Chair's Progress Report of SEEGROUP
in the First half of 2006
South East Europe Security Cooperation Steering Group
The SEEGROUP has continued its work in Brussels, meeting every two weeks at NATO Headquarters, under the chairmanship of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It has remained a unique informal and flexible forum that contributes to fostering of cooperation and networking between interested Allies, Partners and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro. In addition, it underlines regional ownership since countries from the region have a leading role, responsibilities and initiative.
The SEEGROUP enables participating countries to work in a very transparent way, exchange security and defense related information, launch joint projects and initiatives in a way to contribute to the common goal of strengthening stability and security in the region and by doing so, to have a positive impact on the Euro-Atlantic security. Regional stability is one of the key issues for all, and therefore, the cooperation within the SEEGROUP framework becomes even more important in respect of new challenges facing the region and Euro-Atlantic area.
Allies and Partners, strongly interested in the long-term stability and security of the SEE region have demonstrated their determination to support the work of the SEEGROUP by active participation at the meeting and by providing their various contributions. The facilitating role of a NATO International Secretariat representative has remained important for the successful performance of the SEEGROUP.
The Chair from Bosnia and Herzegovina has strived to build upon previous achievements of the SEEGROUP, highlighting that regional cooperation is a key part of creating a stable and security producing region. It has also tended to emphasize the willingness and the self-determination of the countries of the region to take responsibility for their own future and to enhance regional ownership.
The Action Plan for this year, adopted in February 2006, has set the guidelines and priorities for 2006 in order to bring forward ongoing projects, as well as to launch new activities.
Aimed at further enhancement of political dialogue at high level and discussion on the most important issues for the SEE region, the secondSEEGROUP meeting at the ambassadors` level was held at NATO HQ on 01 June 2006. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina dr Mladen Ivanic took part at the meeting as a keynote speaker and introduced the topic “Euro-Atlantic Integration of the Western Balkan Countries: Reforms and Perspectives in light of the Riga Summit”. The chosen topic, large attendance and good organization were important for the success of the meeting. In addition, participation of a high level speaker proved to be very stimulating and in this case, it resulted in useful and open discussion on mayor issues and challenges for the region. The countries of the SEE region had the opportunity to express their achievements and expectations in regard to their Euro Atlantic integration, as well as to ask for further assistance in reform processes that will ultimately lead to PfP and NATO membership. It was clear that all NATO countries support the integration of the Western Balkan countries in the Alliance. However, it could take place only if and when all criteria are met. Also, countries were praised for reforms done so far but encouraged to continue with them.
The SEEGROUP internet-based network SEECHANGE, aimed at the exchange of political-military and other early warning, conflict prevention and crisis management information, has been used by many representatives to the SEEGROUP in Brussels and respective capitals. SEECHANGE serves as a good tool for internal communication and exchange of certain political-military information.
In 2004 under the Albanian chairmanship, the SEEGROUP initiated a project named SEEPRO, which seeks to contribute to the global fight against terrorism. In accordance with the concept of the SEEPRO, four participating countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Serbia and Montenegro) filled the questionnaire and submitted it to the NATO International Secretariat. After the questionnaires are examined and evaluated, further steps in regard to this project will be determined.
Bosnia and Herzegovina launched a new initiative named SEESTAFF II, intended for the exchange of personnel from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Ministries of Defense and Ministries of Interior in SEE. The Chair prepared and proposed the Framework Guidelines for SEESTAFF II that was adopted by the SEEGROUP in March 2006. This Project encourages willing countries to exchange personnel in order to achieve results in improving personal skills of personnel, facilitate their future joint activities, liaison and coordination, exchange of information and expertise. It should contribute to attaining a deeper insight in the ongoing security and defense related reforms in the region and therefore obtaining a wider understanding and knowledge of current and future developments. The SEESTAFF II should also support further confidence building and regional cooperation as well as to facilitate the Euro-Atlantic integration of the region.
In the Action Plan, Bosnia and Herzegovina proposed to go on with the initiative launched by the previous Chair from Serbia and Montenegro, on the follow-up of SEECAP – South East Europe Common Assessment Paper on Regional Security Challenges and Opportunities. NATO International Secretariat presented the SEECAP Memo, in order to facilitate this process. The SEEGROUP participating countries will determine how to proceed in this matter.
Relations between SEEGROUP and other fora dealing with regional security cooperation remain important for the work of SEEGROUP. This contributes to better harmonization of efforts and avoidance of overlapping.
Cooperation with the Stability Pact for South East Europe continues to be a foundation for the SEEGROUP activities, through joint initiatives that positively affect stability and security in the region.
The Chair from Bosnia and Herzegovina took part at the Stability Pact Working Table III Meeting in Belgrade on 29 May 2006, and reported on the work of the SEEGROUP. By doing so, the Chair gave its contribution to the visibility of the SEEGROUP.
The representative of the Stability Pact, Mrs. Melanie Pollard, briefed the SEEGROUP in March 2006 on recent developments concerning the Ohrid Process on Border Security and Management as well as about the Project I-24/7 within the Police Forum Initiative.
The director of the Working Table III Ambassador Pieter Verbeek actively participated in the SEEGROUP meeting at the Ambassador s` level.
In light of the forthcoming NATO Summit in Riga that will be devoted to the transformation of the Alliance, the SEEGROUP was briefed by Mr. Rok Kosirnik from the NATO Defense and Policy Planning Division on NATO transformation and how it would affect Partners and aspirant countries.
As emphasized at the first meeting of the SEEGROUP at the ambassadors` level, fight against corruption and organized crime is one of the major challenges for the region in coming period. In that context, those issues have been high on the agenda of the SEEGROUP. In May 2006, the Chair from Bosnia and Herzegovina invited the Head of Department for Organized Crime and Corruption from the Ministry of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Damir Vejo, to present activities of Bosnia and Herzegovina in that field and to inform on relevant regional cooperation and collaboration with other international bodies in charge.
Fight against terrorism is an issue of a great importance to all in the Euro-Atlantic area and wider. In close cooperation with the U.S. Mission to NATO, the Chair organized a meeting devoted to that particular topic. The representatives to the SEEGROUP were briefed by Mr. Welker, a U.S. government analyst at the National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC), about the potential terrorist threats in the Balkans region.
The Clearing House has remained the traditional tool for the exchange of political-security information among the countries of the region. This kind of regular communication has given the opportunity to all SEEGROUP participating countries to obtain a deeper insight in recent developments in the SEE region and coming events and activities.
One of the meetings was devoted to the exchange of information and experience on bilateral and multilateral cooperation between the SEEGROUP countries. Interested countries presented various information on achieved and planned cooperation that confirmed that there has been a significant number of projects aimed at providing assistance to the countries of SEE concerning defense reform, transformation of Armed Forces, education, training, language courses, seminars, Trust Funds, joint exercises, etc.
Throughout the year, SEEGROUP has planned to hold several seminars in accordance with the Action Plan. XII International Forum of History Teachers “Security Policy Challenges and Answers: The Responsibility of Media and the Education” in the SEEGROUP format took place in Szeged on 22 March 2006, with the active participation of the Chair of the SEEGROUP.
The SEEGROUP will continue its work in the second half of 2006 in accordance with its Action Plan. The emphasis will be on the on-going projects, further coordination and exchange of political/security/defense information, regular briefings by experts on topics of common interest, enhancement of the SEEGROUP visibility within NATO and other security fora.
Also, the SEEGROUP should discuss the participation of the SEEGROUP participating countries in NATO-led, EU-led and UN-led peace support operations. That would be the introduction to the possible visit of the SEEGROUP representatives to the Peace Support Operations Training Center in Bosnia and Herzegovina envisaged in the Action Plan. That could be an excellent opportunity for the SEEGROUP to hold its first meeting outside the NATO Headquarters. Bosnia and Herzegovina would be pleased to host this event in Sarajevo.
Demonstrated interest of all SEEGROUP participating countries is a clear signal that the SEEGROUP will continue to carry out its role of a main forum for the development and implementation of activities, recommended by the EAPC, through the PMSC, in the framework of the SEEI.