|13-14 October, 2005|
Radisson SAS Grand Hotel, Sofia
Statement by Ambassador Branislav MILINKOVIC,
Deputy Director General for NATO and Defense Affairs and Special Envoy to NATO, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia and Montenegro
Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Colleagues,
It is my great pleasure and privilege to speak at the opening of this important and timely seminar organized by our host country Bulgaria, our contact-point country within the NATO Norway and NATO International Secretariat. This seminar is an important element of the bilateral cooperation between Serbia and Montenegro and Bulgaria and also falls within the Tailored Cooperation Program between SaM and NATO. On behalf of all representatives from SaM I would like to express our sincere gratitude to our Bulgarian and our Norwegian friends for creating this possibility for us to come to Sofia, to learn from other participants and to express our views on this important topic: important for our national security policy, important for the region of the South East Europe and also for the Euro-Atlantic integration.
One might argue that one of the major characteristics of the international system that we have today is completely new and rather ч complex security paradigm. The Cold War ended and military and political division between two sides was finally over. The adversaries of yesterday are in the same political and economic structures today where they do share the same values: freedom, democracy, market economy and the rule of law. At the same time, they also started to share very similar, sometimes even identical, security threats and challenges - terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, organized crime, ethnic intolerance, natural disasters... Major international organizations are trying to address these challenges in coordinated and mutually reinforcing manner.
During the first decade after the Cold war, region of the South East Europe went through very difficult times. Ethnic conflicts, intolerance, serious violations of human security, forced migrations produced huge economic and social setbacks. Various international organizations were forced to react and even to shape their new security policies on the basis of their involvement in the Balkans. But, fortunately, during last five years situation has changed significantly for good. One has to admit, our region still continues to be an area of Europe with some security challenges as well. However, the conditions are getting more and more favorable with solid chances for further improvement. The long period of divisions, mutual conflicts and tensions seems to be behind us. Today, all South East European countries have essentially the same foreign policy objectives: joining European and Euro-Atlantic structures. We believe that this also makes their security perceptions much closer then ever before. Arguably, this also creates conditions for more unified regional response.
It was exactly last week when we, in Belgrade, marked fifth anniversary of fundamental political changes after which our country ended up long period of international isolation and joined to the European mainstream. We started to share and implement the same values of parliamentary democracy, free and fair elections and the rule of law. We became an active member of the OSCE, joined the Council of Europe and expressed the strong desire to join PfP and European Union. This week's opening of negotiations between Serbia and Montenegro and European Union on the Stabilization and Association Agreement was important step in that direction.
In the preamble of the Defense Strategy of the state union Serbia and Montenegro, which was adopted on 18th November 2004, it was also clearly stated that our strategic aim is full membership in NATO. As a result, reforms have been intensified within the Government, especially the Ministry of Defence (MoD), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), but also within the Parliament, to promote, inter alia, our objectives towards our full membership in the EU and NATO. Later on during this seminar my colleagues will speak more on our new security policy and relevant frameworks and mechanisms created for its implementation.
Please allow me to mention, at this point, one specific example to illustrate our new security thinking in practice. It was in early 2001 when new authorities were faced with very serious test to solve dangerous crisis in Southern Serbia. Security threat posed by extremist and terrorist groups, both for the country and for the region, was real. Fortunately, our government, NATO, OSCE and EU, jointly shared both this very threat and methods how to defuse it and to solve it. Another type of the government, with another type of security policy, would probably go for the military solution. Our new government, in the close coordination with the international community, took another approach - preparation for the elections, building of multiethnic institutions on the local level and further economic development has been used in order to solve this crisis. Close cooperation with NATO was critically important. This joint work, as we like to say, represented "partnership for peace in practice". And, since that successful experience, our mutual relations with NATO are progressing -slowly, but constantly.
Political dialogue between NATO and Serbia and Montenegro has been enhanced and intensified. NATO Secretary General visited Belgrade in July 2004 and July 2005. In mid-2003 the Alliance started a special Tailored Cooperation Program to prepare Serbia and Montenegro for PfP membership. An enhanced dialogue of experts on various matters continued in the 2004. In early 2005, NATO adopted a new cooperation program covering much wider range of activities, such as security sector reform, strategic defense review, retraining of the former military personal, base conversion, civil- emergency planning, cooperation in the fight against terrorism, participation at various NATO seminars and courses, language training and other related activities. We are pleased with this flexible format which enables us to work closely and substantially with NATO even short of full PfP. We are encouraged by the thinking within the NATO that TCP might be used even more creatively in order to facilitate our security sector reform and Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
One might also add the following: North Atlantic Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA) played or is playing an active role in the implementation of two projects financed by NATO and PfP nations -destruction of small arms and light weapons (completed in 2004) and destruction of anti-personnel landmines (ongoing); members of the Serbia and Montenegro Parliament regularly attend NATO Assembly meetings in observer status; Serbia and Montenegro participates, so far only as observer, in the process of cooperation established by the Adriatic Charter.
This year Serbia and Montenegro has a privilege to chair the Southeast Europe Steering Cooperation Group (SEEGROUP) which meets on a regular basis at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. We decided to continue several ongoing projects, to develop some new ones, to intensify security dialogue and to increase visibility of the SEEGROUP both within the Alliance and beyond.
One particular aspect of the Action Plan for our Chairmanship in 2005 is closely related to the topic of this seminar. We decided to open discussions on the follow-up of the South East Europe Common Assessment Paper (SEECAP) which was prepared by the SEEGROUP and endorsed by NATO Ministerial Meeting in 2001. We believe that some four years later it might be useful to have another closer look, as envisaged in the document itself, in order to identify how SEECAP corresponds with the new security realities such as global fight against terrorism or enlargement of the EU and NATO. It is far from our intention to prepare new SEECAP. Still, we want to use existing document as a starting point in order to assess security situation in our region today. Therefore, we would like to encourage all participants, especially those with good expertise on SEECAP, to try to link their comments, if and when appropriate, to this document. This would be very helpful for our activities within the SEEGROUP.
In closing, I would like to underline once again, firm resolve of Serbia and Montenegro to join the Euro-Atlantic family. We are well aware of the obstacle that still has to be overcome for our full participation in the PfP. And we work very hard to remove it. But, in the meantime, we do not want to waste our time. We would like to use all existing and future opportunities to show how credible partner we are and we might become. This seminar is another useful opportunity for us to learn, to cooperate, to exchange our views and present our perceptions. I am looking forward to a very interesting debate and I wish very successful seminar to all of you.
I thank you Mr. Chairman.