BALKAN REGIONAL PROFILE:

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

(A Background and December 2000 Issue in Brief)

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

 

Research Study 12, 2000

Hard copy: ISSN 1311 - 3240

AN I S N-SPONSORED MONTHLY ELECTRONIC PERIODICAL

 


I.   INTRODUCTION

II. PROFILE BACKGROUND OF THE BALKANS:GEOPOLITICAL SHIFTS

III.   CONFLICT AND POST-CONFLICT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE BALKANS

IV.   THE NATIONAL PERSPECTIVE OF THE BALKAN COUNTRIES: SPECIFIC ISSUES

1.  FRY
2. FRYM

4.  Romania

V.   BILATERAL AND MULTILATERAL RELATIONS IN THE BALKANS. THE STATE OF THE REGIONAL INITIATIVES

1. Bilateral Relations
2. Multilateral Relations
3.  Regional Initiatives

VI.   THE ECONOMIC SITUATION IN THE BALKAN COUNTRIES AND IN THE REGION

1.  Bulgaria
2.  FRY
3.  Turkey

4. Bulgaria-FRY

5. 
Bulgaria-Turkey
6.  Bulgaria-Rumania
7. USA-Greece

8. Greece-FRYM

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

1.  The United States
2.  NATO
3.  EU
4.  Russia

VIII.   THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING EVOLUTION: CONCLUSIONS


I. INTRODUCTION

 

In December the tensions in the Kosovo-Southern Serbia area continued and the maintenance of the relative stability required a substantial effort from the Kosovo Force (KFOR).  However, the negative Serbian reactions to the violence, which is generally directed against ordinary Serbs in this broader area, have increased to the point of diminished tolerance.

The peaceful and democratic change of power in Serbia to the opposition democratic parties after the general elections marked another significant step in the evolution of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) to democracy, after the success of President Vojislav Kostunica against Slobodan Milosevic in the federal presidential elections.  The almost landslide victory of the democratic alliance has politically weakened the Socialist party of Milosevic for the time being.  The new leadership of both Serbia and the FRY, however, face immediate tasks such as overcoming the escalating conflict in the Kosovo-Southern Serbia region, another Balkan winter with energy shortages, and the issue of indicted war criminals.  The pending issue of the constitutional status of Kosovo and Montenegro is of the highest complexity.

 

II.   PROFILE BACKGROUND OF THE BALKANS: GEOPOLITICAL SHIFTS

 

The European Union (EU) summit in Nice had major geopolitical consequences for the Southeast European region.  Setting a clear agenda of enlargement to the east, the Union has defined its geopolitical goals in the Balkans too.  Short of formulating a concise and encompassing Southeast European strategy, the EU has embarked firmly on a differentiated course of accession in the Balkans.  The interior and justice ministers of the Schengen visa regime countries decided early in December to place Bulgaria and Romania in the "white list" of countries, giving also a visa-free access to Bulgarian citizens in the Schengen states.  In practice this moved the EU border to the borders and checkpoints of Bulgaria.  The Declaration on the Enlargement of the EU and the Annex II to it, which are both parts of the Treaty of Nice, further define the geopolitical shift of Southeastern Europe to the EU territory.  Five states of this region that are currently members or are negotiating for membership of the EU are as follows (numbers in the parentheses show population, weighted votes in the EU Council, and seats in the European parliament, respectively):  Slovenia (1'792'603, 4, 7); Hungary (10'086'040, 12, 20); Romania (22'355'121, 14, 33); Bulgaria (8'270'215, 10, 17); and Greece (10'779'739, 12, 22).  Greece is an EU member and part of the Schengen visa regime area.  All the other countries on this list (Romania is still waiting) are merging forces with the other Schengen visa regime states.  Although Turkey is an applicant country with a "candidate" status, it has not been included.  The five listed countries comprise a powerful arc of stability around an area that has a long history of wars and conflicts; these countries provide a real geopolitical guarantee for the progress of the other parts of the Balkans.

 

The perception in Southeastern Europe is that the Nice EU summit decisions are putting an end to the Yalta geopolitical mentality and divisions.  The prospects of Southeastern Europe joining the EU are also a clear answer to those political actors in and out of the region that conceive the Balkans as a terrain of trilateral division among great power centers: the US, the EU, and Russia.  Geopolitically, geoeconomically, and (soon, logically) geostrategically, the region of Southeastern Europe will be part of the enlarged EU.  The US will influence the region security and civic space via the EU and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), while Russia’s influence will depend mostly on it joining the same space, covering the Euro-Atlantic area, and on the effectiveness of its integration into the global economy.

 

III.   CONFLICT AND POST-CONFLICT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE BAKANS: THE POST-CONFLICT SITUATION IN KOSOVO

 

The fighters of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac, – whose base is in the Ground Safety Zone which is a five-kilometer-wide demilitarized zone between Kosovo and Serbia, and where both NATO troops and the Yugoslav army are forbidden to enter – targeted Serbian forces, UNMIK (UN mission in Kosovo) police forces, and KFOR units this month.  After firing on a joint Russian-US KFOR patrol, 13 Albanian rebels were detained by a reinforced KFOR unit on 20 December.  The unit also found a cache of weapons including some rocket-propelled grenades, grenades, ammunition, and AK-47s.  The Serbian reaction was varied: political, diplomatic, and military.  President Kostunica called on Serbs to differentiate between extremist and ordinary Albanians, reminding Serbs that the latter were suffering from the militant Albanian activists.  The leader of the  Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), Zoran Djindjic, said earlier in December that with each passing day the Albanian extremists strengthen their position and weaken the Serbian one; therefore Serbia must act swiftly and with determination.  On 7 December Yugoslav Prime Minister Zoran Zizic urged ethnic Albanians in the FRY to participate in the country’s political life as citizens with equal rights.  President Kostunica said on 11 December that he favors future autonomy of Kosovo within the borders of Yugoslavia.  The foreign minister of the FRY, Goran Svilanovic, spoke on 18 December to the UN Security Council on the crisis in Southern Serbia and asked the members of the Council to postpone the planned elections in Kosovo next spring, because in his opinion no Serb will be left there a year from now.  On 19 December President Kostunica insisted on a change to the Kosovo peace agreement that would cut the size of the buffer zone between Serbia and Kosovo to one or two kilometers, which would allow the Yugoslav army to operate closer to the ethnic Albanian militants.  The change, according to Kostunica, was needed because the NATO-led peacekeepers were not capable of controlling the militants in the buffer zone.  The KFOR commander, General Carlo Cabigiosu, met Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic in Bujanovac on 20 December.  According to KFOR sources, the military technical agreement concerning Kosovo was not up for discussion and there will be no change to it.  However, the dialogue will continue to look for a peaceful solution to the situation.

 

The chief of UNMIK, Bernard Kouchner, has passed his resignation to the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.  Kouchner has headed the UN mission since July 1999.  He will be succeeded in January 2001 by the Danish defense minister, Hans Haekkerup.  Haekkerup has also worked in the Education, Social Affairs and Labor Ministries.

 

In an article on Kosovo issues in the 20 November edition of the Financial Times, the deputy director of the Paris-based Institut Francais des Relations Internationales, Dominique Moisi, considers some eventual status options for Kosovo: “conditional independence”, “partition”, “protectorate”, and “full independence”.  In addition, he suggests consideration of the Austro-Hungarian empire (without an emperor) model and the creation of a Balkan Federation.  The second idea has been promoted recently with pro-Yugoslav objectives by the wife of Slobodan Milosevic, Mira Markovic.  However, this idea has been in service for over one hundred years in different Balkan countries, starting from the Bulgarian Social-Democrats.  The ideas of an Austro-Hungarian empire model and the creation of a Balkan Federation reflect misperceptions of Balkan realities and history as well as an underestimation of the potential for countries from the region to integrate in the EU and serve as engines of the same process for other countries in the region.  This idea of Dr Moisi is an echo of Kostunica’s call to the EU to integrate the whole of the Balkan region and not just the individual states.  Most probably, the solution to Kosovo's status will be found between “conditional independence” (also supported by the Swedish prime minister) and the “protectorate” status (considered by many over the past two years).

 

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

 

1.  FRY

(1)  A major issue facing Serbs this winter is electrical energy supplies to individual households.  The electric company imposed rationing that was increased at the end of December from four to eight hours blackout for non-industrial users.  (2)  The new president of the FRY continued his foreign political efforts of re-integrating his country into the international community and adapting the foreign policy service to the internal changes in his country.  Kostunica made a private visit to The Vatican on 12 December and was received by Pope John-Paul II.  The FRY recalled 17 ambassadors this month following the criteria of reaching the age for retirement, getting close to that age, and being appointed for political reasons and not as a career diplomat.  The Yugoslav ambassador to Moscow and brother of Slobodan Milosevic has been recalled permanently.  Belgrade also recalled its ambassador to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and former boss of the Yugoslav secret services, Zoran Janackovic.  (3)  The UN chief prosecutor in The Hague at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Carla del Ponte, said on 20 December that the only choice for the new Belgrade leadership is to arrest Slobodan Milosevic so that he can answer war crimes charges at the tribunal.  (4)  The military authorities of the federation made changes on 26 December to the Montenegrin command of the armed forces.

 

(5)  The DOS won a landslide victory on 23 December, receiving 65 per cent of the votes against 13 per cent for the rival Serbian Socialist party of Milosevic.  The radicals of the ultra-nationalist Vojislav Sesel and representatives of the party of the late paramilitary leader Arkan also become members of the Serbian parliament.  The turnout was 60 per cent of eligible voters, and the Albanians in Kosovo and Southern Serbia boycotted the elections.  Zoran Djindjic is expected to become the new prime minister of Serbia.  (6)  The president of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, told the media on 27 December that a referendum in 2001 will define the sovereignty of his country, which may eventually preserve a loose form of confederation with Serbia.

 

2.  FYROM

The prime minister of the FYROM, Liubcho Georgievsky, has formed the new government with a parliamentary majority of 66 out of 120 MPs.  Liberals, independent deputies, and dissidents of the former coalition partner, the Democratic Alternative, provided the survival of the center-right ruling VMRO.  The new minister of foreign affairs is Srdjan Kerim.  This was the fifth reorganization of the government in Skopje in the last two years.  It has managed to survive antagonistic social-democratic (former communist), pro-Milosevic, and pro-Serbian opposition attacks, coping with the crisis in the spring of 1999, and concluding the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU in November of this year.

 

 

3.  Romania

Presidential candidate Ion Iliescu won over his rival, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, in the second round of the elections on 10 December with 66.8 per cent of the votes against 33.2 per cent.  The Romanian Constitutional Court declined an appeal by Tudor on 14 December, in which his party requested the cancellation of the results of the country’s presidential elections.  Iliescu served as Romania’s first elected president from 1990-1996 after the dictatorship of Ceausescu was overthrown in 1989.

 

V.   BILATERAL AND MULTILATERAL RELATIONS IN THE BALKANS. THE STATE OF THE REGIONAL INITIATIVES

 

1.  Bilateral Relations

a.  Greece-Bulgaria.  The Bulgarian president, Petar Stoyanov, visited Greece and met with the Greek president, Constantinos Stefanopoulos, Prime Minister Costas Simitis, and members of the Greek parliament and opposition leaders on 4-5 December.  A group of Bulgarian businessmen accompanied the president and convened meetings in the Greek Chamber of Commerce.

 

b.  FYROM-Greece.  The defense ministers of the two countries, Liuben Paunovsky and Akis Tsohatzopoulos, signed a bilateral security agreement in Skopje on 10 December.  They also discussed the situation in Southern Serbia.  The Greek defense minister met with President Borys Traikovsky, Prime Minister Liubcho Georgievsky, and Foreign Minister Srdjan Kerim.

 

c.  FRY-Slovenia, FRY-Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Diplomatic relations between the FRY and Slovenia were re-established in Ljubliana on 9 December during an official visit of the foreign minister of the FRY, Goran Svilanovic.  Diplomatic relations were also re-established between the FRY and Bosnia and Herzegovina in Belgrade a few days later during an official visit of the foreign minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  These acts ended the process of stabilizing the relations of post-Milosevic FRY with its neighbors.  However, the FRY does not yet have an ambassador in Sofia after the Bulgarian government did not agree to the person nominated by Milosevic in 1998.

 

d.  FRY-Bulgaria.  (1)  The Bulgarian deputy foreign minister, Marin Raikov, visited Belgrade on 7 December and presented a donation to the “Dragisa Misovic” hospital.  He met with his counterpart, Zoran Novakovic, and discussed a broad range of bilateral issues.  They signed a protocol of cooperation between the two Foreign Ministries, providing for regular consultations.  Bulgaria insists on improving the treatment of the Bulgarian national minority in Serbia and guaranteeing to it the rights that are provided to the other national minorities in that country.  The two high-level diplomats also started the discussion of the re-admission agreement that would ease the restrictions that Bulgaria imposes in connection with her participation in the Schengen visa regime.  (2)  Presidents Kostunica and Stoyanov met in Nis, a Serbian city half way between Sofia and Belgrade, on 20 December, and discussed ways of improving bilateral relations.  Joint projects were discussed by the two leaders, such as the construction of the transport corridor that will modernize communications between Sofia and Belgrade through Nis, the export of electricity to Serbia from Bulgaria, and the facilitation of the visa regime for citizens of the FRY after Bulgaria joins the Schengen visa-free area.  (3)  The would-be prime minister of Serbia and leader of the DOS, Zoran Djindjic, said in an interview on Bulgarian national television on 26 December that the economic relationship with Bulgaria is viewed as a significant instrument for the improvement of the overall economic situation in his country.

 

e.  Bulgaria-FYROM.  The new foreign minister of the FYROM, Srdjan Kerim, made his first foreign visit to Sofia and met with his counterpart, Nadezhda Mihailova.  Kerim was given a draft of a re-admission agreement that would facilitate the visa regime for his countrymen when Bulgaria imposes the Schengen-required restrictions.  The two foreign ministers discussed a broad range of bilateral issues, including joint economic projects and high-level visits.

 

2.  Multilateral Relations.

 

a.  Post-Yugoslav Relations.  Representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the FRY, the FYROM, and Slovenia met in Brussels on 19 December and discussed the division of the assets of the former federation.  The refusal of the Milosevic regime to participate left the issue pending for some ten years.  The next round of talks concerning how to divide, for example, embassies abroad, factories, shipyards, pipelines, and railways will take place in February 2001.  The efficient participation of the FRY is one of the prerequisites for Belgrade to rejoin the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

 

b.  Southeastern Europe Equity Fund.  The president and chief executive officer of the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), George Munoz, opened a new regional office for OPIC’s US$ 150 million Southeastern Europe Equity Fund in Sofia on 19 December.  One-third of the funds have been provided by US billionaire and manager of the fund, George Soros.  Soros Private Funds Management, LLC, will serve Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the FYROM, Romania, Slovenia, Montenegro, and Turkey.  Its primary objective is to provide capital for the development, expansion, and restructuring of new businesses, and privatization.

 

3.  Regional Initiatives

A meeting of Interior Ministry representatives from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the FRY, the FYROM, and Romania was convened in Sarajevo on 15 December in the context of the Stability Pact.  They discussed ways of coordinating the fight against organized crime in the Balkans.  A representative of Interpol underlined the supra-regional repercussions of the criminal activity in Southeastern Europe.  The conclusion was that more political will is needed to improve the coordinated efforts.

 

VI.   THE ECONOMIC SITUATION IN BALKAN COUNTRIES AND IN THE REGIONS

 

1.  Bulgaria.  In a lecture to the School of Diplomacy in Madrid on 14 December Prime Minister Ivan Kostov characterized the two major social and economic problems of his country: unemployment and poverty.  However, according to him, the difficult part of the transition has passed as now already 70 per cent of the GDP is produced by the private sector.  For the first time in many years the balance of payments of Bulgaria is now positive and the currency reserve has reached US$ 3.1 billion.

 

2.  FRY.  The government of the FRY is preparing a bill that would liberalize foreign trade operations.  The bill is expected to remove applications for export-import transactions, and discard registration of foreign trade companies, obligatory deposits, and various taxes.

 

3.  Turkey.  An economic collapse endangered Turkey during the last few weeks of the year.  The interest rate for credits from the Central Bank to trade banks reached 20'000 per cent per year.  The Istanbul Stock Exchange index dropped by 8 per cent at the beginning of December, and in October the inflation rate reached 44 per cent.  The expected bank failures has paralyzed economic activity and damaged financial stability.  Turkish authorities and the IMF agreed on 6 December to a strengthened reform program, whose implementation is intended to restore confidence and financial stability.

 

4.  Bulgaria-FRY.  The Bulgarian government gave US$ 50'000 in humanitarian aid to the neighboring FRY.  A sum of US$ 200'000 will also be provided for the cleaning of debris from the Danube river in Serbia.  This sum is a national obligation to the Danubian Commission.

 

5.  Bulgaria-Turkey.  Bulgaria started the construction of the Bulgarian part of the highway to Istanbul on 8 December.  The cost of the 114-km-long highway on Bulgarian territory will be borne by the Bulgarian government.  This road will be an important connection between trans-European corridors 4, 8, and 9.

 

6.  Bulgaria-Romania.  A successful transaction between the Bulgarian government and the European Investment Bank on 8 December provided US$ 66  million, which is 50 per cent of the price of the construction of the bridge over the Danube between Vidin (in Bulgaria) and Kalafat (in Romania).

 

7.  USA-Greece.  The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on 20 December that Greece does not comply with international safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and has rated Greece a Category 2 carrier.  Meeting ICAO and not FAA safety standards is the basis of the assessment and the announcement does not imply that the operations are either safe or unsafe.  The Greek government reacted quickly and indicated a desire to correct the issues identified by the assessment and for the FAA to periodically review the progress in correcting the deficiencies.

 

8.  Greece-FYROM.  The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development and Hellenic Petroleum of Greece signed a contract in Skopje on 22 December that provides US$ 50 million for the construction of an oil pipeline from Thessaloniki to Skopje.  The cost of the whole project is US$ 105 million for the 220-km-long pipeline, of which 145 km will be on FYROM territory.  The pipeline should be ready in the second half of 2001, and 2.5 million tons of oil are expected to be transported by it per annum.  Hellenic Petroleum is the owner of the oil refinery near Skopje and the construction of the pipeline is part of the obligations taken by the company when buying the oil-refining facility.

 

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

 

 

1.  The United States

 

USA – Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.  General Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited Kosovo, Sarajevo, and Tuzla on 4-5 December.  He met with commanders and troops in the field, and made operational updates.

 

USA, EU – Southeastern Europe.  The US and the EU reaffirmed their commitment to working together to further democracy in Southeastern Europe by issuing a joint statement on 18 December, following the US-EU summit in Washington, DC:  “At a time when democracy is taking root throughout the region and when it should be consolidated for the benefit of all, the very successful cooperation to date between the USA and the EU in South-East Europe must continue to be close and sustained.  ...  Recent historic changes pave the way for regional reconciliation and cooperation...  We give our full support to this process of reconciliation and regional cooperation, which offer new prospects for the countries in the region”.  The statement also called upon the nations of the region to continue and intensify efforts to resolve bilateral differences and internal ethnic minority issues exclusively through peaceful, democratic dialogue, and to show full respect for international obligations including cooperation with the ICTY.

 

US-FRY.  The US is pledging US$ 158 million in new “rapid disbursing assistance” for the FRY for the period encompassing the winter of 2000-2001, of which US$ 87.6 million will go to Serbia and US$ 70.4 million to Montenegro.  The funds will be used for emergency food and energy assistance, humanitarian aid, technical assistance to the banking sector and economic reform, private sector development, and strengthening civil society.

 

USA-Bulgaria.  The Bulgarian foreign minister, Nadezhda Mihailova, and the US ambassador to Sofia, Richard Miles, met in Sofia on 22 December, and confirmed a new, more liberal visa regime between the two countries.  The visas for Bulgarian tourists not only become cheaper, but also are valid for multiple visits over a ten-year period.

 

2.  NATO

 

NATO-Bulgaria.  Bruce Jackson, president of the American Committee for the Enlargement of NATO, an influential US non-governmental organization, told the Bulgarian press in Sofia on 11 December that his organization expects NATO to invite Bulgaria to join NATO at the next summit in 21 months, which will most probably be held in Prague. Jackson was a member of the George W. Bush presidential campaign team.

 

NATO-Russia – Southeastern Europe.  Cooperation between Russia and NATO in Southeastern Europe was one of the main topics of discussion during the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council meeting in Brussels on 15 December.  US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright underlined several aspects of this cooperation: the need to press Bosnian leaders to strengthen joint institutions and integrate their armed forces; the need to unite in opposing extremist violence in Kosovo and in helping society to develop autonomous self-governing institutions; and the need to back the new authorities in Belgrade as they strive to strengthen their democracy and address urgent economic problems.  Albright noted also that it is not helpful for Russia to raise issues, such as the UN arms embargo and Kosovo’s final status, that are not immediate priorities for Belgrade and which distract from the ability to work together toward long-term goals.  She concluded that NATO-Russian cooperation in Southeastern Europe is a dramatic illustration of the partnership’s potential.

 

3.  EU

 

EU-Bulgaria.  (1)  The decision of the EU interior and justice ministers to allow a visa-free regime in the Schengen area for Bulgarian citizens, made on 1 December, was due to the progress that Bulgaria has made in changing identity documents and passports, and strengthening border controls against illegal migration.  However, the European Commission was clear in declaring to the Council of the EU that delaying the solution of this issue with the Bulgarians may lead to political destabilization in a strongly pro-European country.  A Bulgarian public opinion poll taken a week after the Brussels decision on this issue indicated that 22 per cent do not wish to use the new opportunity for travelling in the Schengen states, that 31 per cent would use the new opportunity, and that 47 per cent would like to but are financially unable to do so.

 

(2)  The Bulgarian finance and agrarian ministers signed in Brussels on 19 December an agreement with the EU Commissioner Franz Fischler that provides US$ 49 million per year as a pre-accession fund in support of restructuring Bulgarian agriculture.  The EU will provide US$ 237 million to Bulgaria every year as a pre-accession support.

EU-Turkey.  Turkey blocked a consensus between the NATO foreign ministers in Brussels on 14 December on the relationship between NATO and the EU, and the latter’s planned rapid reaction force.  Turkey was the only NATO country that was against allowing the EU permanent access to NATO operational planning and other military assets.  In return Turkey suggested that the EU should approach NATO blueprints on a case-by-case basis.  Turkey is seeking EU membership and wants to be sure that it will not be sidelined if and when the EU would intervene close to its borders.  Turkey emphasizes that these concerns are not ideological, but related to security and so need to be taken into consideration.

 

4.  Russia

 

Russia-FRY.  Russia proposed a draft resolution to the UN Security Council for ending the weapons sales embargo on Belgrade, even though the authorities of the FRY have not requested it.  The embargo was introduced in 1998 because of the crisis in Kosovo.  This month Russia takes over the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council.

 

Russia-Croatia.  The foreign ministers of the two countries, Igor Ivanov and Tonino Picula, met in Moscow on 5 December and discussed bilateral relations and the situation in the Balkans.  The Russian foreign minister said that Russia considers Croatia a significant partner of his country in Southeastern Europe.  Ivanov said also that backing the reforms in the FRY was the best way of stabilizing the situation in the Balkans.

 

Russia-Bulgaria.  After five postponements the chairmen of the joint economic commission of the two countries, Minister Aleksey Kudrin of Russia and the Bulgarian deputy prime minister, Petar Zhotev, finally met informally in Moscow on 5 December.  Russia unilaterally cancelled a planned meeting of the commission in Sofia on 14-15 November.  Moscow has delayed for more than five years the payment of its debt of US$ 100 million to Bulgaria, using various explanations and conditions.  Russia reacted negatively to the news that Bulgarians may travel visa-free in the Schengen states and the need – stemming from that – to establish new relations with all Bulgarian partners who can enter Bulgarian territory freely, including Russians.  Moscow declines to talk yet about signing a re-admission agreement, and a major argument is that this is too expensive to guarantee.  However, it is also expensive for Bulgaria, and cooperation within Europe necessitates this kind of arrangement.  Otherwise, strict visa regimes are imposed and Russia’s unwillingness to arrange this issue may deprive many Bulgarians and Russians who wish to visit the two countries.  The reaction that Russian tourists will prefer to go to the “better” resorts in Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, or maybe on the Adriatic do not reflect the popular positivism of the Russians to the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, and to the food that is available there.  Russia is interested in cooperating in the development of Bulgarian tourism and in becoming more pragmatic in its economic ties with Bulgaria.  A large proportion of the population of Southern Russia identifies itself as "Bulgarian", which forms an excellent basis for finding new and positive ways of developing bilateral links in the future.

 

VIII.   THE SECURITY AND THE REGION-BUILDING EVOLUTION: CONCLUSIONS

 

1.  The victory of the democratic parties in Serbia dramatically improved the political and security situations in Southeastern Europe.  However, the Albanian-Serbian tensions in Kosovo and Southern Serbia continue, and no solution was found apart from strengthening the KFOR in the buffer zone between Kosovo and Serbia.  There is no rush to settle the constitutional issue of Kosovo, but as long as this remains unclear the political input will remain ineffective.  The willingness of Montenegro to become a fully independent state is an even more urgent issue in the region.

 

2.  A long-prepared geopolitical shift occurred in December after the decisions of the EU Council of Interior and justice ministers to include Bulgaria and Romania in the "white list" of countries for visa arrangements and the adoption of the Treaty of Nice.  Five countries from the region – Greece, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Hungary, and Romania,  of which Greece is already an EU member – have received clear promises of their voting power in the EU Council and what number of seats they will have in the European parliament once they conclude their accession negotiations to the EU.  This decision of the Nice EU summit was a clear implementation of an unnamed strategy of "differentiated accession" by the EU to the countries from Southeastern Europe.

 


EDITORIAL STAFF:

CONTACT AND REFERENCE

Dr. Plamen Pantev, Editor–in–Chief

ISSN 1311 – 3240

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Address: ISIS, 1618 Sofia,

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E-Mail Address: isis@cserv.mgu.bg

Dr. Dinko Dinkov

 

Dr. Todor Tagarev

 


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