|Updated: 12-Dec-2006||NATO Topics|
Chair's Progress Report of SEEGROUP work in 2006
South East Europe Security Cooperation Steering Group (SEEGROUP)
SEEGROUP has continued its work in NATO HQ in Brussels, meeting every two weeks under the chairmanship of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It has remained a recognizable, unique and informal forum aimed at contributing to regional cooperation and networking, and cooperation between interested Allies, Partners and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.
Activities of SEEGROUP have been performed in a very transparent way. Participating countries exchanged security and defense related information, launched joint projects and initiatives in a way to contribute to the common goal of strengthening stability and security in the region and to foster Euro-Atlantic integration of the SEE countries. Since regional stability is one of the key issues for all, the cooperation within SEEGROUP becomes even more important in respect of new challenges facing the region.
It is evident that all participating Allies and Partners, strongly interested in the long-term stability and security of the SEE region, have clearly shown their determination to support the work of SEEGROUP by growing and active participation and by providing various contributions.
Sweden expressed it willingness to become a participating country of SEEGROUP that was supported by all other countries. Their representative joined SEEGROUP in September 2006.
The Chair from Bosnia and Herzegovina has tried to build upon previous achievements of SEEGROUP, adding a new value to SEEGROUP by introducing new activities and setting high standards to be further improved by the next Chair. Important value of SEEGROUP derives from the regional ownership and the fact that it is an informal group intended for discussion on issues important for the SEE region. Ambitious but realistic Action Plan, regional importance and variety of chosen topics, flexibility and openness of the group, willingness of all participants to be more actively involved in discussions, maintenance of focus to the SEE region could be highlighted as the most important elements of this year’s SEEGROUP success.
Facilitating role of the NATO International Secretariat representative has remained important for the successful performance of SEEGROUP.
SEEGROUP welcomed the NATO decision from Riga to invite Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia to join Partnership for Peace and Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. This decision reaffirms the importance of long term stability and prosperity in the SEE region and encourages those countries to continue their reforms and fulfill their commitments. Formal accession of those three countries to the Partnership for Peace and Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council is awaited on 14 December 2006 with the signing of the Partnership for Peace Framework Document.
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.
Two major activities can be highlighted.
The first one is the secondSEEGROUP meeting at the ambassadors` level, held at NATO HQ on 01 June 2006. It was aimed at further enhancement of political dialogue at high level and discussion on the most important issues for the SEE region. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina dr Mladen Ivanic was a keynote speaker on the topic “Euro-Atlantic Integration of the Western Balkan Countries: Reforms and Perspectives in light of the Riga Summit”. The meeting was successful due to chosen topic, large attendance and good organization. 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.
Another major event, an initiative that was supported and praised by all SEEGROUP countries, was the SEEGROUP visit to the Peace Support Operations Training Center (PSOTC) in Sarajevo, held on 12 and 13 October 2006. SEEGROUP was welcomed and briefed by the Commander Brigadier General Larsen and Deputy Commander Ltc Jensen of the PSOTC. After the comprehensive briefing and tour of premises we reached the conclusion that the PSOTC is a true success story with bright future.
In order to learn more about NATO`s engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Chair organized a meeting with the Deputy Commander Quintilio Ferri and his staff in NATO Headquarters in Sarajevo. The evolution of NATO`s responsibilities and tasks showed how huge progress has been achieved in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially in regard to defense reform.
Meeting with the Assistant Minister Zoran Sajinovic and his collaborators from the Ministry of Defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina and discussion that followed demonstrated the determination to continue with defense reform while tackling all sensitive issues, problems and challenges that lie ahead.
SEEGROUP had its regular meeting in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina. On that occasion, Mrs. Regina Boucault, Head of the IOM Office in Sarajevo had a briefing on IOM and NATO Trust Fund for redundant military personnel in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Later, SEEGROUP met with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in charge of SEEGROUP and PfP/NATO affairs. Also, SEEGROUP had the opportunity to talk to representatives of the State Committee for NATO and PfP on some important issues concerning BH preparations for the PfP membership.
Relations between SEEGROUP and other fora dealing with regional security cooperation remain important for the work of SEEGROUP.
Cooperation with the Stability Pact for South East Europe continues to be valuable for SEEGROUP activities.
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 SEEGROUP. By doing so, the Chair gave its contribution to the visibility of SEEGROUP.
The representative of the Stability Pact, Mrs. Melanie Pollard, briefed SEEGROUP 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 SEEGROUP meeting at Ambassador s` level.
The Chair from Bosnia and Herzegovina took part at the Stability Pact Working Table III Meeting in Bucharest on 15 November 2006, and reported on the work of SEEGROUP in the second half of 2006.
Acting Head of SPOC (Stability Pact's initiative to fight organized crime) Secretariat Mr. Sorin Sterie informed SEEGROUP on Regional initiatives to fight organized crime and corruption in Southeast Europe.
In light of the NATO Summit in Riga, 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 SEEGROUP at the Ambassadors` level, fight against corruption and organized crime is one of the major challenges for the region in coming period. Head of Department for Organized Crime and Corruption from the Ministry of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Damir Vejo, presented the activities of Bosnia and Herzegovina in that field and informed 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 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.
One of the meetings was devoted to the exchange of information and experience on bilateral and multilateral cooperation between 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.
Within preparations for the trip to Sarajevo, several meeting before and after the visit were devoted to the exchange of information on lessons learned gained in NATO-, EU- and UN-led peace support operations. Also, Mr. Sabri Ergen from the NATO Defense and Policy Planning Division presented the Political and Military Framework for NATO-led Operations.
Major General Papotis, Director of RACVIAC held a briefing on RACVIAC and ongoing regional cooperation.
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 an insight in recent developments in the SEE region and coming events and activities.
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 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. Bosnia and Herzegovina was the first to initiate the exchange and has sent concrete proposals to Croatia and Serbia. Serbia and Croatia have accepted the proposed initiative of Bosnia and Herzegovina to exchange personnel from relevant ministries.
SEEGROUP internet-based network SEECHANGE, aimed at the exchange of political-military and other early warning, conflict prevention and crisis management information, gained new users and has been used by many representatives in Brussels and respective capitals. SEECHANGE continued to serve as a good tool for internal communication and exchange of certain political-military information. SEEGROUP has been exploring the modalities to further improve the efficiency of SEECHANGE.
SEEPRO, the project that seeks to contribute to the global fight against terrorism has been under way. When NATO IS completes the evaluation of individual questionnaires of four participating countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova and Serbia), further steps in regard to this project will be determined and should be in line with adopted Modalities and Concept of SEEPRO.
In the Action Plan, Bosnia and Herzegovina proposed to continue with the initiative on the SEECAP follow-up – South East Europe Common Assessment Paper on Regional Security Challenges and Opportunities. NATO IS prepared the SEECAP Review Document and it was given to the SEEGROUP countries for consideration. Some have already given their comments and suggestions. We encourage the next Chair to continue with this initiative that should lead us to adoption of the SEECAP Review Document.
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 SEEGROUP.
Seminar on Regional Security Challenges and Risks and Confidence - Building Measures, that was to be organized by Bosnia and Herzegovina in December 2006, but postponed due to NATO`s busy calendar, will most probably take place in February 2007 with the support of NATO IS.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has been honored to chair SEEGROUP and has benefited a great deal in terms of experience, knowledge, established contact and visibility and image of the country within NATO and wider. It is clear that high standards have been set up. Each Chair brings a new and fresh spirit to SEEGROUP and we expect the same from our new Chair.
Having in mind to what extent the countries from the region have benefited from SEEGROUP, and especially Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia on their way to Partnership for Peace, we should all seek to involve Montenegro in the work of SEEGROUP as soon as possible.
The Chairmanship of Bosnia and Herzegovina ends with one of the most significant events for the region, the invitation for three countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, to join Partnership for Peace and Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. For those countries, the Riga Summit and its Declaration are of historic importance. The Alliance recognized and praised progress achieved in overall reforms encouraging their continuation and positive developments. It also committed itself to further support and assist defence reform processes. The 26 will continue to monitor efforts of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in fulfilling remaining obligations. Three MAP countries are invited to prepare themselves for the membership in NATO with a clear message that the invitation to those who meet NATO standards will be extended at the next summit in 2008.
The Riga Summit Declaration brings a new momentum to SEEGROUP. The participating countries should discuss on the SEEGROUP future, having in mind new circumstances. However, we would recommend dealing with this matter creatively and never forgetting added-value and advantages of SEEGROUP and its innovative and region-focused approach.
SEEGROUP welcomed Croatia as its new Chair in 2007.