Peace guarantees order of Europe

BELGRADE - The peace that guarantees the order of Europe brings people closer and establishes ties, in particular in culture, science and education, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said on Friday at the opening of an international conference on the centenary of World War I, hosted by the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU).

In a certain way, the creation of the European community of nations is bringing closer the people living in a single territory, he said.

"When nations depend on each other and are connected into a political organisation, they become solidary parts of a whole, borders become flexible in terms of free flow of people, goods and capital, and the possibility of a large-scale conflict being initiated again is also reduced significantly," the Serbian president said.

Globalisation has its downsides, but "we note the establishment of closer ties as a positive factor, which should not be overlooked," Nikolic said.

"Nevertheless, the hope remains that the contemporary world will manage to establish a balance between the development of natural and social sciences, and that the echo of ethical lessons of ancient civilisations will drown out the contemporary roar of technology in the service of pragmatism, profit and domination, and that seems to be the most important, fateful task of scientists today," he said.

Today's conference could be titled "Strange times, strange customs" due to attempts to falsify history and dispute the Serbian struggle for freedom, which has, for an entire century, symbolised to the world the struggle for justice and truth, Nikolic said.

"The numerous evidence regarding some events, the facts and the historical materials are futile because individuals from the echelons of power will take those facts out of context, turn them around, change their meaning and disguise them, and lies will become a globally presented truth. In that truth, great deeds will become a great disgrace, courage will become terrorism and nobleness a weakness," the Serbian president warned.

Nikolic said that a special commission set up by the Allies has established that the responsibility for World War I lies primarily with Germany, but also with Austria.

The consequences to Germany were catastrophic, creating conditions for a group of extremists to rise to power and cause a new war that was several times worse than the previous one, Nikolic said.

World War II and the Cold War were the consequences of the Great War, but even as the Cold War ended, tensions in the world and the uncertainty over the future of the civilisation did not - on the contrary, Nikolic said.

The Allied victories in the two world wars and the creation of a regional community of several European countries are no guarantee of peace, he said.

What is left for us to do is to fight, with actions and words, in our efforts to prevent historical facts from being revised because we have no right to let that happen, Nikolic said.

Reconciliation should take place among nations, but it will not be a result of presenting lies rather than truth and seeking the perpetrator among the rigtheous, Nikolic said.

The conference, which will last until June 15, was opened by SANU President and member Nikola Hajdin, and is also attended by Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik and Patriarch Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

The international conference is conceived as an opportunity to provide a multi-faceted scientific take on World War I, in particular with regards to political, social, cultural and religious circumstances prior to and during the war, as well as on its consequences, the SANU said in a statement.

The conference will also address the most recent attempts to revise history and efforts by some historians to lay the blame for the outbreak of the Great War on Serbia.

Attending the conference are around 60 historians and World War I experts, including 18 from abroad - from countries such as Bulgaria, Greece, France, Austria, Great Britain, Russia, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Montenegro and the Czech Republic.

Photo Tanjug, D. Stankovic