BALKAN REGIONAL PROFILE:
THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING EVOLUTION OF SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE
(A Background and April 2003 Issue in Brief)
Research Study 48, 2002
Hard copy: ISSN 1311 - 3240
AN I S N-SPONSORED MONTHLY ELECTRONIC PERIODICAL
The various influences of the leaders of the anti-Iraq coalition on the countries of Southeast Europe were consistent with the various perceptions and interpretations of the Balkan states regarding the fight against terrorism and the fight against WMD proliferation. This is important, as the traditional view has been that Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania have merely tried to please a superpower in exchange for benefits. By contrast, for these countries EU and NATO memberships were no less important than the preservation of good relations with Washington and London. At times of conflicting interests, political values drive countries towards a particular choice. For these countries, terrorism and WMD proliferation were the relevant factors; the regime change in Iraq also mattered, but mostly because it was a means for cutting the links of a dictatorial state to terrorist organizations and to possession of WMD. In short, these countries had fewer economic interests in the Iraq war than other established Western, Central, and Eastern European states. Rather, the Balkan countries demonstrated values and priorities in security matters that were exemplary.
These developments were paralleled this month by a continuing convergence of interests of global centers of power regarding Balkan stability – for the good of the people in the region and in Europe. The European Union undertook two unprecedented actions, both with a strong Balkan connection: First, the EU launched a military operation, Operation Concordia, that replaces the NATO peacekeeping contingent in the troubled Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Second, the EU made the historic decision to admit a former Communist, former Yugoslav state in Southeast Europe – Slovenia. Both events demonstrate that the EU is making its way slowly towards the Balkans. One might anticipate what further progress might have been made in Southeast Europe since 1990, if Brussels had thought more strategically. It should also be noted that a Balkan state, namely Greece, was the presiding country when these two actions were taken. Unfortunately, by the beginning of May, the Greek Presidency had not been able to provide the conditions allowing Bulgaria to complete its chapters that are open for negotiations or to open the few remaining ones. Bulgaria has not experienced such an interruption in its negotiation process since the launch of the accession talks in 2000, and it is ready to do its part of the job. One would hope that this is not a consequence of the country’s choice to support the US in the war against Saddam Hussein or a deliberate move to decelerate Bulgaria’s progress towards EU membership.
Another positive achievement this month for the Balkans was the continuation of the ratification process by NATO countries. The US Administration presented the issue to the US Senate for consideration and eventual ratification with a positive proposal. Canada and Norway have already completed the ratification process. Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia have already ratified their accession protocols.
The only differing attitude to the Balkans this month came from Russia. The Russian General Staff started implementing its decision to withdraw its peacekeepers from SFOR and KFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo respectively. Russia has its reasons for making this decision, including the change of mood after Iraq, when UN’s mandate to apply force was not sought. The UN is not the mandating authority of either SFOR or KFOR, and Russia’s move indicates its refusal to be politically dependent on NATO’s decisions. There are financial factors, too, but Russia has lost its positions in Serbia and is no longer motivated to provide military contingents to a region that has lost its strategic attraction. At the same time the US mounted its support to the government in Belgrade, encouraging the democratic reforms in post-Milosevic Serbia.
The persisting conflicts in FYROM, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue to influence the Western Balkans’ state of security and transformation to modernity. They remain a long-term problem for the countries of the region and for all those involved in Southeast Europe. Parallel to the continuing political, military, financial, and economic effort of the international community in these areas, the instruments of bilateral ties and regional initiatives also contributed this month to the general improvement of the situation in these conflicting zones. It is worth noting that the international financial institutions and the World Trade Organization (WTO) also intensified their activities in Turkey, Serbia and Montenegro, and FYROM. An interesting development, following the fruitful political and military cooperation between the US and Bulgaria, was that the US declared its intention to intensify its investment activity in Bulgaria, with the aim of matching Bulgaria’s case to those of Poland and Hungary in the 1990s. In national developments, Serbia’s authorities lifted the state of emergency after the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic on 12 March 2003. The authorities in Belgrade also announced that they have accused former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic of plotting the murder of Ivan Stambolic, his contender in the 2000 presidential elections.
a) Turkey. (1) On 16 April, SACEUR General James L. Jones ordered the gradual withdrawal from Turkey of AWACS surveillance aircraft and crews, Patriot missile units, and other support personnel deployed in February to face a potential threat from neighboring Iraq. NATO’s Defense Planning Committee decided that the mission, Operation Display Deterrence, had met its objectives. The decision was taken on the basis of NATO military and other assessments and advice, and Turkish views. (2) On 25 April, US troops of the 173rd airborne brigade in Northern Iraq arrested 12 Turkish special forces troops and 11 support personnel. The Turkish soldiers entered Iraq secretly on 23 April with the aim of preparing riots in Kirkuk, the oil-rich area of Northern Iraq, and of thus triggering the intrusion of large Turkish forces. Ankara wishes to put the oil-rich region under its control and to prevent the establishment of an independent Kurdish state. After the incident, the Turkish armed forces at the border with Iraq pulled back deeper into Turkish territory. The US and Iraqi Kurd leaders’ plan is to provide autonomy to the Kurds within a federative state.
b) NATO-ISAF. On 16 April, NATO agreed to provide more logistical and troop-management support to ISAF – a 4’600-strong military contingent that patrols Kabul under a UN mandate. From August, NATO will run the headquarters, coordinate operational planning, appoint the contingent’s commander, and supervise the troops’ contribution to the peacekeeping mission, which draws on 29 nations, including non-NATO countries. The US has also asked NATO to consider a post-war involvement in Iraq – a demand considered positively by NATO’s political and military command – and since 27 April by France also.
c) Bulgaria. On 15 April, the US asked Bulgaria to contribute a peacekeeping force to post-war Iraq. On 25 April, the Bulgarian General Staff announced that 170 Bulgarian peacekeepers would fly to Iraq on 26 May. Regular personnel of the Karlovo-based 61st Stremska Brigade will form the peacekeeping unit. The Bulgarian troops will have protection, logistic and, if needed, combat functions.
d) Romania. On 18 April, the Romanian Ministry of Defense responded positively to the US request and will send troops for the protection and stabilization of Iraq. The troops will include an engineer squad, military police, and medical personnel. Bucharest has already sent a chemical and biological protection contingent to Iraq. On 15 April, Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe Erhard Busek said that Romania, as a US ally and partner, would benefit from participating in Iraq’s reconstruction. The Romanian government has already drafted a list of more than 30 companies willing to participate in Iraq’s reconstruction.
e) Albania. On 12 April, Albania formally commissioned a small unit of 65 soldiers for non-combat peacekeeping operations in post-war Iraq. Albania has already sent five officers to Kuwait to prepare for the deployment of the rest of the unit, which left on 15 April. The Albanian contingent will serve under US command in Kuwait and use US equipment. Albania’s army is already involved in peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and in Afghanistan.
a) FYROM. On 31 March, the EU launched its first military operation, Operation Concordia, in FYROM, taking over NATO’s small peacekeeping mission there. A French general will be in charge of 300 lightly armed peacekeepers from 27 countries, including present and future EU member countries. The main tasks of the operation are to monitor the situation and maintain a visible international presence there. However, the EU’s Operation Concordia would not have been possible without NATO support. The operation is expected to boost the EU military element and to strengthen NATO.
b) Kosovo. Gunmen opened fire on a Kosovo Albanian family on 14 April. The family was traveling by car, and two family members were killed. One of them was a prosecution witness in a recent trial against former KLA guerrillas. Kosovo’s security, social, and economic reconstruction today is far from the expectations set in June 1999. Life is still far from normal. Restoring order is still an uncompleted task. As well as the long-term commitment of the international community to help Kosovo build a decent form of life and government, greater efficiency and better morale are required by the international civil service staff in the province.
c) Bosnia and Herzegovina. (1) Mirko Sarovic, Bosnia’s Serb chairman of the country’s three-member multiethnic presidency, resigned on 2 April after being implicated in a local company’s violation of the UN arms embargo against Iraq. Sarovic knew about the violation but failed to stop the illegal export of refurbished engines for Iraq’s military aircraft, according to a team of international investigators. The powers of the three-member presidency are limited, but it has the authority to define Bosnia’s foreign policy and to propose the country’s prime minister. Ultimate power rests with the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Paddy Ashdown. Each of the ethnic groups – Serbs, Muslims, and Croats – is represented in the presidency through direct elections. (2) On 11 April, a Bosnian Muslim wartime commander was arrested by SFOR in Bosnia and transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague to face trial on war crimes charges. Naser Oric was charged with six counts of war crimes in 1992 and 1993, including murder and cruel treatment of Bosnian Serbs detained at a police station in the enclave of Srebrenica while it was under Muslim control. Oric is regarded as a hero by many Bosnian Muslims.
Serbia and Montenegro
a) Greece-Bulgaria. On 8 April, Bulgarian President Georgy Parvanov made a one-day working visit to Athens. He met with Greek President Costas Stefanopoulos, Prime Minister Costats Simitis, and Foreign Minister George Papandrou. The two parties discussed EU integration, accession negotiations of Bulgaria to the EU, and the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.
b) Croatia-Serbia and Montenegro. On 13 April, Croatian Deputy Finance Minister Damir Kustrak said in Washington, DC, that Zagreb intended to block US$225 million of the former Yugoslav federation in US banks. Croatia says the funds may be unblocked after the post-Yugoslav republics have solved the questions of the former federation’s heritage.
c) Bulgaria-Romania. On 14-15 April, Romanian President Ion Iliescu visited Bulgaria and met with Bulgarian President Georgy Parvanov. The two leaders confirmed the launch of the construction of the bridge over the Danube at Vidin-Kalafat in 2004. There are no political problems between the two neighboring states, the presidents concluded. However, the noted the low turnout of goods for only US$300 million a year. The presidents of the two countries pledged to work towards the reconstruction of Iraq. Bulgaria and Romania are expected to host new US military bases – air and naval – in Europe. The two presidents urged Western powers to ignore a recent split over Iraq when assessing applicants for the EU and NATO.
d) FYROM-Bulgaria. On 18-20 April, Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxkoburggotsky made an official visit to FYROM and met with Macedonian Prime Minister Branko Cervenkovsky, President Boris Traikovsky, former prime minister and opposition leader Liubcho Georgievsky, former president Kiro Gligorov, and leaders of the three Albanian factions in the parliament – Ali Ahmeti of the Democratic Union for Integration, Arben Xhaferi of the Democratic Party of the Albanians, and Abdurahman Aliti of the Party for Democratic Prosperity. During Saxkoburggotsky’s visit, Cervenkovsky officially acknowledged for the first time the existence of Bulgarian national minority in FYROM and the right of the Bulgarians to national self-identification. This declaration dismayed the Skopje media, formed by the Serbian propaganda matrix of communist Yugoslavia. However, for FYROM to be recognized as a serious contender for NATO and EU membership, it must come to terms with its past and its neighbors. In effect, Sofia is expected to be Skopje’s advocate on the way to both memberships. This step is also perceived by the ruling party in Skopje as a guarantee that Albanian separatists will not be allowed to turn FYROM into a federal state or divide it among the neighboring countries. Since 1992, when it was the first country to recognize the FYROM independence, Bulgaria has been the staunchest supporter of the sovereignty and independence of the young state. Bulgarian society expects that the authorities in Skopje will care and respect Bulgarian military cemeteries, cultural and historic monuments, and the associations of Bulgarians in FYROM. During Saxkoburggotsky’s visit, the two parties signed an agreement for the opening of cultural centers of the two countries in Skopje and in Sofia.
a) Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP). The Sixth Summit of the Heads of State and Government of Southeast European Cooperation Process was convened on 9 April in Belgrade, Serbia. The presidents or prime ministers of nine Balkan countries were joined by European Commission President Romano Prodi. All participants agreed in their final joint declaration to work together towards NATO and EU membership of all and to fight crime together. Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin participated in the SEECP summit. Many bilateral meetings were also held during the summit.
b) Stability Pact for Southeast Europe. On 16 April in Brussels, the Committee for Local Democracy and Transborder Cooperation in the framework of the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe was created. Forty-four donors, mayors, and regional leaders participated in the convention. Stability Pact for SEE Coordinator Erhard Busek will chair the new committee. Practical projects, including on media cooperation, were discussed at the meeting.
MF-Serbia and Montenegro
World Bank (WB)-Serbia and Montenegro
NATO Enlargement: “Coalition for Ratification”
US: US-Serbia and Montenegro.
a) Russia-Bulgaria. On 12-16 April, Speaker of the Bulgarian Parliament Ognyan Gerdzhikov visited Russia. He met in St. Peterburg with local leaders and in Moscow with his counterpart, Speaker of the Duma Genadiy Selezniov, and also with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Alexey Kudrin and with Moscow’s Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.
b) Russia-Southeast Europe. In mid-April, Chief of General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces General Anatoliy Kvashnin ordered Russian peacekeepers in SFOR and KFOR to leave the Balkans in the next two months. He said there were no more military tasks in the region, and there would be none in the near future. Russia has invested US$26 million a year for its peacekeeping contingent in the Balkans and has been considering this cut in the past few months. The absence of a UN mandate for the Iraq freedom operation of the US added to the feeling that Russia was acting under the political guidance of NATO and the US in the Balkans and that Russia was not their equal. Further, Serbia is no longer the staunch pillar of Russian influence in the Balkans. Russia also does not want to participate in Kosovo statehood in the presence of KFOR. Finally, Russia has its own problems in Tajikistan, Abkhazia, Southern Ossetia, and Transdniester that require also a military and financial effort. Thus, Russia is leaving for itself the only significant leverage on the Balkans that Moscow once fully dominated – the energy (oil and gas) supplies.