A new bilateral agreement establishes a framework for joint military training and security-related activities.
By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times -- 14/10/13
Kosovo Security Forces Minister Agim Ceku (left) and Macedonia Defence Minister Talat Dzaferi at the signing of the bilateral military agreement in Skopje. [Macedonia Ministry of Defense]
Macedonia and Kosovo's plans to improve military co-operation are expected to strengthen regional peace and stability as well as help both integrate in NATO, experts said.
The countries signed a bilateral agreement this month that includes joint military training exercises and meetings of security experts. Macedonia will also make available to Kosovo its regional military training centres.
The training facilities include the military polygon at Krivolak, the pilot training centre as well as the Partnership for Peace Centre. Macedonia's military academy in Skopje will continue accepting Kosovo officers along with officers from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and Montenegro.
"We continue to provide support to Kosovo and its security forces ministry to build the capacity to establish the needed [military] formation specified in the Marrti Ahtisaari plan," Macedonia Defence Minister Talat Dzaferi said.
Dzaferi also said Macedonia will support Kosovo's participation in all regional initiatives in which Macedonia participates.
The agreement advances both countries' integration in NATO, said Kosovo Security Forces Minister Agim Ceku.
"We are convinced that deepened co-operation, harmonised policies and co-ordinated decisions are the best way to build regional peace and stability," Ceku said.
Officials said the agreement is part of Macedonia's efforts to advance relations in the region as well as with NATO member states through regional initiatives. Eighteen joint military activities are scheduled this year, including training at a military healthcare centre and cyber-security expert meetings.
"[Signing the agreement] suggests the mistrust-and-scepticism phase has been overcome. We have come to a phase in which Kosovo and Macedonia are becoming partners, i.e. allies," Rizvan Sulejmani, vice president of the North-Atlantic Council of Macedonia, a think-tank in Skopje, told SETimes.
Military and security co-operation is very important because neither Kosovo nor Macedonia have sufficiently strong militaries to defend themselves, said Nedzmedin Spahiu, professor at Pristina University.
"That is why both states need to co-operate to integrate themselves as best as possible in NATO. Why wouldn't the military base Bondsteel in Kosovo become a centre for training of both armies?" Spahiu said.
Sulejmani agreed, saying that both countries can stand shoulder-to-shoulder in case of need.
"But Kosovo needs help from Macedonia because Macedonia is far ahead when it comes to defence reforms and the reforms needed for NATO membership, while Kosovo is at the beginning of forming its security forces," Sulejmani said.
Sulejmani added the co-operation may be particularly beneficial if Macedonia trains Kosovo military officers.
"That will certainly mean a far closer co-operation because if the armies co-operate, there is a need for the politicians to co-operate as well," Sulejmani said.
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