Participating countries said the exercise increases regional co-operation and supports regional security.
By Linda Karadaku for the Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 25/08/14
Participants in the military exercise Immediate Response 2014 in Pocek, Slovenia. [Ministry of Defence of Slovenia]
Balkan militaries are participating in the Immediate Response 2014 military exercise headed by the US European Command (EUCOM) in Pocek, Slovenia.
The exercise commenced August 20th and will last 10 days.
Officials said the exercise's motto is "Force through Partnership" and the goal is to enhance military readiness and professional exchanges between NATO partners. It will also test the interoperability of forces in search and rescue missions.
Soldiers from Croatia -- which previously hosted the exercise -- Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Hungary and Slovenia joined in the exercise together with US, German and Dutch officers.
The Croatian Defence Ministry said the focus is to train the command structure to execute international peace operations, in particular humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
The ministry said effective communication is needed between the regional countries to include mutually agreed on and well-practiced procedures.
"[T]his exercise aims to train the headquarters of the multinational brigade to implement humanitarian operations such as remediation, construction and repair of roads, construction camps, water purification, organisation and protection of convoys of humanitarian aid and destruction of explosive devices," the ministry told SETimes in a statement.
Regional multinational exercises such as Immediate Response 2014 are important because they strengthen mutual trust and understanding among the militaries.
"[T]he participants are able to acquire new knowledge or exchange prior experience, and application of NATO procedures and standards in different crisis situations is modelled," the Montenegro Defence Ministry told SETimes in a written statement.
Albania and Kosovo are participating in the exercise with 24 and 25 officers each.
"The exercise intends to increase the interoperability and cohesion between the participating countries," Edlira Prendi, a spokesperson for the Albania Ministry of Defence, told SETimes.
Kosovo officials said they view participation as a challenge.
"[B]ut it is a good chance for our members to learn, exchange experiences and show their abilities and skills," Ibrahim Shala, a spokesman for the Kosovo Security Force, said.
The Slovenian military conducts readiness drills. [Ministry of Defence of Slovenia]
Macedonia defence officials said the exercise is an opportunity to increase co-operation in reacting to crisis situations such as natural disasters.
"[W]e believe it is very important for the members of the Macedonian military to participate in such exercises, because although they share their knowledge with other soldiers, they also come back with knowledge they receive from other armies," said Saso Stefanoski, state secretary at the Macedonia Defence Ministry.
Macedonia allocates a special annual budget for participating in exercises with other militaries.
Stefanoski said the Macedonian military wants to develop co-operation with all neighbouring countries and is open to transfer its experiences to others.
"In the regional context, joint exercises in which armies from the Balkans are present are very important. We try to convey our knowledge to the Kosovo Security Force and we feel that it is very important to them. We particularly emphasise the development of officers, military police, logistics and development of communication links," Stefanoski said.
Correspondents Drazen Remikovic in Sarajevo and Miki Trajkovski in Skopje contributed to this report.
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