SEEGROUP continued its work in Brussels, meeting regularly usually once every two weeks, at NATO Headquarters.
SEEGROUP meetings and overall cooperation continued to be fruitful in a climate of informality, excellent working spirit and flexible approach. NATO Allies and regional Partners, as well as Non-NATO/Non-PfP regional countries participating in the SEEGROUP strongly supported its works and provided a wide basis of cooperation.
Support and facilitation by NATO IS representatives remained important for the works of the SEEGROUP and its interaction with the Alliance, but SEE participants marked significant progress in managing regional projects. It is to be mentioned that the regional ownership of these projects by SEE countries has been a priority issue for this semester and it will remain so for the second half of 2003. Visibility of the group’s work at regional level remains a pivotal goal.
Since SEEGROUP’s interest in supporting regional co-operation and improving coordination between SEE countries is primary. Representatives of the Stability Pact of SEE have regularly attended the meetings, providing a vital link to the practical and project-oriented regional cooperation in the area of security and defense.
SEEGROUP has decided to hold its regular Senior level meeting at the end of 2003.
Action Plan for 2003
The Action Plan for 2003 (Annex 1), which was adopted at the beginning of the year, reflects the determination of the SEEGROUP participating countries that the SEEGROUP should remain the main forum to develop and implement activities set out in the framework of the SEEI, following the recommendation by the EAPC through the PMSC.
Out of the main activities outlined in the Action Plan for 2003, special emphasis was given to the follow-up of the previously started initiatives in the SEEGROUP, as well as those outlined in the SEECAP document.
With that in mind, priority was given to the activities aimed at enhancing security and stability in the SEE region, particularly to those addressing new security challenges, including fight against international terrorism.
A number of activities were undertaken under the "SEEGROUP Plus" concept, initiated in 2001, with the idea of enhancing and sharing of regional cooperation experience with other regional initiatives and the EAPC community as a whole.
The Scoping Study for the SEESTUDY project went on during the first half of the year. Visits by the expert teams took place in Sofija (January 19-21), Bucharest (February 3-4), Belgrade (February 16-18) and Skopje (February 26-28).
In the second phase of the Scoping Study, other capitals like Chisinau, Tirana and Sarajevo will participate in the project.
The UK experts are currently drafting reports based on the visits already completed. The reports will be communicated to the authorities of each country that participated in the Scoping Study, and the executive summary will be provided to the SEEGROUP after the completion of the second phase.
The SEECHANGE project advanced on a clear path. A seminar was organized in Skopje on 11 April 2003, where experts agreed on the type of information to be exchanged among the countries in the region. They also agreed on the minimum requirements for the IT equipment and recommended that the NC3A should be used for further advice on the SEECHANGE network to be put in place.
Consultations on the implementation of the SEECHANGE project continued in the SEEGROUP. The issues discused were: list of possible indicators for early warning, based on the NATO Generic Early Warning Handbook; level of confidentiality of the information to be exchanged; national authority (point of contact) to release and operate the information; elements for the Standard Operating Procedures; etc.
The SEEGROUP also received an initial briefing by the representative of the NC3A, Mr. Jean-Luc Auboin, on the technical options for the security and the encryption of information exchanged, that NATO could offer. It was agreed that the consultations with NC3A will continue in the second part of the year.
Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW)
Proliferation and insufficiant control of SALW has been identified as one of the serious challenges for the stability and security of the region.
Mr. Jurij Kalasnikov from the Stability Pact for SEE briefed the SEEGROUP on their activities under SEESAC (SEE Clearing House for the control of SALW, joint UNDP and Stability Pact project).
Mr. Mihael Griffon from the NATO's Conventional Arms Control and Verification Coordination Section (CARC) gave a presentation to the SEEGROUP on the possible interaction and mutual support between the EAPC and SEEGROUP in this field.
As an example of "SEEGROUP Plus'' activity, on March 20-21, 2003, an EAPC/SEEGROUP Seminar on the Collection of Small Arms and Light Weapons and Regional Control Regimes was organized in Skopje. A List of Possible Practical Actions on: 1) Public awareness and civil society; 2) National institutions; 3) Border security dimension and 4) Transparency and exchange of information, was drafted to be taken into account by the countries participating in the SEEGROUP.
Border Security and Management
SEEGROUP closely followed the preparations for the Ohrid Regional Conference on Border Security and Management, that took place on 22-23 May 2003. The SEEGROUP heard the presentation of Mr. Robert Serry, Director of the Crisis Mangement and Operations Directorate, on the objectives of the Conference.
The Way-Forward Document, adopted at the Ohrid Conference, adds significant value to border management and security, offering at the same time new possible activities for the SEEGROUP.
As first of those activities, the SEEGROUP will consider ways to contribute to the further development of the "Border Security – a Food for Thought Paper“, presented by Hungary.
The SEEGROUP agreed on UK proposal to organize, on the 20th of June 2003, in Brussels, a high level briefing on reintegration of redundant military personnel, as well as on the conversion of military bases for civilian use.
The Clearing House for exchange of information in the field of security continued to be a useful exercise, especially for those countries who are not yet EAPC members (Serbia-Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina).
During this Clearing House, important information on security issues has been exchanged on the monthly basis.