First Belgrade NATO Week held
The first Belgrade NATO Week within the project 30 FUTURE YOUNG EXPERTS ON NATO, organized by the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies from Belgrade (CEAS)*, funded by the NATO Public Diplomacy Division and with the logistical support of the Embassy of the Republic of Slovakia, was successfully completed on Thursday, December 5.
Following an intense application process, acceptance and review of applications, candidates for the project were chosen, mainly already acting party officials, from youth wings of all parliamentary parties in Serbia, with the exception of the Democratic Party of Serbia which did not wish to take part, but with the participation of two newly established political parties which we believe will have influence on the Serbian political scene. The aim of this program is not to open a debate for or against Serbia’s NATO membership, as this is not something that one civil society organization can do on its own. Such a campaign can only be initiated by the Government, or a wide citizen-opposition bloc, which is not the case in Serbia. Nevertheless, CEAS believes that Serbian citizens have the right to be better informed on developments in the region, on NATO, and on Serbia’s relations with NATO.
The idea of this program is to have young, formally politically engaged citizens of Serbia multiply the knowledge and skills which they will acquire through participation in our program, for which we hope will become regular and perennial, in their respective parties, the local community and the media. Our aim is to equip them to be the bearers of responsible information-sharing in the Serbian public on topics which can, later, help citizens in independent political decision-making based on relevant information. This of course refers to the issue of what NATO is and how it operates, but does not stop there, as the topics spread further into considering the challenges that NATO is faced with within the organization itself as well as in its regional and global environment, what is happening with the EU Common Security and Defense Policy, what are its transformative capabilities in terms of security sector reform, what is the dynamic of relations between NATO and EU CSDP, what sort of debates are being led in NATO and EU Member States on the missions in which these two organizations take or do not take part in, the future of these organizations, what are the institutional relations of NATO with other global organizations such as the UN, regional organizations such as OSCE, and supranational ones such as the EU, with specific countries such as Russia and China, what are NATO’s strategic goals, how are these realized, what is happening with the enlargement policy, what will be the topic of future Summits, etc.
The first Belgrade NATO Week was opened by Jelena Milić, CEAS Director and Miloš Kuzmanović, Resurs Center Stari Grad Director. NATO Week students, young experts and members of political party youth organizations including SNS, SPS, DS, URS, LDP, LSV, SDPS, SDU, Nova Stranka and Aktivna Srbija, were then addressed by Matthew Palmer, Political Counselor at the Embassy of the United States of America, opening a very lively debate.
Following the official opening ceremony, the first panel began, dealing with topics such as Serbia’s strategic documents, primarily the National Defense Strategy and the National Security Strategy; the notion of a link between transitional justice and security sector reform; as well as the challenges of Serbian military neutrality. The panelists included Sanja Mešanović, CEAS Expert, Marijana Toma, Humanitarian Law Center Deputy Executive Director and Igor Novaković from the ISAC Fund.
Afterwards a reception was organized at the Embassy of the Republic of Slovakia, which is currently the NATO Contact Point Embassy in Serbia, where the participants were greeted by the Deputy Head of Mission at the Slovak Embassy, Rastislav Kostilnik. The second panel gave the Belgrade NATO Week participants the opportunity to hear about the experiences of other countries in cooperation and/or membership in NATO and the notion of military neutrality, which was openly discussed by the Military Attaché of the Royal Swedish Embassy Thomas Klementsson, Deputy Head of Mission of the Austrian Embassy Wolfgang Wagner, representative of the Turskih Embassy Cem Ornekol, Military Attaché of the Royal Norwegian Embassy Esben Aass and the Political Secretary & Head of Press and Culture at the Royal Netherlands Embassy Douwe Buzeman. The panel was moderated by Mr. Kostilnik.
Representatives of foreign missions in Serbia, Embassy of the Republic of Slovakia
The third panel dealt with the potentials of new dynamics in relations between Serbia and NATO and uncomfortable questions from the past experiences between these two actors, which is a practice encouraged by CEAS due to the belief that there is a unique history shared between Serbia and NATO which should not be pushed under the rug, but should be intensely learned from. The panel opened topics such as Serbia’s energy security, looking at its relations with Russia; the relation between the status of Kosovo and the NATO bombing; as well as the ways in which the Serbian media report on NATO-Serbia relations. Participants had an opportunity to hear a variety of different arguments and opinions from Jasminka Simić, PhD in Political Science, Sonja Biserko, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia President, Blagoje Grahovac, retired air force General and Geopolitical Analyst, Predrag Simić, Faculty of Political Science at the Belgrade University Professor, Dušan Janjić, founder and Director of the Forum for Ethnic Relations and President of the Aktivna Srbija political party, as well as Ratko Femić, journalist of the New Magazin weekly , who acted as panelists.
Panel at the Embassy of the Republic of Slovakia
The panels at the Embassy of the Republic of Slovakia were also open for the public and were therefore attended by representatives of other embassies, including the First Secretary of the Embassy of Russia, Mihail Kruglov, as well as representatives of international organizations and the civil society.
The second day of the Belgrade NATO Week saw organized visits to different state institutions in which the process of Serbia’s cooperation with NATO and accession to the EU is created and implemented. Dragan Šormaz, member of the Parliamentary Committee for Defense and Internal Affairs and member of the Delegation at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly held a lecture with special focus on the problem of hooligans and the need for reform in the Ministry of Interior. Nataša Vučković, President of the Parliamentary Committee for European Integration, who welcomed the participants at the National Parliament of Republic of Serbia building, explained in her presentation the role of certain parliamentary committees in different forms of cooperation with NATO, the EU and other organizations, and presented the Draft Parliamentary Resolution on the role of the Parliament in the process of negotiation with the EU.
Belgrade NATO Week participants with Nataša Vučković, Parliamentary Committee for European Integration President,
At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the participants were given basic information on Serbia’s activities within the Partnership for Peace (PfP) framework and developments concerning the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) and the Planning and Review Process (PARP), presented by Ambassador Miomir Udovički, Assistant Minister at the Sector for Security Policy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lieutenant Colonel Bojan Stanojevic from the Department for Multilateral Cooperation at the Ministry of Defense. Dijana Ivančić, Head of the Department for NATO and PfP at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefed the participants on the main activities of her Department, paying special attention to the main topics with which the forthcoming NATO Summit in Great Britain will deal with. Milan Milutinović, Adviser at the Department for Defense Policy at the Ministry of Defense, held a brief lecture on the joint activities of the Ministry of Defense and NATO in the fight against corruption.
Belgrade NATO Week participants with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defense
The Italian Brigadier General Ornelo Baron, Chief of NATO Military Liaison Office in Serbia, held a detailed lecture, providing the participants with basic information on the role and activities of the NATO MLO, NATO presence in the region and aspects of cooperation between Serbia and NATO.
Brigadier General Ornelo Baron and representatives of the NATO Militarz Liaison Office in Serbia
On the last day of the first Belgrade NATO Week Sanja Mešanović gave a lecture on the development and priorities of the EU Common Security and Defense Policy, as well as the expectations of the forthcoming EU Summit in Vilnius.
Jelena Milić, CEAS Director, after briefing the participants on CEAS’s work in more detail, held a lecture on the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) and the main activities of the International Coalition on Responsibility to Protect, where CEAS is the only member coming from the region of South-East Europe.
Lecture by Jelena Milić, CEAS Director
Over the time scheduled for informing the participants on other CEAS activities and additional sources of information on NATO, the participants were then introduced to the online think tank Atlantic Community and a framework for future cooperation was agreed. The Belgrade NATO Week was closed with a workshop which saw the participants divided into four groups each advocating for a different hypothetical position which Serbia should adopt: full NATO membership, accession to the Collective Security Treaty Organization, military neutrality and formal non-alignment with close cooperation with NATO. The participants were also given a brief training on the basic skills of public speaking.
Belgrade NATO Week participants: Workshop
Belgrade NATO Week participants: Workshop
In an informal round table, the participants were addressed by Vladimir Barović, historian and Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Novi Sad Professor, a partner on the project „Strengthening debate skill and promoting democratic values among the youth“, which CEAS is implementing as a smaller partner to M.E.S.A. 10 from Slovakia and supported by the National Endowment for Democracy. Mr. Barović was one of the coordinators on the program, preparing students at the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Novi Sad for debates with fellow students from Slovakia on topics related to NATO.
The first Belgrade NATO Week was officially closed with an award ceremony for the participants.
We sincerely hope that the Belgrade NATO Week will become an annual event for sector and interdisciplinary analysis of current global, security, defense and energy issues with which the region of the Western Balkans, the EU and NATO are faced with.
Although the entire event was publicized to the media, and part of the activities was even open to the media, it did not receive adequate media attention. On the other hand, a series of inaccuracies were featured on social networks, encompassing strong disqualifications and intimidation of both the organizers and participants.
This will, of course, not hinder our future work.
We thank all participant of the first Belgrade NATO Week and look forward to our future cooperation. We thank the NATO Public Diplomacy Division for the financial and the Embassy of the Republic of Slovakia the logistical support, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defense, as well as colleagues from the National Assembly. Visits of and lectures in these institutions were for the majority of participants a new and valuable experience. We especially thank our colleagues from partner civil organizations who responded to our call which came at relatively short notice and held lectures for our participants from angles which are seldom found at this type of think tank and NGO programs, accurately and uncompromising polemic. The report from the Belgrade NATO week is also available at the CEAS website in the CEAS News section and photos from the event will soon be available at the CEAS Gallery.
Belgrade, December 6, 2013
*The realization of the project was supposed to see more intense participation of a smaller partner organization which was also an applicant, Resurs Center Stari Grad from Belgrade, but due to changes in the schedule and other reasons, its role was considerably smaller.