Co-operation demonstrated by armed forces proves valuable in managing natural disasters, experts and officials agree.
By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 30/06/14
A rescuer holds a child in his arms during the evacuation of a flooded street in the northern town of Maglaj in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) on May 16th. [AFP]
Armed forces in the Western Balkans have had an important role in overcoming emergency situations, such as the recent flooding in Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH), Croatia and Serbia, as they assisted crisis management teams and citizens to save people, livestock and property.
According to Major Jovan Krivokapic, spokesperson at Serbian Ministry of Defence, Serbian armed forces members have been engaged in several crisis situations during 2014.
Armed forces in the Balkans played a crucial role in helping Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Croatia and Serbia save people, livestock and property during the recent floods. [Nikola Barbutov/SETimes]
"We have participated in unblocking of the roads blocked by snow and in evacuation of threatened citizens in Vojvodina, after that in the construction of an alternative water supply in Uzice as well as on water supplying in other municipalities in Serbia. "During the May floods, which were the biggest natural disaster in the last 100 years in Serbia, thousands of soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers were involved," Krivokapic told SETimes.
"Assisting citizens during earthquakes, floods, snowstorms and other natural disasters is certainly one of the key reasons why the Serbian army enjoys great trust of the citizens for many years, as evidenced by the various surveys of public opinion," Maja Bjelos, a researcher at the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, told SETimes.
She added that despite the fact that the Serbian army does not have enough resources, it is ready to react in emergency situations and support citizens as well as state and non-state bodies.
Krivokapic said co-operation among military personnel in neighbouring countries is crucial in emergencies.
"Crisis situations are often overcoming state borders, as was the recent case with the flood, which happened to the wider range of the Balkans. Without a stable environment, there is no country that can count on its own stability and safety for the citizens in the region," Krivokapic said.
"Military co-operation has shown to be crucial for assisting citizens in flooded areas. So the state should improve military co-operation with European countries and, especially, with the states in the region, in the field of emergency situations and in that way to make its own system stronger to react in emergency situations," Bjelos told SETimes.
Crisis management through co-operation is one of NATO's fundamental security tasks. Members work together on a daily basis within the framework of the alliance.
"NATO's role in crisis management goes beyond military operations to include issues such as the protection of populations against natural, technological or humanitarian disaster operations," NATO said in a statement to SETimes. "A crisis can effectively be political, military or humanitarian and can be caused by political or armed conflict, technological incidents or natural disasters."
Over the past two decades, the alliance has developed a network of structured partnerships with countries from the Euro-Atlantic area, the Mediterranean and the Gulf region, as well as individual relationships with other partners across the globe.
NATO assisted Pakistan in 2005 when it was hit by earthquakes and helped Ukraine when it was struck by flooding.
The co-operation among NATO members, the EU and non-member countries is crucial for success.
"NATO recognises the importance of a stronger and more capable European defence. The allies welcome the entry into force of the European Union's Lisbon Treaty, which provides a framework for strengthening the EU's capacities to address common security challenges. Non-EU European allies make a significant contribution to these efforts. For the strategic partnership between NATO and the EU, their fullest involvement in these efforts is essential," NATO said in the statement.
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