Remarks at the Opening Session of International Balkan Annual Conference (IBAC)

Koray Ertaş 16.10.2014
Remarks by H.E. Osman Koray Ertas, Ambassador of Turkey
International Balkan Annual Conference (IBAC)
University of Bucharest, October 16, 2014

Honorable Deputy Rectors,
Director General of the Romanian Diplomatic Institute,
Distinguished Mayors,
Dean of History Faculty,
Dear Professors,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me start by welcoming our guests from Turkey. As you have experienced, geographically Bucharest is much closer to Istanbul than many other Turkish cities. You do not even have time to enjoy the great service by the Turkish Airlines because of the short distance. I hope you would also have time to experience that this beautiful country is close to us not only geographically but also in so many other ways.

I will not attempt to speak about history in front of historians, but allow me to make a few remarks on the importance of this academic gathering.

History has been a difficult topic to discuss in the Balkans. There are many interpretations of the very same historical events in different capitals of our region. The opposing narratives about the same historical event could even be seen in a small Balkan village among people of different ethnic or religious background.

Unfortunately, history could still haunt masses in the region. The agonies of the past are transmitted from one generation onto other. This trans-generational transmission often makes history a burden in building bridges among new generations.

It is at this point that we badly need an objective and academic approach to history reading, writing, and teaching. Unless we have this, we will continue to be haunted by the heavy hand of the past and have prejudices and stereotyping about one another.

Turkey and Romania are exceptional cases in that regard. There are few countries in the region that are able to derive friendship from their common history. Our history is not a baggage that we need to tackle. It is rather an asset and an ample ground that helps our nations to develop friendly relations at all levels. Today we are allies, strategic partners, and strong economic partners. We work very closely on regional and international issues.

This great conference series are important in two-folds. It allows for an academic discussion among Balkan scholars on our common history. In other words, those of us, who know the history most, get together and put an academic picture of the reality or historical construct, and not the various caricatures of it. Second, this year’s conference is more important as it will shed light on various aspects of the shared history between Turks and Romanians.

I am sure, as practitioners, we will benefit from this great academic exercise. I would like to congratulate the organizers of the IBAC series, notably the Conference Chair Prof. Yeşil of Istanbul University. Our special thanks go to Prof. Platis and Prof. Cioroianu for hosting this event in this magnificent old building of Bucharest University. I should also thank Dr. Dan Petre for being with us today to show Romanian government’s support to the event.
I will try to make a humble contribution to this great event by hosting all of you at the Turkish residence for a reception on Friday evening. I think the participants would deserve to enjoy the Turkish hospitality and food then.
I wish all the success in your two-day long deliberations.
Thank you.