Bulgaria, Serbia improving military co-operation

07/03/2014

Joint training operations and preparation for multi-national exercises are the focal points of military co-operation between Bulgaria and Serbia.

By Ivana Jovanovic and Tzvetina Borisova for Southeast European Times in Belgrade and Sofia -- 07/03/14

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Bulgaria soldiers are working with troops from Serbia on joint exercises and co-operation. [AFP]

Bulgaria and Serbia have been increasing their military co-operation in an effort to boost regional stability and assist Serbia's EU accession, experts said.

Bulgaria Defence Minister Angel Naydenov and his Serbian counterpart Nebojsa Rodic signed a protocol for MiG-29 flight simulator training during a meeting in Sofia in February. Bulgaria has 15 MiG-29 fighters that make up the backbone of its current air defence.

The two ministers also outlined a plan to expand co-operation in military education, medicine, military police and military geography, according to the Bulgarian Defence Ministry.

"There is also development potential for the mutual participation of the two countries in international missions and operations of the UN and the EU. For the better future of the Balkans, a better security environment should be set up, which can be guaranteed by the transparency in relations and complete mutual trust between the Balkan countries," the ministry said in a statement to SETimes.

Major Jovan Krivokapic, a spokesman for Serbia's Defence Ministry, said the main points of co-operation between the two countries are joint training exercises, military police collaboration, plus co-operation in the fields of application software, programming and budgeting, military medicine and public relations.

"Joint exercises and training, which significantly increase the interoperability and operational capabilities of the armed forces, are the crown of the existing co-operation between the two ministries," Krivokapic told SETimes.

He said the main activity in 2013 was the successful execution of joint firing exercises by the two countries' anti-aircraft operation units.

"Serbian soldiers have been participating in several bilateral and trilateral exercises in Bulgaria since 2010," Krivokapic said. "Joint participation in exercises is a good basis to prepare for multinational operations."

Spiridon Spiridonov, an independent military analyst in Sofia, said the focus of the military co-operation efforts between Bulgaria and Serbia should be on activities aimed at improving the operational capacities of the two armies.

"Co-operation between the armies of Bulgaria and Serbia would allow them to perform their missions in support of international peace and security, as well as in cases of natural disasters and emergency situations. I believe that the two armies have sufficient experience in this aspect and can be useful to each other," Spiridonov told SETimes.

Boris Viculin, project director at the Atlantic Council of Serbia, said this kind of bilateral co-operation is important not only for regional stability, but also for Serbia's NATO and EU aspirations.

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"Bilateral co-operation with NATO member countries provides the Alliance with better insight into the capabilities of our army and defence system reform process, which represents one of main conditions for NATO membership and the EU," Viculin told SETimes.

He said that this kind of co-operation contributes to the improvement of relations in the region as well.

"The most significant factor of this co-operation is strengthening confidence between armed forces of the states in the region. Confidence between partners is the basis for any co-operation construction," Viculin said.

Which other sectors could Bulgaria and Serbia co-operate in to assist Serbia's EU bid? Share your thoughts below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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