28.1.2013. CEAS held an international conference "Serbia, the Western Balkans and the EU: What do we have in common in the areas of security and defense and how to make the most of it for stability and progress in the region”
Presentation of the third issue of the CEAS online quarterly The New Century
On January 28, 2013, at the Zira hotel in Belgrade, the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies (CEAS) from Belgrade held an all-day conference "Serbia, the Western Balkans and the EU: What do we have in common in the areas of security and defense and how to make the most of it for stability and progress in the region” and presented the third issue of the online journal – The New Century quarterly, issued by CEAS. The conference was attended by approximately one hundred experts, civil society activists, representatives of state institutions, diplomats and representatives of international organizations in Belgrade, participating in the discussion encouraged by the panelists. The presence of a high number of activists from local non-governmental organizations based outside of Belgrade especially contributed to the conference, providing greater quality.
Presentation of the third issue of The New Century
During the introductory part of the conference, the new, third issue of the online journal – The New Century - liberal responses to global challenges quarterly, available at the CEAS website was presented. The most significant articles published in this issue were pointed out to and the authors were presented.
Jelena Milić, presenting the third issue of The New Century, expressed CEAS views related to the current condition of the security sector, drawing particular attention to the challenges and obstacles which the process of security sector reform is faced with and the shortcomings existing in the process itself which are making it hard for final implementation, as well as to the often ignored basic measures for security sector reform presented in the 14 Recommendations by Šabić and Janković. She called upon all those present to give honest feedback on the quarterly and therefore participate in its further development.
Tanja Miščević praised The New Century quarterly, concluding that in these times it is exactly what is needed in order to enable the wider public to familiarize itself with the conditions of the security sector. She expressed hope that this project will successfully be continued in the future as well.
You can access the third issue of The New Century via the following link: http://ceas-serbia.org/root/tromesecnik/The-New-Century-No-3.pdf
The first conference panel
The first conference panel was titled „EU Common Security and Defense Policy (EU CSDP): development and perspectives“. It dealt with the experience of EU CSDP states, with a special emphasis on the role which EU policy had in security sector reform as a precondition for democratization and stabilization of post-conflict regions. Serbian participation in some EU activities under the CSDP was analyzed. During the discussion it was also pointed out that the fight against corruption cannot be led anywhere, Serbia included, without a reformed security sector, and that CSDP and participation in it under certain conditions can contribute to the acceleration of such reform.
The panelists of this part of the conference were:
- Luca Bianconi, First Secretary and Head of the Political Sector of the EU Delegation in Serbia, who praised the adoption of legislation regarding parliamentary oversight of the security sector in Serbia and expressed a desire of the EU to see an implementation of these laws as soon as possible. He strongly supported the activities and proposals of independent bodies such as the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, as well as the activities of Serbian civil society in advocating and promoting security sector reform.
- Marian Majer, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for European and North Atlantic Affairs (CENAA) in Bratislava, who spoke about the Slovak experience in sorting out their security sector after the fall of the communist regime and gaining independence and the meaning which NATO integrations, firstly through Partnership for Peace and later through full NATO accession as well – even more than EU integrations – had in this process. Moreover, Majer believes that the „strengthening of EU vectors is impossible without the Euro-Atlantic vector, even though some perceive these as competitive“, or at least fully independent.
- Tanja Miščević, professor at the Faculty of political Science of the University of Belgrade and former Director of the Government Office for European Integration, emphasized the importance of careful monitoring of development trends in the world in the field of security and adaptation of Serbia to these trends, as well as a need for strategic planning in order to overcome the inertia or resistance to changes in the security sector and in security and defense policy. Miščević especially emphasized the meaning of the fight against corruption for security sector reform.
- Vít Střítecký, Analyst at the Institute for International Relations from Prague, based on both good and bad experiences from transition in the Czech Republic, especially emphasized the importance of preservance in matters of security sector reform, as well as finding a genuine response to the challenges of such reform in light of European values and principles instead of mere mechanical copying of completed solutions from developed European democracies. Střítecký pointed out to the importance of transparency in public procurement in the security sector, again, based on a number of different experiences from the Czech Republic.
- Anton Bebler, full Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Ljubljana, analyzed the Slovenian path of joining EU and NATO and participation of Slovenia in EU and NATO missions until now, and based on these experiences questioned the understanding that CSDP can be a replacement for complete NATO integration of states in transition, at least when integration is perceived as an incentive for security sector reform, both due to the inherent shortcomings of the CSDP, as well as due to the obvious lack of discipline of EU members and insufficient financial development of the entire project.
- Munir Podumljak, an anti-corruption civic activist from Zagreb, President of the Partnership for Social Development association, openly and courageously spoke about corruption in Croatia and the fight of civil society organizations against it, especially regarding unreformed sections of intelligence activities. His insights are extremely valuable to all of those who, like CEAS, insist on the idea that a reformed and democratically controlled security sector is an important precondition for developing free market institutions in contemporary conditions.
During the discussions the question of Serbia’s „military neutrality“ was mentioned a number of times – how honest, but also, how viable it is in the contemporary world, in Europe and in the Balkans. Regarding Serbia’s cooperation with the EU within the CSDP framework, the newly formed „combat groups“ of EU states were mentioned as well, considering Serbia’s possibility to, alongside the two groups it already participates in, joint others, as well as a possibility of creating one more, new combat group in the Balkans.
The second conference panel
The second conference panel focused on the region of the Western Balkans and Serbia. The sub-topics included:
- The challenges and achievement of the EU CSDP in the Western Balkans region;
- Can it be better linked with the EU Enlargement Policy?;
- Is cooperation of CSDP with NATO in the region adequate?;
- Can CSDP be better used for the remaining challenges in security sector reform?;
- Is there a need for a clearer EU attitude on personnel in security structures of states in the region?;
- EULEX – lessons learned;
- Serbia – how far has security sector reform gone?
- Serbia and CSDP – what is expected, and what has been fulfilled so far?
The panelists, seven of them – Hamza Višća, Project Manager at the CSO Nova formaRe from Sarajevo, Emir Kalač, Researcher at the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM) from Podgorica, Rok Zupančič, Research-Fellow of the Department of Defense at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Ljubljana, Nazim Haliti, Deputy Executive Director of the Forum for Civic Initiatives from Pristina, as well as two from Belgrade, CEAS Director Jelena Milić and researcher and political analyst, but also President of the New Socialdemocracy of Serbia, Dušan Janjić – mostly dealt with the current situation in the Western Balkans and the specifics of security sector reform in some countries of the region, all relating to the given sub-topics of the panel.
Hamza Višća pointed out the importance of differentiating between mere „changes“ and reform, as well as parliamentary control as opposed to mere „oversight“, as the desired activities. He described the arduous process of forming a single BH Armed Forces, as an upgrade of the Dayton Agreement carried out over the past decade, where expert and other civil society organizations played an important role in creating a favorable social climate in both entities for the integration of previously divided armed forces. According to him, a sincere confrontation with the past is still necessary, and Euro integrations should not be an excuse for discontinuing with this process.
Dušan Janjić spoke about the conditions in Kosovo, especially in the north, various present or potential future security challenges and possible and probable scenarios of resolving these. He gave special attention to the challenges which the EU Common Security and Defence Policy mission in Kosovo - EULEX, is faced with.
Nazim Haliti spoke about the current relations of political forces in Kosovo and the state of public opinion, but also about the individual successes on the agenda of security sector reform or its establishment in line with democratic principles. Kosovo Customs was mentioned in the discussion as one of the institutions of remarkable professionalism and integrity, built in cooperation with the international community and thus representing – considering the economic structure of Kosovo – significant support for the Kosovo budget.
Emir Kalač asked whether the EU has capacity to carry out security sector reform in countries aspiring for membership and pointed out to the non-implementation of the Lisbon Treaty and other problems in the EU itself. This is why, according to him, the role of NATO is irreplaceable, proving as especially useful in the case of Montenegro. Parliamentary control of the security services in Montenegro is, according to him, exemplary, and Montenegrin soldiers are well integrated in NATO missions in the world, including the mission in Afghanistan. Some serious problems in the security sector though still remain unsolved. As such he pointed out to the bad conditions, even including torture, in prisons, lack of personal data protection, problems in applying anti-discrimination laws and others.
Rok Zupančič revealed the results of his public opinion poll results from last year, as well as attitudes of politicians, in Kosovo, in both of the largest communities, Albanian and Serbian (the latter conducted in Gračanica and Leposavić as well). It showed that the Kosovo Serbs, as well as their elected political representatives, contrary to the prevailing trends in Serbia, and contrary to the mortgages from the recent past, have a better opinion of NATO than of the EU. His conclusion is that the EU failed to explain its goals and policy towards Kosovo well enough, both to Kosovo Albanians as well as Kosovo Serbs.
Jelena Milić pointed to Macedonia as well, as a part of as overall Balkan security challenge and warned of the danger of excess of the so-called „identity politics“ within both of the largest communities in that country.
The third conference panel
The third panel dealt with the topic of „Transitional justice and security sector reform“. It started with asking whether the EU is consistent in its support of transitional justice and is it possible to successfully implement SSR without dealing with the past and transitional justice. The role of Russia and the activities of Vuk Jeremić, Chairman of the UN General Assembly, regarding the evaluation of ICTY’s work and legacy were also touched upon.
The new Director of the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) Sandra Orlović spoke about the activities of her NGO in the fight against the culture of impunity and reminded of the numerous cases and actors (both perpetrators and silent witnesses) of war crimes who continue to occupy high positions in the security institutions. Their presence for example, in the tops of the Army, or in the witness protection unit, indirectly or directly interferes with the implementation of transitional justice, hampering the prosecution of those few processes that are running.
Former Military Prosecutor Lakić Djorović – repeating his previous assessment that the state in military court departments and prosecutors’ offices in Serbia is worse today than prior to judiciary reform – referred to the highest political leadership in Serbia, along with sections of today’s war crimes prosecution, as actors of war crimes and obstacles to the fulfillment of transitional justice and security sector reform. He listed events which he witnessed during the early 1990s, when some of today’s prosecutors were allegedly direct agents of war crimes or actively participated in the cover-up.
The Deputy War Crimes Prosecutor, Mioljub Vitorović, present at the conference, denied Djorović’s allegations, and a sharp discussion which developed between them still failed to provide a clear answer to the question who exactly among today’s prosecutors acted criminally or unprofessionally in the past.
Gordana Igrić, from the BIRN media house, spoke about the opposing narratives in the Western Balkans, the character of the 19990s wars, but also the need for a wider and comprehensive coverage of actors in war crimes in proceedings before domestic courts.
Nearing the end, the discussion was joined by Žanka Stojanović, the mother of one of the 16 RTS employees killed in the NATO bombing of that media house in April 1999. She once more asked for the extension of the investigation into this event to encompass the persons who were, in the chain of command, above the (convicted) RTS Director and called for the disclosure of the related secret service documents. She repeated her request that the newly founded government commission dealing with investigations into cases of murdered journalists include in its mandate the case of RTS bombing as well.
Shortly after the conference it was revealed that the above mentioned request of families of the killed RTS employees, which alongside other organizations CEAS initiated and supported, was finally accepted.
The fourth conference panel
The final, fourth conference panel, titled „Ethnic-based and other security challenges in Serbia“, dealt with a string of not only ethnic, but also socio-cultural, socio-economic and regionally motivated tensions in Serbia, and related security challenges, as well as how can Serbia, in cooperation with the EU, best respond to these. Questions were asked whether ethnic tensions can be successfully overcome without confronting a war-crimes and generally authoritarian past, whether the new authorities in Serbia are encouraging the strengthening of extreme right organizations and whether national minority national councils have justified their existence as mechanisms for protecting members of national minorities from discrimination and improved their position in society.
Alongside the President of the local branch of the Alliance of Hungarians of Vojvodina in Belgrade, Nebojša Marjanović, the panelists were prominent civic activists from placed all over Serbia: Snežana Ilić, Executive Director of the Center for Development of Civil Society from Zrenjanin, Nadica Stošić, Executive Director of the Initiative for Integration from Vranje, Milan Stefanović, Director of the OSC PROTECTA from Niš and others. The discussion was joined by the President of the Associations of Montenegrins in Belgrade, Borislav Mrvaljević, CEAS Associate, Dušan Gamser, PhD student at the Faculty of Political Science of the University of Belgrade, Nikola Lakić, Chairman of the Board of the Centre for Policy Research from Prijepolje, Slobodan Martinović, and many others.
The complex intra-national and related security situation in Vojvodina was discussed in general, and the situation in smaller, ethnically mixed areas in particular. As a result of ethnic and more generally population engineering since the 1990s, as well as due to serious shortcomings in the education system and social discourse, extremism, in this case right, ultra nationalistic, is gaining strength in Vojvodina, both within the majority and minority populations and communities, leading to more and more common incidents and ethnically motivated violence amongst the youth. For example, previously an exemplary and peaceful multi-ethnic environment such as the suburbs of Novi Sad, are today strongholds of extremist organizations. The latest incident in Temerin was mentioned where two young men were seriously injured. The youth communicates over ethnic barriers harder and lesser.
In east Serbia, the problem of the Vlach community is growing, posing as a problem between Serbia and Romania.
In south Serbia, the problem of the monument in Preševo is only the tip of the iceberg, and the majority of the problems is felt by all citizens, regardless of nationality, as it consists of a terrible socio-economic situation in which the greatest number of young people are unemployed and wants to leave for big cities or go abroad as soon as possible.
A similar situation is present in Sandžak, where the problem is further complicated by the division over which of the two National Councils of Bosniaks is the authentic representative of that national minority, as well as divisions within the Muslim community.
The situation is not much better even in relatively nationally-homogenous cities such as Niš, where a number of security problems – including the existence of zones in which the police rarely goes, and which are actually ruled by gangs of drug dealers – is caused by the failure to name a Police Chief in the town.
Lastly, the discussion learned that National Minority Councils in Serbia do not operate as it was expected of them when they were legally regulated. Some of them became politicized, becoming merely another part of the spoils around which political parties ruthlessly compete. Therefore it is necessary to continue the discussion about them and consider everything, both theoretical and political aspects of their work in Serbia i recommend reform, in order to better respond to their task of protection of, primarily individual, and based on these, collective rights of national minorities.
The general conclusion of the conference is shortly exposed through the formulation that the EU can contribute, through political criteria, as well as through Serbian cooperation within the framework of EU missions and other EU CSDP activities, to further security sector reform in Serbia. However the precondition for this is to take more care of the interdependency of security sector reform, the realization of transitional justice and the fights against corruption, as well as historical, cultural, ethnical, socio-economic and regional particularities and diversity of Serbia. Furthermore, European integration in the field of security and defense are not and should not be a substitute for, and even less so be presented as a confrontation to, Atlantic integration, more specifically, to greater cooperation between Serbia and NATO within the framework of existing mechanisms, if not even full accession to the organization.
The conference was followed by a great number of journalists and representative of foreign missions in Belgrade.
This international conference, along with The New Century quarterly, are part, and a final product, of a wider CEAS project titled „Serbia and the EU: What do we have in common in the areas of security and defense and how to make the most of it – continued advocacy of security sector reform in Serbia through intensive use of Serbia’s EU accession process resources“ which was, over the past ten months realized with the support of the Fund for an Open Society, Serbia.
The New Century - liberal responses to global challenges no.3 (February 2013)
In the journal foreword, CEAS Director, Jelena Milić argues the conclusions that the current Serbian Government acceded to more intense and sincere negotiations and agreements with institutions in Pristina from an authentic need for a faster Europeanization of Serbia, emphasizing that the leading domestic politicians were actually blackmailed. The price – to which, as a compensation for official Belgrade’s cooperation in these negotiations the international community agrees to, is slowing down democratic consolidation in Serbia.
In the article „How to fight corruption with an unreformed security sector?“, CEAS Associate Dušan Gamser analyzes the situation in the field of corruption and the fight against corruption in Serbia at the start of 2013 and concludes that – with a continued lack of more meaningful security sector reform and an established fight against corruption in the empowered institutions instead of sheer political will and professional motivation of individuals from the security sector – the situation will remain grim, and prospects for progress weak.
Tanja Miščević writes about the concept of a comprehensive approach to security, and CEAS Researcher Irina Rizmal writes about new understandings of the concept of sovereignty at the start of the 21. century, regarding the international norm in the making better known under the title Responsibility to Protect. Nikola Lakić deals with some aspects of the so-called „human security“, and Ivana Jovanović writes about UN peacekeeping missions. In the article „The church state or the state church“ Srđan M. Jovanović writes about the clericalisation of the state, politics and society in Serbia, and the influence of these processes on security and the increase of violence.
Furthermore, the journal transcribes a paper by two Dutch authors on theconcept of Responsibility to Protect, as well as a transcript of Barack Obama’s speech at the inaugural ceremony in Washington regarding the start of his second mandate as the President of the USA.
The New Century journal is published in Serbian and English.
You can access the third issue of The New Century via the following link: http://ceas-serbia.org/root/tromesecnik/The-New-Century-No-3.pdf
You can also find the previous issues of The New Century at the links below:
The New Century no.1 (August): http://ceas-serbia.org/root/tromesecnik/the-new-century-02.pdf
The New Century no.2 (November): http://ceas-serbia.org/root/tromesecnik/The-New-Century-No-2.pdf