BALKAN REGIONAL PROFILE:

THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING EVOLUTION OF SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE

(A Background and September 2003 Issue in Brief)

© Institute for Security and International Studies (ISIS), Sofia

Research Study 53, 2003

Hard copy: ISSN 1311 – 3240

AN ISN-SPONSORED MONTHLY ELECTRONIC PERIODICAL


I. INTRODUCTION
II. SECURITY THREATS, CONFLICTS AND POST-CONFLICT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE BALKANS
1. Security Threats
2. The Post-Conflict Issues in Macedonia, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina
III. THE NATIONAL PERSPECTIVES OF THE BALKAN COUNTRIES: SPECIFIC ISSUES
IV. THE STATE OF BILATERAL, MULTILATERAL AND REGIONAL RELATIONS IN THE BALKANS
V. THE ECONOMIC SITUATION OF THE BALKAN COUNTRIES AND THE REGION
VI. THE PROCESS OF DIFFERENTIATED INTEGRATION OF SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE INTO THE EU AND NATO
VII. THE INFLUENCE OF OTHER EXTERNAL FACTORS ON THE REGION: NATIONAL GREAT POWERS AND INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS
1. US
2. Russia
VIII. CONCLUSIONS

I. INTRODUCTION
In September, an Albanian occupation soldier was wounded in Iraq; Turkey continued to demand a high price for participating in a difficult operation in neighbouring Iraq; Bulgaria and Romania decided to increase the duration and scope of their respective occupation deployments in Iraq. With active Bulgarian involvement, the discussion on a UN General Assembly resolution on Iraq continued. This month, NATO finally decided to extend its stabilisation mission in Afghanistan beyond the capital. Belgrade applied for participation in ISAF with its own peacekeepers. Nuclear non-proliferation aspects of fighting terrorism proved that preventive steps can be effective through international cooperation. Such a preventive operation was carried out with US, Romanian, and Russian participation.
The security situation in Macedonia was again undermined by Albanian separatists’ efforts to provoke a repetition of the 2001 destabilization. In Kosovo, the Albanian drive to independence has been rebuffed by Serbian and federal authorities and by the new UNMIK head of the province. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the dispute over whether EU troops should take over the stabilization effort from NATO continued among the leading representatives of the two institutions. It was clear, however, that neither the US nor NATO would allow this dispute with the EU turn into a problem for the region’s security. The EU also considers the preservation of stability in the Balkans to be a priority task.
Some Balkan countries witnessed various developments in security sector reform this month: Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Serbia and Montenegro faced different issues in implementing their defense or security reforms.
The bilateral relations saw an increased activity with special efforts to overcome the war past of the Western Balkans.
In the area of economic developments, a big US-Turkish financial agreement reflected significant evolving interests in Southeastern Europe and the Middle East.
NATO activities in Southeastern Europe involved Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia as well as Serbia and Montenegro. The visit of US European Commander and SACEUR General James Jones to Romania and Bulgaria was a display of NATO’s institutional interest in maintaining military bases in the two countries.
The highlight of US activity in the Balkans this month was the celebration of the 100-years anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations between Bulgaria and the US. US Secretary of State Colin Powell organized a special meeting with leaders from Southeastern Europe in New York to explain US position on a new UN General Assembly resolution and to confirm the will of Washington to continue the stabilization of the region. Russia was also very active diplomatically in the Balkans this month: The Russian foreign minister visited three Balkan countries, the Bulgarian president was hosted twice by Russian President Putin, and Russia continued to cooperate with Turkey on counter-terrorism issues.
September saw the beginning of the political season in the area, with a complex nexus of problems left from previous periods. EU and NATO integration, as well as national democratic developments, continued to pave the way for broader regional progress.

 

II. SECURITY THREATS, CONFLICTS AND POST-CONFLICT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE BALKANS

1. Security Threats

a) Terrorism and Post-War Reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan

1) Albania. A hand grenade attack on 15 September in Mosul, Iraq injured an Albanian occupation soldier. Thirteen Iraqi policemen were also injured. This was the Albanian contingent’s first casualty in action in Iraq.
2) Turkey. SACEUR General James Jones visited Turkey on 3 September and met with the country’s top military leaders. He said the US would welcome any Turkish help in Iraq. Turkey is close to deciding on whether to send a contingent of about 10’000 troops to Iraq, but continues to face public and partly parliamentary opposition. In addition, Iraqi officials of the interim administration declared on 5 September that the Turkish troops were unwelcome. Turkish armed units would face problems passing the generally pacified Iraqi north, where the Iraqi Kurds live. Turkey already supports the reconstruction in Iraq with electricity deliveries to its neighbor. Turkey was keen to win some of the lucrative reconstruction projects in Iraq. Ankara is also ready to provide water purification teams, doctors, and medical supplies.
3) Bulgaria. (1) The Bulgarian and Spanish Foreign Ministers, Solomon Passy and Ana Palacio, agreed on 1 September in Bulgaria to work closely in the UN Security Council to seek more international participation in the stabilization of Iraq. They agreed that a new UN Resolution should include a larger number of states in rebuilding Iraq. Both states consistently side with the US and the UK on Iraq and currently contribute occupation troops. (2) Bulgarian military officials declared on 6 September that the country’s contingent might stay longer than initially planned (by December this year). Accordingly, a second battalion is preparing to replace the present one.
4) Romania. The Romanian Defense Ministry announced on 9 September that it was considering increasing the number of its occupation troops in Iraq following a request from the US. This would add 56 more soldiers to the 687 already there. Romania announced in August that it was also prepared to send more troops to Afghanistan, where it already has 450 soldiers.
5) NATO/ISAF. NATO took a preliminary step towards extending its peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan to areas beyond the capital on 18 September. Tribal warlords undermine both security and development beyond Kabul.
6) Serbia and Montenegro/NATO/ISAF. Serbia and Montenegro is cooperating with NATO on the ISAF mission with plans for Serb forces to be deployed to Kabul by the end of the year, according to reports by official Serbian news channels on 17 September. The Serb forces would be professional soldiers who would rely on US-provided equipment for Afghanistan’s tough conditions.

b) Other Security Threats: Nuclear Proliferation/Nuclear Terrorism.
Russia returned 14 kg of fresh highly enriched uranium from Romania under the US-funded Research Reactor Fuel Return Initiative. The news was broken on 22 September by the US Department of Energy. The uranium was originally supplied by the former Soviet Union for the new-closed 2 MW research reactors near Bucharest and will be down-blended for nuclear power plant fuel. The step will contribute to the physical protection and accounting of nuclear materials and to the prevention of illicit nuclear trafficking. Inspectors from the IAEA were present as the uranium was loaded into canisters for shipment. Romania, Russia, and the US cooperated closely in carrying out this long-prepared secret operation in a pre-emptive move against the threat of nuclear terrorism. A longer-term agreement between Russia and the US on similar cases would make it easier to deal with this threat.


2. The Post-Conflict Issues in Macedonia, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina

a) Macedonia. (1) Macedonian security forces engaged an Albanian armed group on 6-7 September in an area northeast of Skopje as part of an ongoing law enforcement operation. There were limited casualties on the side of the armed group. There was also limited property damage, but no civilian casualties. Many civilians left the area preventively. The Albanian armed groups seek to undermine peace and stability in the country – a development that the governing coalition parties should prevent together with the opposition parties. It is worth remembering that Albanian rebels consider Serbia and Serbs as their main enemy and obstacle to unification. The majority of Albanians perceive Macedonia and Macedonians as ‘Serbian political products’. This explains the ferocity and persistence of their fight. The counter-terrorist operation of the Macedonian ‘special forces’ was generally well prepared from professional point of view. However, the Albanian media and top officials in Tirana assessed the attacks on the ANA (the Albanian National Army) as ‘residual acts from the past by Skopje’. According to officials in Skopje, this is not a new military conflict like the one in 2001, but simply amounts to neutralizing criminal groups. ANA representatives have promised more attacks and even a war that would lead to the unification of all Albanians in the Balkans. The present situation in Macedonia is a serious test for the EU’s 400-strong EUROFOR force in the country, drawn from 26 nations. EUROFOR is supposed to stay in Macedonia until 15 December this year under the name of ‘Operation Concordia’. While Macedonians and Albanians have little trust towards each other, both sides trust the EUROFOR. (2) The leader of Macedonia’s Democratic Party of the Albanians, Arben Xhaferi, told the Albanian press in Tirana on 15 September that Macedonia had to be divided and turned into a federal state. He said efforts for peaceful agreement, understanding, reconciliation, and tolerance had failed. He added that Macedonia was already a divided country, because the ethnic communities lived according to their own rules. (3) ANA leader Hamdi ‘Brezo’ Bairami on 15 September threatened to attack Lipkovo, Aracinovo, and Skopje if a complete amnesty for Macedonian Albanians is not granted by the end of September.

b) Kosovo. (1) Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic told the federal parliament of Serbia and Montenegro on 5 September that the continuing push by Kosovo Albanians for independence was a ‘dangerous dream’, and that Serbs would never agree to give up the province. The solution of the Kosovo problem, he said, would be the country’s accession to the EU. A week earlier, the Serbian parliament had adopted a document declaring Kosovo an integral and permanent part of Serbia – terms that the parliament of Serbia and Montenegro did not use. (2) UNMIK chief Harri Holkeri said on 18 September that the weak economy and high crime rates in the province were still alarming, saying nothing had changed over the past four years. Only the UN Security Council can make a final decision concerning the status of Kosovo, not the local institutions, as Holkeri pointed out. The first talks between Belgrade and Pristina are planned for 14 October. The agenda would include energy, transport and telecommunications, cooperation in returning Serb refugees, and cooperation on missing persons. The issue of the final status of Kosovo is not included.

c) Bosnia and Herzegovina. (1) The defense ministers of France and Germany met in Strasbourg on 4 September. They declared that EU should push ahead with plans to replace NATO as the lead peacekeeper in Bosnia and Herzegovina next year, despite reservations from the US. However, according to ISIS analysis the magnitude of the problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina – ethnic tensions, organized crime, suspected terrorist activity, the search for war criminals, a difficult security sector reform, and others – may turn out to be too hard for the nascent EU force to handle after eventually replacing NATO. The crisis management capacity of the EU forces still requires improvement. (2) NATO troops in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 17 September announced the discovery of over 40t of illegal weapons and ammunitions after three weeks of searching. The arms cache was found in northwestern Bosnia. The SFOR troops in this country currently number 12’000, down from 60’000 in 1996. (3) On 18 September the chairman of the Committee of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Myers, ended his two-days visit to US peacekeepers in in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The SFOR Commander, US Lieutenant-General William Ward, said: “The rule of law has failed to take hold in a way that will ensure a stable peace that’'s irreversible.” Nevertheless, investments made in Bosnia and Herzegovina up to now have not been wasted – a lot has changed in this country and many significant reforms are taking place now too. Myers said that the Pentagon was reassessing the Balkans commitment, noting that one option was for EU force to assume responsibility. He also said that US troops in the Balkans would not be pulled out unilaterally from Kosovo or Bosnia.

 

III. THE NATIONAL PERSPECTIVES OF THE BALKAN COUNTRIES: SPECIFIC ISSUES

1. Croatia. A three-day session of the Croatian Parliament’s Interior Policy and National Security Committee ended on 3 September . It discussed integral security and the fight against terrorism. In its conclusions, the committee expressed Croatia’s firm commitment to building a joint defense and security identity, primarily within NATO, in combating terrorism. The Committee also appealed for the reorganization of the country’s justice system.
2. Slovenia. On 9 September, Slovenian Prime Minister Tone Rop said that his country had abolished obligatory military service and would no longer call up recruits. He added that a professional army was under development in Slovenia. Previous plans provided for abolishing national conscript service by June 2004 – one month after the expected entry into NATO. By 2010, the number of professional soldiers should reach 18’000, up from the present 5’000. The number of reservists will be reduced for the same period from 30’000 to 19’000 troops. Slovenia plans to increase its defense spending to two per cent of GDP by 2008 from the present 1.54 per cent of GDP.
3. Serbia and Montenegro. The Defense Minister of the country, Boris Tadic said on 16 September that his country would downsize its army from 80’000 to 50’000 and would establish closer ties to NATO. The cuts are one of the preconditions for Serbia and Montenegro to join the PfP program.
4. Bulgaria. (1) The municipal election campaign in Bulgaria was launched on 19 September. On 26 October, voters will choose mayors and municipal councilors. The elections will be a difficult test for the present centrist liberal government, whose popularity has fallen in the last months. (2) The Bulgarian parliament unanimously approved the proposed changes to the country’s constitution on 24 September. The amendments were linked to the magistrates’ immunity, non-removing, and mandating. This has been the first change of the Constitution since it was adopted in July 1991. The changes are expected to stimulate the fight against organized crime and to improve Bulgaria’s chances of accession to the EU. (3) The US warned the Bulgarian government on 26 September that naming a former communist intelligence officer as an advisor to the prime minister could jeopardize Bulgaria’s NATO accession. His appointment would diminish Bulgaria’s credibility among NATO members. From a national perspective, there was no pressing need to nominate the former national intelligence chief from 1991-97, General Brigo Asparuhov, to the relatively insignificant position of ‘advisor to the Prime Minister’. The step was also not logical in the context of the ongoing broader security sector reform, including reform of intelligence, of governance of this area, and pooling information and analysis at the top executive level. The nomination would not be enough to give an institutional and legislative response to the multitude of pending issues.

 

IV. THE STATE OF BILATERAL, MULTILATERAL AND REGIONAL RELATIONS IN THE BALKANS

1. Bilateral Relations
a) Slovenia-Croatia. On 1 September, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitriy Rupel responded to a declaration by the Croatian foreign minister to the effect that Croatia did not recognize Slovenia’s access to open seas, and that the bilateral border accord had no legal meaning. The Slovenian foreign minister said his country would re-consider the support for Croatia’s Euro-Atlantic integration. Dimitriy Rupel called the declaration of the Croatian Foreign Minister ‘unacceptable’. Slovenia called its Ambassador to Croatia, Peter Bekes back to Ljubljana for consultations for an indefinite time.
b) Bulgaria-Romania. On 6 September the Defense Ministers of the two neighboring countries met in Sofia. They discussed bilateral issues as well as the two armed forces’ participation in the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.
c) Serbia and Montenegro-Croatia. On 10 September in Belgrade the Presidents of the two countries – Svetozar Marovic and Stipe Mesic – apologized for crimes committed by their countries during the 1991-95 war. The bloody conflict caused 20’000 deaths. The statements made by the two leaders are considered symbolic and a helpful contribution towards further normalizing the bilateral relations. In October 2002, Stipe Mesic became the first head of state to testify against Slobodan Milosevic at the UN-mandated ICTY in The Hague. There is a long list of unresolved post-war issues between the two neighboring countries and it seems premature to think that the exchange of apologies is just a message to the European Union, as Serbia and Montenegro’s President Svetozar Marovic put it. Anyway, the mutual gestures are important for the further progress of bilateral relations.
d) Bulgaria-Serbia and Montenegro. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic visited Bulgaria on 26 September. He met with Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Coburgotski, Parliament Speaker Ognyan Gerdzhikov and with the mayor of Sofia, Stefan Sofiansky. The prime ministers of the two neighboring countries agreed to cooperate within the Pact of Stability initiative in the creation of a free-trade area in Southeastern Europe. Bulgaria and Serbia will sign a bilateral agreement for a free-trade area by the end of this year. Coburgotski and Zivkovic signed a Memorandum on speeding up the construction of the Sofia-Nis highway– which is part of the European Corridor No. 10.

 

V. THE ECONOMIC SITUATION OF THE BALKAN COUNTRIES AND THE REGION

1. World Bank (WB)-Macedonia. The WB announced a new assistance strategy for Macedonia on 9 September. The new strategy envisages a lending program of up to US$165 million in the 2003-2006 period that will focus on three sets of objectives: First, promoting efficient management of public resources, tackling corruption, and supporting the decentralization process; secondly, promoting private sector job creation; and thirdly, building-up human capital through education, and protecting the most vulnerable with a carefully designed safety net. Many ordinary citizens, academics, and union representatives were consulted on the new plan.

2. US-Turkey. The US and Turkey signed a Financial Agreement on 22 September in Washington, D. C. Under the Agreement the US will make available US$8.5 billion in loans. Loan disbursements, however, must meet two conditions set forth in US law: first, Turkey must be implementing strong economic policies, and, second, Turkey must be cooperating with the US in Iraq. However, the contribution of Turkish troops for peacekeeping and stability operations in Iraq is not a necessary condition for determining Turkish cooperation in Iraq.

 

VI. THE PROCESS OF DIFFERENTIATED INTEGRATION OF SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE INTO THE EU AND NATO

1. EU
EU-Bulgaria. On 16 September the EC Delegation Head in Sofia, Dimitrios Kourkoulas told the press that Bulgaria would receive €150-200 million for infrastructure projects from the pre-accession funds for 2004. Another €50 million for the same projects are expected to come from the EU’s Phare program.

2. NATO
a) NATO-Bulgaria. (1) NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson came to Bulgaria for a second farewell visit on 4-5 September. Until then, the only country he had paid two farewell visits to had been the US. Robertson was decorated with the Highest Order of the Republic for foreign citizens by the President of Bulgaria, Georgi Parvanov. The NATO secretary-general also received a special award from the non-governmental expert security sector – the Coalition for Security Sector Reform in Bulgaria. The NATO chief participated in a conference on security issues in Southeastern Europe, during which he confirmed NATO’s determination to stay in the Balkans as long as it was necessary to stabilize the situation. (2) The NATO/PfP exercise ‘Cooperative Key 2003’ was held from 1-13 September near Plovdiv, southern Bulgaria. The exercise was commanded by NATOSOUTH CIN in Naples, General Ellis. The exercise featured elements of counter-terrorism training. Air Force units of NATO and PfP countries participated in ‘Cooperative Key 2003’. 69 helicopters and 2’000 foreign troops were stationed at the Graf Ignatievo Air Force base.
b) NATO-Bulgaria, Romania. SACEUR and US European Forces Commander General James Jones visited Bulgaria on 17 September. He discussed NATO military basing policy issues with Bulgarian officials. The country will become a full NATO member in May 2004. General Jones had earlier paid a similar visit to Romania and discussed the same problems with Romanian officials.
c) NATO-Albania, Croatia, Macedonia. The defense ministers of Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia, Pandeli Maiko, Zeljka Antunovic, and Vlado Buckovski, met in Tirana on 12 September. They reaffirmed their commitments to the Adriatic Charter signed by the three countries earlier this year, which provides for cooperation on regional, bilateral, NATO integration issues.

 

VII. THE INFLUENCE OF OTHER EXTERNAL FACTORS ON THE REGION: NATIONAL GREAT POWERS AND INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

1. US
a) US-Bulgaria. On 19 September, Bulgaria and the US celebrated the centennial anniversary of official diplomatic relations between the two states. In an official statement, the White House remarked that the US rejoiced at Bulgaria’s return to democracy and freedom after 1989. Since then, bilateral relations have grown ever stronger and deeper. The statement notes that the two countries stand together in the “war on terrorism”, and commends Bulgaria for helping the Iraqi people build a free, peaceful, and democratic state. Six former US ambassadors to Bulgaria joined the special anniversary celebrations of the in Sofia on 19 September.
b) US-Albania. US Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and Albanian Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Luan Hajderaga signed an Open-Skies Aviation Agreement in Washington, D.C. on 24 September. It was the first formal transport agreement ever between the two countries. The agreement established a liberal, market-based aviation regime allowing both countries’ airlines to operate to, from or beyond the other’s territory. The US now has 60 bilateral Open-Skies agreements worldwide.
c) US-Southeastern Europe. On 24 September, US Secretary of State Colin Powell met in New York with the presidents of Albania and Macedonia and with the foreign ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and Slovenia on the occasion of the UN General Assembly session. Powell explained the US position on the new UN General Assembly Resolution on Iraq and promised continuing support for the stabilization process in Southeastern Europe.

2. Russia
a) Russia-Bulgaria. (1) Russian President Putin on 6-7 September convened an unofficial meeting with Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov in the Russian Black Sea coast resort of Sochi. This was their fourth meeting in 2003. Russia will increase the volume of natural gas transiting Bulgaria to 18 billion cubic meters annually, and Moscow expects equal terms of competition in Bulgaria’s ‘Bulgargas’ privatization bid. (2) On 29 September, Bulgarian President Parvanov inaugurated the Bulgarian Culture Days in Moscow. The Bulgarian president met for the fifth time this year with Russian President Vladimir Putin. An official visit by the Bulgarian president to Russia is planned for the next months.
b) Russia-Southeastern Europe. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov visited Belgrade, Sarajevo, and Ljubljana on 10-12 September, marking a diplomatic return of Moscow to the Balkans after its troops recently left Bosnia and Kosovo. Russia is maintaining a 105-strong police presence in Kosovo. Days ahead of that visit, Harri Holkeri, the new UNMIK leader and former Finnish prime minister, visited Moscow to attend a Contact Group Meeting for the Balkans, hosted by Russia.
c) Russia-Turkey. In mid-September, Russian and Turkish diplomats and experts completed two days of consultations on cooperation in the fight against terrorism. The meeting was in the context of the joint working group established on 16 November 2001. The next working meeting of the group will be in the first half of 2004 in Ankara.

 

VIII. CONCLUSIONS

It was proved in September that Southeastern Europe has finally turned from being a consumer of security into a security provider for other war-ravaged areas, mainly Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time, the region is increasing local efforts of dealing with the persisting ethnic tensions in Macedonia, Kosovo, and, to a lesser extent, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. These threefold security tasks require the continuation of security sector reforms in the countries of Southeastern Europe. Major steps in this direction were made during September in Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Serbia and Montenegro. Romania demonstrated a high level of cooperative activity with the US and Russia in dealing with potential nuclear terrorism threats. This was a second operation in the Balkans of that type after last year’s cooperation between Russia, the US, and Serbian authorities on a similar case. NATO and US leaders this month affirmed their desire to turn the Balkans into a normal and compatible stable region of Europe. The integration of the countries of Southeastern Europe into NATO and PfP remains a working and highly effective political instrument for stabilizing the regional situation. The EU continued its efforts to prove it has the potential of taking over the burden of stabilization from NATO and the US. However, additional capacities are indispensable to make the Union’s effort effective. Finally, Russia began replacing its military involvement in the Balkans with diplomatic overtures and gas energy projects. These institutions and external factors will continue to influence the regional security situation in the months to come.


EDITORIAL STAFF:

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Dr. Plamen Pantev, Editor–in–Chief

ISSN 1311 – 3240

Dr. Tatiana Houbenova-Delissivkova

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E-Mail Address: isis@mgu.bg


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