Center for Strategic Decision Research

Croatian State Secretary Pjer Simunovic

State Secretary Simunovic

State Secretary Pjer Šimunović
Croatian Ministry of Defense

Southeastern Europe: Successes and Challenges

When the citizens of southeast Europe consider their future, they face a dilemma: Is the glass half full or half empty? Individuals and institutions outside the region, including such organizations as the European Union and NATO, must surely ponder similar questions.


Personally, I tend to look at the positive side, not just to be optimistic but also to be objective. What we have heard at this conference, especially in the words of the Georgian Vice Prime Minister, is that, when we discuss southeast Europe, a measure of our success is that we usually discuss the net contributions that the region is providing to global security. We have heard about the area’s contributions to Iraq and to Afghanistan, which I would say are the most visible signs of the maturity and stability that have been achieved in this region since the 90s, when the region was a synonym for crisis.

What are the other measures of success in this region? First, it is the fact that the ring of stability, prosperity, and security formed by membership in the EU and NATO is getting stronger and stronger throughout the area. Minister Jelusic’s country leads the charge since Slovenia has been in both the EU and NATO for some time. Other countries in the region, such as Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, and Turkey, are members of NATO as well as EU candidates, making this ring even stronger. Croatia recently acceded to NATO together with our Albanian friends, while Montenegro and Bosnia are part of MAP. Macedonia is an issue that has nothing to do with how the country itself is performing; it is an international issue as you know, and the name of the issue is Greece.

What better way is there to demonstrate the region’s genuine success than to show how the entire region is being integrated, step by step, into the main Euro-Atlantic scene, into both the European Union and NATO. This is happening quite visibly as the countries become true net contributors to global security, providing tangible forces for the demanding, complex, and much needed peace support and crisis response operations in the world.

In addition to what we can see from the outside—how these countries are gradually acceding to the Euro-Atlantic organizations and providing troops for operations—an entire range of multilateral and bilateral instruments have been established in the region to support good neighborliness, stability, security, and prosperity. There is the USA Adriatic Charter, promoting NATO integration; there is the Southeast European Cooperation Process, with its very effective Regional Cooperation Council; the Southeast and European Defense Ministerial Process; and the Adriatic Union initiatives. These instruments provide a network within which the countries, their ministries, and the people in the region are very tightly intertwined, and almost 90% of the cooperation in the region is dedicated to promoting the full integration of all countries in the region into the EU and NATO.

Surely this is a process that will end with all the countries of the region as members of NATO and the EU. It is a very encouraging and a very positive process. It will generate a lot of good will and a whole range of successes that will affect all the countries in the region as well as their citizens.


We must remember, however, that the process had humble beginnings. After the war, in the 90s, the first instrument with which the countries more or less cooperated with each other was the so-called Annex Four of the Dayton Agreement. This established a scheme based on quotas for certain categories of armaments and on a philosophy of how countries in the region should act. Each country was to possess an established instrument of arms control, which at the beginning was an important confidence-building measure and enabled people to get to know each other gradually and start to become friends. This instrument still exists, but it has spilled over into very friendly discussions on defense planning and strategic documents and has an arms control measure attached to it. In fact, no country in the region regards any other country in the region as a potential security threat.


The threats to our security are many. They include broad threats, often asymmetrical, which are faced by all countries in the Alliance. They include soft security threats, which may be the result of organized crime. The countries in our region cooperate particularly nicely in the field of combating organized crime, drug smuggling, human trafficking, WMD, and terrorism. The network of cooperation that has been established is functioning well and, I believe, provides a unique springboard for a happy future. This is not to underestimate the challenges that the region faces. Minister Cikotic told us about the challenges of forging a modern self-sustainable Bosnian state, but indeed everything that is happening puts his country on a good track. One challenge that needs to be resolved as soon as possible is the issue of the name of Macedonia, in order to enable the country to be fully stabilized and to be able to fully contribute to the European and Euro-Atlantic family of nations. So we have to work with our Greek friends to resolve the issue of Macedonia’s name.

Another issue that remains to be resolved is finding a way for peaceful, meaningful, coexistence between Serbia and Kosovo. I will not get deeper into that issue; you are fully aware of the extent to which it burdens the region, though in no way can it be compared to what was happening in the 90s, because of the current maturity of the countries in the region and because of the existence of the EU and NATO. The international community has been maturing over the years, starting with the crisis in the 90s, which was very much a test case for the European Union and NATO. The learning curve of those organizations has been very much connected with what is happening in the region. Presently the engagement of the EU and NATO in the region consists of what is happening in the field, but in a very important sense that consists not only of the forces there but of the final engagement that could come at any moment in the future.


My last comment concerns the uniqueness of this region. In the 90s, the region was a synonym for crisis, but we have now reached a point where other regions can potentially benefit from our experience. As the years go by, the prospect of full membership in the EU and NATO continues to be the single most powerful engine for the development of stability, security and, ultimately, prosperity in this region. Geography does matter, and it is one of the elements that make this region unique.

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