DEFENCE COOPERATION AMONG THE STATES OF SOUTH EASTERN EUROPE

 

Doncho Doychev, Ph.D.
associate professor in Emergency management department, National Defense College, Georgi Stoykov Rakovski

Abstract: At the end of 20th century using different initiatives, started the process of bringing together the countries from the region of South Eastern Europe. During the years this process has provided positive results to reduce the tension, to consolidate the stability and to influence the end of war conflicts in the western Balkans – Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. South Eastern Europe Defense Ministerial process/SEDM permanently enhances the cooperation and the confidence in the region jointly with other sub initiatives: MPFSEE; SEESIM; CBSC; SEMEC; IMIHO, BI, FLSD and SEEDEFCO.

Keywords: defense, security, cooperation, initiative, peace, South Eastern Europe.

 

Introduction

The last twenty eight years after the Iron curtain collapsed, parts of Souteastern Europe have prominently figured as insecure region of our continent. The fail of former Yugoslavia and the conflicts 2 – 3 years later has provoked political, economic and social troubles among the ethnic societies and the countries in the region. The armed violence and wars added to the last years long tensions and conflicts among the communities.

These events in the neighborhood resulted in the territorial aspect as new countries and enclaves and in social aspect in poverty, increased inflow of refugees and job seekers.

As a result the process is affecting negatively the political climate and social stability in all the Southeastern European states. The only hope for security of the people from all the states was the way for faster Euro-Atlantic integration.

Security initiatives were established the last 20 years and they are oriented in different aspects: from meetings of defense ministers to initiative of building integrity. Today two main initiatives and a few not well known exist in the region and as a results of them the number of members of EU and NATO are doubled. In other words the initiatives enhance the cooperation in defense and security and for sure contribute to Euro-Atlantic enlargement process.

South Eastern Defense ministerial process

SEDM is an initiative which promotes the process of regional defense cooperation. The SEDM members include the USA, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Albania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FIROM), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Ukraine and Serbia. Georgia and Moldova joined and act as observer countries.

SEDM process started March 1996 when several defense ministers conducted a meeting and discussed in Tirana the future of the region. The participants confirmed “… their commitment to contribute for peace and confidence and to foster good neighborly relations and close cooperation among the States in South-Eastern Europe.”¹ It was necessary to change the situation and to create collaboration and understanding in the region split up by clashes and hostilities. Southeastern Europe Defense Ministers gather regularly to discuss issues of security and cooperation. From all the questions regarding regional security and stability very important is the development of civil military cooperation.

The numbers of the members, projects and arrangements have been enlarged during the years. As an example in December 2005 Ukraine became a member and in September 2006 Bosnia & Herzegovina, Georgia, Montenegro and Serbia become observer countries of SEDM. The next few years Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia became also full members.

SEDM support “The Open Door –Policy”² and welcome all the countries which express and distribute ideas for partnership security, peace and stability. “Due to this enlargement, SEDM has become a very successful process, which has already fulfilled its essential objectives concerning security and cooperation in South Eastern Europe, by expanding its influence beyond the region.”³ Today 2018 the activities become visible as: different projects for peacekeeping; international exercises as “SEVEN STARS”, “VIKING”, “SEESIM”; employment against natural disasters; arm-control; border security; military hospitals and military technology exchange. SEDM succeed also in military history research.

The participants in the process consider each other as friends against the skepticism and the controversial spirit. On the other hand, this process has played a fundamental role in bringing partnership for peace (PfP) countries jointly, by encouraging them to join in the future in NATO and EU.

During the last SEDM meeting the participants claimed that they are “…strongly determined to promote within the international law, enduring peace, stability and security in the region of Southeastern Europe through the SEDM process”.⁴

The military initiative – establishment of South Eastern Europe Brigade/SEEBRIG or known also with official name Multinational Peace Forces South East Europe – MPFSEE is the best SEDM achievement among the other initiatives in the region. Following this success of the SEDM process the main aim of the every member nation is to assist and facilitate the activities of the SEDM Coordination Committee (SEDM-CC) jointly with the Political military steering committee (PMSC) which is in charge for efficient performance of this military brigade.

During SEDM meetings negotiation and consensus are bases on cooperation. SEDM Secretariat is the structure which organizes the forums in the way to reach dynamic negotiation procedures. These procedures include informal meetings, correspondence, sessions and institutional official meetings.

The official meetings are the meetings of political committees PMSC and SEDM-CC; Defense Minister’s meetings and deputy chief of defense meetings (DCHOD). Often expert working groups are established and conduct meetings to prepare new protocols, new initiatives, new contingency establishment and new rotational plans.

SEMD-CC & PMSC secretariat follows two year replacement. The country which appoints the president also guides SEDM-CC & PMSC Secretariat. During the years they were as follows: Greece (1999 – 2001), Romania (2001 – 2003), Turkey (2003 – 2005), Albania (2005 – 2007), Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (2007 – 2009), Bulgaria (2009 – 2011), Greece (2011 – 2013), Romania (2013 – 2015), Turkey (2015 – 2017), Greece (2017 – 2019).

In this framework, SEDM Secretariat’s main assignment is to organize and conduct the meetings. The additional responsibility is to record meetings of the SEMD-CC and PMSC and to keep the archive.

The countries involved in SEDM follow the principles enclosed in the UN Charter and OSCE papers. They prove their obligation to contribute to excellent neighborly relations in South-Eastern Europe. Today SEDM continue to work on: endorsement of Euro-Atlantic integration development; development of the SEEBRIG interoperability and ability to conduct peace support operations; development and accomplishment of the SEDM initiatives; growing of SEDM with additional members; collaboration with other International Organizations as UN, EU, NATO and OCSE.

Nowadays during the meetings SEDM confirm constantly that the most important mechanism for peace in South Eastern Europe is SEEBRIG. The conducting of the first SEEBRIG mission in Afghanistan as part of ISAF, was the best performance of this military brigade on the international scene in all SEDM history.

Multinational Peace Forces South Eastern Europe

The Memorandum of understanding of SEEBRIG was signed by the Ministers of Defense of the seven contributing with military unit’s countries in Skopje on 26th September 1998. The Head Quarter core (HQ) core of the brigade was established and activated in Plovdiv (Bulgaria) on 31st of August 1999. According the 4 years rotational plan 2003, 2007, and 2011 the HQ was moved to Constanta (Romania), Istanbul (Turkey) and in Larissa (Greece).

The brigade consists of 5000 troops composited of declared battalions and separate companies from all the member states. Military formations remain at their national base and are obligated to join under tactical command of SEEBRIG commander for exercises and operations after decision of the PMSC.

The tasks of the brigade are: conflict prevention and involvement in other peace support operations, such as peace-keeping, peace-making, peace-building, disaster relief and humanitarian operations. The only restraint is the participation in peace enforcement. SEEBRIG will be available for possible operation under UN or OSCE resolution/mandate for NATO or EU conducted operations.

It is important to say that 1999 when SEEBRIG was activated from the seven member countries only 2 were members of EU and 3 of NATO. Today they are doubled – 4 are members of EU and 6 are members of NATO. In other words the initiative fully supports the Euro-Atlantic enlargement process.

In this initiative the collaboration does the best to keep the good will. For example because of the conflict for the constitutional name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia the participated countries are numbered. Instead of using names for the countries, a numbering system, based on alphabetical order of the member nations was put into place to avoid disputes among the parties. The image below shows the flags in numbered order from 1 to 7.

 

(Fig. №1 – Nations by numbers)

After 2015 Italy didn’t renew its membership in SEEBRIG but the main emblem and the name of the main exercise didn’t changed their vision and the number of seven stars.

Fig. 2 – Seven stars exercise and SEEBRIG emblems

The member countries today are Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania and Turkey. In the contingency establishment are involved also positions for observers from six observer countries – USA, Ukraine, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia and Croatia.

SEEBRIG initiative fully contributes to the regional security and stability. With the SEEBRIG establishment the participants are proud to: use NATO tactics, techniques and procedures; conduct three times successfully relocation from Bulgaria/2003 to Greece/2011; complete initial and full operation capability for NATO-led operation. The Initial operation Capability/IOC was passed March 2004 under evaluation form NATO HQ-Naples. Initially 38 criteria were discussed and accepted by SEEBRIG HQ. The criteria were from seven important for mission areas and have been evaluated in the next order: Policy, Intelligence, Operations, Logistics, Legal, Personnel and Administration and Communication and Information Systems. The Full Operation Capability/FOC was reached October the same year with Field exercise “Seven stars 04” on the polygon of Romania – Topraisar.

The pike of the unit establishment was that SEEBRIG HQ was deployed from Constanta, (Romania) to Afghanistan to fulfill the duties of Kabul Multinational Brigade HQ in ISAF operation. For this first HQ mission the commander was the Bulgarian general Neyko Nenov and Romania as host nation send chief of staff, staff and signal companies and organized the deployment and redeployment.

The success of the SEEBRIG multinational headquarters is aided by the atmosphere of understanding and cooperation among the officers and NCOs. The formal relationships comply with military regulations, which are strictly followed by the SEEBRIG personnel. The development of informal relationships among the headquarters members is always a priority of the brigade command. These relationships are improved in many ways. SEEBRIG encourage staff activities during spare time, and have an entertainment and sport program which includes football, tennis, social trips and informal trips with the purpose of bringing the staff families together and to create the best friendly relationships. The real feeling of the collaborative atmosphere could be expressed by the former SEEBRIG’s members. More than 500 former members from the 7 countries keep good memory for this multinational initiative. Many of them continue to communicate among themselves by electronic mails and the internet social nets.

Following the previous agreement SEEBRIG and SEDM-CC&PMSC was in roster till 2015, but next protocol was signed that the formation will be active the next 20 years: 2015 – 2017 Greece; 2017 – 2023 Bulgaria; 2023 – 2029 Turkey; 2029 – 2035 Greece.

Latter this agreement was changed du to new challenges of the political will in the countries of the region. Republic of Bulgaria reject to be host nation even that first accepted the HQ 1999 and removed it successfully to Romania 2003.

The last agreement after consensus was reached with the statement “…HQ SEEBRIG staying in Larisa (Greece) until 2020 to be followed by its relocation in Skopje (FIROM) between 2020 – 2026 for the sake of cooperation compromise and solidarity…”5.

It is important to say that 2005 the most famous initiative in the region – MPFSEE established its own concept – SEEBRIG Employment in Disaster Relief Operations/SEDRO for support the civilian population in disasters. Nowadays the main exercise Seven stars tasks “were mainly related to Disaster Relief and Humanitarian Aid Operations”.6

During the years SEEBRIG conducted tens of visits and meeting, including with UN and OSCE representatives as UN brigade SHIRBRIG and OSCE team working on the problems of Nagorno-Karabakh the years 2003 – 2005.

Aditional SEDM initiatives in South Eastern Europe

SEEBRIG is the most famous military regional initiative for security, cooperation and defense but also there are a few others.

– South Eastern Europe Simulation Network (SEESIM). The initiative for simulation of disasters, emergencies and computer conducted exercises was established in October 2000 after USA proposal. Ten defense ministers of the SEDM process endorsed it.

For this initiative was important the second protocol for SEEBRIG where the brigade and the member states were tasked to establish own Engineer Task Force/ETF for disaster relief operation in the region and all over the world.

After December 2000 for every SEESIM exercise a Steering Committee under different Host Country and co-chairmanship were involved in planning and organizing the activities. Full support for the activities was done by the Operational and Technical Working Groups.

The key leading principles of SEESIM are to: assist regional understanding; promote and test NATO procedures, concepts, plans, methodologies, and computer programs and the most important the civil-military emergency planning, relations and conduct of operations.

The most important task of SEESIM is to support the national and regional cooperation to fight the natural and manmade disaster and to eliminate the consequence of terrorist attacks. SEESIM scenarios are usually presented as series of earthquakes, floods, forest fires, dirty bombs refugees and/or migrants, etc.

The benefit of SEESIM exercises is the ambition for practical staff preparation in a demanding situation and conducting decision making process in a short time.

SEESIM has its own role also for the future. That will be with less US involvement and more regional contribution. For SEESIM 2014 for first time chairmanship was done by two regional countries/Bulgaria and Croatia. The last SEESIM 16 took place in Bucharest at the Wargaming and Doctrine Experimentation Center, between 10 and 14 Oct 2016.

– Military Support to WMD Counter proliferation, Border Security, and Counter-Terrorism (CBSC).

The international security environment and the appearance of asymmetric threats in the area formed this need. As a result different security agencies from the countries developed common plans and strategies to enhance coordination for reaction in danger situations.

December 2001 in Antalya (Turkey) during the Ministers of Defense meeting was endorsed the establishment of a Working Group on Defense/Military Support to Weapon of Mass Distractions Counter-Proliferation, Border Security and Counter-Terrorism.

The working group members participated in number of activities including seminars and conferences prepared by SEDM members. As a whole the initiative pushed further procedures to improve clearness and visibility for reaction to above mentioned threats.

The main CBSC goal is to increase the facilities that can be used by SEDM parliaments working on development of law for counter-proliferation, border defense and counter-terrorism subjects.

 Next regional initiative is South-Eastern Europe Military Education Cooperation (SEMEC). SEMEC is approved by the SEDM on December 2005 with major ambition to improve and maintain cooperation among the nations in the ground of military training and education.

The current status of the project SEMEC constitutes an important field of cooperation that contributes to further enhancement of cooperation among SEDM countries, their military institutions and to promote SEDM values and principles.

Southeastern Europe Military Education and Cooperation working group stress the importance of the project as a tool for further enhancing cooperation and building confidence. By involving actively military education institutions in issues related to regional and international cooperation, the project will ensure a healthy continuity of such cooperation and common understanding.

 Other regional initiative is Interconnection of the Military Hospitals (IMIHO). Ministers of Defense under the patronage of SEDM have adopted on 9th October 2000, the proposal of Greece for satellite interconnection of the military hospitals. The importance of this initiative was the so called state-of-the-art medical surveillance system. The structure may serve as a model for medical surveillance, which possess the possibility to use in different ways the medical planning and casualty management in case of a major catastrophe or disaster. SEDM states contribute in practicing of telemedicine, tele-consultation, tele-diagnosis, tele-training, tele-care, tele-archiving and tele-surgery through interconnection of the SEDM countries military hospitals.

The nations are familiar with the USA and the Italian organization which is currently in use. In addition, close relation has been established with other NATO groups functioning on the same focus – Medical Information Management Systems (MIMS).

During the 18th IMIHO working group meeting which took place in Athens from 17th to 18th October 2013, SEDM countries decided on the domain www.imiho.org. This domain has been reserved by IMIHO Chairman. The IMIHO website is available on www.imiho.org in a temporary server, hosted by the lead nation.

– The next initiative Female Leaders in Security and Defense (FLSD) discuss and assess how women succeed in the defense and security organizations of NATO and partner nations. This initiative is working on collaboration among senior female leaders with the goal of strengthening regional and alliance relationships, improving capability by reviewing methods and outcomes of recruiting, training and promoting women in defense and security.

This initiative also benefit participating nations in several ways: build and develop relationships among nations; identify common challenges about women in defense and security; provide expert recommendations to address the challenges; give visibility and importance to issues of women in defense and security.

– Additional initiative is Building Integrity Initiative (BII). This initiative has global implications and requirements in SEDM and doesn’t make any duplication and overlapping with NATO BII, because the Initiative provides methodology that SEDM member countries can use. The SEDM is an excellent vehicle for the BI initiative to move forward.

The BII seeks to support further raising awareness, promoting good practices and providing realistic apparatus to help countries to put up honesty and decrease risks of corruption in the sector of security for both gropes civilian and military personnel. This initiative is developing as a SEDM project with close collaboration of NATO BI Initiative.

The activities are pointed on identifying the risk of corruption, case studies from the region as well as effective action to reduce the risk, and identify resources to support implementation and promote good practices.

The initiative is in compliance with the Open Government Partnership, launched in New York on 20 September 2011 on the sidelines of the UN. The initiative was co-chaired by former U.S president Obama and the former President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff. It was a multilateral proposal with aims to protect real obligations from governments to endorse transparency and to fight corruption. The Bulgarian Ministry of Defense organized focused training on anti-corruption measures of the defense sector personnel. In the “G.S.Rakovski” National Defense College is developed a 2 week’s training course in anti-corruption.

As a matter of different studies the level of corruption Bulgaria is the lowest in defense sector. Unfortunately in Bulgaria nowadays we still don’t have effective anticorruption law. Event that the justice system improves all aspects in this sector, no one corrupted high politician is effectively accused – prison for crimes.

Most of Bulgarians like and they expect applying the Romanian experience. The last 10 years Romania reached a great success fighting against corruption. The reason is the job of the 59 years old Romanian lady Monica Luisa Macovei. She was recognized with executing the justice reforms asked from Romania to join the European Union.

It is visible that fight with corruption will stabilize economically Bulgaria and will enhance internal peace, while in parallel prosperity will “… continue to be bounded with security and stability of our region”.7

At the end of 2014 Bulgaria proposed a new initiative – South Eastern Europe Defense Cooperation (SEEDEFCO).

This initiative appeared in the moment when “.the necessity of optimizing defense cooperation required concrete results –establishing a real capacity for peace and security in the region and considerable capabilities for interaction in missions and operations. This means the interaction to grow in possibilities for pooling and sharing defense capabilities.”8

March 2015 SEEBRIG HQ continuing the efforts to promote effective projects proposed to develop a new project called “SEDM Member Nations – Red Cross & Red Crescent and Emergency Management Assistance Centers Association/Cooperation”.

Conclusion

The cooperation in the region is improving the relations between UN and OSCE from one hand and NATO and EU from the other. The peace and security in the region needed such initiatives to continue the peace development in South Eastern Europe. The good results till today show that the initiatives in the region have their future and they must be supported by the governments and the societies especially today when “…hybrid treats create unique challenge to the whole world.”9

The 22nd anniversary of SEDM Process, 18th anniversary of SEEBRIG establishment, the other active initiatives as SEESIM, IMIHO, FLSD, BII are a success story of regional political-military cooperation and cooperation in defense sector.

New area of cooperation as diplomatic or internal affairs could be established in the region. For this reason in the near future is possible to be established process of new ministerial meetings – the ministers of interior. Mainly they lead the civil protection, emergency management activities and antiterrorism. The initiative could continue with new regional center for natural and man-made disaster response for reducing the victims and devastations. That will emphasize the cooperation and coordination in the area for other problems as trans borders crimes, drug and weapon trafficking, prostitution, money laundering etc.

The New initiative will increase in the future the cooperation among the structures from the ministries of interior, foreign affairs, defense and health.

In this connection the suitable course was conducted in Bulgaria in the period 28.11.2017 – 01.12.2017 under the auspices of European Security and Defense college. The course “Disaster relief in CSDP context” showed that in the future the disaster relief operation will be successful with involvement of all forces: first responders, armed forces, military medical personnel, diplomats, consuls etc. The top lecturers of the course were: the state secretary and the leader of the emergency management agency of the ministry of interior of Romania – Mr. Raed Arafat; Mr. Encho Gospodinov – the former advisor of the European commissioner for humanitarian aid and crises management and associate professor colonel ret. Rsotislav Kostadinov from Medical Univercity – Plovdiv.

 

1 Agreement on the establishment of a coordination committee in the framework of Southeastern Europe defense ministerial process CC/SEDM signed in Thessaloniki Greece, on the 9th of October 2000, p. 1. http://websrv.mod.bg/bg/EXT/SEDM/documents/sedm_cc/.pdf

2 Joint statement SEDM ministries of defense meeting Sofia, 21st October 2009, p. 2. https://www.sedmprocess.org/web/sedmp/documents

3 SEDM, Its role, Dynamics, Engagement and Extention in South East Europe. http://www.mod.gov.al/eng/index.php/security-policies/relations-with/international-and-regional-organization/94-sedm-its-role-dinamics-engagement-and-extention-in-south-east-europe

4 Joint statement SEDM ministries of defense meeting Rome 16.10.2016, p. 2. https://www.sedmprocess.org/web/sedmp/documents

5 Joint statement SEDM … p. 4. https://www.sedmprocess.org/web/sedmp/documents

6 Stars informer – South Eastern Europe Brigade review. December 2015, p. 3. http://www.seebrig.org/publications/stars-informer.html

7 Hristov, Neno. Conditions of using armed forces after 2025. – In: Voenen zhournal, 2014, number 2, p. 6. http://rnda.armf.bg/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/VJ-BR-2-2014.pdf

8 Bekyarova, Natalia. Predizvikatelstva pred otbranitelnoto satrudnichestvo mezhdu stranite ot Yugoiztochna Evropa. // Sbornik dokladi ot godishna konferentsia na fakultet “Natsionalna sigurnost i otbrana” “ Savremenni predizvikatelstva pred sigurnostta i otbranata”. 18 – 19 mai.