In partnership with the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and several local Romanian think tanks, RUSI organised a series of preparatory conferences looking at the Future of NATO ahead of the Alliance’s next summit in Bucharest. The third and final of these international seminars, entitled “NATO in South Eastern Europe: Reconstruction & Security in the Balkans”, was co-hosted by the European Security Programme and the Institute for Public Policy (Bucharest) in Timisoara on 03-04 March.
NATO’s involvement in the Balkans will be a key item on the agenda for the 2008 summit in Bucharest. Of a particular significance, will be the question of Kosovo’s final status and how NATO countries are facing up to the repercussions of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. Dealing with the implications of recognising independence, the divisions this has caused among Allies, its potential to cause political turmoil, as well as monitoring the reactions of Serbia and other actors in the region each constitute hot topics for discussion.
The wider question of the Balkans’ integration within Euro-Atlantic institutions is one that has been addressed at each major NATO summit in recent years. During the last summit in Riga, the NATO Heads of state and government declared that the Alliance intended in 2008 “to extend further invitations to those countries who meet NATO’s performance-based standards and were able to contribute to Euro-Atlantic security and stability”. With Albania, Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia already hoping to be formally invited to join NATO in Bucharest, the accession in 2007 of Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to the Partnership for Peace programme may well attract further encouragements.
Whilst NATO’s mission in Afghanistan is perhaps highest on the agenda of operational concerns, and as the Alliance looks onwards in terms of defining a new Strategic Concept, the summit hosted in Bucharest provides an opportunity for countries neighbouring the Balkans to discuss regional security issues of mutual concern. On July 7th 2007, while addressing a summit in Croatia on South Eastern European security, Prime Minister of Romania, H.E. Mr. Cãlin Popescu Tãriceanu, explained that Romania’s diplomatic efforts lay in focusing NATO’s geostrategic interests on Eastern and Southern parts of Europe. Understanding how far NATO can be encouraged to further stability and security in the Black Sea region and the Western Balkans, as well as the definition of its relations to its Eastern neighbours will be of particular relevance in Bucharest.
The two day international conference attracted a large number of security experts as well as foreign policy and military officials from NATO and the South Eastern European region.
Discussions tackled some of the key issues relating to security in the Balkans ahead of debates being held in Bucharest in April 2008 and concentrated on the following themes:
Session One Assessing NATO’s role in promoting democracy in the Balkans
Session Two International cooperation in the region: a mission for all of us
Session Three Kosovo: Discussing Final Status
Session Four NATO Enlargement: Accession of new countries from the Balkans to the North Atlantic community
Session Five Developing a common transatlantic vision regarding NATO’s commitment to security in South Eastern Europe