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SHAPING A COMMON SECURITY AGENDA FOR SOUTHEAST EUROPE

NEW APPROACHES AND SHARED RESPONSIBILITIES

September 5-6, 2003
Sofia
 
Dr. Ognian Shentov
Chairman of the Board, Center for the Study of Democracy


Distinguished Secretary General of NATO,
Ministers,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

In recent years, and particularly following the events of September 11, 2001, the border line between external and internal security has become even more blurred. Geographic remoteness and geopolitical advantages no longer provide a safe haven. The threats coming from failed states and non-state actors are growing. International crime syndicates have nurtured a fusion between criminalized political and economic elites. Cyber crime has become a common occurrence. Corruption has turned into strategic threat to established as well as new democracies. All of these are usually defined as "soft security" issues. In other words, the balance between external and domestic security is changing in a way that calls for a revision of the traditional separation between the instruments of foreign policy and domestic security. This new dynamic also requires a broader definition of the roles of established institutions such as the military and the police. Today's armed forces are quite often asked to perform civilian tasks. This is particularly evident in the post-war reconstruction of Iraq but has also been experienced by NATO's missions in the Western Balkans.

Another issue that needs to be considered is that except for sporadic media interest, the international community has paid little attention to the new ways in which organized crime and, especially, transnational economic crime, have evolved. In the Balkans, quite often, nationalist and even patriotic rhetoric serves to disguise criminal economic interests. The clash between such interests and the processes of democratization surfaced with the assassination of Serbia's Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic as well as with the recent series of assassinations in our region.

Corruption, as a way of soliciting government "cooperation", has become a major risk to national as well as international security. The involvement in organized crime of institutions and individuals from the security sector is evidence that the society's ability to protect itself from the criminal world has been undermined. Particularly worrying and dangerous is the existence of established smuggling channels that are aided by corrupt individuals in the customs, the law-enforcement agencies, or other state institutions. The importance of this type of systemic corruption can be highlighted by pointing to the following numbers. Between 50 and 70 percent of the gross domestic product of the Balkan countries crosses their borders. One can easily imagine the magnitude of the threat that corruption in border and custom controls poses to a nation's economy and security.

In some cases even members of the armed forces are involved in trans-border smuggling activities. Two cases that illustrate this point include the use of Bulgaria's Black Sea naval base in Atia for large-scale smuggling operations and the involvement of high-level Romanian military officers in cigarette smuggling through Romania's Otopeni international airport.

The economic foundation of organized crime is reinforced by two factors - the high unemployment rate and the enormous share of the "gray" economy. The "gray" economy generates between 40 and 50 percent of the national income of the countries in Southeast Europe. The average unemployment for the region is 21%. This is a huge source of human resources to organized crime groups. High unemployment also creates an environment that is conducive to the trafficking in human beings, which is one of the most profitable illegal activities in Europe.

The spread of economic crime contributes to the persistence of the "gray and black" sectors in the region's national economies. For many countries, these sectors account for 30 to 40% of their GDP. According to some estimates, for countries, such as Turkey, Albania, FYROM, and Serbia and Montenegro, the percentages are even higher. Just like the legal market, the "gray" and "black" economies are governed by the demand and supply logic. The illegal trafficking towards Western Europe increases the risks to the security of the entire continent. The millions of people that participate in the "gray" economies in the Balkans are also a significant source for illegal workers in Western Europe. Illegal immigrants also form a natural setting not only for the spread of organized criminal groups but also of terrorist organizations. One should not forget, though, the demand side. The trafficking of women and children is largely driven by the demand for their "services". Drug trafficking is also driven by the growing number of drug users in Western Europe. In some EU countries cigarette smuggling is eased by the lack of efficient measures to stop it and by increasing demand for cheap cigarettes as a result of high tobacco taxes. Finally, the illegal labor market is also driven by the demand for cheap labor, from which employers in the West make a significant profit. Thus, we need to seek solutions not only in our region but also in the EU and the US.

When considering the need for innovative approaches to analyzing the security risks and the conduct of an adequate security policy one should emphasize the increasing role of non-state actors in both domestic and international politics. In Bulgaria, an example of this new role is Coalition 2000 - an anticorruption initiative of a group of non-governmental organization working with the support of the United States Agency for International Development. The work of this coalition perfectly illustrates the advantages that public-private partnerships offer in countering soft security threats. I am convinced that the civil society can make a unique contribution to both monitoring and supporting the reform of the security sector in Southeast Europe.

The participation in this conference of NATO's Secretary General Lord Robertson is especially important because of the Alliance's dedication to formulate a new security policy agenda that seeks to broaden the scope of NATO's responsibilities and improving its capacity to deal with soft security challenges. From the perspective of the countries in the region, the immediate task is to find mechanisms so that NATO's enlargement increases the security of both the members of the Alliance and of non-member countries in Southeast Europe. I am sure that in the course of this conference we will hear enough arguments for the need to make all countries in Southeast Europe, regardless of their status vis-a-vis EU, NATO or the Council of Europe, equal participants in this process.

Finally, there are a number of other issues that I hope the participants in this conference will address. To mention only a few, these are the issues of adapting the contemporary doctrines, institutions and mechanisms of cooperation so that they can counter the new threats to national and international security. At the end, let me express my gratitude to the Bulgarian ministers of foreign affairs, of the interior, and of defense, for their support for the development of public-private partnership in countering soft security threats. In the case of Bulgaria, Minister Passy has been particularly instrumental in nurturing this dialogue because until recently he headed one of the most prominent non-governmental organizations in the country.

Next, I would like to give the floor to Dr. Solomon Passy, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria. Also, I would like to wish all participants productive two days at the conference.
 
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