The Balkans and Black Sea Region: An Albanian Perspective
His Excellency Fatmir Mediu
Minister of Defense of the Republic of Albania
We have had quite a number of interesting discussions during this workshop, covering problems involved with NATO operations, integrated systems, NATO’s expansion of missions, transforming its structures, NATO-EU relations, southeastern Europe, enlargement, and the security challenges in the Balkans and the Black Sea region. This last topic is a significant challenge because it combines a great deal of history, recent positive developments, unsolved issues, pending issues, and even religious problems. It also involves many threats, including organized crime, weak institutions, and undefined status, particularly that of Kosovo and the new republic of Montenegro. Energy threats exist as well, which makes it necessary, as General Jones discussed, for NATO to move from a reactive to a proactive stance.
NATO is present in the Balkans, ensuring security in Kosovo and assisting countries of the Adriatic Charter in making defense reforms. Some of the countries in the region are part of NATO and are contributing to NATO-led operations and the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. Some of the countries are willing to be part of Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean Sea and are contributing to moving the area from a stabilization to a normalization phase. There are some very sad stories from that part of the world but there are also some success stories, one of which is that two countries from the area are here at the table as NATO members, two others wish to become NATO members, and the others are building their own security system. We still need to answer a lot of questions about the region but our distinguished panelists will address them as will Boris Tarasyuk, the Ukrainian minister of foreign affairs.
The Balkans and the Black Sea region are both very interesting though they have different problems, different ideas, and are proposing different solutions. But because I am close to Kosovo and to Serbia I would like to say that we do not have to stick only to formal papers—we also must see the reality of how things are and what the solutions must be. Otherwise, I think we will remain lost and the status quo will produce a lot of problems and even tensions. So we should not just wait for what has been agreed on but should also try to interact in order to provide solutions for the final status of Kosovo. You might disagree, but if we do not continue to act and Montenegro wins the referendum, then what is the sense of a Serbia-Montenegro union?
There are many questions that will continue on because we cannot solve them now, but I can say that everyone on my panel agrees that a clear EU-NATO perspective on the Black Sea region and the Balkans is the only way to ensure stability and security. I hope that those at the Riga summit will not simply say words of appreciation for progress but will give a clear signal regarding the future membership of those countries that wish to become NATO members.