BALKAN REGIONAL PROFILE:
THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING EVOLUTION OF SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE
(A Background and April 2002 Issue in Brief)
Research Study 36, 2002
Hard copy: ISSN 1311 - 3240
AN I S N-SPONSORED MONTHLY ELECTRONIC PERIODICAL
The understanding that stability can be achieved in Southeastern Europe by letting the three Balkan states of Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia join NATO was deepened during April. Together with Greece, Turkey, and Hungary, they will provide the core of the evolving “security community” and their first priority will be to prevent the outburst and/or proliferation of conflicts on and from former Yugoslav territory, mainly the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Albania and FYROM have no chance of being integrated into NATO any time soon, but remain membership candidates. Croatia is accelerating its defense reform and preparations as a PfP country. This reform is expected to close the gap with the other candidate countries. This month the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY - Serbia and Montenegro) announced its candidature for the PfP program. This step marks Belgrade's readiness to embark on a serious reform track and, after fulfilling the standard preconditions, it should receive a positive answer from Brussels. It is important that certain changes be made in the mentality of both the military and the society that caused so many wars in less than a decade.
The improvement of Bulgaria’s position with regard to the EU after the conclusion of 17 chapters on accession, and continued negotiations over the remaining 14 chapters may lead the country to the fulfillment of its own goal: completing the negotiations by 2003 and joining the EU by 2005.
Just as important as strengthening the region’s societies, states, and economies is the successful fight against the number one threat of terrorism. Locating terrorist cells and recruits, mainly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is one of the most important aspects of counter-terrorist activities. At the same time, the participation of Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and Turkey in the UN’s International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan continues. Turkey will take the command of ISAF from the UK at the end of June. The US is strongly supportive of Turkey’s counter-terrorist capabilities. This month, Romania declared its readiness to send additional troops in Afghanistan. Bulgaria and Turkey agreed to improve control over their land and sea borders during the visit of Bulgaria’s minister of the interior to Ankara and Istanbul this month. The Bulgarian government drafted a law on counter-terrorism that will replace a temporary governmental act that was in force over the last four months, and which will facilitate the freezing of bank accounts linked to terrorists. The Bulgarian defense minister, visiting the US, was told by his hosts that Bulgaria is expected to continue to play an important role in the fight against terrorism.
As part of post-conflict developments, forensic experts from the UN investigated graves in an ethnic Albanian village in Northern Macedonia. Bringing to justice all war criminals in FYROM, as well as in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, the FRY, and elsewhere in the Balkans, is a significant element of the recovery and reconciliation process. Command of NATO's FYROM Task Force “Amber Fox” will be transferred to Dutch forces by the end of June. By the autumn of this year, “Amber Fox” will very probably be cut back. Meanwhile, Western peace monitors warned ethnic Albanians to dismantle roadblocks and to allow the police to do their job and re-enter former Albanian rebel areas. Tensions on the FYROM-Kosovo border were heightened after protests by Kosovar Albanians against the demarcation, which was started in implementation of the formal agreement between Belgrade and Skopje. The Kosovar Albanians consider the demarcation unjust because, according to the protesters, a portion of land was taken from their province and granted to FYROM.
In Kosovo, the difficult process of institution-building continues among sporadic outbursts of violence. This month, Serb representatives were involved in the government of the province.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, cutbacks in the Muslim armed forces marked a significant step in the country's defense reform, but were also a major pre-condition for financial support from Western donors to the government of the federation. Constitutional changes in the Republika Srpska this month are not deep enough to establish political equality between Serbs, Croats, and Muslims. On 19 April, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson confirmed SFOR will reduce its forces.
The abolishment of FRY and the subsequent establishment of Serbia and Montenegro as separate countries was confirmed by Serbian MPs, but is still contested by influential circles in Podgorica who insist on the full sovereignty of Montenegro. Under pressure from the US threatening to freeze financial aid, the FRY parliament approved a bill that allows suspects to be handed over to the UN ICTY in The Hague. Twenty-three suspected war criminals were given 3 days to turn themselves in to the tribunal. The former chief of the General Staff of the Yugoslav armed forces, Dragoljub Ojdanic, was among the first to fly to The Hague.
The bilateral relations were characterized by the continuing Turkish-Albanian military links, and discussions between the foreign ministers of Croatia and FRY on many issues. The progressing bilateral ties of Turkey and Greece included energy components – joint electricity and natural gas transportation projects. The joint diplomatic mission of foreign ministers Ismail Cem and George Papandreou to the Middle East marked a new positive stage in the bilateral relations. Bulgaria and Romania increased their bilateral cooperation to prove to NATO their intense interest in joining the alliance.
Romania decided to open its port of Constanta to US troops. The visit of Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Simeon Coburgotski to the US confirmed Romania's excellent prospects of joining NATO. The state of the defense reform of Bulgaria was highly praised by the North Atlantic Council in a 19+1 format. During the visit of Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana to Washington, DC, in the beginning of April, he met with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and with other high-level US officials. Romania as a future NATO member is expected to increase its contribution to security in the Balkans, the Caucasus, and Central Asia.
The trilateral meeting of the presidents of Romania and Bulgaria and the prime minister of Greece confirmed the good relations of the past. The Tirana meeting of the state leaders of the South East European Cooperation Process proved the vitality of the grass-roots, bottom-up regional initiatives and the importance of their merging with such initiatives as the Stability Pact for South East Europe.
a) Bosnia and Herzegovina. The commander of NATO peacekeepers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lieutenant General John Sylvester, claimed on 4 April that there were still terrorists in Bosnia plotting to strike at US interests. The commander said that international guerrillas used Bosnia for transit and that several were operating in the country. Six Algerians were arrested in January on charges of terrorist activity and turned over to US military authorities. Lieutenant General Sylvester confirmed that some of the recruits were al-Qaida members.
b) Bulgaria. The Bulgarian government announced on 4 April a draft law on countering terrorism. It will allow the freezing of bank accounts of individuals linked to terrorism – an issue that was regulated by an act of government during the last four months. Bulgaria’s efforts to counter terrorist activity were praised during the visit of Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov to the US on 12 April.
c) Turkey-Britain. British Secretary of Defence Geoffrey Hoon said on 11 April his country would turn over command of ISAF in Afghanistan to Turkey at the end of June – two months later than initially planned. The US is strongly backing Turkey’s decision to take the command from Great Britain.
d) Turkey-Bulgaria. The Bulgarian minister of the interior, Georgy Petkanov, visited Turkey from 16-18 April, where he met with State Minister Rüştü Kazım Yücelen
and signed and agreement for the coast guard of the Black Sea. This agreement, alongside similar measures to protect the land border, is intended to block people smuggling as well as the flow of drugs and illegal trafficking of goods and small arms. The agreement provides for the exchange of information between the operations branches of the two ministries.
e) Romania. Romanian Chief of General Staff Mihail Popescu announced on 24 April Romania's offer to send combat troops to Afghanistan to help US-led forces hunting Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. Five hundred troops are now on stand-by to join “Operation Enduring Freedom”.
a) FYROM. (1) UN forensic experts dug up graves in an ethnic Albanian village in northern Macedonia on 8 April. Bringing to justice all who committed crimes against humanity is a major factor of stabilizing the situation on the territory of the country. (2) Police authorities in Skopje disclosed on 10 April that former minister of the interior Liubomir Frchkovsky has concealed important information that would have led to the arrest of those who attempted to assassinate former President Kiro Gligorov. The earlier hypothesis, according to which there was a “Bulgarian connection”, was discarded in light of evidence of the corruption of Frchkovsky as it emerged during the trial. (3) NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson has tasked the Dutch forces to take command of "Operation Amber Fox” in FYROM at the end of June. The NATO forces are expected to be replaced by EU troops by autumn. (4) The armed forces of FYROM were placed on an alert to counter a possible escalation of tensions between Kosovar Albanians and ethic Slav Macedonians. The reason for the tensions was an Albanian protest against the demarcation of the border between the province and FYROM as agreed between Skopje and Belgrade. The Kosovar Albanians claim a big peace of land is taken from them and given to Macedonia. (5) According to Reuters, Western peace monitors in FYROM demanded on 23 April that ethnic Albanians dismantle roadblocks preventing police from re-entering former Albanian rebel areas, warning their barricades endanger a fragile truce. The Albanians demand the release of several prisoners who were not freed under a recent amnesty for former rebels.
b) Kosovo. (1) French troops serving with the NATO operation in Kosovo clashed on 9 April with hundreds of Serbs protesting the arrest of a local leader – a hard-liner and leader of the “bridge guards”, a group that tries to prevent ethnic Albanians and Serbs from crossing a bridge that divides the two ethnic communities. (2) NATO is preparing to re-organize its forces in Kosovo, the KFOR commander, French General Marcel Valenten, said on 10 April in Pristina. NATO will decrease its participation and downsize its presence in the Balkans. (3) Serb Kosovo leaders agreed on 17 April to join the government of Kosovo, which clears the way to larger cooperation of the two ethnic communities and to better working conditions for the government of the province.
c) Bosnia and Herzegovina. (1) The Muslim-Croat federation, part of the Bosnia and Herzegovina federation, approved plans to cut more than 40 per cent of its armed forces – a cut comprising more than 10'000 soldiers. This will reduce expenses for the armed forces. Part of an IMF loan will be spent to support the reintegration of the 10'000 dismissed military personnel into society. (2) According to Wolfgang Petritsch, the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the constitutional amendments adopted by the parliament of the Republika Srpska are not far-reaching enough to establish total political equality between Serbs, Croats, and Muslims. (3) NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson confirmed on 17 April plans to cut the number of the SFOR peacekeepers. The cuts will be adequate to the need of ensuring a tough and flexible force, guaranteeing a safe and secure environment, said Lord Robertson.
Albania is selling or preparing to scrap large quantities of outdated military equipment. The Albanian arsenal consists mainly of Chinese tanks and helicopters, Russian MiG-17, -19, and -21 fighters, and four Russian-built submarines that are old and not in working shape. Albania hopes wealthy collectors and movie studios will be interested in the equipment.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi visited Sofia on 18 April and met with Prime Minister Coburgotski. Italy supports Bulgaria’s application for NATO membership. Italy is one of the two main investors in the Bulgarian economy.
(1) Mira Markovic, the wife of former president Slobodan Milosevic, took the lead of the Yugoslav Left on 7 April with the ambition of changing the party, the program, and the people. (2) The State Department’s ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, Pierre-Richard Prosper, made an emergency visit to Belgrade on 5 April and warned Yugoslav leaders to quickly hand over suspects to the UN war crimes tribunal or suffer the consequences of reduced financial assistance. Under US legislation, Belgrade can receive aid and support from international financial institutions if the Bush administration has certified it has passed a series of tests, including cooperation with the UN war crime tribunal. (3) The Serbian parliament on 9 April voted in favor of a plan to abolish the FRY and establish a looser union with Montenegro. The deal was brokered last month between the presidents of Yugoslavia and Montenegro with the help of the EU and will last at least for the next three years. Montenegro is still debating the plan with the EU, though under the plan the two republics will have a large degree of autonomy within one internationally recognized state. Thus, Yugoslavia has been consigned to history after seven decades of existence in various forms. The present union of Serbia and Montenegro, however, is not expected to last long. The two republics have already grown too far apart politically and economically, and Montenegrin leaders are still contesting the agreement between presidents Kostunica and Djukanovic and Javier Solana. (4) The Yugoslav government on 17 April gave 23 people indicted as war criminals, including the Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, three days to surrender. The three days were given to reach an agreement with the justice ministry over voluntary surrender. The government listed the names of 10 Yugoslav citizens and 13 Bosnian Serbs whose indictment had been delivered to Yugoslavia by the UN tribunal. Among the listed were President Milan Milutinovic of Serbia, Nikola Sainovic, a former Yugoslav deputy prime minister, and Dragoljub Ojdanic, the chief of staff of the Yugoslav armed forces who was charged in 1999 for war crimes in Kosovo. General Ojdanic surrendered to the ICTY in The Hague on 25 April. The remaining indictees are expected to be taken into custody and transferred to the UN war tribunal. (5) Three years after NATO's 78-day campaign against Milosevic, the Yugoslav authorities took a step that may herald their longer-term aspirations of joining NATO: the federal government of FRY announced on 26 April it would seek to join the NATO Partnership for Peace program. PfP allows participation in many NATO activities, including peacekeeping, without becoming a member of the Alliance. Belgrade considers this step important for its policy of integration in Europe. Obviously, before being accepted to the PfP, FRY will be required to provide guarantees it is taking steps to increase stability, to introduce effective democratic civilian control over the security institutions, including the military and paramilitary formations and intelligence, and to build strong military cooperation with current and potential PfP partners.
a) Albania-Turkey. Turkish Brigadier Cihangir Dumali signed an agreement with high-level Albanian defense officials on 1 April on the continuation of support for the Albanian armed forces. Turkey has provided a grant of US$2.5 million to assure the continuity of the assistance.
b) Serbia and Montenegro-Croatia. Goran Svilanovic, foreign minister of Serbia and Montenegro, met on 23 April in Belgrade with Tonino Picula, foreign minister of Croatia, and discussed border issues, police, cultural and economic cooperation. Svilanovic visited Zagreb in December last year.
c) Turkey-Greece. (1) In the last days of March, Greek Development Minister Akis Tsohadzopolous and Turkish Energy Minister Zeki Cakan signed a pipeline protocol for the transportation of Caspian Sea gas to European markets. The pipeline already links Turkey and Iran; it will start near Ankara and terminate at Alexandroupolis on the Aegean Sea. The project is calculated to cost US$300 million, and the initial studies will last one year. Linking the energy systems of the two countries would provide both economic and security benefits for the two neighbors. Greece may extend the gas pipeline network to Italy. (2) On 9 April, it was reported that Turkey and Greece would cooperate in carrying electricity from Turkey to northern Cyprus and later to southern Cyprus. After the announcement of an international tender for the construction of the power grid, Italian, French, British, and Turkish companies are expected to apply for the construction. (3) The foreign ministers of Turkey and of Greece, Ismail Cem and George Papandreou, embarked on a joint peace mission to the Middle East on 25 April and met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at his besieged headquarters in the city of Ramallah. They later met Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
d) Bulgaria-Romania. Bulgaria suggested on 9 April to its neighbor Romania that the two parliaments hold an unprecedented joint session to coordinate their efforts to join NATO. The meeting may be convened in the Danubian city of Rousse in Bulgaria.
e) Croatia-Romania. The Croatian Air Force signed a US$10 million contract with the Romanian Aerostar company to overhaul 8 MiG-21 fighters and three MiG-21 fighters for operational trainers. Four more Croat trainer MiG-21s are expected to be procured by the Romanian company. As a result of the refurbishing, the Croat jets should become compatible with the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
f) Turkey-Bulgaria. (1) During his visit to Turkey from 16-18 April, Bulgarian Minister of the Interior Georgy Petkanov met with his counterpart Rüştü Kazım Yücelen and signed an agreement concerning the Black Sea coast guard. The Bulgarian delegation was made up of 15 high-level officials, including the chief of the national counter-intelligence, Ivan Tchobanov, the chief of the Border Guard Police, Valeri Grigorov, and Deputy Minister of the Interior Boyko Kotsev. (2) The Turkish army's 33rd Mechanized Brigade began a visit to Sliven, Bulgaria, on 16 April. It participated in a joint military exercise with the Bulgarian elite 13th Tank Brigade in the same city. At the same time, a Bulgarian platoon will participate in a joint exercise on Turkish territory at the 33rd Mechanized Brigade's training sites.
The presidents of Romania and Bulgaria and the prime minister of Greece - Ion Iliescu,, Georgy Parvanov, and Costa Simitis, met on 19 April in the Romanian town of Snagov for the third trilateral forum after 1998 summit in Greece and the one held in Bulgaria in 1999. In a joint declaration, the three leaders confirmed the priority of security in Southeast Europe for their national and regional policies, as well as respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each of the Balkan countries. The three leaders agreed to support the creation of a regional network for the production and transportation of electric power, natural gas, oil, and oil products. The launch of a regional market of electric energy was also identified as an important task for the three countries. Greece reiterated its support for the candidatures of both Romania and Bulgaria for NATO membership.
The regular meeting of the heads of states within the SEECP – the South East European Cooperation Process – was convened on 28 March in Tirana. It was a good opportunity to exchange views on the future of the regional developments, to hold bilateral meetings and try to find ways of improving coordination in region initiatives. The Bulgarian president urged full interaction and cooperation between the SEECP and the Pact of Stability for Southeast Europe. The participants agreed to join forces and provide full support to the global counter-terrorist alliance.
Preparations for the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 have stimulated the building sector and business activity in Greece as well as in the broader region of Southeast Europe. The Olympic Games-related building boom and the launch of an EU structural aid package to finance large infrastructure projects have stimulated construction companies. They are looking at three to four years of strong earnings from construction. According to Greek experts, the companies that have the critical size to carry out big projects expect to start to benefit from a revenue stream from concession projects.
A Turkish-FRY business council to facilitate cooperation between the chambers of commerce of the two countries was founded on 11 April in Istanbul in the presence of the foreign ministers of the two states, Ismail Cem and Goran Svilanovic. The Yugoslav side is hopeful of also signing an agreement on free trade between the two countries. Yugoslav exports to Turkey in 2001 were US$ 5.5 million and imports from Turkey amounted to US$ 83 million.
The Russian oil giant LUKoil is the main contender for 23 per cent of the shares of the Greek company “Hellenic Petroleum-LUKoil”, which is participating in the bargain with the consortium “Lacis Group”. This will give LUKoil control of the oil market in Southeast Europe. LUKoil is the majority owner of the refineries “Petrotel” (Romania), “LUKoil-Neftohim, Bourgas” (Bulgaria), and “Odessa” (Ukraine). The new strategic position on the Greek market will allow LUKoil to expand to other countries in the region too.
a) EU-FYROM. The European Commission appealed on 9 April for radical reforms in the Macedonian media. The EC believes the Macedonian media have largely contributed to the escalation of tensions in 2001. The Macedonian media are structurally weak and, according to the Commission, dependenton the government, which controls the press, the radio, and television in the country politically and financially. The parliament is expected to work out a strategy for reforming the media and the government has been asked to stop exerting pressure on Macedonian journalists.b) EU-Bulgaria. Bulgaria closed 3 chapters in the accession negotiations with the EU on 22 April: “Social Policy”, “Economic and Currency Union” and “Institutional Issues”. Bulgaria has opened all the negotiation chapters and has closed 17 of them (Poland has closed 23 chapters and Malta 21; these countries are considered forerunners in the process). Foreign Minister Solomon Passy of Bulgaria met with Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen on 22 April in Brussels and insisted that by the end of this year, a date for Bulgaria’s accession should be determined. The future of the nuclear power plant in Kozloduy, Bulgaria looms as the most contentious issue in the relations of Sofia with EU. The Memorandum of Understanding of 1999 provides for the closure of nuclear reactors no. 1 and 2 by the end of 2002 and for the closure of reactors no. 3 and 4 to remain a subject of additional talks, but to be completed no later than 2006-2008. EU insists on 2006 as a deadline and Bulgaria on 2008-2010. The Bulgarian position is that the security of reactors 3 and 4 can be assured after improvements in the past decade. The position of EU has not been backed up with economic, security or technical arguments. Bulgaria is ready to fulfill its obligations concerning reactor 1 and 2 and insists on negotiations and technical expertise as to nuclear plants 3 and 4. The electric power produced by the Kozloduy nuclear plant is of utmost importance for Southeastern Europe; at least this is the practical conclusion of the last decade. This factor has substantially contributed to the stabilization policy of Bulgaria in the Balkan region in the last 13 years, and many countries from the region and Europe in general have profited from it.
a) NATO-Romania. Romania decided on 1 April to make the port of Constanta available to US troops in their fight against terrorism. Romanian Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu said Romania considered this step a test to allow NATO to see if his country meets NATO's demands.
b) NATO-Bulgaria. The North Atlantic Council (in a 19+1 format including the member states and Bulgaria) discussed a NATO report on Bulgaria’s progress towards membership on 23 April in Brussels. The Bulgarian side was represented by a delegation that included the foreign and the defense ministers and the deputy ministers of defense, of the interior, of the economy and of finance. According to Foreign Minister Passy, NATO's assessment was that his country’s preparedness to join the Alliance is “wonderful”.
c) NATO-Slovenia. Slovenian academics discussed a consultative referendum on the country’s membership in NATO on 17 April in Ljubljana. Though it will not be binding for the parliament’s decision, the referendum results will certainly be reflected in the position of the parliament.
d) NATO-FYROM. Nicolaas Biegman, the newly appointed NATO ambassador to Macedonia, met with the country’s president on 4 April and said the present situation was much improved in comparison to last year. He said he hoped it would improve more during his six-month term in Skopje.
e) NATO-Albania. In the beginning of April, SACEUR, General Joseph Ralston, visited Tirana. He confirmed NATO would continue to cooperate in controlling the borders. He praised the success of Albanian authorities in arresting drug traffickers on the border with Kosovo.
a) US-Romania. Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana began a five-day working visit to Washington on 1 April. The visit is another major effort to win US support for the country’s integration in NATO.
b) US-Bulgaria. (1) A Bulgarian delegation, led by Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov, visited the US in the second week of April and received long-awaited and hard-earned praise from US officials for implementing tough reforms that would bring the country closer to NATO membership. The minister is convinced the work schedule in preparation for and after the Prague summit is Bulgaria’s responsibility and it will be done successfully. (2) Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Coburgotski met on 23 April with US President George Bush. President Bush asked for strenuous efforts before November to complete the planned economic and military reforms. Experts and insiders on the issue in Bulgaria are already drafting post-November working plans to continue the accelerated reforms of the country and make it an efficient and reliable ally.
a) Russia-Greece. In the first days of April, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov visited Greece and met with his counterpart, Ioanis Papandoniou, as well as with Greek President Constantinos Stefanopoulos and Foreign Minister George Papandreou. A bilateral military cooperation agreement for 2002 was signed by the two sides. During the last three years alone, Greece has purchased Russian military equipment worth US$ 1 billion.
b) Russia-Croatia. Croatian President Stipe Mesic visited Moscow in the second week of April and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Croatian president highly praised Russia’s policy in the Balkans and its stabilizing effect.
China-Bulgaria. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy paid an official visit to China in the first week of April. This visit was in an effort to boost the bilateral economic relations. Bulgaria has the potential to be one of the doors to Europe for China due to its strategic position, Passy told high-level Chinese leaders. Bulgaria’s exports to China are nearly US$ 40 million, while imports from China amount to US$ 80 million.
The stabilizing effect of the NATO's expansion to Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia in November will have long-term effects on the regional security of Southeast Europe. The accession of the three countries to NATO would increase the homogenizing effect of the membership of three other countries of Southeast Europe – Turkey, Greece, and Hungary. The fight against terrorism already includes Bulgaria and Romania as de facto members of the counter-terrorist coalition led by the US. The membership of the three Balkan states will prevent the Balkans from becoming a ‘black hole’ in which terrorists and extremists would find shelter. The trend towards improving the bilateral relations between Greece and Turkey is a very positive factor for the regional security situation. Much work remains to be done in Macedonia, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach the point where stabilization efforts become irreversible. The South East European Cooperation Process this month marked a significant step towards further interaction and coordination with the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe. One difficult issue remains: reaching a higher level of synergy between the Pact of Stability for Southeast Europe and the Association and Stabilization Agreements between the EU and countries in the Western Balkans. Which of the present EU strategic tools should take precedence and be the focus of attention? Should the Association and Stabilization Agreements be mechanisms for the individual countries of reaching the standards that would allow them to start accession negotiations, and should the Pact of Stability for Southeast Europe be a separate track? Maybe the Stability Pact should draft 2- or 3-year programs, whose implementation would be considered an obligatory element of the individual Association and Stabilization Agreements with the Western Balkan nations. In other words, the bilateral and the multilateral strategic EU instruments should inter-lock.