BALKAN REGIONAL PROFILE:

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

(A Background and September 2001 Issue in Brief)

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

Research Study 9, 2001

Hard copy: ISSN 1311 - 3240

AN I S N-SPONSORED MONTHLY ELECTRONIC PERIODICAL


I. Introduction
II. Conflicts, Security Threats and Post-Conflict Developments in the Balkans
1. The Conflict in Macedonia, Post-Conflict Issues in Kosovo and Southern Serbia
2. Bosnia and Herzegovina
3. Security Threats: Terrorism
III. The National Perspectives of the Balkan Countries: Specific Issues
1. Albania
2. Bulgaria
3. Croatia
4. FRY
IV. The Bilateral and the Multilateral Relations in the Balkans. The State of the Regional Initiatives
1. Bilateral Relations
a) Bosnia and Herzegovina-Bulgaria
b) Bulgaria-Croatia
c) FYROMacedonia-Bulgaria
2. Multilateral Relations: Trilateral Cooperation FYROM-Bulgaria-FRY
3. Regional Initiatives
a) Multinational Peace Force South East Europe (MPFSEE)
b) Pact of Stability for South-East Europe
V. The Process of Differentiated Integration of South-Eastern Europe in the EU and in NATO
1. EU
EU-Bulgaria
2. NATO
NATO-Bulgaria
VI. The Influence of Other External Factors on the Region: National Great Powers and International Institutions
1. US
a) US-Bulgaria
b) USA-FRY
2. Russia
Russia-Bulgaria
VII. Conclusions: The Security Situation and the Region-Building Evolution

 


I. Introduction
The world-wide re-arrangement of security priorities in favor of countering terrorism after the tragic events in New York and Washington, DC, on 11 September has specific repercussions for the region of Southeastern Europe.

First, US and Russian, as well as other nations’ KFOR and SFOR soldiers are potential targets for Islamic terrorists. The required logistics, facilities and infrastructure for such attacks may already be in place in the light of the 11-year-long infiltration of the region by Islamic terrorists participating in the wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia.

Second, some countries from the Balkans have joined the ranks of the counter-terrorist coalition of states the US are putting together. Some of them, like Bulgaria (which is not a member of NATO), have pledged to behave “as if it were a member of the Alliance and in accordance with the Pact’s Article 5”. All the measures that are to be taken and implemented through the anti-terrorist coalition will certainly be seen in the Balkan states as well – logistical support of the various types of counter-terrorist operations that may take place in the next five to ten years; pooling of information and special forces to respond to the terrorist attacks and neutralize the terrorist network; and blocking the financial sources and bank accounts. At the same time the members of the coalition automatically become potential targets for terrorist activities, including attacks.

Third, as the Armed Forces Intelligence Research wrote in its 3 September issue (ISBN 0-7641-5343-9 at www.geocities.com/afi research/AFIndex.html) the Islamic trouble that is brewing for the West has definitely Balkan parameters too. The ease with which Muslim asylum seekers and illegal immigrants have spread across much of Europe has finally provided a sea in which the terrorist fish can swim in relative safety. Many believe that Albanian refugees, for example, have strong family and criminal ties with Muslim terrorists in Kosovo and Macedonia and, in particular through the KLA, links to Islamic extremist groups throughout Europe. It is now widely accepted that these same groups have also developed a level of close cooperation with both ETA, the IRA and indeed, with the Chechen "Mafia".

Fourth, the upcoming Olympic Games in 2004 in Greece make this country and the entire region an especially attractive target for terrorist planning and activity.

Fifth, the continuing separatist terrorism and persisting conflict in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Kosovo, as well as the slowly evolving stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina, form a favorable milieu for nourishing other types of terrorism. There are serious doubts that Bosnia and Herzegovina has hosted Islamic terrorists’ efforts to collect chemical and biological material from different countries and construct weapons.

So, the security agenda in the Balkans needs re-thinking and re-arrangement while further pressing for ending the conflicts and as quickly as possible integrating the region in the European and Euro-Atlantic structures. There are serious geopolitical reasons for considering the Balkan region a potential barrier to Islamic extremism and terrorism in their expansion to Western Europe. For more than 10 years, the Balkans was a training ground for mujaheddin, terrorists, and future kamikaze pilots. Taking away the region of Southeastern Europe from the expanding terrorist network is possible by an accelerated process of accepting countries from the region as both NATO and EU members and building up the infrastructure that will support the countries of the region, including Turkey, to practically bar the extension of terrorist activities westwards.

A symbolic bridge with another front-line territory should be built over the Black Sea: the Caucasian region. The infrastructure and the forward bases of the Euro-Atlantic community to counter the threat stemming not just from terrorism, but from terrorism which already has geopolitical strongholds in the Central Asian region, Afghanistan, and Chechnya should be constructed in the area extending strategically from the Adriatic Sea through the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea.

There are two dangerous developments looming in the background of countering terrorism: first, it would be a mistake to confuse Muslims and Islam with terrorists and their antagonistic interpretation of the Islamic religion, and, second, it would be fatal to neglect or devaluate the issue of the respect of human rights. A further escalation of global tensions and playing off the Muslim religion and culture against the Christian one may serve as justification for terrorist attacks with chemical and biological weapons, and probably with nuclear arms.

Diminishing the conflict potential of the Balkans would certainly contribute to limiting the potential damage that the growing threat of terrorism may cause. The major challenge for both the democratic countries of the region and the international community is to be capable of differentiating correctly between the human rights struggle and the terrorist threat – both in the case of Macedonia and in the cases of Kosovo and Southern Serbia. There is also a threat that the Macedonia peace process may be derailed through the distorted perception among the Macedonian Slav public that Albanian discontent is to be blamed for the 11 September attacks on the US. Of course, as soon as the NLA hands over its weapons and disbands, this will be seen as a clear indicator that they are not the type of terrorist organization most Macedonian media portray them as. However, the multifaceted nature of Balkan politics bears another danger – that the eventual re-organization of the rebel forces in Southern Serbia and Kosovo could be neglected and tensions in these regions could rise again. The movements of Albanian rebels in the three territories have already shown their ability to change accents and switch from one place to another after quick re-organizations – most probably facilitated through centralized direction and supplies.

In other developments, other Balkan countries continued their efforts to join the train of European and NATO integration and to improve their economic performance.

 

II. Conflicts, Security Threats and Post-Conflict Developments in the Balkans

1. The Conflict in Macedonia, Post-Conflict Issues in Kosovo and Southern Serbia
The main issue that faced the Macedonian politicians and military in the last month was debating and adopting constitutional reforms to give more rights to ethnic Albanians by 26 September while a NATO-backed operation leads to the collection of some 3'300-3'500 weapons from Albanian separatist terrorists. The different stages of the difficult bargain were closely monitored by the diplomatic representatives of the EU and the US with the full backing of NATO. The Macedonian Slav population repeatedly demonstrated its resentment at the concessions made to the Albanians after the NLA’s armed blackmail. There were calls for the resignation of the Macedonian government, which was accused of being incapable of dealing with the situation in an appropriate way. More than 80 per cent of the Macedonians are against an amnesty for the Albanian rebels and 50 per cent do not approve of the agreement with the Albanians and the changes in the constitution providing more rights to the Albanian ethnic population. Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski told the members of parliament on 4 September to introduce the required changes in the constitution, according to the political agreement, but he condemned the international pressure that, according to him, signaled to terrorists worldwide that terrorism pays. A slim majority in the Macedonian parliament approved the constitutional amendments on 24 September. After a public debate on 4 October, the package of 15 constitutional changes will have to be finally accepted by a qualified majority in the Macedonian parliament.

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, visited Skopje twice this month: The first visit on 14 September was intended to communicate to the Macedonian leadership the West's expectations that the peace plan will be implemented, especially after the shift of international attention to the terrorist attacks against the US. The second visit was paid to Skopje on 25 September to witness the end of the disarming of the NLA. Robertson was reassured by Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski that the parliament would adopt the constitutional changes and the amnesty law and thus implement the political agreement between the ethnic communities. Robertson commented later that NATO has no doubts some arms and ammunitions will remain with the rebels, but the Macedonian authorities will have the right to demand they be handed over. The NLA disbanded formally on 28 September.

A major issue facing the EU, NATO and the USA after the end of the NATO operation “Essential Harvest” is the real need to maintain the outside military presence, despite the negative attitude of the Macedonian Slavs to such a renewed presence. The initial ideas, launched by the EU envoy in Skopje Francois Leotard, for an EU force to replace the NATO troops was not accepted by NATO. The formula which was emerging throughout September was for an increased OSCE observer mission, probably twice as strong, backed up by EU observers and a modest NATO follow-up presence of 1'000 soldiers for protection within the NATO operation “Red Fox”, drawn from the ranks of the disarmament mission. However, one may doubt the effectiveness of a “modest” military presence in a region with residual ethnic animosities. The Albanians hope for a huge NATO presence over an indefinite period as a guarantee for their rights. NATO will most probably re-assess its military engagements in the light of the global war on terrorism, and it would be logical for the Alliance to strengthen its presence in the Balkan region. The Macedonian government, which was unable to cope with the Albanian extremists on its own, will have to accept the realities and provide the Alliance with the necessary support. At the same time, as a sovereign state, Macedonia is free to get rid of the remaining arms that eventually remained with the Albanian terrorists. Both sides in the conflict in Macedonia need to realize that their animosity is no longer at the center of the international community's attention, and they will have to adapt to that reality as well as to the clear signal of the civilized world that any form of terrorism – religious, separatist, etc., is unacceptable and will be suppressed.

In Kosovo, preparations continue for the November general elections. In an about-face, four Serb parties decided to unite their efforts and actively participate in the elections. On 5 September, the Slovenian customs service found more than 50 tons of weapons in the port of Kopar. They suppose the four containers from Malaysia were destined for Kosovo.

 2. Bosnia and Herzegovina
The former president of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Biljana Plavsic, accused of war crimes by The Hague Tribunal, arrived on 6 September in Belgrade during a short break allowed to her by the tribunal to better prepare her defense. She was met at the airport by the Serbian Minister of Justice, Vladan Batic and the former prime minister of the Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodic.

The General Prosecutor of the ICTY in The Hague, Carla del Ponte, has asked NATO for cooperation in identifying the kind of weapons the Albanian rebels in FYROM possess. This information is needed for an eventual indictment of Albanian suspects for war crimes.

 3. Security Threats: Terrorism
Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis gave reassurances on 18 September that additional measures would be taken to strengthen security at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004. Security concerns have been raised by the International Olympic Committee following the terrorist attacks in the US. One of the concerns is linked to the local terrorist group “17 November”, which has claimed responsibility for more than 20 assassinations over the past 25 years without any of its members being arrested. The victims include US diplomats, Greek businessmen and recently the British military attaché in Athens. Prime Minister Simitis pledged to strengthen the security team with international counter-terrorism experts, and to use the Greek military extensively for the security of the games. Greece allowed US airplanes to use its airspace for counter-terrorist operations on 24 September.

 

III. The National Perspectives of the Balkan Countries: Specific Issues

1. Albania
Though the parliamentary elections for the Albanian parliament were held in June and July, the formation of the new government was delayed by a series of re-runs and the selection process for a prime minister by the Socialist Party, which won the elections and has 73 seats out of 140 in parliament. The opposition Democrat-led Union for Victory coalition won 46 seats. The Union accused the Socialists of manipulating the elections. It has not recognized the election results and boycotted the new parliament’s first session. Furthermore, it staged several candle-light vigils in front of the parliament in protest; however, with no result. Albanian President Rexhep Meidani nominated the new coalition government of Prime Minister Ilir Meta (Socialist) on 7 September. Arta Dade (Socialist) was appointed foreign minister. The former foreign minister, Pascal Milo, was appointed state minister for European integration. Pandeli Maiko will be the Albanian minister of defense.

2. Bulgaria
(1) Bulgaria is preparing for the 11 November presidential elections. The only candidate so far, selected in the spring of this year by the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), the former ruling coalition, is current President Petar Stoyanov. The ruling coalition, the National Movement Simeon the Second (NMSS) is still hesitant to announce its presidential candidate. The presidential candidate, the current head of the Bulgarian state, will run for office with a female vice-presidential candidate, Nelly Kutzkova, a Sofia District Regional Judge. (2) Government representatives and the General Prosecutor’s Office announced their intention on 24 September to investigate high-level officials of the former government on charges of corruption and illegal behavior in the process of privatization.

3. Croatia
Croatian authorities arrested six former members of the Croatian army in the first week of September for atrocities committed after the Croat army’s “Operation Storm” in 1995, after the Serb rebellion in the eastern part of the country. Persecution and punishment of Croatia’s own troops for war crimes is one of the most difficult tasks of the present government. Human rights organizations claim 400 Serbs were killed in that period. A significant part of the population does not consider these episodes of the “homeland war” to be a reason for punishing the nation’s heroes.

4. FRY
(1) Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic on 4 September rejected calls to extradite Serbian President Milan Milutinovic to the ICTY in The Hague. Djindjic argued that under Serbian law, the president is protected by immunity and that Serbian law takes precedence over international law. (2) The President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, pulled out from the talks on the future of the Yugoslav Federation on 19 September. The reason given was that the President of the FRY had invited Prime Minister Dragisa Pesic, whose government is not recognized by the leadership of Montenegro, to the talks. President Milo Djukanovic of Montenegro does not have the will to participate in giving legitimacy to federal institutions. According to him, Montenegro is already so distanced from Serbia politically and economically that it makes more sense for Montenegro to be independent.

 

IV. The Bilateral and the Multilateral Relations in the Balkans. The State of the Regional Initiatives

1. Bilateral Relations
a) Bosnia and Herzegovina-Bulgaria.
Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov visited the Bulgarian SFOR engineering contingent in Bosnia and Herzegovina, when it completed its mission on 2-3 September. The follow-up mission of the Bulgarian contingent will be engaged in patrolling tasks.

b) Bulgaria-Croatia. On 10-11 September, the President of Croatia, Stipe Mesic, met with Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov and Prime Minister Simeon Saxkoburggotsky in Sofia. At the end of this year, Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan is expected to visit Bulgaria and sign a trade liberalization agreement.

c) FYROMacedonia-Bulgaria. (1) Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski visited Sofia on 18-19 September and had talks with the prime minister, the president and the speaker of the parliament. The Macedonian prime minister promised to recommend to the Macedonian parliament that the ratification procedures of 11 bilateral agreements be accelerated. During a meeting with Bulgarian Defense Minister Boyko Noev, the Macedonian leader said that without the Bulgarian military support delivered months before the beginning of the tensions in Macedonia in February, the number of Macedonians killed would have been much bigger. The Macedonian prime minister promised to resolve the issue of property rights of Bulgarians who were forced during various periods in history to leave Macedonia for Bulgaria. This is required by the Macedonian Law on De-nationalization, which will take effect at the end of this year. More than 600'000 Bulgarians fled Macedonia for Bulgaria during the last century. (2) A Bulgarian parliamentary delegation led by the Head of the Commission for Foreign Policy, Defense and Security, Stanimir Ilchev, visited Skopje on 24-25 September for talks with the Macedonian leadership on international, regional and bilateral issues. The Bulgarian MPs promised to intensify their efforts to implement economic projects between the two countries.

2. Multilateral Relations: Trilateral Cooperation FYROM-Bulgaria-FRY
A trilateral conference on issues of trans-border cooperation was convened in Nis, FRY on 17-19 September. The mayors of Skopje, Sofia and Nis attended. Their declared ambition is to turn the triangle Sofia-Nis-Skopje into a no-tolerance zone for criminals, especially for drug traffickers. The FRY Minister of the Interior, Zoran Zivkovic attended the conference and promised to support the realization of these plans.

3. Regional Initiatives
a) Multinational Peace Force South East Europe (MPFSEE).
In accordance with the rotation principle, the Commander of the MPFSEE, Turkish General Hilmi Zorlu, handed over the command to Greek General Andreas Kuzelis in Plovdiv on 31 August . The ceremony was attended by the defense ministers of Bulgaria, FYROM, Romania and Turkey. Ukraine will join the MPFSEE as an “observer” by the end of this year. The FRY is negotiating with the defence ministers of the member countries over the conditions for joining the rapid-reaction brigade, which will be stationed in Plovdiv, Bulgaria for the next three years.

b) Pact of Stability for South-East Europe. The participants in the Pact and the coordinator’s office are making intensive preparations for the Regional Meeting of the Pact in Bucharest, Romania on 25-26 October. This meeting is expected to set important tasks for the future of the Pact.

 

V. The Process of Differentiated Integration of South-Eastern Europe in the EU and in NATO

1. EU
EU-Bulgaria.
(1) On 3 September, the Council for European Integration decided with the Council of Ministers of Bulgaria (an inter-ministerial institution) to present the country’s position on all 29 chapters for negotiations with the European Union by the end of 2001. So far, the accession negotiations have covered 21 chapters. The new Bulgarian Government wants to complete the negotiations by 2004 and to join the European Union in 2006. (2) The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry announced on 22 September that the Bulgarian government would fully cooperate with the EU authorities in implementing the decisions made by the EU leaders on 21 September regarding the fight against terrorists and terrorist organizations on European soil. Bulgaria will adopt the new European definition of terrorism, and participate in the introduction of a new European arrest warrant that is to replace the existing extradition system. Bulgaria will also participate in EU measures against money laundering. Bulgaria is in full agreement with the EU’s understanding that stabilizing regional conflicts is a basic instrument of fighting terrorism. Bulgaria reaffirmed its opposition to nationalism, racism and xenophobia, and efforts to identify terrorism with Islam and the Arab world.

2. NATO
NATO-Bulgaria.
(1) The Bulgarian defense minister requested a broader Bulgarian participation in KFOR on 4 September in Pristina, Kosovo. The Bulgarian contingent has been assigned to the German troops in the province. (2) NATO's 10-day military exercise “Cooperative Key 2001” began in Bulgaria on 11 September. Its objective is to test the level of compatibility of the armed forces of 9 NATO and 13 PfP countries. It is the first practical assessment of the extent to which the PfP countries meet NATO standards. The exercise included land, air, command and medical operations. Forces from Canada, France, Greece, Turkey, Hungary, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands and the US as well as from Austria, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia, FYROM, Georgia, Latvia, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland participated in the exercise. The scenario of the exercise included an imaginary UN request for a multinational humanitarian support operation. The exercise tested ground security and medical assistance to refugees. 1'300 troops and 72 aircraft, including fighters, transport airplanes and helicopters were involved. The main part of the exercise took place around Plovdiv in southern Bulgaria. (3) A long prepared visit of Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxkoburggotsky to Brussels (EU, NATO and Belgium) on 13 September was postponed after the tragic events in the US two days earlier. On the same day, the Bulgarian government decided to give NATO all necessary support in its fight against terrorism. A few days later, on 21 September, the Bulgarian parliament confirmed the government’s decision to act as if the country was member of NATO and an ally of the US in the new global war against terrorism. The vote was 159 in favor and only one against. Opposition MPs insisted that additional guarantees for the country’s national security be requested of NATO. Public awareness of the threat posed by terrorism is increasing, though not as fast as the tragic events demanded. The parties in parliament are unanimous in their support of the global struggle against terrorism.

 

VI. The Influence of Other External Factors on the Region: National Great Powers and International Institutions

1. US
a) US-Bulgaria.
(1) US Senator Richard Lugar (Rep.) made a short visit to Bulgaria on 31 August and 1 September. His mission was to check the pace of the military reform in preparation for NATO membership. Senator Lugar met with the president, the prime minister, the minister of foreign affairs, the minister of defense and the chief of the general staff. The high-ranking American visitor also discussed the situation in Bulgaria after the elections and the regional situation in the Balkans, especially Macedonia. Just four days before this visit, US Senator John McCain visited Sofia. (2) Both the government and the parliament gave unanimous support to the US in their military operation against the perpetrators of the terrorist acts. This support found practical expression in the government’s decision on 25 September to open its air space to US planes following the US government's request earlier that day. The request covered only transport planes and helicopters and did not mention landing rights.

b) USA-FRY. Following a US initiative in the UN Security Council, the member states decided to lift the arms embargo against the FRY. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan gave green light on 10 September to the Security Council to lift the arms embargo imposed on the FRY by UNSC Resolution 1160 of March 1998 following the repression against the Kosovar Albanians. The resolution adopted by the UNSC also obliges Belgrade to grant humanitarian organizations and diplomatic representatives access to the territory of Kosovo to help resolve the pending issues in the province.

2. Russia
Russia-Bulgaria.
A Bulgarian parliamentary delegation visited Moscow on 8-10 September and met with counterparts from the Russian Duma. The bilateral relations are at a very low level of cooperation, especially in the economic sphere. The trade deficit is 13:1 in Russia’s favor – a situation that clearly makes Bulgaria dependent on Russia with respect to energy. A visa regime between the two countries will take effect beginning 1 October. Russia did not wish to sign a re-admission agreement for relaxing the visa regime. Certain restrictions of the visa regime on both sides will be eased for some categories of citizens, but a completely new agreement on visa issues is expected by the end of the year.

  

VII. Conclusions: The Security Situation and the Region-Building Evolution
The tragic events in New York and Washington, D. C. on 11 September have already caused shifts of concepts and policies on security issues in terms of priorities, dimensions and contents. Geopolitical and geostrategic issues will inevitably also be re-interpreted in the light of the new global war launched against that most dangerous enemy of world civilization, terrorism. Southeastern Europe must become more stable as soon as possible and become a capable partner and ally in the global counter-terrorist coalition. From that perspective, the domestic efforts to strengthen the counter-terrorist capability in the individual Balkan countries need to be linked with cooperative efforts internationally. Efforts to resolve persisting conflicts should be accelerated.

One aspect of this fight that is especially relevant for the Balkan is the identification and neutralization of the regional strongholds of global terrorist networks that were developed during the wars of the 90s.

The evolution of region building requires a certain reconceptualization in light of the evolving events. The good news from the region is that there is not a single country that will not support the counter-terrorist struggle in one way or another.


EDITORIAL STAFF:

CONTACT AND REFERENCE

Dr. Plamen Pantev, Editor–in–Chief

ISSN 1311 – 3240

Dr. Tatiana Houbenova-Delissivkova

Address: ISIS, 1618 Sofia,

Mr. Valeri Rachev, M. A.

P. O. Box 231, Bulgaria

Mr. Ivan Tsvetkov, M. A.

Phone/Fax: ++(359 - 2-) 551 828

Dr. Todor Tagarev

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


Index.htm 01-Feb-2002  / Webmaster / © 1999 ISIS / Center for Security Studies and
 Conflict Research, ETH Zürich / www.isn.ethz.ch/isis/alle/coopy.htm