Nine Balkan militaries agree to jointly assist the civilian population in times of disasters.
By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 22/07/14
Members of the BiH military and civil defence assist the civilian population during the catastrophic floods last May. [Bedrana Kaletovic/SETimes]
In the wake of damaging flooding in Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) this year, military leaders of nine countries in southeast Europe are promising to work together to co-ordinate emergency response to future natural disasters.
Military representatives from Albania, BiH, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Turkey met last month at the B9 forum in Sarajevo. The B9 forum is a platform that the regional countries formed in 2007 to advance military co-operation.
The participants decided to meet at least once a year and tasked the forum's co-ordination group to determine the specific venues of co-operation and anticipated resources.
"This approach makes building partnerships and harmonising standard operating procedures. It also makes co-operation networks functional," said Metodi Hadzijanev, a professor at the Military Academy in Skopje, told SETimes.
"It became clear that natural disasters create serious security issues that used to be overlooked in the past. The fact that one country can hardly address such security challenges also necessitates such co-operation," Hadzijanev said.
Almost all Balkan countries were recently affected by heavy rainfalls, snowfalls, floods and fires, without a single country having the capacity to fully respond, said Anto Jelec, chief of the joint staff of the BiH military. "All countries attending the conference expressed willingness to define available resources and capacities to plan to use in shortened procedures in order to assist [other countries] during crisis and emergency situations caused by natural and other disasters," Jelec told SETimes.
Forum participants also agreed to have a list of procedures to act quickly and effectively in emergencies that will be adopted by the respective governments.
"This initiative will certainly significantly increase the level of overall security and stability in the region through exchange of experiences and lessons learned, it will also enhance the standards of training," Jelec said.
"The chiefs do not make political decisions but are supported in their efforts because it improves regional defence co-operation," said Mirche Gjorgјoski, spokesperson for the Macedonian military.
Gjorgјoski said the B9 forum also has significant support in NATO and the EU especially because decisions are reached by consensus.
Correspondent Ana Lovakovic in Sarajevo contributed to this report.
What else can the Balkan militaries do to assist in times of natural disasters? Share your opinion in the comments space.