The EU can make a big difference; it is a great experiment in making diversity work for the benefit of us all. Yes, it has its faults and it is currently facing tough economic challenges, but it works overall. That is why the peoples of eastern Europe wanted to join the EU as soon as they freed themselves from Soviet domination. Now Serbia and Kosovo want to join. The agreement that they signed has started a process that will enable them to do so.
Hard power — economic muscle and sometimes military force — has its place, but soft power also has a big role to play. The EU continues to attract new members not just because it supports trade, jobs and investment, but because it stands for values, such as freedom and democracy, that inspire people around the world.
Hard power invites calculation; soft power rewards imagination. What Dacic and Thaci showed when they came to my office was they had the courage to imagine a better future for their peoples.
Here, then, is my hope. — I stress the word “hope;” it is not yet a certainty. For the past 100 years, the western Balkans have been known as a cradle of war. From now on, may it be known as a cradle of peace.
Catherine Ashton is the high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy.