Western Balkans intensify military, intelligence co-operation

27/05/2013

A recent conference highlights the need for regional countries to work together to address inter-ethnic conflicts, organised crime and terrorism.

By Aleksandar Pavlevski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 27/05/13

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Military and intelligence leaders in the Balkans are working together to address regional security concerns. [Aleksandar Pavleveski/SETimes]

Defense ministry and security force officials discussed ways to work together to battle terrorism, organised crime and prevent interethnic conflicts at a recent conference in Skopje.

Top-level military and intelligence services leaders from Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, Slovenia, Italy and NATO officials gathered for the third Western Balkans Defense/Intelligence Chiefs meeting late last month.

"From the meeting I can conclude that the security system must be perceived as a living organism that must be adapted to the existing environment," Saso Stefanovski, state secretary in Macedonia's Ministry of Defense, told SETimes.

"Regional co-operation between the military and intelligence services is of paramount significance that will provide improved security systems of the Western Balkans," he said. "At the meeting, discussions were directed toward further co-operation, improving the existing ones, but also finding new ways to exchange information between services."

Blagoja Markovski, a former Macedonian Army colonel and president of the NGO Balkan Security Forum, told SETimes that conferences like the one in Skopje "should become more common."

The first such conference was held two years ago, and the next one is planned for 2014.

"The issue is how to efficiently exchange information to help joint efforts in the fight against terrorism and threats against the regional countries, but also to preserve the security of the citizens. Regional co-operation in the sectors of defense, police and intelligence is the key to success in the fight against terrorism and crime," Markovski said.

Aleksandar Radic, a military-political analyst from Belgrade and former consultant to the Serbian government, told SETimes that the impact of co-operative efforts is significant.

"Information will be exchanged quickly and will effectively act on any possible problems. I believe that the Balkans have more to fear from organised crime and ethnic conflict than from global terrorism ... Organised crime undermines all our societies and is a prerequisite for the spread of poverty and frustration in already poor countries," Radic said.

He said that preventing ethnic conflict is a more significant concern than hunting terrorists.

"I say this because I am sure that such ethnic conflicts among us can cause many more casualties and destruction that would be counted in hundreds of thousands rather than any terrorist actions," Radic said.

Macedonian Chief of Staff Major General Goranco Koteski noted the excellent co-operation in the field of defense and security in the region, especially where it is integrated within the Adriatic Group, as a model for comprehensive collaboration in all segments of regional security policy.

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He referred to the co-operation within the military intelligence regarding security threats, stressing that the exchange of information will help in strengthening joint efforts in the fight against terrorism and threats against states.

Andrew Bogdanovski, an analyst with Analytics in Skopje, said the promotion of regional military and security co-operation is a necessary step towards a regional response to common threats, and signals that trust between states is increasing.

"In this regard, countries like Macedonia, Croatia and Albania could offer their experiences in contributing to peacekeeping operations, and national defence," Bogdanovski told SETimes.

In what ways should military and intelligence agencies work together to address terrorism? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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