Efforts to streamline, modernise and train more robust military forces are showing signs of success.
By Miki Trajkoski for Southeast European Times in Ohrid -- 27/08/13
Serbia and Albanian officers during a joint military exercise among Albania, Greece, Macedonia, and the NATO air forces. [AFP]
Balkan militaries continue to reform, modernise, train and provide education abroad to its officer corps in order to achieve NATO standards, despite reductions in military budgets, analysts said.
Serbia's military reform has made its army look like any other in NATO, according to Aleksandar Radic, military analyst at the Euro-Atlantic Initiative in Belgrade.
"Recently, the military upgraded its communications system, obtained new equipment for electronic surveillance and for the ground forces. What remains is to fulfill the standards for the air force," Radic told SETimes.
Similarly, Macedonia last year implemented a plan to reorganise and modernise its armed forces -- to be completed by 2015 -- as part of the continuous effort to achieve NATO standards.
"We had two mechanised brigades and now only one, identical to the units in the NATO member states. Similarly, there is an air brigade for anti-air defence," Mirce Gjorgoski, spokesperson for the Macedonian military, told SETimes.
Since 2005, Macedonia has worked on modernising the military to reach NATO standards, said Blagoja Markovski, president of the Balkan Forum for Security in Skopje.
Markovski explained NATO experts advised Macedonia, which then came up with the development and modernisation plan in 2003, and has went ahead despite a reduction of funding from the planned 2.2 percent of the state budget to 1.3 percent.
"The first tasks it accomplished were to decrease the number of employees in order to adapt the army's formation and to increase its level of training. The main goal: modernise the military with weapon systems and equipment as well as to adapt it to participate in peace missions," Markovski told SETimes.
Gjorgoski said that Macedonia implements the concept of operational capabilities with which it assesses units' readiness to participate in NATO and EU missions.
"We will continue to implement NATO standards in training and education of officers and petty officers," Gjorgoski said.
Montenegro is implementing a new strategic defence plan and is streamlining its military.
"Through the reforms, the military got rid of much of the heavy weaponry, destroyed the tanks, but it held onto a small number of airplanes. The biggest reforms took place in the navy, where more than 50 ships were sold," Radic said.
The on-going re-organisation plans include obtaining new multi-purpose helicopters and radar for its air force, and new patrol boats for the navy. In addition, the new information and management system will enable constant control of Montenegro's territorial waters in the Adriatic.
Reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) are based on the 2003 and 2005 defence laws to create a unified defence system and military. They led to reducing the number of military personnel from 12,000 to 10,000 and the destruction of 11,000 tons of ammunition and explosive devices.
"The results of the reforms enabled BiH's entry in the NATO programme Partnership for Peace in 2006," the BiH defence ministry told SETimes in a statement.
The ministry said the modernisation of the military continues by implementing NATO's interoperability standards. The BiH military has acquired and receives assistance in equipment, machinery and through building its infrastructure.
"There is on-going analysis of the military's future needs and a long-term modernisation plan to achieve the necessary NATO standards is being created. This is part of the Review of Defence of BiH, which aims to strengthen the country's defence capabilities, and will determine the dynamic of acquisitions," the ministry said.
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