Prospects for Stability in Southeastern Europe
His Excellency Aleksandar Dimitrov
Foreign Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Kosovo is an issue the resolution of which will be a maturity test for the countries in the region, as well as for the entire international community. This meetingthe XVIIth NATO Workshopaffords a welcome opportunity for a wide and informal exchange of views by the most interested and the most relevant countries.
The events of the last year clearly demonstrated that the security of Europe is inseparably linked to the stability and security of its southeastern part; resolving the problems of this area will extend what Europe calls its area of civilization. All of our contributions to this difficult and, it seems, long-term process will confirm the Old Continents ability and desire to share all of civilizations accomplishments.
There is a good basis for the wish to share achievements in the developments that followed the fall of the symbol of the Cold Warthe wall that divided Berlin for decades. At present, the majority of Europe is integrated. In that area, values such as human rights, democracy, the rule of law, a market economy, and the free flow of people, goods, capital, and information are commonly shared. Now, day in and day out, we are getting closer to realizing the long-awaited goal of a completely united Europe based on common ideals, standards, mechanisms, and code of conduct.
THREATS THAT STILL REMAIN TO SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
However, while the fall of the Berlin Wall was such a positive event, Southeastern Europe is still rife with historic differences (ideological, developmental, ethnic, religious, etc.) that may slow down its much-needed and much-desired development. Previous wars and their consequences, as well as difficulties that resulted from sanctions and embargoes, made the social costs of transitions unendurable to the already hard-pressed population. Citizens who lost so much from earlier changes and who are now impatient to improve their social status are easily influenced by those who spread intolerance at home as well as toward neighboring nations and states. The desire to have what others have often provokes conflict. But putting on the mantle of a greater nation-state can quickly impede overall development. It also goes hand-in-hand with the wish to become an ethnically pure state. Unrealistic and blind ambitions have stimulated the Balkan circulus vitiosus (vicious circle). And those ambitions, regrettably, remain a great threat to the fragile peace at a time when a majority of the states in the region are strained and indecisive about overall social transformation.
The conflicts and crises that have taken place in Southeastern Europe over the last ten years are threatening to keep the region neglected and isolated and out of the process of European integration and Euro-Atlantic enlargement. It is therefore not unexpected that the prevailing opinion in our countrya former victim of Balkan turbulenceis that the best way to secure lasting peace and prosperity in Southeastern Europe, particularly in the Balkans, is to discard all greater state and greater nation policies, whether local or global, open or disguised, state or non-state. This will require all interested parties in this region to refrain from encouraging or supporting such activities. Taking this action would support the fragile peace and strengthen and accelerate the processes of increased political, economic, and cultural cooperation in that part of Europe. It would also be of particular importance to Kosovo and to the Former Yugoslavia as a whole.
Southeastern Europe needs to resolve all issues and problems peacefully through dialogue. There must be complete respect for all generally accepted international and European standards and principles, including those that relate to human, civil, and ethnic rights and freedoms. This includes respect for existing borders; we are resolutely against any attempt whatsoever that is aimed at violent border alteration. Everything in our power must be done to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries in the region.
Our country also supports the easy crossing of borders. The Europe of the 21st century should leave behind the problem of creating new borders and drawing new geographical maps and should strive instead for borders that will connect its citizens. Questioning borders, or encouraging those who dream about changing borders, will only open Pandoras box, which may seriously affect European security.
It is apparent from the problems in Kosovo and the problems in the Former Yugoslavia that the two areas have one thing in commonthe absence of democracy and democratic processes. We believe that the consistent and full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 for Kosovo is of particular importance in stabilizing the situation in the region, and is a precondition for the final resolution of the crisis. At the same time, Kosovo should be given wide and substantial autonomy; this should be done in the respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Former Yugoslavia, which we all wish and expect to be democratized and rebuilt on the basis of broadly accepted norms and standards.
SUPPORTING PEACE EFFORTS IN KOSOVO
We support UNMIK and KFOR measures, as well as the Kosovo Interim Administration in their work toward establishing a democratic and multiethnic society in Kosovo that will respect all human rights and freedoms, including the rights of minorities and ethnic groups. A model of social relations must be found that would discard all tendencies toward an ethnically clean Kosovo. With the long-term assistance of the international community, the establishment of such a democratic society is likely. This would be one of the preconditions for full integration of the region into Europe.
We are concerned with the violence and increased number of inter-ethnic incidents in Kosovo. Because of this escalation, it is necessary to undertake further steps to stop the violence as well as to promote the protection of human and civil rights for all who live in Kosovo. Activities that destroy civilization and cultural-historical values and traditions are unacceptable. We unequivocally condemn all forms of violence and extremismincluding terrorismno matter who imposes them, that maintain conditions that are favorable to the opponents of the crisis resolution. We are particularly anxious about the attempts by extremists to transfer the conflict into Southern Serbia. Therefore we fully support the KFOR activities aimed at strengthening the control of the Kosovo borders and preventing the possibility of a spillover of violence into the neighboring countries, including our own country, which would threaten those countries sovereignty and territorial integrity. However, because the growth of organized crime and its connection with extremists have added to the crisis, we believe that KFOR and UNMIK need to make additional efforts toward suppression, in coordination with the governments of neighboring countries.
Since the outbreak of the Kosovo crisis, the intense cooperation between our government and NATO forces stationed on our soil has been of particular importance. The cooperation between our army and police and KFOR has been most helpful in preventing and suppressing illegal trafficking in arms, people, and narcotics as part of organized crime in Kosovo. We express our gratitude for the assistance we have been offered in our efforts to strengthen control and monitor the border. At the beginning of June, a new Border Brigade of our Army, which was established in conformity with the aims and priorities of the Annual National Program for Preparation for NATO Membership, became fully operational and started performing its tasks.
In the future, we expect both elected Albanian and Serb representatives to take a major step forward and, together with representatives of other nationalities who lived in Kosovo before the war, to do their utmost to overcome the consequences of the bloody conflicts and persecutions. Further steps aimed at the return of all refugees, irrespective of their ethnic affiliation, are also indispensable. During this entire process, the involvement of the international community, especially those countries that took part in military operations, will continue to be necessary. Additional and intensive endeavors in reconstructing and rehabilitating Kosovo will be required in order to provide a safe environment for all those who wish to live and work in Kosovo.
We believe that the consequences for the countries in the immediate neighborhood of Kosovo, as well as beyond, that might result from hasty decisions made concerning Kosovos political status, should be assessed with particular care. The point that the ultimate solution to the Kosovo crisis must facilitate democratization of the Former Yugoslavia and its admission into international organizations must be taken into account.
Although it is not realistic to expect democratic changes to take place quickly in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, our concerted efforts should be aimed at supporting the democratic forces there in their endeavors toward unification and democratization. We also need to support the independent media and those civilian groups that work to bring rationalism to the overall social life of the Former Yugoslavia. It is also of crucial importance to reassess the overall effects of sanctions, which are targeting demagogues and the regime but are bringing the country to the edge.
Because of the situation in Kosovo and the Former Yugoslavia, Southeastern Europe is still characterized as an unsafe and high-risk area. As a consequence, the majority of countries in the area are automatically deprived of foreign capital investments and are experiencing a decline in GDP, a decrease in the standard of living, and an increase in the rate of unemployment. If these countries cannot overcome this Balkanization, and are not assisted in their efforts by the Alliance, Europe, and the international community, further tensions are likely to occur.
The overall situation in the regionpolitical, economic, and securitymust undergo further, positive changes. A year after the end of the Kosovo crisis, the peace process has been implemented, but we are still far from the ultimate goal.
When U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244 was adopted on June 10, 1999, the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, based on democracy, economic development, and security, was also adopted. At its Washington Summit, NATO additionally adopted two important documents: the Membership Action Plan and the NATO Southeast Europe Initiative. These steps constituted the beginning of the realization of a stable and prosperous Southeastern Europe, fully integrated into the European and Euro-Atlantic areas. I would like to emphasize that we are vitally interested in the full and consistent implementation of these important documents.
EFFORTS BEING MADE BY OUR COUNTRY
Our countryits government and its citizenshas taken a maturity test, the ultimate challenge to Macedonian society. We have demonstrated wisdom, and we have responded with dignity to a most serious provocation. We have proven that we are not a new political creation, but a reliable actor and international community partner in every respect. Despite the challenges we have been faced with, and despite the fact that we have been greatly affected regarding economic, social, and even political issues, we have managed to maintain our stability. In addition, our key role in support of peace and security in the region has been reaffirmed. My country did not detour from, but advanced, its strategic commitments to friendly relations with all neighboring countries and to rapprochement with the European and Euro-Atlantic integration structures. Today I can say that my country is the first in the region to start negotiations with the EU on concluding the Stabilization and Association Agreement. We expect to sign the Agreement by the end of this year.
A new chapter is being opened in the history of this region, which too oftenand not always through any fault of its ownhas been burdened by conflicts and unable to concentrate on developing and prospering. We are looking forward to the opportunities that will be created by the Stability Pact and the Southeast Europe Initiative.
Since the agreements inception, we have supported the NATO Southeast Europe Initiative. Of particular importance to us is the further development of regional cooperation as well as cooperation between the countries in the region and NATO within the framework of the Initiatives four pillars. In this respect, PFP mechanisms, security cooperation programs with countries in the region, and the Consultative Forum on Security Issues in Southeast Europe will prove very useful. In late June of 2000 we will host an informal meeting of Prime Ministers of countries participating in the Consultative Forum.
The Stability Pact offers a particularly significant opportunity for peace, stability, and prosperity to prevail in Southeastern Europe as well as for the areas integration into the European family. The economic dimension of the Stability Pact has a key role for us, and taking on this role is a prerequisite for democratization, respect for human rights, and security. We are co-chairing one of the Stability Pact Working Tables for Economic Reconstruction, Development, and Cooperation, and designedindependently and in cooperation with Albania and Bulgariaa number of projects that have been accepted, some of which are part of the so-called Quick Start package. My country has also been active proposing and supporting initiatives and projects within the other two Working Tables of the Stability Pact.
We expect all international institutions, particularly the donor community of the Stability Pact, to promptly give their support to the realization of these projects. It is the only way to commence the comprehensive development of the region in a timely manner. Inefficiency and delay in completing these projects may impede reaching the Stability Pact goals and may even be interpreted as a slight against the countries in the region. Therefore, we advocate the prompt undertaking of the approved projects in accordance with the conclusions reached by the first Regional Funding Conference held in Brussels.
In this respect, we are encouraged by the positive signal given by the EU-U.S. Summit Statement on Southeast Europe issued in Portugal regarding the realization of obligations within the framework of the Stability Pact. We pay special attention to the development of regional cooperation in the sphere of security.
Along with almost all countries in the region, we are a signatory to the historic Charter on Good-Neighbor Relations, Stability, Security, and Cooperation in Southeastern Europe that was adopted in Bucharest at the Summit of those countries participating in the Southeastern Europe Cooperation Process. My country is chairing the Process in 2000, and one of the priorities during our chairmanship is to strengthen joint activities for faster integration of the Southeastern European countries into the European and Euro-Atlantic structures.
Todays meeting coincides with the completion of the first stage of the implementation of the Membership Action Planthe holding of meetings by the North-Atlantic Council in the 19+1 format including the 9 countries aspiring to NATO membership. It is my pleasure to inform you that the progress my country has made with respect to rapprochement with the Alliance has recently been saluted in NATO Headquarters in Brussels. Furthermore, the proposed activities and planned reforms presented in our Annual National Membership Program were supported as well. I would like to welcome and underline the results of the recent Vilnius Conference, where the nine countries aspiring to NATO membership, including mine, through the Joint Declaration, have clearly and rightfully requested the NATO Allies to invite them to join the Alliance at the 2002 Summit.
INTEGRATING SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
I would like to close with a statement with which I think you will all agreethat, in the long term, stability and security in Southeastern Europe may not be secured solely through military instruments. NATO has played an essential role in resolving the conflicts in the Balkans. Its presence in that area will be necessary during the period of stabilization, but at present the duration of that period cannot be determined with certainty. It will depend largely on how quickly democracy becomes established, on economic developments, and how the rule of law and respect for human rights, including national minority rights, move forward in the areas of conflict.
We approach the future with the goals of building confidence, realizing regional cooperation, and preventing all things that may cause problems and tensions in the region. I am confident that you share my view that Europe will not be in a position to cope with security challenges and crises in the Southeastern Europe region without the active involvement and maximum contribution of the countries located in it. To that end, I would like to underline the necessity of including the partner-countries of the region in the implementation of the European Security and Defense Identity and the European Security and Defense Policy. We must all understand that Europe may not be stable without a stable and developed Southeastern European region.
Therefore, this region must not be neglected and isolated from the process of Euro-Atlantic enlargement or from European integration. We must pay special attention to strengthening NATOs southeastern flank. The influence of extremist ideologies and their leaders, present and future, will lose its foothold when confronted with the respectable collective power of the region, which will encourage democratic development impartially and reasonably. This will reinforce mutual trust among the countries in and around Southeastern Europe, and will lead to their cooperation in security matters and to the transformation of the region into one of democracy, prosperity, and stability.
I am completely convinced that this process will be finalized when the countries in the region have been integrated into NATO and the European Unionwhen Europe becomes a common home for us all.