Security for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the Balkans
His Excellency Dr. Lazar Kitanoski
Minister of Defense of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
DIFFICULTIES THAT ENDANGER SECURITY IN THE SOUTHERN EUROPEAN REGION
Owing to a number of historical and political factors, security in the southern part of the Balkan Peninsula, including my country, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, is very complex. One of the main problems concerning security in this region is that some of the inhabitants believe that democracy means freedom under law only for those of their own ethnicity. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, however, ever since its birth as a parliamentary democracy, has offered the benefits of this way of life to all segments of its population.
Another problem hampering security in the Southern European area is that most of the countries in the region are encountering difficulties--political, social, and economic--as they make the transition to a democratic society. Reforms are being carried out at a variety of speeds, and in certain areas democracy is not yet deeply entrenched. There is noticeable hesitation in integrating economic, political, and security policies, including free and fair elections, human rights reforms, minority rights, and European and international standards.
Still another problem that threatens peace and stability is the implementation of the Dayton Agreement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Kosovo issue, the escalation of the situation in Albania, and the difficulties that continue as a result of the region's geostrategic significance and historical legacy also create conditions that can cause instability.
The Southern Balkans, therefore, present a serious and significant concern to peace and stability in Europe, as well as a great challenge to the international community. Complete European stability is possible only by integrating this region with the European security structures.
CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA TO SECURITY AND STABILITY
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia plays an important role in the Southern Balkan area both through its democratic and economic development as well as through its active contribution to peace and stability in the region and beyond. My country is firmly on the road to constructing a Western-style model of parliamentary democracy as well as to active participation in European and Euro-Atlantic economic, political, and security associations. We are determined to join these organizations, and there is a national consensus to do so. We wish to become members of NATO and the European Union, just as we are members of the United Nations, OSCE, the Council of Europe, and other international groups.
We are currently a candidate for non-permanent membership in the U.N. Security Council, in which we would like to contribute extensively to peace and stability throughout the world.
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia actively works with its neighbors to bring stability to the region. Our policy is to resolve issues with neighbors by peaceful means, developing political solutions through dialogue and fairness. Through this good-neighbor policy and internal ethnic tolerance, my country has become a model for problem solving in the region as well as a cornerstone of stability.
Since it gained its independence, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has undertaken reform measures aimed at promoting peace and stability, though they have sometimes required a high social and economic cost. Because we are aware of the inefficiency and irrationality of an isolated defense system, we have built our defense strategy to operate within a collective-security system and with the intent of becoming interoperable with NATO.
Working With EAPC and UNPREDEP
We also wish to contribute to the expansion of the security zone in the Balkans within the framework of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), in its role of enabling political and military cooperation between NATO and Partner countries.
Within the EAPC, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will do its utmost to deepen relations with the Alliance. We see our work with this organization as a way to bring peace and stability to our region, and agree that EAPC members should primarily be producers of stability rather than only consumers.
We also believe that the UNPREDEP mission, the first preventive deployment of peacekeeping forces, has been one of the most successful peacekeeping missions undertaken by the international community. Because of this extraordinary success in promoting peace and stability regionwide, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia strongly believes that the UNPREDEP mandate should be extended beyond November 1997. However, if an extension is not secured, another form of international assistance must be pursued, for example, the initiative proposed at the EAPC Defense Ministers' meeting in Brussels. This initiative called for the establishment of a permanent training center for EAPC peacekeeping operations, to be located in my country. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's UNPREDEP experience, plus the experiences and knowledge acquired by other countries that participated in this mission, would contribute to the successful functioning of such a center. My country is also capable of providing the high-quality infrastructure and facilities that would be necessary for the center.
The SFOR mandate in Bosnia and Herzegovina should not be limited by a specific deadline, but rather tied to the achievement of the mission's goals, that is, peace and stability in the region. However, if it is decided that SFOR forces should leave Bosnia and Herzegovina, but that they should continue to be stationed in the region, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is prepared to offer its hospitality. We have the infrastructure, the training centers, and the desire to enable these troops to continue the significant, positive role they play in the Balkan region.
The presence of EAPC troops in this area will contribute to the enhancement of NATO's southern flank, an important goal since the Balkans may face an increase in the number of generators of instability. Such a troop presence would also aid in the integration of the Balkans and other Southeastern European regions into European processes, which we believe is the only way to achieve lasting stability, peace, and prosperity on the Continent. We will be watching closely to see if declarations of integration turn into practical activities in that direction. But we believe that together we can determine possible sources of instability as well as develop courses of preventive action.
SOLVING THE PROBLEMS IN ALBANIA
There is no doubt that we are all concerned about the crisis in Albania. Deepening of this crisis could lead to a point at which problems would be impossible to overcome, and could cause instability to spill over into neighboring countries and beyond. The international community needs to do whatever it can to restore and enhance democracy in Albania, as well as educate those who are not sufficiently concerned with the crisis. All measures possible must be taken to maintain the integrity of the Republic of Albania, to enhance its democratic processes, and to prevent possible conflict between the northern and southern parts of this country.
CONDITIONS FOR SECURING PEACE
I would like to reiterate that respecting the Balkan States' borders is a basic requirement for preserving stability in the region. This is the most significant sign for recognizing the friends of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and of the Balkans. No Balkan border has ever been changed without resulting in security consequences on the Continent.
To secure true peace and stability, it will be necessary for all countries in the region, particularly EAPC member-countries, to actively participate in initiatives and various forms of cooperation in the spirit of PFP principles. Such cooperation, involving dialogue, confidence building, and interoperability, will also help applicant countries meet the requirements for NATO membership, a goal the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been intensively working toward for the last several years. We are on our way to achieving that goal, and have already completed the transformation of our armed forces to meet NATO standards and enable interoperability with PFP member-countries.
We also have established successful military cooperation within the PFP framework with other countries in our region. Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia troops have participated side by side in several Alliance-sponsored exercises with troops from the Republics of Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, and Romania, as well as with forces from the U.S., Italy, and Turkey. One of these exercises, "RESCUER '97," was held in our country this year, and involved observers from the Republics of Hungary and Poland. We have also initiated a major, joint regional exercise to be held in 1998 that would include troops from neighboring countries, EAPC member-countries, and the U.S., Italy, and Turkey. This exercise should enhance trust and confidence in the Southern European region.
We expect that the Alliance will commit to keeping the door open for any European state that is capable of meeting the membership criteria and that is eager to contribute to common security on the Continent. We believe that enlargement is a process, and is not yet over. I sincerely congratulate those countries that have received support for NATO accession. I encourage those involved with future enlargement to pay close attention to regional balance and to provide countries from the Southern European region with the opportunity to contribute to peace and stability and to military and political cooperation within the NATO framework.