Analysts concluded that the Balkans made significant progress in improving security and integration processes.
By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times from Struga -- 10/09/13
Struga recently hosted a NATO conference on regional security in the Western Balkans. [Miki Trajkovski/SETimes]
The Western Balkan countries have made significant progress in improving regional security and EU integration processes, concluded security experts and participants at the international NATO conference on regional security in the Western Balkans recently held in Struga, but agreed on forwarding regional initiatives for co-operation, bilateral and multilateral agreements in defence and security.
Progress has been especially achieved in bilateral relations between Serbia and Kosovo, internally in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), and the EU integration for Macedonia, Matthew Rhodes, professor at the George C. Marshall European Centre for Peace Studies, told SETimes.
"The most important, as far as Kosovo and Serbia concerns, is that they signed a framework agreement that laid the foundation for a peaceful daily and regular communication between the two sides. This is the highest progress achieved with security," Rhodes said.
"In that area much progress is achieved, and also with the Adriatic Charter of which Macedonia is one of the founders. We made progress in the co-operation between the police and the ISAF armed forces mission in Afghanistan," Rhodes said.
Stojan Slaveski, professor at the security faculty in Skopje, told SETimes that regional security has significantly improved from a few years ago.
"The region is slowly but surely becoming stable and secure, and is included in the Euro-Atlantic processes, and that is a major advance that should make us happy, though there are still open questions on which the NATO and the EU should focus," Slaveski said.
"Countries in the region are now more willing to co-operate, and are becoming initiators of such collaborations. Numerous regional initiatives in terms of defence and security are already yielding positive results," Slaveski said.
Mehmedin Tahirovic, the head of public relations at the foreign affairs department of Montenegro, said that the security in the Balkans contributed to an increasing number of regional initiatives for co-operation in Southeast Europe.
"All countries in the region want to contribute to the improvement of the regional co-operation. It is the future of the Balkans, and NATO and the EU must lead the regional co-operation for some time. Resolving the crisis through joint projects and activities is something that was raised as a NATO initiative," Tahirovic told SETimes.
Zoran Dragisic, professor at the security faculty in Belgrade, agrees that the Western Balkans region is moving in a positive direction.
"Recent co-operation and integration of the Balkans went far, such as resolving issues between Belgrade and Pristina and taking them to negotiations, or the situation in BiH, which several years ago was dangerous, and has now stabilised," Dragisic said.
But, he cautioned, the Balkans still face security challenges and caution is needed from all sides.
"The fight against organised crime, political extremism, and radical structures are fundamental for all the Balkans in achieving security, stability in the long run. The EU and NATO are the best solution for all problems and security risks," Dragisic said.
Ankica Tomic, president of the George Marshall Alumni Association in Sarajevo, said that the Balkans can boast of specific activities that promote regional security co-operation.
"BiH police has excellent co-operation with all police forces in the region, especially with Serbia, Croatia, and Macedonia. They engage in joint actions to reduce [human] trafficking and organised crime. We have a regional legal framework that provides modern measures in reduction of all types of crimes," Tomic said.
Albert Prenkaj, the director of the diplomatic academy in Pristina, says that Kosovo is the initiator in regional initiatives, such as security forces joint training between Kosovo and the Macedonian army.
"We also had joint activities with Albanians. We expect it to continue in the future with other regional countries and with Serbia," Prenkaj said.
What other security improvements have been achieved in the region? Let us know in the comment section.