17th Plenary Session of the Congress

      Strasbourg, 13 October 2009

      Speech by Veroljub STEVANOVIĆ, Mayor of Kragujevac (Serbia)

      Mr. President,

      Gentlemen esteemed members of the Congress,

      Ladies and Gentlemen,

      Dear guests,

      I greet you with immense respect and gratefulness on account of your generosity of giving me an opportunity to address you in the name of the local government and the citizens of Kragujevac, central Sumadija region, and the region of central Serbia. I greet you on behalf of my city, the city which almost two centuries ago was the capital city of Serbia, the place where all of the most important state, social, cultural and educational institutions were established. Kragujevac is also the cradle of Serbian parliamentarism. The representatives of people were in session in parliament in Kraguejevac even after the moving of the capital city to Belgrade. Our city was a witness of acclamation of the decisions of the Berlin congress in 1878, by which Serbia became autonomous and independent country. We have been members of the European family of nations for over 130 years.

      We perceive this important European institution as our home because of the significance the Congress gives to promoting the roles of local and regional authorities, and the regionalism and decentralization, together with a greater part of local government are also a part of our political platform and are our political credo.

      Jean Paul Sartre said: ``Everybody chooses his past``. Although it seems paradoxical, it is evident and clear that our past consists of different contents and experiences, good and bad, and it is up to us to distinguish among the valid ones to make them the foundation of our future.

      During the times when we the Serbian state was re-built, Kragujevac was as the capital an open city for numerous people from Europe who contributed with their knowledge, experience and dedication to the city took part in the regeneration process.

      Deeply rooted in its openness to the world and Europe, the city of Kragujevac is today the city with the biggest number of partnerships in Serbia: it has documents signed with 16 cities, and cherishes lively connections and cooperation with 14 partner cities which include mutual projects in the fields of industry, science and research, sports, exchange of children, youth and students.

      Kragujevac is also a victim city. The Nazi soldiers shot a few thousand civilians during one single day, among which there were secondary school pupils and children aged 12. Kragujevac has organized a number of anti-war and peace programmes and manifestations in the honour and memory of the victims, thus striving for such events never to happen again. For these anti-war endeavours Kragujevac holds a prestigious name The Peace Messenger City since 1987 given to it by the Secretary General of the United Nations Xavier Peres De Cuillear. Apart from being a member of the association of cities which hold this prestigious name, we are also members of the International Association of the victim cities-peace cities and we also support the Initiative of the Mayor of the Hiroshima ``Mayors for Peace``.

      The third pillar of our identity is, as I said, the dedication to decentralization and regionalization of our state in order to achieve the better connection of authorities and citizens for the sake of easier recognition and fulfillment of their needs and interests. The regional government in Kragujevac is led by the party Together for Sumadija, which is rooted in regional identity and close connections with citizens and coalitional partners who share our beliefs and concepts.

      The priority of our policy include the industrial development based on the openness to the world, confirmed by the arrangements with Italian FIAT, the opening of duty free zones, the good conditions for investment by domestic and foreign partners, fortification of traffic and communal infrastructure, encouragement of scientific and research work in cooperation with the University, encouragement of entrepreneurship through Business-innovation center, which itself is a support to the outstanding talents so that the industry and public sector have strong base in people, raising the level of safety and persistent fight against organized all other types of crime, establishment of transparency at work, protection of minorities, children and socially underprivileged groups of citizens. All of this you can see in our modest presentation that was prepared for you by us in front of this hall.

      The list of to do tasks is long but the energy to persevere in achieving our goals is given to us by the strength of support and trust we share from the people and the openness towards their real needs.

      We do all of that with a strong belief and deep feeling of belonging to the European family of nations and of the fact that our accession to the European Union, which we back completely is soon to come. We do not await for this day to start behaving European-like rather we work hard every day to build and foster European values and standards into our development and daily life. Thus the accession will take place with Kragujevac being already a truly European city. On our way we are greatly helped by our openness, our partnerships with European cities and our dedication to our aims.

      Thank you once again for this special opportunity which you gave me to present our city and our beliefs.



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