Securing Peace and Security in the Balkans, Thessaloniki (Greece), 22 May 2004

SECURING PEACE AND SECURITY IN THE BALKANS

Thessaloniki, 22 May 2004

          It is a great pleasure and honor for me to address such a distinguished audience. I would like to congratulate the Club of Madrid for this timely Conference. I also congratulate the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy for its valuable cooperation and the Center for Analysis and Planning of the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Public Diplomacy Division of NATO for their contribution to the organization of this conference.

            The Balkans as a region and balkanization as a word had always a connotation of dividedness. I genuinely hope that this region become now a symbol of mutual respect and peaceful cohabitation.

            The Balkans went through one of the most difficult period of its recent history as a result of the demise of the former Yugoslavia. The EU and the western countries as a whole did not move swiftly enough to stop or contain ethnic clashes. This slowness made all the more difficult the establishment of peace and stability in the region.

            Some parts of the Balkans seem to be relatively stable. Mutual respect and confidence is developing among the potential parties to the conflicts and the likelihood of a military confrontation seems to be eliminated. The countries of the region, the EU and the international community have to do their best to contribute to the consolidation of the existing stability and to its further strengthening.

            However, stability remains fragile in some other parts of the Balkans despite numerous initiatives launched with a view to securing peace and stability in the region.

            The countries of the region will feel more secure if they are incorporated in the regional and international structures. One can hardly expect a country to feel secure if it is kept out of such structures or if it feels excommunicated. They will cooperate more willingly if they are invited to join existing structures. These structures include:

–         South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP)

–         South East Cooperative Initiative (SECI)

–         Adriatic Charter

–         Stability Pact for the South Eastern Europe

–         Okhrid Initiative

–         Partnership for Peace

SEECP is perhaps the only initiative among them that could be characterized as endogenous, that is to say which originated from within the region. It encompasses all Balkan countries with the exception of Slovenia. Croatia enjoys observer’s status. Beneficiaries of this initiative complain that all contributing countries act through different capitals of the region and fail to send a uniform message. This is a discrepancy that has to be corrected as quickly as possible.

Stability Pact for the South Eastern Europe was established to mark the commitment of the international community to contribute to the establishment and maintenance of stability in the region. After initial euphoria it is now widely agreed that the pact needs a new impetus and streamlining. EU’S intention to shoulder more responsibility may bring this impetus, therefore it has to be encouraged. The chances of success of the EU initiative could be increased if EU chooses to take into account the views of the countries of the region.

Partnership for Peace is regarded by NATO as a waiting room for the new members to join the Alliance. Non-NATO Balkan countries will feel more secure when they join NATO. However without becoming ready to fulfill its obligations, membership to NATO will not be useful.

Membership to EU will also play a positive role in the stabilization of the countries of the region. The waiting room for the EU membership is the status of a candidate country. Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey have already obtained this status. Croatia will gain it soon. EU will probably ask the other Balkan countries to fulfill certain criteria before giving them a membership perspective.

In addition to old member countries of NATO, namely Turkey and Greece, three more new Balkan countries, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia have now joined NATO.

Efforts are made to bring three more Balkan countries into NATO. These are Albania, Macedonia and Croatia. The US House Representatives adopted a resolution to accelerate the membership of these three countries to NATO.

A similar initiative is started in the Turkish Parliament by the Friendship groups of these countries. Forthcoming NATO summit to be held in June 2004 in Istanbul may be utilized to give positive messages to these countries.

Transatlantic cooperation

            We will be failing our duty if we do not pay tribute to the role of the transatlantic cooperation in the consolidation of the stability in the Balkans.

            The EU assumes its responsibilities more each passing day and thin should continue and be encouraged. But it should not be regarded as a substitute to the transatlantic cooperation.

Democracy and economic cooperation

            The role of Democracy and economic cooperation in the consolidation of peace and stability in the region has to be underlined once more.

            Democracy

            The tendency of the mainstream people is in general in for row of peace. Support for clash comes, in most cases, as a result of instigation of nationalists as extremists of main stream usually keeps distant to such tendency.

            The development in Serbia is a telling  experience in this field. As soon as the people of Serbia was given a chance to express its aspirations, peace and stability prevailed in the country.

            Economic cooperation

            Economic cooperation among the countries of the region will contribute a lot to the consolidation of the peace and stability, Perhaps more than anything else.

            But of course a peaceful and stable environment is needed for the economic cooperation to flowerich Therefore; it is again a chicken and egg question.

            Turkish – Greek relations

            Undoubtedly, further improvement of the Turkish. Greek relations will have positive effects on the consolidation of the peace and stability in the region.

            The progress made in the solution of Cyprus problem and in the Aegean contention are encouraging developments. Turkey and Greece seem to be ready to Tunu a blank page in the history of their relations. This now approach could be characterized as not getting stuck to the events of the part. They are used today more, not for reciprocal incrimination, but to demonstrate the absurdity of such behawiour in the past.

            The elimination of other conflicts in the neighboring countries to the Balkans, such as the Middle-East and Caucasus may also have positive reflections on the establishment of peace and stability in the region.

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