NATO and Western Balkans
13.12.2006 / 10:11
Intervention by H.E. Štefan Füle,Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to NATO in the scope of Jagello 2000's Workshop "Cooperation for New Partnership III." Belgrade, December 7, 2006
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, thank you to the organizers for inviting me to address you in this beautiful building. Second, for those of you from Serbia , let me congratulate you on your membership in PfP. I think the timing for speaking about NATO and WB a week after the historic decision of the Riga summit could hardly be more ideal. Let me also state that the following remarks are entirely my own (they do not have to reflect entirely the official position of my country), allowing me to speak more openly.
I will focus primarily on NATO and Serbia , although I will also touch upon relations of NATO with wider region. I will also mention some specific experiences of my country with Partnership for Peace and shortly describe the steps that will follow in the nearest future for formalizing the new NATO - Serbia relationship.
When I started to prepare this speech even before the NATO summit in Riga, I would not have bet one Euro that Serbia , Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro would be invited to join PfP already Riga , no matter how much I wished it. Despite extensive and tedious discussions in Alliance from mid-summer, the consensus simply still was not there. So I was thinking how to be innovative in telling you today what had been said so many times already - how much NATO wanted to see Serbia "in fold" on one hand while persistently denying it the membership in PfP.
I was going to explain what one group of NATO states meant by the so-called regional approach and the need to hold the three PfP aspirants together, a strategy, which some other Allies criticized pointing at individual performance instead. We had passionate debates over whether Serbia is slowing down Bosnia and above all Montenegro on their way to PfP. I was going to speak about possible different modalities of PfP membership ranging form conditional entry for one year to EAPC observer status. But for neither of these categories we had a cookbook, so we would probably spend too much time in NATO discussing it beyond the point of relevance. I was going to speak about the timing - how we believed it was important to give PfP to Serbia before elections and difficult Kosovo decisions. Again, an issue where there were completely opposing views among NATO members. I was going to regretfully observe that the Riga summit was to be probably the last chance for the "big bang", because the advocates of the package approach would not be able to hold Podgorica hostage of inadequate cooperation of Serbia and Bosnia with ICTY for much longer. I was going to say what a disgrace it was for NATO to have on its official partnership map a white hole in the middle of Western Balkans, while at the same time we had some other countries in the EAPC that were not quite up to the standards.
All of that is now a history. One week from today, there will be separate ceremonial NAC meetings with each new PfP member, where they will sign the Framework document. From that moment, membership of Serbia , Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro in EAPC will become formal.
Allow me a little stop here and let me give you three concrete examples of why I think the Riga decision was so important also for the NATO itself. Firstly, usually big regular meetings do not bring unexpected decisions. Positions of the member states are known weeks ahead and most decisions - or non-decisions as was to be in the PfP question - are pre-cooked before and the Heads of States and Governments only endorse them. This is why the PfP decision last week gives it a very special flavour. It was quite unexpected till the very last moment and it was taken at the highest possible level. Second, sometimes, smaller states fear that they could not do much within the international structures against the bigger member states. The decision that NATO took at Riga shows that even the smaller countries can, by sustained argumentation, cause the big decisive players to move in their positions. Thirdly, much has been said about the need for NATO to copy approach of the EU and I am glad that we in NATO had the guts to make this generous bold move independently of policies of other organizations.
The decision of NATO to give PfP to Serbia and Bosnia with no conditions might have disappointed Ms. Carla del Ponte, but we are not going to lessen our pressure on the respective governments. After all, EAPC is a club whose members share values and principles of democracy, rule of law and respect of human rights.
Let me now say a few words about the rest of the region and I will start with another group of three WB countries. Albania , Croatia and Macedonia are a step higher than Serbia and two others. They participate in the so-called Membership Action Plan that is considered as the last step before full membership in NATO. The Riga summit has sent a strong signal to this group saying, that at the next summit in 2008, NATO would be ready to issue invitations to those of them that meet membership standards. No need to emphasize how important is the regional cooperation both among the MAP members, especially under the Adriatic Charter framework and this has been view very positively at NATO. NATO has also always appreciated the assistance the MAP countries were giving to their non/PfP neighbours. Fortunately now, the gap between these two groups is not two but only one step.
As far as the practical assistance to the region is concerned, there is already a lot that the NATO member and partner countries are doing either bilaterally or through various NATO projects, especially assisting reforms of defence sectors. Under the Tailored Cooperation Programmes, Serbia and Bosnia have had access to selected PfP activities and military exercises. Based on Norwegian initiative, NATO has established with Serbia the so called Defence Reform Group in Belgrade . The opening of the NATO Military Liaison Office is imminent (who could have imagined a couple of years ago that NATO would open its office in the building of the ministry of Defence). NATO HQs in Sarajevo , Skopje and Tirana have, apart form their primary function to support our operations, been also continuously giving advice to local authorities on defence reform. NATO and Partners help financially through the so-called Trust Funds. These various defence-related projects range from re-qualification of the redundant military personnel to destruction of surplus weaponry. Different states bilaterally offer language courses for members of Armed forces. On the public diplomacy side, NATO has Contact point embassies in capitals.
So you can see, that the Alliance has already been heavily related to the countries even before the Riga decision. In fact, through particular programs, Bosnia and Serbia have been already using more tools than some of the already members of PfP. But this assistance was selective, you did not have access to all the PfP tools and activities, and most importantly, this practical cooperation has been in misbalance with rather stuck institutional relations.
Turning to most immediate future, Serbian elections and especially the finalising of the Kosovo status process will be in everybody's focus now. While NATO could hope that its decision to invite Serbia to PfP would positively influence the elections, in the Kosovo process, NATO has no political leverage. We all understand also, that Kosovo is for Serbia an issue, which is far more fundamental than membership in this or that international programme. As you know, NATO is not engaged in political process over the future status. It gives full support to Mr. Ahtisaari's team and recognizes the main responsibility of the Contact group and UN Security Council. Depending on the final provisions, through KFOR, NATO will be ready to play a key part in implementing the security provisions of the status.
Finally, let me share with you a few concrete Czech experiences with PfP membership and tell you more about procedure of becoming formal PfP member.
We were in PfP for five years. Since the "invention" of the programme in 1994 till becoming member of NATO in 1999. We had nobody to ask how to "do" our PfP, it was a brand new instrument then. In this you have one big advantage, because there is plenty of previous expertise in new and newest NATO member countries that you could exploit.
PfP helped us with transformation of our defence system, esp. in democratic control of Armed forces. More transparent military planning started as well as increased cooperation with NATO member states and other partners. Cooperation within the PfP showed very useful for training and deployment of Czech troops to multinational operations. Concrete example of that were training activities organized in the Czech Republic and abroad. During our five-year PfP, we participated in almost 240 PfP or PfP-related and bilateral exercises. Half of that was conducted on the territory of the Czech Republic . Hugely important was the NATO expert assistance in language education for our officers both in NATO Defence College in Rome and in NATO Defence School in Oberammergau . The Czech Republic has always understood the PfP programme as a step before becoming full member of NATO (MAP did not exist at the time). NATO and EU memberships were priorities of our foreign policy. You know that there are also countries that are quite satisfied with PfP and do not have aspirations for joining NATO, for various reasons. But us, we did not want to stop in the PfP, we were working hard to prepare ourselves for full membership.
As far as the procedure is concerned for becoming a formal EAPC/PfP Member state, the key is to sign the so-called Framework Document that I mentioned before. Then, for each country of the three, a special meeting of NAC + 1 (that country) will be organized (one week from today, Dec 14). After these meetings there will be a statement - a decision that a country formally becomes an EAPC/PfP member state. The new members will then submit their Presentation documents; sign the Security Agreements with NATO for sharing classified information. The so-called Brussels agreement will allow them to establish fixed office at the NATO HQ compound. In January, the ambassadors of all three new PfP members can participate at their first official EAPC ambassadorial meeting that takes place once a month. They will be sitting behind the table as equals, in proper alphabetical order and with proper name tags putting Serbian ambassador between his Russian and Slovak colleagues.
To conclude, as I have tried to demonstrate, NATO has been heavily engaged with the Western Balkans region already. As of last week finally, all countries of the region are being either member states or MAP aspirants for membership or new members of the PfP family. For NATO and Serbia , Bosnia and Montenegro , a new exciting era is opening up. It will be entirely on these states to decide over time, whether they would be satisfied with participation in PfP only, or whether this programme will be the first step towards their full membership in NATO.
Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your attention.