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Second Annual International Conference: NATO, EU and the New Risks: A Southeast Europe Perspective
October 29-30, 2004
Sofia, Bulgaria

Dr. Vlado Buchkovski, Minister of Defense of the Republic of Macedonia

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me at the beginning of my remarks to express my satisfaction for the extended opportunity to have an address at this important conference and to present and share my views regarding the issues of building and strengthening peace within the context of the NATO contribution to the stability and security and the new role of the European Union. We may agree that this conference takes place at a very important moment when the region of Southeast Europe is dominated by positive integration initiatives and processes as a foundation of democracy, stability, security and economic prosperity but also in a period when we face real challenges and asymmetric threats to the security. There is no state in the region that can be immune to that and it will be faced with the burden of the successful fight against:

- possible manifestation of extreme nationalism, racial intolerance, religious hatred, international terrorism, organized crime, illicit migration of all kind including the trafficking of strategic and dual-use materials, insufficiently secured and safe borders etc.

- availability of large quantities of illicit weapons, transitional problems as: corruption, urban terrorism, economic crime, tax evasion etc.

- activities of the foreign special services directed towards deteriorating of the security, consequences from the collision of interests on utilization of sources and means of strategic resources, elemental or other kind of catastrophes, computer crime with damaging consequences and destruction of the natural environment.

The assessment on the absence of conventional threats to the countries of the region and the presence of non-conventional and global asymmetric threats strengthens the commitment for regional engagement and engagement within the Alliance. In line with the Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty , the open doors policy of NATO gives an opportunity for accession to each country and thus enabling the contribution to building the security environment at local, regional and global level. That process not only gives excellent results in strengthening the stability and security of the member states of the Alliance, but also has the same effect on the aspiring countries. NATO, being the cornerstone of transatlantic security system, with its last enlargement as well as with the future accession of new members including Macedonia, will expand the stability and security zone and will contribute to the peace, stability and world's wellbeing.

Today, Europe is building and enhancing the democracy and free institutions under the security umbrella of NATO. The countries from Western Europe and North America acknowledged the concept "Security is the oxygen of progress" and they themselves achieved significant results in that direction. This is the reason that is to be the driving force in the sector of security reforms in Southeast Europe. The membership to NATO and EU is the vital interest and strategic goal to the countries of the region that see no other alternatives. NATO is the only efficient political, defence and security organization that in the past 50 years safeguarded the basic values: democracy, market economy and human rights-values shared also by the Republic of Macedonia and its citizens. The Alliance proved its efficacy in promoting the peace and stability with its missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan. During the past years the Alliance gave a significant contribution in providing security to the Republic of Macedonia.

Considering security threats and risks, there is no state that can respond to the security challenges by itself alone, especially to those of asymmetric character, including the global terrorism, weapons proliferation, illicit migration, trafficking in humans, drugs trafficking, organized crime, consequences from natural disasters and other types of contingencies. In that context, each country from the region of Southeast Europe must plan the defence and protect its own interests and at the same time to make contribution to the Alliance in a realistic and constructive way. In tat respect one must have in mind the fact that the Alliance is a global security system that at present and in future will assume duties beyond its boundaries( not only in regard with the Article 5) for the benefit of the global peace and stability.

During the past years, the Republic of Macedonia has shown its firm determination to become a NATO member. Republic of Macedonia considers the full-fledged membership to the Alliance as its best security option and therefore outlines all future plans on the basis of its future membership to the NATO. However, in planning its future, Republic of Macedonia is fully aware that the membership and the accession to the collective security guarantees go along with the duties and responsibilities. In that sense, Republic of Macedonia considers its own stability and security as an important factor for the stability and security of the region. In that respect, the Macedonian defence reforms are one of the top priorities of our Government. The global and regional activities of my country in accomplishing a level of equal participant in the common security with the Alliance and its partners are focused on development of capabilities for active contribution to the collective security and participation to peace missions led by the Alliance. The global activities Republic of Macedonia assumes in regard to NATO includes the active involvement in the anti terrorist coalition and appropriate preparedness of the system institution and anti terrorist forces as well as considering the areas of possible participation in the defence capabilities of the Alliance and the region. As part of the process of global efforts in countering terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, Republic of Macedonia participates in the Iraqi Freedom mission with one special units platoon and is part of the ISAF mission in Afghanistan by continuing its participation with an enhanced army detachment. Our experience in Afghanistan and Iraq has shown us that we should concentrate our efforts in developing new capabilities. In order to become effective members of the Alliance, we must make a contribution through development of niche capabilities and to share the burden with our allies at all levels. But above all, we must be interoperable.

In the past period, besides the significant progress made in the regional security cooperation with Albania and Croatia according to the successful model of the Baltic and Nordic States, enviable results are achieved in the cooperation with Republic of Bulgaria and Romania being new NATO members that we see as our lobbyists for integration to the Alliance. Republic of Macedonia, in the spirit of the regional cooperation is ready to extend its full support to Serbia and Montenegro in its path towards membership to the Partnership for Peace. Security stabilization of Kosovo, advancement of all democratic standards of citizens and institutions and the resolution of the final status of Kosovo by means of negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade with the active involvement of the international community are issues of special importance to the international community and my country as well.

In all these activities of regional cooperation and bilateral agreements in the area of security and defence, the Republic of Macedonia sees an opportunity that will enable:

- high level mutual confidence among neighbors and mutual understanding regarding the major security issues in the region;

- raised awareness for the regional situation by means of exchange of intelligence data

- development of complementary defence and security systems, considering the joint strategic goal of the countries of the region for NAT membership.

I think that this region has the capacity to take all the countries into an era of common understanding and mutual confidence. Nowadays, the initiatives for regional cooperation, especially in the area of defence and security are needed more than ever in this part of Europe and in that regard the exchange of experiences and creating partnership relations are significant contribution in strengthening peace and confidence in the region of Southeast Europe.

I would like to complete my remarks with a message we conveyed to our NATO partners that the Balkan countries will not be only long-term users of security guarantees and financial assistance but also they can be significant contributors in defence, economic and political potential and fresh thinking on some issues of the Euro-Atlantic and global security.
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