Chair’s Progress Report of
in the second half of 2008
South East Europe Security Cooperation Steering Group
In the second half of 2008 SEEGROUP continued its work in Brussels, meeting usually every two weeks at NATO Headquarters.
Since its inception eight years ago, SEEGROUP continues to be an important forum that contributes to the regional cooperation. The Group enables participating countries to work together in a very transparent way, exchange experience related to the security and defence sectors, launch joint project and initiatives in a way to contribute to the common goal of strengthening stability and security in the region. The work of SEEGROUP is of particular significance, provided that SEE countries take ownership and hold leading roles in various projects and responsibilities for cooperation in security related fields.
Cooperation within the SEEGROUP framework has gained increasing importance with respect to new challenges facing the region and the Euro-Atlantic area, such as the fight against terrorism and climate and environmental challenges. Therefore the work of SEEGROUP was more focused on security issues and civil emergency planning.
The success and wide range of activities in which SEEGROUP engages is witnessed by the participation of a larger number of Allies and Partners in the meetings. This year Ireland expressed its wish to become a participating country of SEEGROUP and it received the support of all countries members in the group. Their representative joined SEEGROUP in March 2008.
SEEGROUP is currently comprised of 32 countries, representing 20 NATO countries and 12 Partner nations. The active participation is wide basis for SEEGROUP’s work.
Support and facilitation by NATO IS representatives remain important for the work of the SEEGROUP and its interaction with the Alliance. In particular, the efforts of Mr. Sabri Ergen, (DPP), have played an important role in facilitating this.
ACTION PLAN FOR 2008
The Action Plan for 2008, which was adopted at the beginning of the year, determines guidelines and priorities for 2008, forwarding ongoing projects and initiating new activities. In the Action Plan for 2008 special emphasis has been placed on the following up of previously started initiatives of SEEGROUP, as well as those outlined in the 2007 Ambassadorial Declaration from the SEECAP document. The Action Plan follows mainly the SEECAP recommendations on the aforementioned areas of work.
The latest initiative of the SEEGROUP is the project on enhancing the competencies of Urban Search and Rescue teams in South East European region. At present time, there are no classified light-medium-heavy Urban Search and Rescue teams in South East Europe. The aim of this project is to encourage South East European countries to develop, at first instance, light USAR teams, which would be self classified through a regional Search and Rescue exercise.
In line with SEEGROUP priorities and objectives, as reflected in the SEECAP document, the Poland representative together with the UK and Switzerland, with the support of the group has initiated a project to work through a series of meetings on select aspects of security sector reform. In July SEEGROUP organized a seminar on security institutional building with a focus on transparency and the fight against corruption.
The major activity of the SEEGROUP work in 2008 was the fourth SEEGROUP meeting at the ambassadorial level, held at NATO HQ on 06 November 2008. Discussing the main topic “Before the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit: integration of the South East Europe into the Euro–Atlantic Structures”, the ambassadors expressed the importance of the regional cooperation and integration of the region in Euro-Atlantic Structures. The discussion was introduced by the Chairman of the meeting Ambassador Kire Ilioski, Ambassador of Turkey Mr. Tacan Ildem and Ambassador of Sweden Mrs. Veronika Wand-Danielsson. Participating in the meeting NATO Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer underlined that the SEEGROUP transparency and dedication on concrete projects and cooperation with the relevant regional initiatives, contribute to strengthening stability and security in the region and integration into the Euro-Atlantic Structures. The meeting was successful due to the chosen topic, large attendance and good organization.
Another important event was the visit of the representatives of the SEEGROUP in Skopje, on 10-12 September 2008. The SEEGROUP representatives visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defence and Crisis Management Center. During the visit to Skopje the group had its regular meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs devoted to the new prospects of enhancements the regional cooperation in SEE after the Bucharest Summit. In the discussions the SEEGROUP representatives concluded that the SEEGROUP has an intrinsic value in promoting regional security and cooperation and proposed new ideas for the future work of the SEEGROUP such as the practical cooperation with the NMAs, cooperation with South-Eastern Europe Defence Ministerial (SEDM) and practical assistance to regional countries.
In order to learn more about the tasks of the NATO Liaison Office in Skopje, the Chair organized a meeting with the Chief of the Advisory Team Colonel Ali Demiral and his staff in NATO Headquarters in Skopje. The members of SEEGROUP were informed on the main effort of the NATO Office in Skopje to provide support to the host nation authorities on Military Aspects of Security Sector reform and Euro-Atlantic integration.
Relations between SEEGROUP and other forums dealing with regional security cooperation remain important for the work of the SEEGROUP.
The representative of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), Mr. Sorin Sterie, briefed the SEEGROUP in September 2008 on the work and priority areas of Regional Cooperation Council (RCC).
The Clearing House has remained the main tool for the exchange of political and security related information among the countries of the region. This kind of regular communication has provided an opportunity to all SEEGROUP countries to obtain a clear and comprehensive understanding of recent developments in the SEE region as well as upcoming events and activities.
Expert presentation to the SEEGROUP
Several presentations were delivered during this period to the SEEGROUP:
In October, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Votteler, IMS, provided to the Group information on the Operational Capabilities Concept and informed about the current status and lessons learned.
Mr. Günter Bretschneider, Head of Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre informed the SEEGROUP on recent developments and the tasks and responsibilities of EADRCC and its active engagement in the region in the field of civil emergency planning.
Mr. Günter Bretschneider, Head of EADRCC, briefed again this year the SEEGROUP on the initiated project on the Urban Search and Rescue team capabilities.
All activities planned in the Action Plan for 2008 have been carried out and some new ideas have emerged, demonstrating that the SEEGROUP remains an innovative approach to regional security and cooperation. In this spirit at the last two SEEGROUP meetings, the representatives of the countries discussed how to improve the work of the SEEGROUP in the future. They proposed: to invite external actors (think tanks; NGO’s; other international organizations ;) to present political reports on the region and to discuss current issues; discuss recent events in South East Europe and invite other partner countries to some SEEGROUP meetings on a case-by-case basis.
Other two launched and ongoing projects - security sector reform and the project on enhancing the competencies of USAR teams in SEE region, and the proposals from the national representatives on the future work of the group, remain to be implemented by the next Chairman.