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Updated: 13-Nov-2007 NATO Topics

NATO HQ
20 July
2007

Chair's Progress Report on the Work of SEEGROUP in the First Half of 2007

South East Europe Security Cooperation Steering Group (SEEGROUP)

INTRODUCTION

In the first half of 2007 SEEGROUP continued its work in Brussels, meeting every two weeks at NATO HQ under the Croatian chairmanship. Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Moldova, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia1, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States of America continued their active participation in the SEEGROUP. In February 2007 Finland expressed its wish to join SEEGROUP and this request reached unanimous support by all the members. The representative of Finland joined SEEGROUP in March 2007.

SEEGROUP now comprises 29 countries, representing 19 NATO Allies and 10 Partner nations. The active participation of all the countries ensured strong support and wide basis for SEEGROUP's work.

Support and facilitation of NATO International Staff representatives remained pivotal for the work of the SEEGROUP and its interaction with the Alliance. Particularly valuable was the facilitation by Mr Sabri Ergen (DPP), as well as the inputs and guidance by the Head of Defence Cooperation Mr. George Katsirdakis.

MAJOR ACTIVITIES

SEEGROUP supported the decision of the NATO summit in Riga to invite Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia into the Partnership for Peace and Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. This decision brought a new momentum to the work of SEEGROUP and therefore the group met to discuss its future in January 2007.

In this discussion the Croatian Chair emphasized that, ever since its inception seven years ago, SEEGROUP is the important forum of interaction of SEEI countries, which promotes regional cooperation through a number of projects and exchange of political-security information. It is an open ended, flexible and informal forum, based on regional ownership, which gives an added value to the countries of the region and to the Alliance.

This view was shared by a number of SEEGROUP representatives, both from the countries of the region as well as from the Allied and Partner nations. Though some Allies stressed that the future of SEEGROUP should be in the hands of the countries of the region, the members of the group are mindful that any decision on changing its status should be ultimately approved by the NAC. A number of representatives underlined the important role the group has played in increasing regional cooperation and confidence as well as in increasing the profile of the new Partner nations in cooperation with NATO. They concluded that SEEGROUP has an intrinsic value in promoting regional security and cooperation and that it can further assist the countries of the region willing to become full-fledged members of NATO.

The Action Plan for 2007, adopted at the meeting held on 2 February, set the guidelines and priorities for 2007 in order to bring forward ongoing projects and enhance political dialogue on numerous issues.

SEEGROUP visit to RACVIAC and the Centre for International Military Operations in Zagreb, held on 30 and 31 May, was one of the main activities in the first half of 2007. This visit provided an opportunity to further strengthen mutual cooperation and share views on the future of SEEGROUP and RACVIAC in view of the establishment of the Regional Cooperation Council.

During the visit to Zagreb the group had its regular meeting at the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs devoted to the achievement of full cooperation with the ICTY. On that occasion Ambassador Jaksa Muljacic, former Assistant Minister of Justice, held a briefing on Croatian experience in this respect which provided a valuable insight on the lessons learned for the other countries in the region. Furthermore, Mr Dubravko Palijas, Deputy Attorney General, informed SEEGROUP representatives on a number of agreements signed by the various Chief Prosecutors in the region, which provide a legal basis for the exchange of evidence and protection of witnesses.

At the meeting with the Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Pjer Simunovic, members of SEEGROUP received an invaluable input on the fulfilment of political criteria for Croatia's accession to NATO, as well as information on Croatian activities in various regional initiatives. The meeting with Mr. Igor Pokaz, Assistant Minister of Defence, demonstrated Croatia's commitment to defence reform, exchange of expertise with new PfP members and continuous cooperation in the framework of the US-Adriatic Charter.

In April 2007 members of SEEGROUP were informed on a consequence management field exercise "IDASSA 2007", which was organised by the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) and Croatia, from 19 to 24 May 2007 in the Zadar County, Croatia. The briefing was provided by Mrs Arabela Vahtaric, Head of International Relations division in the National Protection and Rescue Directorate, who explained the exercise concept and objectives, as well as the exercise scenario.

SEEGROUP held fruitful discussion with Dr. Juliette Bird and Lt. Ben Richards, from Terrorist Threat Intelligence Unit (TTIU) on terrorism in the Western Balkans. This meeting proved this issue is of great importance for the region as well as for the wider Euro-Atlantic area.

Another important briefing was given by Mrs Susan Pond (PASP), who informed the members of SEEGROUP on various NATO Trust Fund projects in the region as well as on the results of the Trust Fund Workshop which was held in Washington DC on 22 and 23 February.

SEEGROUP PROJECTS

The transition from SEECHANGE, internet-based network aimed at the exchange of political-military, conflict prevention and crisis management information, to e-PRIME was successfully conducted in February 2007. So far SEECHANGE served as the basic tool for internal communication and will remain to be used in parallel with SEEGROUP Working Group at e-PRIME. The use of e-PRIME will be further encouraged as the main instrument for exchange of information and activities of the SEEGROUP.

SEEPRO project was elaborated and launched during the Albanian Chairmanship in 2004 with the aim to contribute to the global fight against terrorism. Four countries participated in this project (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova and Serbia) and they have sent responses to the questionnaire to NOS. Following the invitation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia into PfP, the SEEPRO project has been overtaken under the PfP umbrella dealing with NOS involvement in the security and intelligence community liaison programs which include assessing their national capabilities, current legislation and the working practices related to the fight against terrorism.

SECURITY DIALOGUE

Relations between SEEGROUP and other fora dealing with regional security cooperation remain important for the work of SEEGROUP.

Cooperation with Stability Pact for South East Europe continues to be valuable for SEEGROUP activities.

The Croatian Chair participated in the Working Table III Seminar on Regional Security Cooperation in SEE that took place in Brdo, Slovenia, 20th June. The Chair reported on the work of SEEGROUP and expressed an interest to establish cooperation between SEEGROUP and the Regional Cooperation Council, through joint initiatives that positively affect stability and security in the region.

SEEGROUP also established cooperation with MARRI (Migration, Asylum, Refugees Regional Initiative) Regional Centre in Skopje, whose acting director Mr. Mario Zadro briefed the group on MARRI activities. Another important cooperation was established with George C. Marshall European Centre for Security Studies.

The Clearing House remains the main tool for the exchange of political-security information about the SEE region. This communication contributed to better coordination of projects and fostering of cooperation. SEEGROUP will continue with the organisation of regular Clearing House meetings in the second part of the year.

WAY AHEAD

Under the Croatian Chairmanship SEEGROUP will continue its work in the second half of 2007 in line with the Action Plan for 2007. The main focus of the group will be the preparation of the annual ambassadorial meeting, various activities aimed at raising the visibility of the group and further continuation of projects and activities which contribute to the regional cooperation and provide response to security challenges and threats in SEE.


1.Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its Constitutional name.