President Slobodan Milosevic's Inaugural Speech
Delivered before the Federal Assembly on July 23, 1997.

As I take over the duties of the President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia I wish to address you [the representatives] and all the citizens of our country, firmly convinced that the years before us will be crucial for the survival and advancement of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I know that the citizens of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will do their utmost to preserve and improve our country.

Behind us are six difficult years, the most difficult ever for the nations and peoples who have been living were since World War II. The blows we suffered during those years have considerably changed this region's territorial, economic, political, cultural and demographic picture. They have seriously exhausted Serbia and Montenegro.

Our economy does not still fully function. Our political life is still being shaken by partisan conflicts, often stimulated from abroad. Our culture is trying to rid itself from provincialism. Healthcare and science are waging a difficult battle with shortage of money and with the delusion that health care can be humane and education progressive without being free for all. A large part of the mass media are propagating spiritual and especially moral destruction, often financially, politically and morally supported from abroad. Our society, from high finance to everyday life, is being shaken by many forms of social disintegration and destruction, often orchestrated by organized crime.

These are unavoidable consequences of the blows the Yugoslav society has taken over a short period of time. These blows were brought about by the historical whirlpool that engulfed this part of the world. We could not fully protect ourselves from it, but we managed to resist its blows more than many other countries in a similar or even more favorable position than we were in. Certain East European countries that did not experience even a peaceful let alone a bloody disintegration, or a civil war at its borders, or brutal sanctions by the international community, or a demographic tornado which dramatically changed the face of both the former and present Yugoslavia, today have more economic and social problems than we, who have been through all this.

We must face this situation. We should neither lament over the consequences we have suffered due to the circumstances that were unfavorable in our part of the world, nor should we console ourselves with the fact that there are those in this part of the world who live harder than we do, even though the evil time affected them less than us.

Our response is a constructive and resolute one. We are beginning a big project, a process for material and spiritual renewal, as well as reforms of the society as a whole, of the economy, technology, state, education, media, towns and villages, roads and bridges, hospitals and schools, civic responsibility, human solidarity, national dignity. This project should be a response to the effects of the difficult years behind us and a herald of progress in the years ahead of us.

The main task for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a community of two republics - Serbia and Montenegro, is therefore, the preservation of the Republic's mutual equality, which will enable each of them individually, and both of them together, an unimpeded and successful comprehensive development. In order to make this possible for them, Yugoslavia must remain peaceful, free and independent.

Peace is the precondition to all positive values. Freedom is the first among these values, and for the peoples of Yugoslavia - the value of all values. Independence, although facing challenges which are not always visible and obvious, is at a great test which can and must be passed.

Life in peace, freedom and independence are the best and the only dignified basis for cooperation with the world, for establishing ties with other states, nations and people, and contributing to the efforts of progressive people working to make men's life more humane.

Peaceful, free and independent Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, equal to and actively cooperating with other nations, should base its material and spiritual recovery and its further successful development on the most contemporary economics, technology, science, politics and culture of our time. Our time, as all times in history, is not homogenous or uniform in any way. On the contrary, it is extremely varied. But every society that wishes itself good must endeavor to reach its peak in the material and spiritual sense in its own time. Of course, to the extent to which this is possible. This effort, to attain the best a certain period can offer, will be our national, social and civilizational imperative.

At the same time, all our efforts directed toward a modern economic, technological, scientific and cultural development should go side by side with yet another effort - effort to achieve results that can be enjoyed by as large a number of people as possible. Endeavor for progress can have a meaning only if it concerns every individual to the same extent it concerns society as a whole.

There can be no economically and culturally prosperous society if economic and cultural prosperity is not possible for every person or at least for the majority of the people.

A period of responsibility lies ahead of us. To preserve peace, freedom and independence, enable a speedy economic and cultural development, to establish a modern state, inaugurate a humane society - these are not only in the interest of us who live in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia today. These are also the interests of the next generations, of those who will come after us.

Free, independent and respected Yugoslavia is not something only we need. It is a guarantee of freedom, independence and prosperity in which future generations are to live. It is the precondition for the Serbian and Montenegrin people to be able to exist and to survive.

That is why a period of responsibility lies ahead of us. I call on all those who live in Yugoslavia to be citizens of their country first and only then everything else: members of different nations, religions and parties. Ethnic, national, religious, ideological and political differences exist and should exist, but all these differences among people must stop before a common cause. All of us, no matter how different we may be, live in one country that it is our homeland. It can endure all our shortcomings except one - for us to subordinate the interest of our country to some other interests.

That is why I call on all citizens of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to find a common language for the common interest of preserving, renewing and developing their country, but remaining true to their national and religious affiliations, their ideological and political beliefs.

This common language can be found and this common interest can be recognized by all those who consider this country to be the high, the highest value. This language will not be spoken and this interest will not be found only by those who do not accept this as their country and whose activities rule out any, even the basic respect for it.

With the wish for the period of renewal to last as short as possible and for it to bring about great results, with the wish for us to pass the test before history in a time of responsibility, with the wish to bring together diverse ideas, energies and those articulating them, with the wish for us to live in a peaceful, free and independent, modern, developed and just country, with the wish for the next generation to remember us by good deeds, I thank you on the election and salute all the citizens of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.