69th Rose-Roth Seminar in Sveti Stefan, Montenegro, 24-26 June 2008
Some 40 parliamentarians and a significant number of academics and observers participated in the 69th Rose-Roth seminar on “South East Europe towards Euro-Atlantic Integration” that was jointly organised by the NATO PA and the parliament of
The meetings generated a broad consensus that the future for the region depends on their integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. There was a broad agreement that a lot has already been achieved in terms of the countries’ accession to NATO and the EU. But challenges remain, particularly the status of Kosovo, the developments in
Simon Lunn, former Secretary General and currently senior advisor of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, provided a general overview of the situation in the region, the challenges it faces and its future prospects. He placed these regional issues in a broader perspective and to see their relevance not just to the stability and security of the Euro-Atlantic region but also to the respective futures of both NATO and the EU, as well as their relevance to the new security environment. What happens in the Balkan region will certainly influence the degree to which their goals can be realised; because, according to Mr Lunn, “if they cannot succeed here, then how credible will their aspirations be elsewhere?”.
After analysing the historical reasons that made the post-cold war transition a very difficult one for the former
In his remarks, Mr Lunn suggested that the current situation within the EU and the more exacting requirements of EU membership were placing the immediate burden of satisfying expectations for further integration upon the
Mr Lunn concluded his presentation by commenting on the role of
THE ROLE OF NATO AND THE EU IN THE REGION
Host country speakers recognised NATO’s crucial role for the region. Ranko Krivokapic, the Speaker of the Montenegrin Parliament,and Kresimir Cosic, head of the Croatian delegation to the NATO PA, stressed that “NATO brought peace and stability to the region”. Official representatives from the region highlighted their country’s achievements in meeting or approaching the criteria for future NATO and EU membership and pointed to the consensus among the respective political leaderships of their countries. The importance of building public support for NATO in all of the countries in the region was repeatedly recognised. Some speakers acknowledged that more needs to be done to include the media more effectively in this strategy. Among the challenges that could threaten a slowing down of the region’s integration into Euro-Atlantic structures was a perceived gap between the political elites, who worked for their countries’ integration, and the majority of the population, which remained sceptical in particular about NATO membership. This applied to all countries in the western Balkans, with the possible exception of
Discussions revealed a broad consensus among participants that integration into Euro-Atlantic structures represents the only long term solution for the regions problems. In comparison to officials from the region, participants from NATO and EU member state countries highlighted the importance of meeting membership criteria. Hendrik van Ormel (NL) reminded participants that regional governments must fulfil the criteria for NATO and EU membership before they could join the two organisations. The national parliaments of EU member countries would ratify further enlargements only if substantial progress were made, including on issues such as co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Referring to Albania’s and Croatia’s invitation into the Alliance at the Bucharest Summit Jaroslaw Skonieczka, Director of NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Integration and Partnership Directorate, was optimistic that the parliamentary ratification processes will be completed soon, so that the two countries can become full members at NATO’s 2009 Summit. For now, NATO allies have decided to involve these countries already as full members, he added. As to the pending invitation to the
A more sceptical view of NATO’s presence in and policy towards the region was provided by Ms. Lubov Sliska, Head of the Russian delegation to the NATO PA, who asked against whom NATO was uniting and integrating. She maintained that threats from Islamist terrorism and from
Discussions revealed a consensus among participants that NATO’s role goes well beyond the mere defence and security sectors. Simon Lunn emphasised NATO’s relevance for Security Sector Reform (SSR) which involves a broad array of reforms relating to the armed forces, security services, police and border guards to the provision of justice and the rule of law. SSR ensures transparency and accountability, and is therefore a crucial element in the region’s transition, Lunn reminded. In this context he and other speakers, including Montenegrin Foreign and Defence Ministers Milan Rocen and Boro Vucinic, emphasised the central role of parliaments, both for advancing the reform process and for overseeing governmental action in the realms of security and foreign affairs, among others. However, discussions revealed a general understanding among participants that parliaments in the region still struggle to exercise parliamentary oversight of the security and defence sectors.
The performance of the EU and NATO here, particularly in Kosovo, would not only determine their credibility in the region but also beyond, according to Simon Lunn. The experiences of both organisations in the Western Balkans should also be taken into account in drafting NATO’s new Strategic Concept and the EU’s updated Security Strategy. In his view, the Western Balkans ‘represented the good and the bad news of NATO-EU relations’. The good news being the co-operation during operations “Concordia” and “Althea”, and the bad news the inability to get high level endorsement of much needed co-operation between the two organisations both in Kosovo and Afghanistan. And while he admitted that cooperation at ground level frequently manages to circumvent the political problems, the current security situation in both places nevertheless required cooperation to be agreed at the highest level.
Ambassador Leopold Maurer, head of the EU Commission office to
A more sceptical perspective on EU membership was provided by Simon Lunn, who argued that the demanding requirements for EU entry and the waning enlargement enthusiasm in EU member states made EU membership for several countries of the region a distant prospect. He therefore anticipated that NATO would bear the immediate burden of satisfying expectations for further integration. Thus, it remained to be seen if the prospects of EU accession were sufficient to overcome the legacies of the recent conflicts, Lunn argued. Conditionality as a driver of reform would not appear to have the same force in
Several participants stressed the importance of practical measures to make the European perspective more tangible for the citizens in the region and suggested to liberalise the EU’s visa policy. According to Ambassador Maurer, the EU has opened a visa liberalisation dialogue and the Commission had prepared and consulted with the Member States the road maps for
Discussions revealed a broad consensus that the countries of the region must come to grips with their past and not only because reconciliation is an essential pre-condition for NATO and EU memberships. Some participants did not rule out the danger that the issue of identity could again be misused by nationalists to manipulate the political situation. Co-operation among neighbouring states would be a “strategic category”, according to a participant who suggested the development of joint, or combined, defence forces in the Balkans. However, even though officials from the region repeatedly stressed the crucial importance of reconciliation and of close regional co-operation, there was recognition of the continuing difficulties in establishing intra-regional forms of co-operation including trade, transport and communication. Several participants said that better regional co-operation depended on a solution of the Kosovo issue. Others blamed regional governments for failing to recognise the importance of reconciliation and confidence-building between different ethnic communities. Missiroli stressed the responsibility of elites for starting the reconciliation process. As one participant said: “We have de-legitimised Karadjic, but we have not de-legitimised his policy.” The shortcomings of national governments in the reconciliation process had increased the role of non-governmental and civil-society organisations to launch, monitor and contribute to this process. However, many NGOs and CSOs had donor-driven agendas, not necessarily genuinely representative of the interests of the people of the region. There was too much external supervision and not enough from within countries.
The situation in Kosovo was a dominating issue during the exchanges. Not surprisingly, official representatives from Kosovo expressed satisfaction about the declaration of independence. Zenun Pajaziti, Minister of Internal Affairs of the Government of Kosovo, argued that the independence of Kosovo would have a positive effect on
Seminar participants were unanimous in their view that developments in Kosovo would be crucially important for the security and stability of the region. Discussants held the view that despite the international presence since 1999 the situation in Kosovo remained fragile and confused. Mr Lunn and other speakers pointed out that the international community remained divided about a solution and the status and roles of the UN and the EU are unclear. NATO’s role and performance was generally viewed as positive. Fabio Mini, a former General in the Italian Army and KFOR Commander between 2002-2003, criticised the process that brought to the Kosovo declaration of independence: “a state” he said “cannot be created through a process led by an international bureaucracy”. He also expressed serious doubts with regard to the current institutional arrangement in Kosovo, with the international community sharing power with the Kosovo government. “Kosovo is only nominally free and independent”, Mini said, “stability is only guaranteed by the military presence”. In this respect, he raised the question whether NATO security forces would be able to protect the people in case of unrest, to which Mr Skonieczka responded with a clear “yes”. Mr Mini was also very critical of Kosovo’s current political leadership, highlighting the links between some senior politicians and criminal organisations. “This situation”, he warned, “is fuelling destabilization in Kosovo and beyond”.
Mr Mini’s comments were echoed by those of Avni Zogiani, Director of the Kosovo NGO Cohu (Wake up), who painted a rather bleak picture of the Kosovar political class, in which, he said, “some former KLA members are considered as war heroes and have a sort of permanent impunity for this reason”. Such an attitude, Zogiani explained, made also the Kosovo public quite reluctant to criticize their political leaders, even when they were notoriously corrupt. Of course, Kosovo society is not the only one to be blamed for the indifference towards corruption, because for many years UNMIK and Kosovo institutions “played a ping-pong game with the responsibility of fighting corruption and organised crime”. Fortunately, as the experience of his NGO demonstrated, things are slowly changing: Cohu is gaining attention in Kosovo and the public is beginning to respond. As a result, the media have begun to pay more attention to the mix between politics and crime and international donors are now supporting Cohu’s work. Unfortunately, this brought also extreme political pressure on the organisation during the last electoral campaign of November 2007, with verbal attacks from party leaders, calls for raids on its offices, and accusations of using “suspicious financial resources”.
With regard to the reaction of the international community to Kosovo’s declaration of independence, participants were reminded that thus far 45 countries have recognised the new State, including 20 EU member states (seven EU and five NATO member states, at the time of the seminar, had not yet recognised Kosovo). The lack of unity over the independence of Kosovo translated into a significant loss of clout of the EU, according to Jovan Teokarevic, Director of the Belgrade Centre for European Integration. An additional difficulty for the EU is that even though it is formally taking charge, it is the
Mr. Feith also emphasised the responsibilities of the Kosovo authorities to develop its statehood and become a fully sovereign state. These included strong affirmative constitutional provisions to guarantee minority rights that need to be implemented quickly. The EU official noted that Kosovo Serbs feel a high degree of unease and uncertainty and that the outreach efforts of the Kosovo government will have to be “huge” to persuade Kosovo’s Serb community to participate in Kosovo’s institutions, including in the police and education. Serb municipalities needed to be set up, their cultural identity established, property rights protected and encouragement given to the return of refugees.
Jovan Teokarevic, Director of the Belgrade Centre for European Integration, pointed out Kosovo’s limited sovereignty and spoke of a “government under international supervision”. He also reminded participants that the future of northern Kosovo remained precarious and that the area was out of control of the government in Pristina. A possible division of Kosovo was not seen as a viable alternative and Jaroslaw Skonieczka pointed out that the majority of Serbs were not living in the north. Jovan Teokarevic said that territorial autonomy or a special status was the minimum requirement if Serbs in Kosovo were to accept the new situation (“partition for recognition”). He predicted that ethnic cleansing, targeting Serbs in central Kosovo, would continue and that they would leave.
In addition to the continuing status question, Kosovo’s weak economy remained a major challenge, participants recognised. They pointed to the high unemployment figures of the region and the lack of foreign direct investment. Rather, Kosovo’s economy depended to a large degree on international aid, as General Mini noted. Speakers identified corruption as a main problem that needed to be tackled and General Mini bemoaned that progress achieved in rebuilding Kosovo did not reflect the amount of international aid given so far. He also criticised that Kosovo leaders were ‘stuck to the ideas of 1998’. As to the necessary improvement of the situation Feith and Maurer suggested that the international community must show more unity, while
Participants shared the view that political developments in
Significant progress has also been achieved in
Senad Slatina, Director of the Centre for European Integration Strategies in
THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY
In its final session, the seminar analysed the role of civil society in the Western Balkans. According to the Freedom House 2008 Nations in Transit report, civil society was steadily, but slowly improving in most countries of the region, according to Catherine Messina Pajic, Deputy Director,
She elaborated that civil society in the Balkans remained constrained by a number of factors, including, among others, a lack of widespread and informal citizen participation, a lack of entry points into the political process, as well as insufficient domestic funding and marginalised communities. Moreover, donor-driven organisations and agendas as well as disproportionate international influence over political actors did not necessarily improve the situation, Pajic added. According to Danijela Nenadic, Programme Coordinator, Centre for Nonviolent Resistance in
Ms Pajic suggested a number of measures to advance civil society in the Western Balkans. These comprised, for example, that the international community helped their partners to set their own agenda. Moreover, donor agencies should not only fund structured NGOs, but grassroots development of and assistance to informal citizen groups on civic education and activism. She also stressed the need for better coordination among development agencies and within donor governments to avoid that foreign policy goals and development initiatives cancelling each other out. The international community needed to emphasise the education of legislatures, executive branches of government, and political parties on the vital role of civil society and the building of trust between these sectors. Finally, national parliaments and governments needed to make their political systems more responsive and constituent-driven by providing incentives for philanthropy and by pushing for constitutional or electoral reform, she commented. According to Nenadic, CSOs in the Western Balkans also played important roles in reconciliation, regional co-operation, as well as Euro-Atlantic integration, where civil society could give substance to the concept and avoid bureaucratic language. She added that CSOs should play a role of facilitators of a broad policy dialogue.
This Secretariat Report is presented for information only and does not necessarily represent the official view of the Assembly.