The SEEGROUP has continued its work in Brussels , meeting every two weeks at NATO Headquarters, under the chairmanship of Serbia and Montenegro . As a unique informal regional forum, SEEGROUP contributes to the fostering of cooperation and the networking of countries of the South Eastern Europe in the security field with the support of Allies through the implementation of concrete projects and regular consultations. The work of the SEEGROUP is particularly important because it underlines regional ownership since the countries from the region have the active leading role and the key responsibilities. In addition to interested Allies and Partners, Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina traditionally participate in the work of the SEEGROUP.
During 2005, more Allies have shown their interest for the work of SEEGROUP by active participation at the meetings and other forms of contribution. The support and the facilitator’s role of NATO International Secretariat representatives remain to be critically important for the work of the SEEGROUP. The contribution of the facilitators Mr. Grigorious Vassiloconstandakis and Mrs. Constantina Koliou has been particularly valuable. Serbia and Montenegro Chair was invited and reported on SEEGROUP activities at the PMSC/EAPC meeting in March 2005 and at the PMSC/SEEGROUP meeting in October 2005. Further interest in getting regularly informed on SEEGROUP’s activities was stressed.
The Action Plan for 2005 has determined guidelines and priorities of the work in 2005 in order to bring forward ongoing projects, as well as to initiate new activities.
The major new activity of the SEEGROUP work in 2005 was the first SEEGROUP meeting at the ambassadorial level which took place at NATO HQ on 17 October 2005 . Discussing the main issue - NATO’s approach towards the Balkans, the ambassadors confirmed the open door policy of NATO towards the region, as well as the importance of regional cooperation on the way to Euro-Atlantic integration. The large turnout and the participation of the Secretary-General further confirmed the growing interest of Allies for the innovative approach of the SEEGROUP and its contribution to the enhancement of the political dialogue between countries from the region and NATO. During the discussion, several permanent representatives stressed the need for a future work of SEEGROUP in the field of the fight against organized crime and corruption, as well as in the area of public diplomacy towards the SEE countries.
Throughout the year, SEEGROUP has carried out several seminars in accordance with the Action Plan for 2005.
The SEEGROUP seminar on PfP and PARP experience, organized by Serbia and Montenegro and Norway , was held in Belgrade on 10-11 May 2005. Some 40 international participants from NATO IS, national missions to NATO, MFA and MOD from Allies and Partners expressed considerable interest, enthusiasm and support for the implementation of this project. Representatives of different ministries from Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina became acquainted with the “lessons learned” from the process of Euro-Atlantic integration.
Another seminar, organized in Sarajevo on 28-29 June 2005, gave additional input to the civil servants from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro to get familiarized with the work modalities of the PfP format.
Concerning the issue of Border Security and Management, an EAPC/SEEGROUP Workshop Reflections on Border Management was held in Ohrid on 8-11 June 2005, with the participation of many representatives of international organizations and regional initiatives, among whom the chairperson of SEEGROUP.
Furthermore, SEEGROUP Seminar on Security Perceptions and Doctrinal Approaches, also under the framework of bilateral cooperation between Bulgaria and Serbia and Montenegro , took place on 13 - 14 October in Sofia , expressing the willingness of the countries from the region to discuss the issue of current security challenges and threats and giving the introduction to the SEECAP follow up.
Until the end of the year, SEEGROUP members will seek to exchange experiences on their national peacekeeping centers.
The SEECHANGE (Exchange of political-military and other early warning, conflict prevention and crisis management information) project, as an internet-based facility, has been used regularly by the SEEGROUP members in Brussels and the respected capitals in 2005. SEECHANGE is serving as a basic tool for internal communication and it is on its way to be the main forum of the SEEGROUP members for the exchange of certain political-military information.
During 2004, the SEEGROUP has started a new initiative – the SEEPRO – in order to contribute to the global fight against terrorism. In accordance with the concept of this project, Albania has filled the SEEPRO questionnaire and the relevant NATO team has visited the country. Moldova has also filled the questionnaire. Serbia and Montenegro did the same in 2005. After the reception of the filled questionnaire from Bosnia and Herzegovina , further steps will be determined.
In the implementation of the SEESTAFF Framework Guidelines adopted by the SEEGROUP in 2001, which encouraged willing states to exchange personnel, Sofia and Skopje proceeded with the exchange of officials for one-week internships. Similar exchanges are under discussion among other SEEGROUP participating States.
In the second half of 2005, SEEGROUP has initiated the follow-up of SEECAP (South East Europe Common Assessment Paper on Regional Security Challenges and Opportunities). It was agreed that the NATO Secretariat will prepare, in cooperation with the Chair, an initial document which will be forwarded to the relevant national experts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence. After that, the meeting of national experts will be held with the focus on discussion of the current challenges and threats in SEE, and of the possibilities of the endorsement of the review process of SEECAP.
The linkage between SEEGROUP and other fora dealing with regional cooperation remains a crucial factor for the work of SEEGROUP.
SEEGROUP continued its close cooperation with the Stability Pact, and in the particular with the Working Table III on security issues. The Chairperson of the SEEGROUP attended Working Table - Regional meeting which was held in November 2005 in Prague where the importance of further cooperation was stressed, especially in the field of organized crime and corruption where the Stability Pact could provide more analysis to the SEEGROUP. Also, the Representatives of the Stability Pact Mr. Jiri Kalasnikov and Ms. Melanie Pollard attended several SEEGROUP’s meetings, providing an important link to the practical and project-oriented regional cooperation in the area of security and defence. The Ambassador of the Working Table III Mrs. Pieter Verbeek actively participated at the SEEGROUP ambassadorial meeting.
SEEGROUP continues to explore its relations with the OSCE. The ambassador Maurizio Massari, Head of the OSCE Mission in Serbia and Montenegro , gave a presentation to the SEEGROUP on the OSCE activities in the South East Europe and in Serbia and Montenegro in particular, thus providing the basis for substantial debate.
In accordance with the existing successful cooperation, RACVIAC invited the Chairperson of the SEEGROUP to attend the first meeting of the Working Groups on Defence Conversion which will be held on 6-7 December 2005 in Zagreb .
During 2005, several representatives from the NATO International Secretariat briefed the SEEGROUP on their activities.
Ms. Anne Suotula informed the group of the NATO Trust Fund policy which is being implemented with the cooperation of NAMSA. The Public Diplomacy Division representative Mrs. Zsolt Rabai, Country Officer, delivered a presentation on his department’s activities in SEE, with the special focus on the main tools, projects and key partners with the objective of adequate communication to the target groups. The representative of the Defence Policy Planning George Katsirdakis, Head of Defence Cooperation, informed the SEEGROUP on Tailored Cooperation Programmes for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro that represent the link of its cooperation with NATO. On the topic of defence conversion, Mrs. Frederique Jacquemin, Expert in the Political Affairs and Security Policy Division, informed the SEEGROUP on joint activities of different international organizations and regional initiatives in this field. The representative of NATO IMS Carvalho Rui delivered a presentation on NATO Defence College and opened the discussion on the work of national defence colleges and academies.
The Clearing House remains the main traditional tool for the exchange of political-security information among the countries of the SEE region. This kind of regular communication, within the framework of the SEEGROUP, contributes to the regular exchange of information, better coordination of projects, the avoiding of overlapping, the fostering of cooperation, and represents a tool for improving confidence-building measures.
All activities planned in the Action Plan for 2005 have been carried out and some new ideas have emerged, demonstrating that the SEEGROUP remains an innovative approach to the regional security and cooperation. The first SEEGROUP Ambassadorial meeting was an important milestone in this regard.
The SEEGROUP continues its role as the main forum for the development and implementation of activities, recommended by the EAPC, through the PMSC, in the framework of the SEEI. Procedure regarding next year Chair of the SEEGROUP was successfully completed in November 2005 and the SEEGROUP welcomed Bosnia and Herzegovina as its Chair for 2006.