The shape of security to come Sofia_echo - 2003/9/13
ON September 5 and 6, Sofia hosted an international conference themed "Shaping a Common Security Agenda for Southeast Europe - New Approaches and Shared Responsibilities."

The forum was organised by the Centre for the Study of Democracy and the Friedrich Ebert foundation. It was attended by NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, Stability Pact Special Co-ordinator Erhard Busek, six Balkan ministers of defence and more than 200 politicians, experts and analysts from Western Europe and the United States.

The conference focused on adequate ways to address threats to security in the region. After more than a decade of conflicts, economic sanctions, and unresolved territorial disputes in Southeastern Europe, the levels of organised crime went high. The link between the conflict in former Yugoslavia and the boom of trans-border crime is seen as one of the major features of the transition in the region.

Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg said the points in the agenda of Southeastern Europe were well-defined - reforms and irreversibility of transition to democratisation and market economy, continuing and open dialogue, co-operation in all spheres of mutual interest, permanent commitment and active support on the behalf of EU and NATO partners.

Stability in the Balkans would preserve the stability of Europe as a whole, Saxe-Coburg said referring to challenges for all countries in the region, such as organised crime, trafficking in people, corruption. In this sense, the international presence on the Balkans should continue, he said.

"We are now able to deploy fewer troops in the region because of the general progress towards stability; because the countries of the region are able to assume greater responsibility for security themselves," Robertson said. Yet, all countries of Southeastern Europe faced a number of fundamental problems that impede them from making further progress - from economic stagnation, to corruption, to outdated military structures, Robertson said.

In his words, the only way to solve the problems was to have the political leaderships of all Balkans states join hands. "Next May, at the NATO summit in Istanbul, seven countries will join our Atlantic Alliance, including Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia. This step will consolidate Europe as a common security space from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, and from the Baltic to the Balkans. This is much more than most of us dare to dream even a few years ago," Robertson said.

The conference was said to be very timely, mainly for several reasons. On the one hand, Bulgaria and two other Balkan countries are very much likely to become NATO members in 2004 and it has also very firmly stepped on the road to EU accession. On the other, tensions in Macedonia have been escalating. The Balkans have always been seen as an integrated whole. Any problems in the region might affect all states. This is why, burning issues should be addressed jointly and responsibilities should be shared.

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