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September 5-6, 2003
Mr. Nikolay Svinarov
Minister of Defense of the Republic of Bulgaria

Dear Prime Minister,
Dear Lord Robertson,
Dear Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank the hosts from the Center for the Study of Democracy for the wonderful initiative and the precise organization of the meeting. Today a great part of the people are gathered here, people on whom the security and stability in Southeastern Europe depends today and tomorrow. I am sure that the discussions and debates in the course of these two days will contribute to strengthening the cooperation and the good neighborly relations between our countries through building common security and defense positions.

The terrorist attacks against the USA brought about the formation of a qualitatively new military strategic environment and imposed reassessment of the risks and the challenges to security both in international and national perspective. The international terrorism spreads its agents over larger and larger geographic territories and in practical terms turns into primary danger for the countries in Southeastern Europe as well. The considerable influence of the organized crime in our region together with endeavors of extreme religiously and ethnically motivated organizations to establish their network on the Balkans as well as proximity to unstable regions like the Near East and the Caucasus make our countries face enormous problems whose settlement is our COMMON basic priority.

Within the framework of this international context, the Republic of Bulgaria and its neighbors from Southeastern Europe have one COMMON TASK - to work in order to transform their territories into a zone of peace and stability. Facing the necessity of finding the right strategy for our more secure future in an entirely altered security environment, we seek more effective cooperation with the rest of the Balkan countries. Such is the cooperation that encourages our common full participation in the European and Euro-Atlantic structures.

The development of the strategic environment transforms the importance of Eastern Europe and turns it into one of the important centers in the multi-pole security environment. There are serious challenges along the road of the integration into NATO of the countries from Southeastern Europe: the organized crime and corruption; the smoldering ethnic conflicts and terrorism; the insufficient measures of control over illegal armaments proliferation, traffic of persons and drugs. This whole risky diapason needs an integrated approach on the part of the countries in the region. The building of a unified concept and COMMON STRATEGY to solve the internal and external security problems with the assistance of our partners from NATO and EU is the best way to a more stable future for the region.

The real efforts and achievements of the Alliance in resolving the conflicts and achieving stability in Southeastern Europe are considerable. The assistance of the European Union is indispensable and the EU acquires more and more active role in stabilizing the region through developing Common European Security and Defense Policy. The first operations of the Union - the police mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Concordia operation in the Republic of Macedonia give us a real idea of its potential when there is COMMON formulation of the risks, threats, goals and means.

I have grounds to be proud of the role of the Republic of Bulgaria as a stabilizing factor on the Balkans. Our responsibility for the regional, European and world's security7 increases more and more. Bulgaria, as a country aspiring after membership in NATO makes its real contribution to building the European Rapid Reaction Forces and to conducting the military operation in Macedonia. This as well as our participation in SFOR, KFOR and ISAF is a proof of the commitment of our country to the European and Euro-Atlantic values in all its dimensions and of the readiness to assume the duties and responsibilities of the full membership.

In spite of the achievements of the Balkan countries and of the international community to strengthen the peace and security in the region, we have to cope with a considerable amount of work that must and can be done only by us - the peoples from Southeastern Europe.

The countries from Southeastern Europe must in real terms go towards a COMMON AGENDA in the sphere of security. In order to guarantee successfully the fulfillment of that task, we have to define together the priorities in the development of the security sector and the perspectives for cooperation between our countries in accordance with our endeavor to full integration in the Euro-Atlantic and European structures. To encourage the dialogue between our governments and the non-governmental organizations and institutions that deal with the security issues in our region. The regular multi-lateral meetings, conferences and seminars provide excellent opportunities to exchange opinions on these issues.

It is necessary to help each other in the struggle against the organized crime, illegal trafficking of drugs and weapons, corruption and money laundering, controlling extraordinary situations not only on the Balkans but also in a broader European context. An attempt that is really unique for the region to interact in the sphere of defense and security is being made, an attempt which is in the interest of all countries and does not contradict the interests of these that have not joined the initiative.

We set an important precedent of generating security in Southeastern Europe through regional sources, which lays the beginning of a positive tendency towards limiting the necessity of "assistance from the outside"' for our security and stability. This leads to a breakthrough from narrow regional thinking to a more universal approach to security and defense issues in the whole Euro- Atlantic environment.

For me, the key word in the title of today's conference is COMMON. The common inclusion of the countries from Southeastern Europe in the global anti-terrorist coalition; our common participation in peacekeeping and peace-support operations of NATO and EU; our common contribution to the Multinational Peacekeeping Force Southeastern Europe. All this contributes to a great extent to the security in the region.

As a country co-founder of the Multinational Peace Force Southeastern Europe and first host nation of its Headquarters, Bulgaria made considerable efforts for the successful functioning of the force. We hope that its further development and its approaching the architecture of NATO will be another step towards building an atmosphere of mutual understanding and interaction on the Balkans. In conclusion, I'd like once again to outline the necessity of our common efforts to improve security and cooperation in Southeastern Europe and to underline the basic role of the constructive partnership between our countries in solving the common problems in the sphere of security and defense. With view to the perspective towards joint European and Euro-Atlantic future, we have to continue along the road of the positive measures and correct decisions for peaceful development of the region, as well as for finding the optimal answers to the present and future challenges in Southeastern Europe.

Thank you for the attention.
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