Berlin - The Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, Josip Leko, attended a conference in Berlin on Saturday marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. "New tensions between the East and the West threaten new confrontations, huge loss of life and other harmful political and economic consequences. There is an impression that the Wall has been removed, but has not disappeared, which we should not accept on any account," Leko said at the conference, entitled "A World without Walls: Opportunities for Peace Building in a Time of Global Insecurity."
Leko said that after the fall of the Berlin Wall Croatia had opted for democracy and a pro-European path, but that unlike the rest of Eastern Europe the democratic transition in the countries of the former Yugoslavia did not pass peacefully.
He said that despite the wars of the 1990s, there were no walls between the countries of the former Yugoslavia, and that the prospect of European Union membership was the main catalyst for post-war reconciliation and stronger cooperation. "Despite the enlargement fatigue and growing Euro-scepticism and anti-European sentiment in some of the member states, the European Union has not lost its appeal to countries still outside its borders," Leko said.
Leko stressed the need to respect the opinions and values of others in order to remove the walls, both visible and invisible, that exist in international relations. In this context he said that the Mediterranean was still a sea that separated societies, adding that 75 percent of illegal immigrants died in the Mediterranean. "We must not neglect solidarity or a humane approach towards those who are forced by poverty, human rights violations, conflicts and lack of economic opportunity to embark on dangerous journeys to the shores of the European Union," the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament said.
He warned of a widening gap between the rich and the poor in the European Union itself, expressing concern about high unemployment among young people in southern European countries, including Croatia. "I find alarming the fact that the number of people affected by the risk of poverty and social exclusion in the European Union has reached nearly 25 percent of the EU's total population and that there are over four million homeless people in Europe," Leko said, noting that the number of children living in poverty in rich countries exceeded 76 million.
"In conclusion, I would like to say that strengthening peace and stability, European values and fundamental rights and freedoms, free trade, cooperation, and creating a zone of prosperity in the wider European neighbourhood is of vital importance to the entire European continent. It would help overcome many walls, and not just in Europe," Leko said, stressing that neither Europe nor the world needed a new Cold War and new divisions.