Ivan Vejvoda Testifies on Balkans and the 2012 NATO Summit
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
United States Helsinki Commission
Hearing: The Western Balkans and the 2012 NATO Summit
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Vice President, Programs
The German Marshall Fund of the United States
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the invitation to come and testify before you today as the Western Balkans advance toward a stable and peaceful future in the Euro-Atlantic community. It is a true honor to be here. I am here to offer my personal views on the current issues regarding the region as well as the opportunities and challenges that present themselves for the region in the future.
The “return to Europe” was the clarion call in all those countries in which communist regimes reigned until the 9 November 1989 fall of the Berlin wall. A rush to join the democratic Europe that had been denied them by the Cold War division of the continent in the aftermath of World War II.
Soon the term Euroatlantic integration became synonymous with integrating both the European Union and NATO through a process of democratic and market reforms.
One country chose a different path: the former Yugoslavia. After the violent breakdown of the country during the 1990s the countries that emerged engaged, with a notable time lag, on the same Euroatlantic path as their predecessors.
There was one notable exception: Serbia, even though from 2000 through 2003 it had also declared full Euroatlantic integration as its goal. It was subject to NATO’s military operation: the bombing in 1999 of what was then still the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (composed of Serbia and Montenegro). Then under the government elected in 2004 Serbia through a parliamentary resolution Serbia declared itself a “neutral state” and decided not to pursue full NATO membership but only Partnership for Peace which it got in November 2006.
The story of NATO in the Balkans though begins with the membership of Greece and Turkey, who signed the North Atlantic Treaty on 18 February 1952. These two countries have been key contributors for the past 60 years in promoting the security of the Euroatlantic area, and more specifically, NATO’s Southern Flank.
After the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the end of communist regimes throughout Central, Eastern, and Southern Europe the process of NATO enlargement encompassed Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia in March 2004. Finally, and most recently, in April 2009 Albania and Croatia became full members. Macedonia, fully qualified, was supposed to join as a full member at that same moment but was blocked by a veto from Greece.
The countries that remain aspiring and/or non-members are to date all members of the Partnership for Peace Program and are at various stages of a dynamic of NATO integration. They are all geographically within the inner courtyard of a Euroatlantic framework. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo (not recognized as independent by Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina), and Serbia are surrounded by EU and NATO member states.
Integration into the European Union (EU) has been a paramount goal of Euroatlatic integration. It has been a rule until now that countries have joined NATO prior to joining the European Union. It seems that this will continue to be the case, with the possible/probable exception of Serbia.
EU and NATO Enlargement - The Need to Proceed
The Balkans, as the Central and East European countries, have undergone or are still undergoing a process of joining a series of other European and global institutions: the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization, but to mention two among many. All these processes entailed deep-seated democratic and market reforms that were often overlapping. Joining the EU with full membership was/is undoubtedly the most demanding and lengthy process. NATO enlargement regards reforms in the military, security, and intelligence sectors, although it also closely observes and requires and follows reforms in the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of power.
Fulfilling demands for one integration process often fulfills at least parts of requirements for integration into other international institutions. Thus these processes are mutually reinforcing.
The global economic crisis of 2008 caught the Balkan region at a moment of steady and forceful economic growth with significant growth rates and increasing foreign direct investments. A post-conflict region that the Balkans was, was clearly emerging towards forms of consolidated democratic and market economy practices. Foreign direct investments were steadily increasing every year, and integration processes were advancing at a steady pace.
The challenges were many but the promise of a Europe whole, free and at peace, the attraction of joining a European Union of half a billion people and 27 member states helped motivate states and societies to push forward. Joining one of the most successful political peace projects that the European Union represents in post-World War II history was, for a war-torn region that emerged from the catastrophe of the 1990s, a proposition that not only could not be refused, but one that harbored the possibility of once and for all settling the contentious issues within a democratic framework based on the rule of law and human rights: plurality, legality, publicity (an free and open public space). Post-conflict reconciliation and confronting the wrong-doings of the past was an integral part of this democratic effort.
The economic crisis as elsewhere has created levels of unemployment and diminishing standards of living that have in turn created public discontent and a sense of loss of certainty. The key interest of public opinion is about job certainty or lack thereof: the question of whether citizens will be able to fend for themselves in a dignified manner with a job and a salary.
Enlargement has been one of the greatest success stories of the European Union since its inception in 1957. At the June 2003 EU Summit in Thessaloniki, Greece, a solemn promise was made that the countries of the Western Balkans would become member states when they met the required Copenhagen criteria of the EU.
NATO has been crucial in providing the security environment, a common framework that is not imposed from above or the outside but one in which these countries of the Western Balkans were/are for the first time choosing freely with whom they wished to be allied with.
It is of crucial importance that the Euroatlantic enlargement backed wholeheartedly by both the EU and successive United States administrations continue to be conducted in fairness and with mutual trust in the workings of the process, while realizing the complexities of the domestic politics in all countries concerned, both aspiring and existing member states.
It is important to underscore that the commitment of the governments of the region and of the publics to join the Euroatlantic community is still present: both for the EU and for NATO (with the exception of Serbia).
In spite of the significant economic and social challenges, and a certain decline in the numbers of support for enlargement, from previous very high numbers, there are still clear majorities in each country whose desire to join the EU and NATO (again with the exception of Serbia for NATO) is overarching. One has to look beyond the individual polls and observe the longer term trends as well as similar dynamics in countries that have already undergone this process. In particular it has been seen that the closer a country gets to the entry point the greater the decline in public support for entry into the EU. Croatia is a case in point.
That power of attraction of the Euroatlantic framework in the region of the Western Balkans is still firmly present. Undoubtedly, chinks in its armor have appeared, but publics still see a safer haven there than remaining outside this framework and thus outside of the enlargement process.
That is why keeping the process open and fair, in the face of those who wish to close the door to further enlargement, helps those others who are pursuing the herculean task of deep-seated democratic state and societal transformation, modernization and democratization. There is a bond of mutual responsibility in finishing the construction and unification of Europe and of Euroatlantic enlargement. However adverse the circumstances may be, whatever the huge challenges that the world is facing, there is a larger framework that has not dissipated and the gaze must be lifted from the navel to broader horizons.
The Main Burden of Responsibility for Democratic Reform and Institutional Change Lies with Aspiring Member States
The European Union, the United States, individual countries, and public and private donors have contributed and are contributing substantive amounts of financial and other resources in helping these countries rebuild themselves and strengthen their institutions, governance, and economies. The fact of the matter is that in these countries there are no internal similar financial or other resources to kick start and help pursue economic growth. The countries are dependent on foreign direct investments, loans from international financial institutions, donations from the above-mentioned actors. This reinforces the bond of mutual responsibility and obligation.
It thus behooves the countries of the region to carry the main burden of responsibility for democratic and market reforms, for strengthening rule of law, deepening judicial reforms, combating corruption and organized crime, creating favorable investment climates so as to attract the necessary resources from abroad. No one can do this hard work of change in their stead. This Sisyphean task is all the more difficult when standards of living are stagnant or falling, or unemployment is rising. This is additionally painful because it is amongst the youth of these countries as elsewhere in Europe and the world, that unemployment is much higher. This in turn leads to a dangerous real and potentially disastrous brain-drain of those who are supposed to be the future human capital that should contribute most of all to the growth of these economies and to moving these societies forward.
So as these countries and their governments, parliaments, judiciaries, militaries, security institutions, societies, and economies struggle to change, they are helped enormously by friendly hands and resources from outside – and maybe in the most relevant way by keeping the promise of enlargement tangibly present.
NATO and the Western Balkans
NATO is in the Western Balkans and certain Western Balkan countries are now also within NATO or on the path to membership.
NATO in the Western Balkans
NATO came into the Balkans, into Bosnia and Herzegovina as the Stabilization Force (SFOR) in January 1996 after the Dayton/Paris Peace Accords of 1995. A massive force that after nine years passed its mission to the European Union led EUFOR in December 2005. This was the Alliance’s first peace-keeping mission. NATO maintains to date a small headquarters in Sarajevo to assist the country with defense reform. The EUFOR went from an initial 7,000 to 2,000 soldiers today. The EUFOR mission is supported by NATO under the so-called ‘Berlin Plus’ arrangements that provide the framework for NATO-EU cooperation. It should be noted that the United Nations Security Council 1575 (2004) adopted on 23 November 2004 makes patently clear that the EU operation ALTHEA and NATO HQ Sarajevo are legal successors to the SFOR mission. As such, EUFOR and NATO HQ Sarajevo enjoy the full authorities under Annexes 1A and 2 of the General Framework Agreement.
It is most significant to underscore that in all the 16 years of NATO and EU troop presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina there was not one attack or casualty through violence against these missions. This is testimony, in spite of the lag and often great difficulties in reform processes, of the desire of Bosnia and Herzegovina to move beyond the devastating consequences of the conflict of the 1990s.
NATO is in the Western Balkans in Kosovo in the guise of the Kosovo Force (KFOR) that was deployed after the 78 day-long NATO bombing campaign that ended with the Kumanovo Agreeement on 10 June 1999 (signed between Milosevic’s representatives and NATO) and the adoption by the United Nations Security Council of Resolution 1244. On 12 June, the first elements of the NATO-led Kosovo Force, or KFOR, entered Kosovo. By 20 June, the withdrawal of Serbian forces was complete.
KFOR was initially composed of some 50,000 from NATO member countries, Partner countries and non-NATO countries. By early 2002, KFOR was reduced to around 39,000 troops, then to 26,000 by June 2003 and to 17,500 by the end of 2003. Today it is at about 5,000 troops of which about 750 are U.S. soldiers.
After the unilateral declaration of independence on 17 February 2008, NATO reaffirmed that KFOR shall remain in Kosovo on the basis of UN Resolution 1244. NATO in June 2008 decided to take on new tasks in Kosovo to support the development of professional, democratic and multi-ethnic security structures. These new tasks were not affected by the ruling of the International Court of Justice on 22 July 2010: the Advisory Opinion of the Court on the legality of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence is that it did not violate international law, nor UNSC Resolution 1244.
When in March 2004 there was renewed violence in Kosovo, NATO played a significant role in providing protection in particular for the Serbian population that was being targeted. In the eyes of the Serbian population in Kosovo the perception is somewhat different after the July 2011 events, even though the protection of the Serbian Christian Orthodox monasteries by NATO troops is seen in a most positive light.
The Western Balkans in NATO
- Albania and Croatia: Full Members of NATO
The Strasbourg-Kehl NATO summit in April 2009 accepted Albania and Croatia to full membership. This enlargement was a significant incitement to those who were following in their footsteps.
In addition, the fact that Croatia recently accomplished its EU membership requirements and will become the 28th member-state of the EU in July 2013 gives motivation to all those working in the engine-rooms of democratization and modernization of their respective countries.
Whereas Croatia has fared well and accomplished significant progress in all fields and has indicated clearly, and especially with the recent victory of the Social Democratic Party and its three coalition partners that it will help its neighbors in their Euroatlantic enlargement pursuits, Albania has had significant problems with its democratic institutional procedures regarding the contested nature of elections.
Macedonia was slated to become a full member at the same April 2009 summit but was blocked by Greece. This has been a most unexpected and undesirable development. Accepting Macedonia into NATO in 2009 would have been a decision of great relevance for Europe, the Balkan region and of course for Macedonia itself: a further reinforcement of stability, peace, and security in the region.
Macedonia has also been a candidate to the EU for the past six years yet cannot move forward because of the unresolved issue with Greece over its name. This is a highly detrimental situation not only for Macedonia but also for the whole region and for the enlargement process. Greece’s enormous economic problems unfortunately do not bode well for a resolution of this now 19 year-old stand-off and in spite of the fact that since last year the EU Commission is recommending that it begin EU accession negotiations.
Macedonia was admitted to the UN in 1993 under a provisional name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The UN Security Council (Resolution 817) then noted that a difference had arisen over the name that needed to be resolved in the interest of the maintenance of peaceful and good-neighbourly relations in the region (UNSC Resolution 817 of 1993). The Security Council further called on Greece and Macedonia (Security Council Resolution 845 of 1993) to enter into negotiations on a definitive solution to the problem. The obligation undertaken by both parties to negotiate an agreement on the name issue was set down in the Interim Accord signed by Greece and Macedonia in 1995, establishing, at the same time, diplomatic relations and a code of conduct between the parties. Since then a majority of more than 130 UN member states have recognized Macedonia under its constitutional name of Republic of Macedonia including the United States.
Following the 1995 Interim Accord negotiations began and are still being conducted by UN envoy Mathew Nimetz.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on a case filed by the Republic of Macedonia determined in a 15-1 vote on 5 December 2011 that Greece had violated the Interim Accord by objecting to its neighbor’s entry into NATO. This ruling possibly opens the avenue to a positive outcome, although no one is at this point optimistic given Greece’s enormous economic and social problems.
Most recently on January 16 and 17, 2012, the Macedonian Ambassador Zoran Jolevski met with United Nations envoy Mathew Nimetz for talks to seek progress in resolving differences with Greece over the Republic of Macedonia’s official name.
It behooves the leaders of Macedonia and Greece to find that middle ground, that difficult space of compromise that will allow for the greater public good to emerge: the general public interest of furthering stability, peace and security in the region and in the country itself. There is of course nothing easy in what is a deeply symbolic and identity politics issue.
Macedonia clearly does not pose a realistic threat to Greece in any way, apart from a self-perceived symbolic one.
It will be of relevance to follow whether the NATO Summit in May in Chicago, in the interest of greater stability will invite Macedonia to join NATO as a full member.
Montenegro became a member of Partnership for Peace (PfP) at the Riga NATO summit in November 2006, went through a successful Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) process and was granted on 4 December 2009 a Membership Action Plan (MAP). It is currently in its second MAP cycle. Montenegro has strongly advocated receiving an invitation for NATO membership at the Chicago May NATO Summit. In spite of the strong will and advocates underlining the need to continue forcefully the NATO enlargement process, it does seem at this stage likely that apart from strong encouraging words to further pursue necessary reforms there will be any additional more decisive pursuits.
Montenegro, with regards to EU accession already in the status of candidate country since December 2010, and recently in December 2011 was suggested by the EU Council of Ministers to get a date to begin negotiations for membership during the current year. It was positively assessed for voting in an important electoral reform.
Montenegro has done much in its security and defense reform sector and will with great likelihood follow Macedonia as the next most likely country to join NATO.
Continued democratic reforms and the fight against corruption and organized crime are as in the other states of the region paramount requirements.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina also became a PfP member in Riga in 2006. It entered the Membership Action Plan in April 2010 at a NATO Foreign ministers’ meeting in Tallinn, but the implementation would only begin fully when 61 identified defense properties were formally transferred from the entity level to the Ministry of Defense. To date this has not yet occurred, even though there has been recognition that Bosnia-Herzegovina had made certain progress.
Bosnia-Herzegovina, or rather the leaders of the ruling parties, more than 14 months after parliamentary elections in October 2010 (not quite as long as Belgium) unexpectedly on 29 December 2011 managed to find an agreement on the formation of a new government. This is probably the most positive development in a long time.
The deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ana Trisic Babic, who is also the president of the NATO Coordination Team within the BiH Council of Ministers, has been a strong advocate and leader in the process of NATO accession, developing reform activities while waiting for the issue of military property to be resolved.
The EU in the meantime is diminishing its EUFOR military mission (currently around 1,300 soldiers) and its police mission. There are tensions and heightened nationalist rhetoric by political and religious actors is to put it mildly not helpful, but from there to say that there is an immediate or intermediate danger of renewed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina is overstating the threat. The real threat is of too slow a process of reforms and Euroatlantic integration. The region of the Western Balkans and its path towards integration is most relevant for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The accession of Croatia and the possible candidacy to the EU of Serbia will have a clear pulling effect for BiH’s forward movement. In fact, the announcement on 29 December of the formation of the government is already a result of these regional developments.
The EU has also sent its first EU Special representative (EUSR now decoupled from the OHR, Office of the High Representative and its Chief Valentin Inzko) who is at the same time the Chief of Mission of the European Union, the experienced Danish diplomat Peter Sorensen. This is also an important signal about the EU’s more robust intentions in spurring BiH along. But the EU must continue, while in the lead to work hand in hand with the United States and other international actors to see that furthering of BiH’s Euroatlantic future.
Whatever the heated debates over issues pertaining to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s constitutional challenges it seems, taking the longer view, that NATO accession is an agreed policy position, notwithstanding the occasional critical pronouncements of certain politicians from Republika Srpska entity. They also understand that pursuing this path is in their interest and in the interest of stability and peace. NATO’s bombing campaign in August and September1995 still remains present in the minds of citizens of that entity from the days of conflict.
Serbia joined the PfP program along with BiH and Montenegro at the Riga 2009 NATO Summit. This was an important decision for the region at large because the prolonged delay for membership in the PfP program was not conducive to speedier reforms. The United States and certain European countries’ defense institutions in the meantime, awaiting PfP, developed significant levels of bilateral relationships with Serbia which helped defense and security reforms advance in Serbia most notably after the first democratic Minister of Defense of Serbia, Boris Tadic, was voted in March 2003.
Serbia had under the Prime Ministership of Zoran Djindjic and then after his tragic assassination of Zoran Zivkovic pursued a full policy of Euroatlantic integration. The resolution on “state neutrality” that was voted by the Serbian Parliament under the Premiership of Vojislav Kostunica, suspended the pursuit of full NATO membership and retained the goal of PfP membership.
Since 2006 Serbia has opened in September 2010 a representation at NATO headquarters in Brussels with a diplomatic and military mission and in July 2011 has adopted an Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP). Under the Planning and Review Process (PARP) it has pursued the accomplishment of numerous goals of partnership. Among the priorities is the sending of members of the Serbian Army to positions in the Partnership Staff Element (PSE) and sending an officer the Naples NATO command which depends on Serbia acceding to a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Serbia has also participated and plans participation in a number of NATO exercises. Also the Serbia-NATO Group for the Reform of Armed Forces has renewed its activities.
Serbia has fully professionalized its military at the end of 2010 and has been pursuing NATO standards so as to achieve full interoperability and cooperates on a number of other levels. Regular meetings with KFOR commanders ensure stability in the southern parts of the Western Balkans.
Serbia has suspended its pursuit of full NATO membership. It is thus an exception to the rule of Euroatlantic enlargement following which NATO accession comes before EU accession. It has focused on strong bilateral military ties with the Pentagon through the Ohio National Guard, and with a number of EU and NATO member states.
The public opinion is preponderantly opposed to NATO membership although there is a steady quarter of public opinion that supports NATO integration. The NATO bombing of 1999 remains an obstacle in parts of Serbian public opinion and among part of the political elite to further pursue at this moment full NATO membership. The goal is rather to develop as extensive relations with NATO within the parameters of PfP, and bilaterally with United States and other European allies.
There is an ongoing debate in the public space on all these issues. The first Belgrade Security Forum took place in September 2011. Organized by three NGO/think tanks and with the participation of actors from the whole region it demonstrated the strength of civil society in launching and pursuing debates relevant to but also broader than the region itself. The vibrancy of civil society is of immense importance throughout.
Serbia during the course of 2010 finally accomplished the longstanding goal of arresting and extraditing the last two indictees to the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY): Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic. Serbia is now investigating the networks that allowed the ICTY indictees to remain in hiding for such a long period of time.
In addition Serbia has taken a significant decision to embark on the hardest of reforms in an early stage of the EU integration process: the reform of the judiciary. Important steps have been made but further serious efforts need to be pursued in the domain of the rule of law and anti-corruption.
The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina begun in March 2010 has been highlighted as an important step in the soothing of tensions and the search for viable solutions between the two which has already yielded certain results.
Recently Serbia’s President Tadic has come out with a four-point plan for the resolution of the Kosovo dispute. He has informed international leaders and seems to be willing to move on the issue rather sooner than later, understanding that Serbia is burdened in its forward movement until it takes a determined and committed practical step to resolve this outstanding issue. He has underlined that any solutions must satisfy Serbs, Albanians, and the international community, or rather its main actors.
Time has allowed for a maturing of the awareness that resolving the challenge rather sooner than later is in everyone’s interest – of the citizens in particular. The need to move more rapidly in the existing dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina in a challenging global environment can help the region establish itself as an example. But there is nothing easy or simple or that can been done without the respect for both sides’ interests. One is looking at least bad solutions as always in similar historical distant and recent cases.
NATO has 5,000 troops stationed in Kosovo. Since the declaration of independence of Kosovo 85 countries have recognized its independence. Among them the United States and 22 EU member states. Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain are the five EU non-recognizing states, while in the region all have recognized Kosovo’s independence except Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
KFOR has been a source of stability in Kosovo since its arrival in 1999, and in particular in March 2004 during the ethnic violence that erupted and that targeted Serbs and other non-Albanians, Roma in particular, when NATO soldiers intervened to defend those attacked and defend the Serbian Christian Orthodox monasteries.
On 25-26 July 2011 during the unilateral action of Kosovo’s Rosa special police seizing the Brnjak crossing in a Serb-dominated area of Kosovo, a new period of great tension arose that went on for months. These events prompted Serbs living in the north to block the roads leading up to the checkpoints. The situation was on a razor’s edge but ultimately all sides managed to avoid greater levels of violence.
The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina will be continued in Brussels in the coming days. A compromise is expected on the issue of Kosovo’s presence in regional meetings. If this is achieved Serbia could get candidate status for EU membership, and Kosovo would participate in all regional meetings under the pursuance of UN SC resolutions.
After the July rise in tensions between Belgrade and Pristina, there seems to have been an understanding in Pristina also that tensions and possible violence are in no way conducive to the pursuit any goals, and of stability and security in particular.
It seems that Belgrade and Pristina are edging towards agreeing to disagree on the principled issue of non/recognition. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s independence. Kosovo maintains its full independence. But the pursuit of the solution must be to benefit the lives of people living there, and must lead to a diminishing of tensions, for the greater good of stability and peace no matter how complex the search for a solution may be.
Kosovo is expecting to get a road-map for a visa free travel regime. It is the only part of the Western Balkans without such a regime. Kosovo has also managed to accomplish a cycle of dialogue with the EU on the Stabilization and Association Process.
Rule of law and anti-corruption policies and implementation are particularly necessitous areas of reform in Kosovo. In issues concerning possible past crimes an investigation under the jurisdiction of the EU’s rule of law mission. EULex, into alleged organ traifficking, will be led by US prosecutor John Clint Wiliamson and a seven member task force. This task force will probe the Council of Europe’s 2010 report that was prepared by the Swiss parliamentarian Dick Marty. This investigation has the strong backing of both the EU and the US administration.
It is interesting to note the levels of participation of countries of the wider region in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan
A note on NATO – EU relations
Since Cyprus joined the EU in 2004 the relation between the two has been difficult to say the least. Turkey who does not recognize Cyprus restricts cooperation between the two organizations to a very great extent. It claims that sensitive military issues would be passed to the Greek Cypriot authorities. Cyprus has reciprocated by putting obstacle to Turkey’s participation in numerous EU defense activities
The NATO Secretary General has stated with this regard that: “The EU must act to accommodate some concerns raised by NATO members that are not at the same time members of the European Union.” He underlined that cooperation was even more important since the EU was taking on a “more robust” foreign policy role under the Lisbon Treaty. He added that the EU should conclude a security agreement with Turkey and an arrangement that would allow Turkish participation in the European Defense Agency. However, he admitted that the political complications cannot be resolved “overnight.”
Regional Cooperation an Unsung Story
All the countries of this “micro-region” of approximately 20 million people (4 percent of the half a billion citizens of the EU) have realized that only by cooperating can they weather many difficulties, achieve economies of scale in trade, production, infrastructure and combat the plague of organized crime.
Just in the past two months just to mention one example in the domain of security cooperation the ministers of defense and the chiefs of military intelligence have had their regular regional conference.
Regional cooperation has shown that a spirit of European partnership is pervasive. The renewed and intensified relationship between Croatia and Serbia that has existed since January 2010, when President Ivo Josipovic of Croatia was elected, has been a clear demonstration of the awareness that the countries of the region only together will they be able to forge a way forward. They are very dependent on each other in multiple ways and in particular in commercial terms. The economic crisis has shown this patently. In fact cooperation in matters of fighting organized crime in the past two years has shown dramatic successes. The police forces and the ministries of interior have developed very intense levels of cooperation in particular over the past several years. These efforts are conducted in close cooperation with the U.S. agency Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the British Serious Organized Crimes Agency (SOCA). Regional and international criminal networks have been followed and exposed and curtailed.
Regional cooperation in a multiplicity of fields has been the unheralded story of the past decade. A “Yugosphere” has been talked about to indicate the versatility of the numerous links, exchanges, joint ventures and mutual investments that have materialized over these years. This is expression is not to everyone’s liking for many reasons but it indicates the capacity to rebuild links among the newly independent countries that are driven by common interest and sheer necessity.
As an example of these efforts one can highlight the first regional summit of business leaders (held in Serbia October 2011) from Serbia, Croatia Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia, Summit100 - Business Leaders of Southeast Europe. The Summit100 was organized with the aim of having business leaders propose specific solutions and assume their share of responsibility for strengthening competition of national economies of the countries and the overall competitiveness potential of South Eastern Europe.
This regional cooperation has been compounded by the significant efforts aimed at confronting the wrongdoings of the past. Addressing the issue of the crimes committed during the conflict of the 1990s during the breakdown of former Yugoslavia has been an important part post-conflict development in the whole region and thus in Serbia as well. The mutual apologies for the crimes done in the name of the countries have contributed to overcoming tensions furthering peace. Furthermore, the presence of leaders at memorial sites, for example of the President of Serbia but of other regional leaders as well, at the commemoration of the genocide committed in Srebrenica is just one testimony to these endeavors.
Civil society has had a major role in much of these efforts toward reconciliation and overcoming the past. Over all civil society has been a key ally in all the democratic transformational work. More still needs to be done and again it behooves the leaders to continue setting the tone to this process.
In the field of regional security cooperation the Regional Cooperation Council RCC based in Sarajevo has made important strides forward in the past two years. In their own words: “The RCC has made a particular breakthrough in developing important regional mechanism of cooperation among the chiefs of military intelligence (SEEMIC), with the full support of the EU Military Intelligence Directorate, and among the Heads of the SEE National Security Authorities, with support of the NATO Office of Security and the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU. The RCC has also initiated the Defense Policy Directors meeting in the SEECP format and the SEE Counter Intelligence Chiefs forum.”
One should also mention regarding regional cooperation the American-Adriatic Charter (A5), the Cooperation Process of SEE Defense Ministers (SEDM), and SEECH (the South-Eastern Europe Clearing House).
In addition the RCC Secretariat initiated and elaborated the 2011–2013 Regional Strategic Document (RSD) and the Action Plan for its implementation in the area of Justice and Home Affairs, which was endorsed by the SEECP Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs in March 2011.
“The RSD maps the priorities and actions in combating the most important challenges that crime poses to the region. The RCC Secretariat is coordinating the work of the Steering Group for the implementation of the Regional Strategic Document and has designed the Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism to measure the progress and the results of regional cooperation in justice and home affairs that should be functional as of January 2012,”
Another significant regional achievement that came out from joint efforts of the RCC Secretariat and the Marshall European Centre for Security Studies “is the establishment of the Southeast Europe Regional Marshall Centre Alumni Association, which serves as a high-level regional forum for debating and discussing the cross-cutting issues between security, justice and home affairs, and contributes to a greater general understanding of the Euro-Atlantic accession and membership.”
Last but not least it should also be noted that the role of women in the reform of the security sector is one that should be highlighted.
Four countries of the Western Balkans region have a National Action Plan for the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325 (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia). In Kosovo, EULex is charged with implementing this Resolution. As a matter of interest the United States adopted its own national action plan two months ago.
The NATO Summit in Chicago in May has the opportunity to reiterate its message of open doors to all those aspiring to join as full members of NATO or to continue being partner countries. Continued training and support to the reform efforts in the field of defense and security, the reform of security forces and services, and the implementation of existing laws on the democratic control of armed forces and security services continue to be of paramount importance. Efforts must be pursued to train all relevant actors elected and civic actors in these fields so as to acquire skills and capacities that can be a solid base for institutional democratic consolidation.
There is chance to send Macedonia and Montenegro, if not invitations, then strong signals of support as well as to Bosnia and Herzegovina. But also an instance in which Belgrade and Pristina are encouraged to pursue the positive course that they have chosen by engaging in a dialogue that seeks both practical solutions but demonstrated political will to also tackle the broader challenge of finding a more lasting solution for what has been a longstanding and difficult, quintessentially Europe-type challenge.
The region has for some outside actors been a cause of frustration in terms of its slow pace of change. Yet many present indicators and past experience show capacities and potential that is promising if unleashed and sheparded in a responsible manner.
In fact, the region has advanced significantly since the Dayton Peace accords in 1995 and since the fall of the Milosevic regime in 2000. If one were to compare the two states of affairs in the Balkans in 2000 and today one could shy away from the realization that much has been accomplished and that this trend must be upheld and supported. Yes, this has happened by fits and starts, often by meandering, muddling through and sometimes with backward steps. But were one to plot a chart of these 11 years the trajectory is clear, as a political will and determination to resolve the issues outstanding.
The processes of democratic reform in post-totalitarian and post-authoritarian countries are progressive and often fragile. Young democracies need to strengthen institutions very rapidly and yet the “habits of the heart” of a democratic political culture do not appear over night. It is the practice of democracy, the practice of the market, the level playing field, competitiveness, debate and dialogue that instill norms and behaviors that dispel fragility of institutions.
Countries of the region in that respect are no different than other post-communist countries that have trodden the path of building democratic institutions, conducting wholesale reform of all of the countries institutions.
Finally, needless to say, the support of the U.S. administration to the EU integration process of the region and to the overall process of reform is most important. The visits over these past couple of years of Vice President Joseph Biden and of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have in that regard been of great importance. The finishing of the “unfinished business” – support to the creation of a democratic Europe whole, free and at peace” is a key tenet of U.S. foreign policy in the Balkans.
Ivan Vejvoda is vice president for programs at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.