BALKAN REGIONAL PROFILE:
THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING EVOLUTION OF SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE
(A Background and May 2002 Issue in Brief)
Research Study 05, 2002
Hard copy: ISSN 1311 - 3240
AN I S N-SPONSORED MONTHLY ELECTRONIC PERIODICAL
Amid sporadic provocations within the post-conflict rehabilitation process in Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) during May, Southeastern Europe is gaining the reputation of a place where regional wars or internal conflicts of a bigger scale are becoming less and less possible and highly improbable. Neither did the expected spring offensive of Albanian militants in FYROM materialize, nor did a dramatic crisis occur in Kosovo after the parliamentary elections. Three significant trends within the region-building concept of Southeastern Europe as a normal part of the European continent were particularly pressing in the last month:
First, the tendency to formulate better national approaches and strategies to adapting to the requirements of EU membership. The promise of EU membership is becoming more and more of a tool through which the policies of Balkan countries can be influenced. The different levels of preparedness for integration into the EU are reflected in the EU's differentiated strategy for the individual countries. The Stability Pact has the potential to become a toolbox for the EU in amending the various problems that make the region so instable. The perspective of EU membership is becoming a real driving force in the region-building process.
Second, there is a tendency among the Balkan countries to homogenize approaches and strategies for dealing with the security risks and defense problems through choosing different forms of interaction with NATO. Some of the Balkan countries are already members of NATO, three others are very close to joining NATO, and three have candidate status and are part of the Membership Action Plan process. Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina are applying for Partnership for Peace status. Hence, the strategic culture that is dominating the security and defense agenda is without doubt that of NATO.
Third, after years of ethnic tolerance in the country’s society and politics, Bulgaria showed the potential for rapprochement and gradual unification of the different branches of Christianity for the motivation and progress of the European states. The four-day visit of Pope John Paul II in Bulgaria and his declaration that he had never believed in Bulgaria’s involvement in the assassination attempt against him ended a nightmare for the Bulgarians that lasted more than two decades. More important, however, is the reconciliation between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and their example for other Orthodox Patriarchs and other Christian denominations. The example goes beyond the Christian religion and affects other religions in the world today. Tolerance, rationality, interaction, and humanity between them are essential for improving security on a global scale.
Terrorism continued to be of priority concern in Southeastern Europe in May. It was confirmed that al-Qaida cells continue to operate in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The US warned Turkey that it is a target of terrorist activities as Ankara prepares to take command of ISAF in Afghanistan in June. Also in May, it was agreed that NATO and the EAPC countries, including those in Southeastern Europe, would intensify their cooperation in fighting terrorism. The US State Department Report on Terrorism this month highlighted the progress in Greece’s anti-terrorism efforts. At the same time, there was some criticism over the lack of criminal convictions of suspected terrorists. The Bulgarian government drafted its Law on Terrorism for approval by parliament. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) commended Bulgarian drug enforcement efforts. Cooperation between the US and Bulgaria was demonstrated this month by the US decision to open an FBI office in Sofia.
In FYROM, NATO continued its operation “Amber Fox”. Problems between Greece and other NATO countries may prevent EU plans to replace NATO with its own Rapid Reaction Force in the autumn of this year. Several times this month, Albanian gunmen attacked Macedonian soldiers from Kosovo.
In Kosovo, UNMIK rejected Kosovar assertions of sovereignty. Albanian extremists provoked and attacked Christians in the province during the Orthodox Easter. Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi of Kosovo visited the US. Preparations for the 26 October municipal elections have begun in the province.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the new International High Representative and special representative of the EU, former British Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown, began his mission in Sarajevo. An EU-led Police Task Force is preparing to succeed the UN-sponsored police mission.
The war crimes prosecutor at the ICTY, Carla del Ponte, visited Croatia and discussed ways of further cooperation with Zagreb. A poll published in Zagreb shows that the majority of the Croats would like to normalize their relations with Serbia, but 85 per cent are of the opinion that Yugoslavia should pay for the war damages.
In May, the Serbian leadership intensified its cooperation with the ICTY: four major war crimes suspects surrendered to The Hague tribunal. A small arms and light weapons disposal center was opened in Belgrade. It is supported by the UNDP and the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe. US Secretary of State Colin Powell confirmed on 21 May that the authorities in Belgrade are cooperating with the ICTY and that this allows the resumption of suspended US aid.
President Milo Djukanovic of Montenegro made a visit to the US in the last days of April and met with the US secretary of state.
The trilateral cooperation of Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania in May confirmed the Turkish support for the other two countries' NATO candidatures. The three presidents agreed to continue their cooperation in an effort to improve regional stability. They also agreed that Bulgaria has the capacity of becoming the regional energy coordination center.
Erhard Busek, the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe Coordinator, confirmed his determination to hand over the Pact’s projects to the regional countries. The IMF approved a US$829 million loan to Belgrade for the period 2002-2005 to help the country's currency reserve.
Romanian and Bulgarian parliamentary foreign policy and defense committees held a joint meeting this month and adopted a joint declaration on bilateral cooperation to entry in NATO. The speakers of the parliaments of the Vilnius Ten Group of NATO candidates met in Zagreb, Croatia. They clearly stated their countries’ readiness to support the international coalition against terrorism. NATO is preparing for further cuts in its forces serving in Southeastern Europe. Due to the improved security situation, these troops will be reduced by 20 per cent by the end of this year. This month, Croatia was admitted to NATO's Membership Action Plan (MAP). This will help Zagreb meet the alliance's accession requirements. The parliament of Slovenia decided this month to reject a proposal for an early referendum on NATO membership. Two parliamentary parties continue to oppose the country’s NATO entry. Bulgaria hosted the regular North Atlantic Assembly meeting from 25-28 May. 214 MPs from NATO and aspirant countries participated in the event.
In May, the US Senate authorized security assistance for seven nations that hope to join NATO. This strongly supported the Bush administration’s position of robust enlargement of the alliance. Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia belong to the nations that will receive assistance.Russia began to withdraw part of its KFOR contingent with its equipmentdue to the diminished danger of large-scale violence and the growing need for these troops in the fight against internal extremism and terrorism.
a) Bosnia and Herzegovina. NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said on 7 May there was no assumption that al-Qaida had completely left Bosnia and that NATO was still on alert. There is also information provided by FBI sources that terrorist planning and plotting is still going on in Bosnia.
b) Bulgaria. (1) The Bulgarian government's draft law is ready for presentation to Parliament for approval. It will allow the authorities to block financial support for terrorism. The draft provides a list of individuals and groups suspected of involvement with terrorism. They would be cut off from any kind of financial assistance in the country. (2) A bilateral agreement to open an office of the FBI in Sofia was announced after the visit of Chief Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior Boyko Borisov to the US in the beginning of May. The suggestion was made by the US in March 2001. (3) The international operations chief of the US DEA, Michael Vigil, praised Bulgaria on 19 May for its efforts to stem drug trafficking from Asia to Europe across the Balkans. Bulgarian police has seized 3.5 tons of heroin over the past two years, which is the most significant interdiction effort in Central and Eastern Europe. These results are especially important because the drug trade helps to finance terrorist groups, including al-Qaida.
c) NATO-EAPC States. At the NATO Council meeting in Reykjavik on 15 May, NATO announced its intention of deepening its ties with non-alliance partners in Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia in the fight against terrorism. The Central Asian EAPC countries that have not applied for NATO membership are especially effective in their cooperation against terrorism.
d) Turkey. The US government warned its ally Turkey on 18 May that terrorists are planning attacks against Turkish civil aviation assets. Turkey will take over the command of ISAF in Afghanistan for six months on 22 June. It will send an additional 1'000 troops to support the 261 Turkish soldiers already in Afghanistan. Turkish Brigadier General Akin Zorlu will command ISAF. The US has pledged to contribute US$228 million towards covering the costs of the mission.e) Greece. A US State Department report on terrorism published on 22 May noted progress in Greek anti-terrorism efforts. At the same time, the report criticized Greece for the lack of criminal convictions of suspected terrorists. Greece will host the 2004 Olympic Games and is increasing its cooperation with other countries on counter-terrorism activities. A prominent Greek urban terrorist group, 17 November, is still active, and not a single member of this group has been arrested in the last 27 years.
a) FYROM. (1) On 23 May, Albanian gunmen opened fire on a watchtower of the border with Kosovo. The battle that followed caused no casualties on either side. On 25 May, another Albanian attack disrupted the peace process in FYROM. (2) NATO extended its mission in FYROM by at least four months beyond the current mandate. A Dutch command will replace the German on 26 June. NATO's decision was made at the request of the president of FYROM. EU plans to take over the peacekeeping mission when the NATO mandate ends have been hampered by a dispute with Greece (both an EU and NATO member) over the use of NATO assets by the EU. Greece protests an arrangement between Turkey and EU, according to which Ankara is consulted in the event of any proposed EU military operation. Turkey is not member of the EU.
b) Kosovo. (1) Albanian extremists in Kosovo attacked Orthodox monks and nuns with stones on St George's Day (6 May). The victims were waiting for KFOR troops to escort them back to their monasteries in Pec and Visoky Decani. (2) It was announced on 9 May that the municipal elections in Kosovo will be held on 26 October. (3) The prime minister of Kosovo, Bajram Rexhepi, was received by US Secretary of State Colin Powell on 20 May. Powell commended the prime minister on his commitment to developing democratic institutions in Kosovo and on his declared support for a multiethnic and integrated Kosovo. (4) The UN administration on 23 May vetoed a parliamentary resolution proposed by ethnic Albanians that implied the province's sovereignty. Michael Steiner, the UNMIK chief declared “null and void” the first ever resolution adopted by the assembly since it was set up six months ago. It was a clear signal that any assertions of Kosovar sovereignty will be rejected.
c) Bosnia and Herzegovina. (1) This month marked the end of the mission of Wolfgang Petritsch as high representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the beginning of the mission of Paddy Ashdown. Fighting corruption and organized crime are the main tasks of the new high representative, who will be also a special representative of EU in Bosnia and Herzegovina. (2) During the past month, the EU confirmed its intentions to introduce an EU-led police mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina that will succeed the UN-sponsored International Police Task Force by December this year. (3) NATO dropped pamphlets by air in southeast Bosnia and Herzegovina, promising a reward for any information leading to the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, the war criminal and former leader of the Republika Srpska.
(1) A Belgrade court issued a summons on 8 May to 17 individuals indicted by the ICTY in The Hague. The authorities of Serbia and Montenegro, however, are perfectly aware that the next steps should be to allow access to relevant archives and witnesses and of the transfer of indictees still at large. The intensified cooperation with The Hague tribunal was demonstrated by the surrender of four war crimes suspects. (2) The president of Montenegro met in Washington with US Secretary of State Colin Powell at the end of April. The position of Milo Djukanovic was strengthened after the local elections in the country, despite the EU's support for preserving the integrity of a looser federation of Serbia and Montenegro. (3) A regional center for the disposal of small arms and light weapons was launched in Belgrade on 8 May. The new clearinghouse is supported by the UNDP and the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe. The mission of the center is to create a secure environment in a post-conflict zone. The center is headed by retired Dutch General Henny van der Graaf. (4) US Secretary of State Colin Powell confirmed on 21 May that the authorities in Belgrade have been cooperating with the ICTY in The Hague. The certification allows suspended US aid to resume. The announcement came soon after Powell's meeting with the Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and the foreign minister of Serbia and Montenegro, Goran Svilanovic.
(1) Croatia tried to reach an agreement with UN prosecutor Carla del Ponte on jurisdiction over all future war trials on 7 May. The Croatian wishes however, will hardly be agreeable to the ICTY prosecution. (2) According to a survey, 47 per cent of the Croats would like to see the normalization of relations between their country and Serbia, while 29 per cent are opposed. 85 per cent of Croats think Serbia should pay for war damages.Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou presented a document to the EU on 21 May in which Greece insists on defining precise dates for Bulgaria’s and Romania’s EU accession. The document also insists on individual strategies of accelerating the accession negotiations of the two countries. The Greek foreign minister proposed increased financial support for the integration and a new “road map” for the continuing negotiations at the upcoming summit in Copenhagen in December . At this summit, the dates of the accession of the two countries must be clearly defined, the Greek document says. Analysts in Bulgaria highlight three aspects of this Greek approach: first, it gives the two candidate countries a clearer understanding of the EU position on future accession; second, it balances the active Turkish support for Bulgaria and Romania in their NATO membership bid; and third, there is a danger that the different paces of EU accession on the part of Bulgaria and Romania will be leveled at the expense of the more advanced applicant.
The presidents of Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania – Ahmet Sezer, Georgy Parvanov and Ion Iliescu - met in the Aegean resort of Cesme, Turkey from 13-15 May. This has been the fifth meeting of the presidents of the three countries since 1997 aimed at increasing the cooperation and enhancing the stability of the region. The three leaders signed an agreement for cooperation in cases of emergencies as well as humanitarian and natural disasters. The leaders confirmed their belief that the southward enlargement of NATO will provide it with new military opportunities and will ensure strategic depth for a more efficient fight against terrorism and non-military threats to security, such as organized crime. The Bulgarian president said that Sofia would return the support given by Turkey for Bulgaria's NATO membership application by providing support to Ankara’s bid for EU membership. The three presidents agreed to establish in Bulgaria a regional coordination center for energy issues in Southeastern Europe. Cooperation on energy issues in the Balkans is an integral element of the security situation. Bulgaria provides 50 per cent of the region’s electric energy.
During a seminar on crisis management in Southeastern Europe in Austria on 11 May, Erhard Busek, the coordinator of the Stability Pact, confirmed his intention to bring the projects of the Pact closer to the countries of the region, making them the real “owners” of the Pact. Another aim is to extend the co-chairmanship of the Regional Tables from six months to one year and more. The main problems in improving the efficiency of the Stability Pact are political – greater political involvement is indispensable in making it more effective.
By the end of June, the two countries will form a working group from Bulgargas and the Turkish gas company Botas with a mandate to study ways of transporting natural gas from Turkey through Bulgaria. This was announced by Bulgarian Energy Minister Milko Kovachev on 1 May at the end of his visit to Turkey. The minister discussed bilateral issues in the electric energy sector such as the export and construction of power facilities.
On 13 May, the IMF approved a US$829 million loan to Serbia and Montenegro for the period 2002-2005. Its objective is to support the economic reforms of this country, and the first payment of US$64 million was made on 12 May. The loan will allow Belgrade to re-schedule 66 per cent of its total US$4.5 billion debt to the Paris Club of creditors .
At the annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in Bucharest on 20-21 May, the question of how to improve the joint efforts in implementing the projects of the Bank in the Balkans was discussed. The EBRD provided €678 million for 46 new projects to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, FYROM, Romania, and Serbia and Montenegro in 2001. According to Bulgarian Finance Minister Milen Velchev, the economic instabilities will have a negative impact on the regional transition countries in 2002. The construction of Transport Corridor No. 8 from the Black Sea to the Adriatic Sea through Bulgaria, FYROM, and Albania is the most significant EBRD project as far as Bulgaria is concerned.
The US has rejected demands by Greece for offsets for arms projects. Greece demands 100 per cent offsets, contracts to Greek industry equal to all contracts to US industry, to ensure weapons projects help Greek economy. The Pentagon, however, has offered to replace the offsets, reduced to no more than 45 per cent, with co-production agreements.
EU-Bulgaria. Bulgaria on 14 May declared it is ready and capable of participating in the European Rapid Reaction Force. A Bulgarian mechanized battalion will be at the disposal of the new European force, depending on the operations, Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov said in Brussels. The first meeting of the defense ministers of the EU and the EU candidate states took place in Brussels on 14 May.
a) NATO-Bulgaria, Romania. The parliamentary foreign policy and defense committees of Bulgaria and Romania held a joint meeting on 13 May in Rousse, Bulgaria and adopted a joint declaration on cooperation for entry to NATO.
b) NATO-Vilnius 10 Group of Candidate Countries. The meeting of the parliamentary leaders of the Vilnius 10 Group was convened on 9-10 May in Zagreb, Croatia. The NATO candidates pledged their cooperation in the fight against terrorism, organized crime, and corruption.
c) NATO-Southeastern Europe. NATO announced on 10 May that it is preparing for a 20 per cent reduction of its 57'000 strong military presence in the Balkans. SFOR will be cut from 19'000 to 12'000 troops, and KFOR from 38'000 to 33'200 by the end of the year. NATO plans to pull together separate operations and adopt a more unified regional approach with more lightly armed forces. This is due to the changes in the security situation in the region – a change largely induced by the presence of these same forces in the Balkans.
d) NATO-Croatia. (1) On 14 May, the North Atlantic Council decided in Reykjavik to admit Croatia into the Membership Action Plan (MAP). This decision will encourage Croatia to accelerate the reform process and adapt to the requirements of NATO membership. This decision acknowledges the progress achieved by Croatia in its reforms, its partnership with NATO, and its contribution to stability in the Balkans. Zagreb is expected to submit its first Annual National Program this autumn. (2) A PfP and Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe joint exercise took place from 22-24 May in Croatia, near the cities of Trigor, Ploce, Imotski and Sinj on a stretch of the Dalmatian coast. 28 countries practiced forest fire fighting.
e) NATO-Slovenia. The parliament of Slovenia on 23 May voted 53-9 against a proposal to hold a referendum on Slovenia’s membership in NATO before the country receives an invitation.f) NATO-Bulgaria. The North Atlantic Assembly convened its regular meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria from 25-28 May. 214 MPs from NATO and applicant countries took part in the event. The participants discussed security problems and ways of dealing with them. In a final declaration, the NATO MPs said that a geographically balanced enlargement, including 7 states from Eastern, Central, and Southeastern Europe was expected by the end of the year.
a) US-NATO Applicants. (1) US Secretary of State Colin Powell said on 15 May in Reykjavik that Washington wants a robust NATO enlargement. (2) On 17 May, the US Senate voted 85-6 in favor of the Gerald BH Solomon Freedom Consolidation Act of 2001. The bill endorses the enlargement of NATO and authorizes US$55.5 million in military assistance for NATO aspirants of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Romania.
b) US-Slovenia. The prime minister of Slovenia paid a working visit to the US from 13-16 May. He met with the US president, officials, senators, and congressional representatives.
c) US-Bulgaria. (1) The Chief Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, Boyko Borisov, headed a delegation to the US in the first week of May where he met with the leaders of all law enforcement and intelligence services. Agreement on a continuation of the improving cooperation was reached, including on opening an FBI field office in Sofia. (2) The new US ambassador to Sofia, James Pardew, began his diplomatic mission to Bulgaria on 6 May. He pledged to support the Bulgarian integration in NATO and to promote US investments in the Bulgarian economy.
A withdrawal of part of the Russian peacekeepers and their equipment from Kosovo began on 6 May. The downsizing of the Russian KFOR contingent is in accordance with the decision of the Russian president and a corresponding decree of the government. By 1 June, 1'300 troops as well as 400 pieces of equipment and wheeled vehicles are to be withdrawn from Kosovo.
The Vatican-Bulgaria. Pope John Paul II made a historic visit to Bulgaria from 23-26 May – the first ever by a Pope in office. He reminded his hosts that he made the creators of the Bulgarian and Cyrillic alphabets, St Cyril and St Methodius, patron saints of Europe in 1980. This visit was a significant step in reconciling the Orthodox and Catholic churches and representatives of the two churches. The Pope's visit had been eagerly expected by Bulgaria's 80'000 Catholics. The visit was remarkable in terms of domestic and international politics because of the Holy Father's clear statement on 24 May that he had never believed in the so-called “Bulgarian connection” in the assassination attempt against him in May 1981, and that he has always loved the Bulgarians. This statement raised the national self-esteem of the Bulgarians, who were accused for two decades of plotting the assassination attempt. The Cold War finally ended for the Bulgarians after this statement of Pope John Paul II.
During the reported period, the Balkans managed to disassociate themselves from their image as the powder keg of Europe. The EU and its instrument, the Stability Pact, as well as NATO are becoming more and more important in defining the social, political, economic, defense, and cultural agenda of the region. The visit of Pope John Paul II to Bulgaria brought a new promise for the unification of the Christian denominations and for the peaceful meeting of the various religions in the effort to help in the solution of the multitude of secular problems.