Balkans now stable but must fight corruption -NATO Reuters - 2003/9/5
NATO's Secretary-General George Robertson said on Friday the Balkans were past the ethnic conflicts that had made
the region Europe's "powder keg" but must now fight organised crime and
corruption.
Robertson told a conference of Southeast European defence officials
the region no longer exported instability, but reiterated calls for more
joint efforts on combating other endemic problems and building democratic
institutions.
"Southeast Europe is coming back into the European mainstream. The
region is shedding its long-standing image as Europe's 'powder keg'. A
return to the dark days of conflict is ever more implausible," Robertson
said.
"(The) progress must continue... the countries must continue to build
democracy, to root out crime and corruption, and the establish the rule of
law. And they must cooperate with their neighbours."
After being hit by a decade of wars sparked by the breakup of the
former Yugoslav federation, the Balkans are now stable, with most
governments making political and economic reforms.
But smuggling of guns, narcotics, sex-slaves and migrants ran rampant
in the aftermath of the wars, hindering economic progress and wider
integration. Infiltration of terrorist groups is now seen as a spinoff
threat.
Since its intervention to stop the Bosnia war in 1995, NATO has been
deeply involved in maintaining peace in the region and guarding Balkan
borders in Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia and since 1999 in the U.N.-run
province of Kosovo.
Robertson reassured Balkan countries that NATO would remain committed
to sustaining stability in the region but added the main responsibility
for tackling economic stagnation, crime and corruption rested with local
political leaders.


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