Region needs joint defence strategy, experts say

03/12/2012

A joint security and defence strategy could resolve recession impacts on the sector in the Southeast European countries, experts say.

By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 03/12/12

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The region needs to implement a joint defence and military strategy to overcome the economic crisis, experts said. [AFP]

Regional defence and security experts are focusing on overcoming the economic crisis that has stymied the transition process and the efforts towards European and Euro-Atlantic integration, sector experts said at a recent conference in Montenegro.

In order to overcome the setback, the regional countries need to form a joint strategy to co-ordinate a common policy, Branimir Mandic, Regional Centre for Security Co-operation director, told SETimes.

"Practically none of the European and certainly none of the [Southeast European] countries are able to maintain the full spectrum of defence capabilities autonomously. Consequently, defence resource management calls for better co-ordination of efforts among the countries in order to accomplish tasks with fewer resources, which, in turn, necessitates finding new opportunities in the field of defence co-operation," Mandic said.

Since the security sector in the region use to be financed from state budgets and the majority of the countries are facing fiscal deficit, the impact of the recession is more pronounced.

Mihajlo Djokic, associate at the Institute of Economic Sciences, said the chances for new funds for security sector are nearly zero because the budget for defence purposes and its share of the GDP is declining.

"Defence/military capabilities have a direct influence on defence system development and organisation, as well as on the structure of armed forces. … the ministries of defence and armed forces have to give up on some capabilities that are no longer affordable or sustainable," Mandic told SETimes.

The development of a joint strategy that should focus on how the available funds could accomplish current goals without activating security risks is necessary, he said.

"Potential savings that could be reached by better co-operation of the countries in the region in the security sector should be analysed, as well as the finding a way to put the transparency of spending funds on higher level," Djukic told SETimes.

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But Professor Aleksandar Fatic, a senior fellow at the Institute of International Politics and Economics in Belgrade and a national expert in anti-corruption policies for the UN, said the main impact of the world recession on the Western Balkan security sector is the change in dimension. It is not the number of solders and army hardware this is important, but the position of the countries in the energy strategy.

"Today, the crucial regional security project is the construction of the South Stream pipeline, which favors Serbia but Hungary and some NATO countries. The pipeline has the potential to influence the relative strategic power of the Balkan countries in correlation with the EU as the gas end-consumer, which is transported through the region, but also to the economic situation in the region," Fatic told SETimes.

The 3,600-kilometre pipeline aims to transport Siberian gas through Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia to Italy.

Fatic said the proposal that Russian soldiers are going to secure the Serbian part of South Stream, due to the limited number of Serbian soldiers and the basis of emergency intervention on the route of pipeline, will cause major changes for the regional security concept.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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