Balkan countries commit to EU security and defence

16/12/2013

Participation in EU crisis management missions, European Security and Defence College training and exchange of classified information with Union states are helping regional countries contribute to global peace and stability.

By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Time in Belgrade -- 16/12/13

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Serbia and Croatia both participate in the EU naval force in Somalia. [AFP]

In order to contribute to regional and global peace and stability, several regional countries are participating in the EU Common Security and Defence Policy, which aims to strengthen the Union's ability to develop civilian and military capabilities in conflict prevention and crisis management.

Major Jovan Krivokapic, a spokesperson at Serbia's Defence Ministry, said the state's commitment to EU crisis management operations was positively noted in the October 16th European Commission report on the country's 2013 progress.

"Establishing trust through the exchange of classified information with the EU, and the creation of a basis for participation in EU operations is important in terms of building a new partnership with the Union in the field of security and defence. With the engagement of Serbian Army members in these operations, Serbia is integrating this important segment of EU activities, which has a positive influence on the EU integration process," Krivokapic told SETimes.

The Serbian Ministry of Defence and army members are currently active in EU crisis operations in Somalia and Uganda.

Croatia also participates in the EU naval force in Somalia, as well as in the EU police mission in Afghanistan and in EULEX in Kosovo.

According to the Croatian Ministry of Defence, as an EU member the country works to develop and strengthen its involvement in the Common Security and Defence Policy because it is important in keeping global peace and stability and creating better opportunities for development and co-operation.

"By participating in civil and military operations and missions of the EU, and by supporting other instruments and mechanisms which the Union uses to stabilise and develop crisis areas, Croatia supports a comprehensive approach in managing crisis and conflict areas in the wider European neighbourhood," the ministry said in a statement.

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The EUFOR ALTHEA mission was launched in 2004 in BiH. [EU]

ALTHEA, which was established in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in 2004, is one of the most successful EU crisis management missions. Under the mission, the EU was given access to NATO assets and capabilities in order to help manage crisis situations.

There were 6,300 ALTHEA solders in BiH in 2004, and their goal was to ensure the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the conflict in the country in 1996.

Today, 600 EU soldiers remain in BiH.

"This is a clear indicator of the security improvement. The operation is helping BiH progress towards EU integration," Uma Sinanovic, head of public relations at the BiH Defence Ministry, told SETimes.

By assisting BiH citizens with flooding, fires and weather emergencies, the EU Common Security and Defence Policy and EUFOR ALTHEA have also helped BiH achieve excellent military-civilian co-operation.

"It is evident that BiH uses policy benefits, but at the same time EUFOR is helping to build the capacities of the BiH army forces and preparing them for participation in upcoming EU missions. BiH signed the agreement on security procedures for exchanging and protecting classified information with the EU in 2006, and it is expecting to soon sign an agreement on participation in crisis management operations," Uma said.

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Training is an important part of the policy. [EU Naval Force Somalia]

In order to improve the level of their contribution to the Common Security and Defence Policy, the three countries are participating in the training programme by the European Security and Defence College. The training audience includes civilian experts, military and police staff, diplomats and academics from EU member states, candidate countries, Union institutions and agencies.

Jochen Rehrl, from the European External Action Service, told SETimes that the efforts over the past two decades toward stabilisation has been effective and the creation of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy in the wake of the Balkan conflicts has worked well, together with the EU perspective and the EU's enlargement policy.

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"As we go through 2013 and 2014, we are facing a situation in the Western Balkans where the candidates' and potential candidates' desire to join the EU is growing, and the wide range of tools available to the EU in order to underpin this process have produced, and continue to produce, results," Rehrl added.

Marko Milosevic, a researcher at the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, said the results of the Common Security and Defence Policy in the region represent a significant step toward EU membership.

"Participation in EU missions is something that is visible and encouraging for citizens. They can see the participation and contribution of their countries in European politics and peace, and can feel like a real part of the Europe," Milosevic told SETimes.

How can the EU Common Security and Defence Policy help to create regional and global stability? Tell us your thoughts below in the comments.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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