Armies in the region have been improving their co-operation through joint military medicine activities.
By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 11/08/14
MEDCEUR, an annual joint and combined medical exercise with a focus on major disaster response and mass casualty situations, has been hosted in the last decade by Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro. [AFP]
According to regional armies' representatives and experts, military medicine is a great opportunity for the improvement of bilateral and multinational relations of armed forces in the Balkans, while improving regional security and stability.
"The universality of the mission and task of every military medicine service that is based on principles of helping the injured, hurt and sick, is the main reason why medicine is the best field for military co-operation," the Croatian Ministry of Defence said in a statement to SETimes.
Croatia participates in several regional and international joint initiatives to develop multinational co-operation and interoperability of medical support in conflict areas.
As part of the US Adriatic Charter, Croatia, Macedonia and Albania spent four years working together to provide medical support to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. The initiative was a part of NATO's Partnership for Peace programme.
Experiences that Croatia military medicine personnel gained through the programme also contributed to bilateral co-operation with Serbian teams, based on exchange of experiences from international military operations.
Military medicine is an important part of multinational co-operation and its basis is joint exercises.
Croatia participates in several regional and international joint initiatives to develop multinational co-operation of medical support in conflict areas. [AFP]
MEDCEUR is an annual joint and combined medical exercise with a focus on major disaster response and mass casualty situations. Among several hundred of participants from 15 countries are representatives from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, all of which have hosted the exercise in the last decade.
A conference of military-medicine services of southeast Europe was held in Serbia in 2011 and initiated the establishment of the Balkan Medical Task Force. The project is sponsored by Ministry of Defence of Norway and the US, and includes Serbia, Albania, BiH, Macedonia, Montenegro and Slovenia.
Serbia has been involved in the Balkan Military Medicine Committee since 2008, said Major Jovan Krivokapic of the Serbian Defence Ministry.
"Our representatives are actively participating in work of expert bodies and boards. Belgrade held the 17th congress of Balkan Military Medicine Committee in 2012, as well as third pan- European Congress in June this year where 29 member states participated," Krivokapic told SETimes.
Uma Sinanovic, head of the BiH defence ministry department for public relations, told SETimes that the Bosnian military medicine service co-operates with all armies in the region through the Balkan Medical Task Force project.
"The co-operation is very good with the Serbian service through bilateral relation at all levels of sanitation and veterinary medicine as well as through conferences, training and education at the Military School of Medicine," Sinanovic said.
She added that BiH co-operates with Germany and Turkey, as well.
"We have the agreement with Turkey, according to which our members are going to Turkish Military Medicine Academy and which includes mutual visits," she said.
Marko Milosevic, researcher at Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, said there are two main reasons why military medicine is important for military co-operation. "The first one is peacekeeping missions; it is good to have military doctors since they are the only medical personnel that are able and willing to go into crisis areas, since civilian doctors are not motivated to do so. So, when there are military doctors, its a chance to contribute to global peace, and there is no risk for sending the wrong political messages as it could be with participation of regular armed forces," Milosevic told SETimes.
Milosevic said the Military Medicine Academy in Belgrade has capacity for more than 200,000 soldiers.
"It is oversized for Serbia's current needs and there is an idea to make a regional centre of it. In this way one big issue will be managed – the language barrier that almost all regional military members have when they go for education or training abroad since their first language is not English. All people of the entire region understand all languages that are spoken there," he added.
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