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 and non 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 the whole year. Visibility of the group’s work at regional level remains a pivotal goal.
SEEGROUP’s interest in supporting regional co-operation and improving coordination between SEE countries is its primary role. 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.
The Regular Senior level meeting is taking place on the December 04, 2003 in Tirana, back to back with the Stability Pact Regional Table Meeting.
Action Plan for 2003
The Action Plan for 2003, 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.
Increased interest of NATO IS in SEEGROUP's work has been stressed by Mr. George Katsirdakis, Head of Defence Cooperation, in his briefing at the meeting on October 01, 2003, during wich the SEEGROUP decided to further enhance a result oriented cooperation as well its visibility within apropriate NATO Committes. It has also been agreed closer cooperation with the Stabilty Pact. A non-paper "Food for Thought: SEEGROUP issues for 2003-2004" prepared by the Chair and discused at the same meeting, includes important ideas and thoughts on the way forward for the work of the SEEGROUP.
SEEGROUP is developing a comparative study of the national defence strategies of the various regional countries. This is known as the SEESTUDY project and is sponsored by the United Kingdom.
The SEESTUDY project went on all over the year. Visits by the expert teams took place in all participating countries in the project. The UK experts are expected to complete all country reports based on the visits in the first week of December 2003 and the Comparative Study shortly thereafter. On 12 December, a presentation of the SEESTUDY project will be given to SEEGROUP. This project will be a major step forward in promoting regional security.
The SEECHANGE (Exchange of political-military and other early warning, conflict prevention and crisis management information) project advanced on a clear path. A seminar was organized in Skopje on 11 April 2003, where experts made recomandations on the type of information to be exchanged among the countries in the region.
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 project.
After considering several technical options for SEECHANGE, SEEGROUP decided to use the kind offer of Switzerland to create and implement a Intenet - based Elecronic Document - Exchange- Facility for the electronic exchange of documents between SEEGROUP members over Internet. According to the Swiss proposal the functional system with the specifications described in it should be ready for use by the SEEGROUP before the end of 2003.
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.
Mr. Jurij Kalashnikov from the Stabilty Pact briefed the SEEGROUP on the First Review Meeting of the Ohrid Border Process, held in Belgrade on 5 November 2003. Following that the SEEGROUP decided to consider ways to contribute to the further development of all border security related issues in the area.
The first of those activities, is the preparation of the EAPC/SEEGROUP workshop "Border Security, Border Management and Trafficking" coorganized by Albania, Switzerland and United Kingdom, to be held in Tirana on 21 January 2004.
Support to the Defence Reforms
SEEGROUP also followed and facilitated the ongoing security sector reforms in the SEE countries, as appropriate. On the 20 June 2003, a high level briefing on retraining of redundant military personal, as well as on the conversion of military basis for civilian use, under SEEGROUP auspices, initiated and coorganised by United Kingdom, was held in Brussels. This very successful event contributed to the better preparation of the Berlin Conference on conversion of Military bases, organized by NATO's Economic Directorate. Mrs, Frederique Jacquemin from NATO IS briefed the SEEGROUP on the results of the Berlin Conference on Defence Conversion, which was held on 16-19 October 2003. SEEGROUP will continue to be engaged in this field.
Civil Emergency Planing (CEP)
In the framework of this activities, Mr. Stefen Oroz from NATO IS was invited and briefed a SEEGROUP on the CEP exercise Dacia 2003, which took place in Romania, 07-10 October 2003, in the spirit of PfP. The briefer stressed the fact that an observer from S & MN participated in this exersise in the context of NATO - S & MN Cooperation Programme.
It is worth to mention that the NATO facilitator of the SEEGROUP, Mr. Grigorios Vassiloconstandakis as coordinator of the above mentioned NATO - S & MN Cooperation Programme keeps the SEEGROUP briefed on the conduct of this imporant activity.
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.
"SEEGROUP Plus" activities
The Chairwoman was invited and made presentations of SEEGROUP's importance and activities at Military Committee Working Group (Coop) on 03 October 2003 and the EAPC/PfP PMSC meeting on 06 October 2003. Both Committees stressed their interest in getting regularly informed on SEEGROUP's activities.
The Chair was also invited and made an intervention at the EAPC seminar on Regional Approaches to the New Security Risks, held in Bucharest, June 29-30, 2003.
Next Chair of the SEEGROUP
Procedures regarding next years Chair of the SEEGROUP were succssesfully complited in November 2003 and the SEEGROUP welcomed Albania as its Chair for 2004.