BALKAN REGIONAL PROFILE:
THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING EVOLUTION OF SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE
(A Background and March 2003 Issue in Brief)
Research Study 47, 2003
Hard copy: ISSN 1311 - 3240
AN I S N-SPONSORED MONTHLY ELECTRONIC PERIODICAL
Two groups of factors influenced the developments in the security area and the region-building efforts of Southeast Europe in March: the international environment and national events and processes.
The first group of factors includes a variety of interacting influences. The individual Balkan countries have been directly or indirectly “attracted” to the big powers’ global tug-of-war between a multi-polar world vision and a unilateral world vision. It is a real challenge for the foreign-political systems of the individual countries to decide how to react and to adapt to the evolving developments, so that they keep various institutional options (EU, NATO) open, while at the same time demonstrating that they are responsible and engaged in the global fight on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation. Each of the countries from the region has also to be careful how their decisions relating to the global powers’ rivalry game will reflect on the region and its stability. These factors are currently informing the individual Balkan countries’ behavior and regional developments in Southeast Europe.
Certain Balkan countries – Albania, Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Romania, and Turkey – have become part of the Coalition for the Immediate Disarmament of Iraq. Others – Croatia and Slovenia – are supportive of the coalition. Yet other Southeast European countries may provide free air-space passage, air bases, and in some cases military units (Romania, Bulgaria), as well as post-conflict peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction efforts.
The war on Iraq is expected to intensify terrorist pressure, and some observers expect more suicide terrorists in the Middle East and Muslim communities around the world. Some of these terrorists may try to establish a Balkan connection. Therefore, Bulgaria and Romania have intensified their counter-terrorism measures. The danger seems to be the possibility of a connection between international terrorists and local organized crime, or Albanian extremists and separatists. For years national and trans-border efforts have been adopted to prevent such a link. Additional counter-terrorist measures have been taken to protect airfields used by the US in Bulgaria and Romania, especially after the calls of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Muslim clergy around the Middle East for jihad (holy war) – in its militant interpretation.
On 26 March in Brussels, government representatives of Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia signed the accession protocols with NATO, documents that will be confirmed later by government and state leaders. While there are few concerns about the forthcoming membership in NATO, certain doubts have arisen that Bulgaria’s and Romania’s membership in the Coalition for Immediate Disarmament of Iraq may become an obstacle for their joining the EU in 2007. Accession in 2007 already represents a three-year delay, compared to the rest of the EU candidates. There are indications that EU accession negotiations may be slowed down, not by Bulgaria but by Brussels. The French President last month “promised” Bulgaria and Romania that European public opinion would have a negative effect on the EU’s decision on the accession of Romania and Bulgaria after they had supported the US-UK-led coalition against Iraq and thus defied the French-Russian resistance to the coalition.
These trans-Atlantic disputes could have a negative effect on the regional stability and regional reconstruction of Southeast Europe. If the EU punishes Bulgaria and Romania by slowing down or postponing those countries’ accession to EU, the activity of the most consistent factors of Balkan stability in the last decade would be blocked. Balkan stability has been possible as a result of Bulgaria’s and Romania’s stopping the spill over effect of the post-Yugoslav conflicts and by these countries’ consistent process of reform.
At present it is important that the positive tendencies in the post-Kosovo Balkans are retained. There are two fundamental regional requirements for preserving security and building up the region: First, the EU must keep to its pledge to allow Bulgaria and Romania access to the EU in 2007, and second, the EU must clearly state that EU membership will be a possibility for all other Southeast European non-EU countries, applying the strategy of differentiation and self-differentiation.
The case of Turkey remains unique after the escalation of the conflict in Iraq. Turkey has already received an additional requirement by the EU: that it refrain from entering northern Iraq. No doubt, Brussels needs to assess carefully the complex regional stability situation that Turkey may face at its southern borders, despite its difficult decision to cancel support to its traditional strategic ally, the United States, in the hope of preventing refugee disaster and state-building claims by the Kurdish ethnic minority.
In this tense global security situation, Balkan countries are acting with a high level of cooperation, generated by their interests to improve regional situation. Greek Presidency of the EU is a lucky coincidence for the Balkan countries, as it allows for the dissemination within the governing institutions of the EU of an informed perspective on the West Balkan region and on general regional developments.
The second group of factors includes national developments. First, the murder of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic is one of the biggest provocations to the post-Milosevic transformation process in Serbia and Montenegro. It led to the introduction of a state of emergency. More than 2’600 suspects were arrested, and within 12 days a key suspect was taken into custody. The murder of the leader of the democratic reform process in Serbia was a blow to the region-building process and a reminder that stability in Serbia is still fragile. Unfortunately, a political compromise of October 2000, made during the so-called popular uprising by the democratic opposition with the military and security services, proved an inadequate framework for implementing consistent democratic reforms. Once Zoran Djindjic decided to put Serbia under the rule of law, he was shot by those who had different plans for Serbia’s future. Hard times are ahead for Serbian democrats and other Serbs committed to making Serbia an equal and dignified member of 21st-century Europe and a respected neighbor in the Balkans.
1. Security Threats: Terrorism, Threat of Iraq’s Possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Casualties, and Organized Crime
a) Turkey. Though Turkey became part of the Coalition for the Immediate Disarmament of Iraq, it prohibited the use of its airspace for Tomahawks launched by coalition forces from the eastern Mediterranean. Eleven corridors of Turkish airspace were opened on 21 March for US and coalition aircraft during the next six months. Several hundred US paratroopers landed in northern Iraq in preparation for an attack on major cities in the area. Ankara did not allow 62’000 US troops to open a northern front against Baghdad. Washington cancelled plans to provide a multi-billion dollar US assistance package to Turkey. US authorities warned Turkey not to enter Iraqi territory because the Kurdish population in northern Iraq would be provoked and would engage in fighting with Turkish troops. Some 60’000 Kurdish fighters are prepared to join US forces in the north of the country and open a second front against Baghdad.
Turkish attitudes to the US war on Iraq so far may lead to an enduring strain in bilateral relations. However, if Turkey enters Kurdistan, the EU may rethink Ankara’s possible future membership. Officials from the US and the EU have made declarations to this effect, reflecting the difficulty of Turkey’s position. Turkish Chief of the General Staff Hilmi Ozkok said on 26 March in Dyarbakir that Turkey would send extra troops into northern Iraq in coordination with the US, if forces currently there were unable to cope with security concerns. Turkey is concerned about possible moves by Iraqi Kurds to assert independence, a prospect that could re-ignite a separatist Kurdish rebellion in adjoining southeastern Turkey. General Ozkok underlined the danger perceived by Turkey across its border, saying: “If things get out of control one day, I hope our friends will not have to ask us to do what they oppose now”.
b) Greece. On 3 March Greece started the trial of 19 suspected ’17 November’ terrorists in Athens. The defeat of the terrorist group ends one grave security threat for the 2004 Olympic games in Greece.
c) Romania. The US stationed about 1’000 troops at a Romanian Black Sea airbase to act as an air bridge for equipment and personnel going to the Gulf, the US air force said on 13 March. The role of Romania’s Kogalniceanu airbase and neighboring Bulgaria’s Sarafovo airbase is to forward troops, cargo, fuel, and vehicles from US bases in Germany.
d) Albania. (1) Albanian Defense Minister Pandeli Maiko said at the beginning of March that the Albanian army was ready to send a 70-member special unit in the case of a strike on Iraq. On 9 March the Council of Ministers approved this proposal. According to President Alfred Moisiu, war against Iraq is for peace, as he told British Minister of Defense Geoffrey Hoon on 13 March in London. (2) On 4 March a US State Department report disclosed that organized criminal groups are using Albania as a transit route for drugs trafficking and other kinds of smuggling activities. Albania is a central point on the path of drugs because of its strategic geographic position, the weak Albanian police and judicial system, and loose border control. Heroin, cocaine, and marihuana are the drugs most often transported through Albania.
a) FYROM. On 31 March NATO ended its operation Allied Harmony in FYROM. The EU begins a successor operation there on 1 April. The NATO mission provided an international presence to support monitoring groups and ensure stability. It was established at the request of FYROM President Boris Traikovsky and was terminated with the full agreement of the authorities in Skopje. NATO remains committed to helping FYROM become fully integrated in Euro-Atlantic structures and will maintain a senior civilian representative and a senior military representative in Skopje. The force commander of the EU-led operation will be co-located in Skopje with the NATO senior military representative. Deputy SACEUR will be the operation commander of the EU-led operation and will play a pivotal role between the EU and NATO.
b) Kosovo. On 4 March Kosovo Albanian war crimes suspect and prominent politician Fatmir Limaj was transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. He will face trial after his arrest in Slovenia last month. Limaj is the highest-ranking suspect in an indictment list of the ICTY of the former Kosovo Liberation Army. A crackdown on rebels guilty of crimes is crucial for the process of reconciliation in Kosovo.
c) Bosnia and Herzegovina. (1) On 7 March Momcilo “Momo” Mandic, Milovan “Cicko” Bjelica, ManCo Oil Company and Privredna Banka Sarajevo AD were designated under the Western Balkans Executive Order 13219 of the US Treasury for their financial and material support of Radovan Karadzic – a person indicted for war crimes by the ICTY. Their assistance enabled Radovan Karadzic to elude prosecution by the ICTY, thereby obstructing implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords. (2) On 26 March US authorities arrested Muhamad Shachirbey, former foreign minister and, till recently, ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the UN. He is accused of misappropriating of US$2.5 million of international donations. In 2001 Interpol issued an arrest order for Shachirbey.
Serbia and Montenegro
a) Bulgaria-Serbia and Montenegro. From 28 February to 1 March Foreign Minister of Serbia and Montenegro Goran Svilanovic visited Sofia for talks with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy. Svilanovic met also President Georgy Parvanov and Prime Minister Simeon Saxkoburggotsky. The foreign ministers of the two countries made a joint declaration in support of the Sofia-Nis highway project. Svilanovic told the Bulgarian daily newspaper Trud that Bulgaria was “an example for the decisiveness of the nation to define its objectives and to reach agreement on the priority topics for the country”. Svilanovic also said he hoped to achieve the same agreement in his own country.
b) Turkey-Albania. On 3 March Albanian Foreign Minister Ilir Meta visited Ankara. He met Prime Minister Gül. During a meeting with Turkish President Ahmet Sezer, the latter said Turkey would support Albania’s accession to NATO.
c) Albania-Bulgaria. On 26-27 March Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxkoburggotsky made an official visit to Albania. He met Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano and President Alfred Moisiu. The leaders of the two countries discussed the fight against terrorism, the stability in the Balkan region, and the joint fight on organized crime. The two countries confirmed their interest in the construction of transport corridor No. 8 – from Burgas on the Black Sea to Vlora on the Adriatic Sea via Skopje, FYROM. The oil pipeline between the two cities is expected to start functioning in 2007.
United States-Serbia and Montenegro
NATO -Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia
Bulgaria, one of the Southeast European candidates, is contributing to NATO in fighting terrorism, including in Afghanistan. Sofia has clearly made a contribution to the stabilization of Southeast Europe and the Black Sea region. The temporary membership of Bulgaria in the UN Security Council contributes to NATO’s diplomatic potential. However, Sofia has to complete its reform in the judicial system, the fight with corruption, the control of arms exports, and the protection of classified information. More is expected from the government regarding the integration of the Roma population. On 28 March the Bulgarian parliament approved the document agreed on by the Bulgarian government and NATO. The interesting part of the government’s declaration was a clear link between Bulgaria’s membership in NATO and the support Sofia provides to the coalition of the willing against the regime in Iraq.
In a referendum on 23 March, Slovenians approved the country’s entry into NATO. Sixty-six per cent of those who voted were in favor. The turnout was 60 per cent of eligible voters.
On 10 March in Washington, DC, Evans announced that Romania was designated a market-based economy by the US.
Both Bulgaria and Romania rely extensively on US Senate support in the ratification process of the NATO accession protocols. Both Sofia and Bucharest have provided diplomatic and military support to the US-led war on disarming Iraq from weapons of mass destruction and in the fight against terrorism.
During his visit to Bulgaria, Putin launched a new concept of the unity of Europe, of which Russian-Bulgarian relations are to be a part. The core of this vision was made more visible at the 5 March meeting in Paris of the foreign ministers of France, Russia, and Germany, who adopted a joint stance on the upcoming deliberations in the UN Security Council on Iraq. United Europe, with Russia as a key actor, is another option Russian foreign policy could pragmatically exploit, alongside US-Russian and Chinese-Russian strategic partnerships. This may make sense for Russia and France, and probably also for Germany, but no small country in Central, Eastern, and Southeast Europe can feel comfortable in a configuration of powers in which directorates of the great powers will dictate what is right and what is wrong in international relations. The single leadership of the US is currently succeeding over the mixture of signals coming from the as yet undefined “single European position” and “European unity” of EU and Russia.
In March Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia made an important step toward NATO membership. Each country has a specific list of tasks to be finished by the time the ratification process in the member-countries is completed. The stability of the region of Southeast Europe will be enhanced, once the three countries are fully integrated. This will be helpful for stabilizing the situation in countries like Serbia and FYROM, and for marginalizing organized crime – a real evil for the region in general.
The evolving situation in March reminded us that the EU continues to be most significant to the region’s future – both as a harmonizing and as a developing factor. The launch of the EU defense operation in FYROM is another factor: the EU is also seriously needed for hard security reasons. Therefore, any delays to the integration of Bulgaria and Romania after 2007 or any move that might shake the confidence of the other, non-EU Balkan countries regarding their future with the EU may have negative effects on the region’s stability. The EU has opened a variety of developing processes and tendencies and is obliged to carry these through to completion. This does not mean that political conditions are no longer relevant in the EU approach to the Balkans. In addition, involving Bulgaria and Romania by 2007 has another significant aspect, namely the fact that integration processes in Southeast Europe will influence the eastern coast of the Black Sea in South Caucasus. The integration of Turkey into the EU remains a difficult task. The EU must overcome its internal divisions as soon as possible and should remember how many important interests unite the individual members, including their interests with regard to Southeast European.