Global Security and the Western Balkans
His Excellency Karl Erjavec
Minister of Defense of the Republic of Slovenia
Today the international community lives with fewer traditional security challenges but faces untraditional emerging security challenges that extend beyond national borders. Regional points of acute crisis create instability that can have a negative influence on global security. Until recently, the synonyms for security were well- equipped armed forces and geographic position, but today these no longer provide a basic good of modern society, namely, security.
Being able to maintain a secure and stable living environment is directly linked with local and global threats and dangers. When society’s stability is destroyed, the civilized environment becomes unstable and crisis points emerge. In such an environment, both economic and social systems become ineffective. The ensuing situation imposes on the international community a need to provide security within the scope of collective security mechanisms or, rather, through direct involvement in regional points of acute crisis. The most effective tools for solving conflicts are collective defense and a joint approach to the solution of global problems.
INTERNATIONAL EFFORTS TOWARD STABILIZATION AND DEMOCRATIZATION
The international community and many organizations actively participate in stability and security building processes that are taking place at crisis points and assisting the countries involved. The focus of these efforts are stabilization and democratization in addition to political, economic, and social reconstruction; for political, economic, and social reforms to be made, it is of primary importance that safe and stable circumstances be established. Local authorities are incapable of providing such circumstances without the assistance and cooperation of the international community, and both are therefore urgently needed.
A further threat to global security is posed by various forms of terrorism. It is indisputable that terrorism poses the greatest threat to global security and stability. The international community of modern democratic states is aware of the value of security and has started an inexorable fight against all elements that might endanger this common good.
Slovenia is aware of the importance of global security and stability, so it maintains a proactive stance within the efforts of the international community to prevent the eruption of new crises and to resolve existing ones. Slovenia is thus participating in peace operations in the Western Balkans area, in Afghanistan, and in Iraq, and a decision on deployment to the Congo and Sudan is currently under review by the government.
Slovenia itself witnessed a crisis that reached an infamous peak in our close vicinity. The security and stability of the Western Balkans and of all of southeastern Europe therefore continue to be of major interest to Slovenia. It is for this very reason that Slovenia decided to send the majority of its forces to operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. The international community has succeeded in establishing a balance of forces there, since its activities have produced stabilized conditions and a democratization process. We have also witnessed political, economic, and social reconstruction. The countries of the Western Balkans are well on their way to becoming democratic, free, and modern European states. However, in spite of the progress achieved in the region, each individual state still has a considerable amount of work left to do.
During the process of adjusting to the standards of democratic countries, the region is being assisted by the European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance, in addition to bilateral assistance provided by individual states. The European Union has been trying ever harder to ensure peace and stability in the Western Balkans, since this is a prerequisite for fast and efficient implementation of stabilization and association agreements or concluding them as soon as possible.
The basic framework and orientation of the European Union regarding its activities in the region is the stabilization and association process (SAP). Negotiations on stabilization and association agreements (SAAs) between Western Balkan countries and the European Union are still in progress.
The European Union cooperates with Western Balkan countries in various ways. The main aim of the European Union has been to include the Western Balkan states as members of European structures since this is the only guarantee of complete stabilization in the region.
THE EU-NATO STRATEGIC DOCUMENT
The EU and NATO have jointly prepared a strategy to deal with the Western Balkans. This strategy is based on the idea that the strategic document should define the political and economic role of the European Union and the security role of NATO in the Western Balkans. The document lays out the organizations’ joint strategy for the Western Balkans, with the aim of maintaining stability in the region based on democracy, a free market, the rule of law, and the efficient organization of governments.
Regarding security and defense, the document specifies the division of tasks between the European Union and NATO. Security and defense are two key areas in which the countries of the region should come closer to Euro-Atlantic structures. The European Union and NATO support security and defense reforms, including reform of police forces. The European Union could thus provide help and support institutional reforms while NATO could focus on the development of military structures, making them compatible with its own structures and establishing democratic control of the armed forces. Making the armed forces transparent and providing an appropriate defense budget are two other areas that belong within this scope of tasks.
In Slovenia’s opinion, it is appropriate for the two Euro-Atlantic structures to have a common approach. The approach reflects the endeavors of the international community to stabilize the situation in the region.
PROGRESS IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
Speaking of Bosnia and Herzegovina alone, the progress made in many areas by the country must be underlined. At the start of negotiations on stabilization and accession to the European Union, Bosnia and Herzegovina passed from the post-Dayton phase to the Brussels phase. The reform of the defense system, intelligence services, the system of taxation, and judicial and public services, to mention but a few, has already shown some progress. However, what has been accomplished should not be considered enough, and the reform process must not stop. Bosnia and Herzegovina must continue to follow the guidelines and must create the conditions that allow the adopted legislation to be implemented. This will become the main benchmark for progress and will indicate the success of reforms. Furthermore, Bosnia and Herzegovina must ensure the transparent operation of institutions and complete the reform of the public administration, police, judicial, and public TV systems. Most of all, an atmosphere of trust must be established in Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to transcend ethnic tensions and to achieve consensus on essential matters that significantly contribute to the better coexistence of all inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina, regardless of their ethnic background.
The European Union is not active in Bosnia and Herzegovina only in the political field. It is also active in the military field and within the peacekeeping operation “Althea,” which maintains a safe and stable environment by military means. Thirty-three nations are currently participating in this operation, which gives it a multinational character and, moreover, demonstrates the commitment of the entire international community to the stabilization of the country. The international community must maintain its presence in the same numbers until the parliamentary elections in autumn 2006. We believe that the results of these elections and the ensuing situation will dictate the dynamics and course of the withdrawal of international military forces from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On the basis of the election results and the security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, local authorities will gradually acquire the capacity to take over the obligations and responsibilities of the international forces and, consequently, assume control over the situation in the country. Local authorities and local security agencies will gradually take over the initiative in the fight against organized crime, arms collection, and other tasks that are presently carried out by the international community.
THE KOSOVO ISSUE
However, the Western Balkans is not Bosnia and Herzegovina alone. The efforts of the international community focus also on Kosovo, where the NATO-led operation Kosovo Force is in place. The unresolved status of this region and the slow implementation of standards continue to endanger regional stability. Even though there is a low risk of a new outbreak of ethnic violence, relations between individual ethnic groups are tense.
In further endeavors to solve the Kosovo issue, special attention will have to be given to building a multi-ethnic society, decentralizing power, and furthering Kosovo’s economic development. After the two sides presented their views and harmonized specific positions on the decentralization of Kosovo, a standstill developed in the third round of talks because of differing understandings of decentralization. Now both sides have the major responsibility of continuing the re-approchement of their negotiation standpoints. The goal is to form a model of decentralization that can fully guarantee local self-government to the Serbian population in the municipalities in which they have a majority.
Concern exists over the weak economy, corruption, organized crime (trafficking in people and drugs), and an extremely high level of unemployment (from 65% to 70%), all of which puts at risk the stability and the future of the province as well as the wider region. The unclear political future of the region renders foreign investment impossible and thus hinders economic development. The presence of international forces in Kosovo will continue to be necessary until the establishment of all mechanisms and standards that empower the local authorities to provide a satisfactory level of security, stability, and general social progress.
The North-Atlantic Alliance is united in its belief that KFOR still remains the essential element of peace and stability in the province. Among long-term solutions, it should be mentioned that using the model of Bosnia and Herzegovina, or the solution applied at the time of handing over the operation to the European Union, may be worth considering for providing security in this province. In assessing the military readiness of units in the province, progress can be seen in the reduced use of the forces for specific tasks (caveats) and in improved intelligence and information coordination.
I am convinced that the countries of the Western Balkans will achieve balance and stability and that they will start the democratization process and political, economic, and social reconstruction. It is indeed necessary that they closely cooperate with the international community and, in the process of accession to Euro-Atlantic structures, break the cycle of political discord.