirac said in a speech delivered at the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade that the fate of SRJ was in Europe and that "Europe and France are waiting there."
"I want the century on our doorstep to be a century of the renewal of your country. Let the full potential of your talent come to light. I want a modern and democratic Yugoslavia to continue its glorious history in the lap of the European family that has missed it so much," said Chirac, stressing that Yugoslavs have a "great future."
He referred to the democratic changes in Yugoslavia in early October 2000.
"By liberating itself, the Serb people gave us an example that we must think about, an example of national unity, courage and freedom," said Chirac, adding, "that victory caused great joy in the hearts of all Frenchmen."
Noting that the decision to extradite former President Milosevic to The Hague tribunal was difficult and courageous, but is considered a "historic decision that promoted human rights in Europe and the world," the French head of state expressed satisfaction that the people of Yugoslavia embarked on a road of reconsideration of their own the past.
The address by the French President in the Hall of Heroes at the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade was attended by President of the Council of Citizens of the Federal Assembly Dragoljub Micunovic, Prime Minister of Serbia Zoran Djindjic, several federal and republic ministers, Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, as well as a number of foreign ambassadors and other public figures.
THE KEY MESSAGE AT THE END
The French president said in Belgrade that he doubted EU's readiness to recognize an independent Montenegro.
"I don't believe that the EU is today ready to recognize an independent Montenegro," Chirac said at a press conference at Belgrade's Hyatt Hotel, at the conclusion of his two-day official visit to SRJ.
Stressing that he did not speak on behalf of the EU but was stating his personal point of view, the French head of state said that he thought the EU would be "very hostile toward Montenegro's complete cutting of ties with the federal state."
He reiterated the view that Yugoslavia should remain a necessary framework for reorganizing relations in the federation, because, as he stressed, "France and the EU support the existence of a democratic Montenegro in a democratic Yugoslavia."
"Any severing of relations would bring far more difficulties than benefits," Chirac said.
"The path of disintegration, on which Montenegro is now embarking, is anachronistic and contrary to the political culture and orientation of Europe," said the president of France.
He recalled that during the 1999 NATO bombing he had "categorically vetoed the attacks that some soldiers wanted to carry out against the bridges in Belgrade."
In addition, while in Belgrade, the French president presented the Legion of Honor to several public figures from Serbia.
He presented the great French recognition to author Svetlana Velmar Jankovic, ethnologist Ivan Colovic, playwright Borka Pavicevic and professors of the Belgrade University Vojin Dimitrijevic and Radivoj Konstatinovic.
Chirac also opened the renovated French Cultural Center.