Keynote speech at the 2018 Silk Road Forum by Mr. Vuk Jeremić, President of the Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development

2018-12-29, ,related Vuk Jeremić

Keynote Address to

2018 Silk Road Forum

by H.E. Mr. Vuk Jeremić

President of the Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development

(CIRSD)

Paris, 7 December 2018 

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Esteemed Vice-Premier Hu Chunhua,

Respected Prime Minister Raffarin,

Minister Li Wei,

Directors Pezzini and Haidara,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an exceptional privilege to co-host the 2018 Silk Road Forum and address its Opening Ceremony on behalf of the Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development, or CIRSD.

At the onset of my remarks, allow me to offer a heartfelt tribute to the leadership and hard work of my friend Minister Li Wei. I am proud to have been in a position to help him and to contribute to the Forum from even before its inception in 2015. And I am honored that Minister Li Wei, as well as our mutual friend, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, are members of the CIRSD Board of Advisers.

Having previously assembled in Istanbul, Madrid, Warsaw, and Beijing, the Silk Road Forum now gather in the birthplace of Europe’s Age of Enlightenment: the unique and amazing capital of France.

The grand purpose that brings us together is to support a noble idea—at once timeless and new—which is that individuals and societies can best prosper and develop when they shed their intrinsic inhibitions towards engaging beyond their immediate neighborhoods and comfort zones.

For about a millennia or more, this idea’s precursor found its embodiment in the ancient Silk Road. Goods, services, people, technology, faiths, and philosophies flowed across thousands of kilometers in all directions by land and sea. The Silk Road geography was characterized by material plenty, scientific progress, and cultural sophistication.

Five years ago, this concept was revived by China’s new leader with a call to establish an open community of shared interests, responsibilities, and commitments to freer trade, integrated economic growth, and societal enrichment.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Irrespective of its ultimate success, the Belt and Road Initiative will inevitably transform the politics and economics of globalization in the 21st century.

Its scope and ambition are both unprecedented and breathtaking. It envisions a surge of interdependence across more than half the globe as well as massive investment. Not surprisingly, BRI has been met with both enthusiasm and anxiety in many parts of the world. 

But sustainable solutions to legitimate concerns are not born of accusatorial rhetoric or unilateral boycotts. Nevertheless, have no illusion that these are going to disappear on their own.

And therefore, engaging directly with their advocates is an important task for those who embrace the ‘Silk Road spirit’ of peaceful cooperation, openness, inclusivity, mutual learning, and honest dialogue. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am a European, and I strongly believe that it is in Europe’s fundamental interest to deepen engagement with the world’s most dynamically growing markets.

Wistful recollection of halcyon days is no substitute for a rational assessment of contemporary circumstances.

Engaging the Belt and Road Initiative could help drive Europe’s quest for sustainability—ensuring that common material gains help meet rising demands for social justice and environmentally responsible stewardship.

Lastly, engaging with BRI could help Europe regain a more central place on the geo-economic map of the world, mitigating against the risk that it becomes just an appendage to a Eurasia that is naturally reorienting itself to the central theatre of the 21st century—the Pacific Ocean.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Belt and Road Initiative was launched as an outstretched hand—a hand that seeks safety and prosperity around the globe on the basis of mutual respect, equality, and friendship.

Our common task is to responsibly and honestly address all concerns and objections. The outstretched hand must neither be met with, nor turned into, a clenched fist; for if that happens, we may be caught on the disastrous trajectory leading to a new Cold War—in the best case scenario.

Let us, therefore, engage with prudence and foresight for the sake of peace in our own and future generations.

Thank you very much for your attention. 

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Mr. Vuk Jeremić