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

Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman, Center for the Study of Democracy

Mr. Deputy-Secretary General,
Mr. Deputy Prime Minister,
Ministers and Ambassadors,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to welcome you to the second annual conference devoted to the security of Southeast Europe. I would like to note with pleasure that this time the Romanian and Bulgarian attend in their new capacity as representatives of NATO member states. The European Union has already announced an accession date for these two countries. Both developments are a sign of the real prospects of the Euro-Atlantic integration of Southeast Europe, and the forthcoming extension of the zone of democracy, stability, and economic prosperity.

Today’s conference continues the discussions and the dialogue with a focus on the new challenges and risks to international security. We are all convinced that following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 in the US and on March 11, 2004 in Europe, the world faces threats that could be countered only through new ways of thinking and cooperating. In this respect, one of the most important advantages of the current conference is its innovative format of public-private partnership. The discussions will profit from the participation of ministers of defense and interior, senior military officials, heads of security services, and representatives of influential non-governmental organizations.

We believe that the security challenges our societies face require that we go beyond the traditional mechanisms of developing strategies and decisions within the closed circle of government agencies. Instead, we should encourage the processes of active cooperation and exchange of ideas between public and private institutions. It is necessary to create better channels of communication and platforms for exchange of ideas even between traditionally separated government agencies, such as the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior. In addition, we think that it is difficult to find national solutions to challenges that are global or transnational. We are convinced that it is organizations like NATO that help strengthening an institutional thinking that combines the advantages of traditional instruments and experience with a broader degree of coordination in countering the new risks.

In today’s world one of these risks—international terrorism—became the most threatening problem of the democratic societies and free economic development. Countering terrorism exclusively through military operations has provided discouraging results. The growing span of terrorist attacks shows that we are late with comprehending the factors, the roots, and the dynamics of this phenomenon. We are still behind in developing the best strategy for containing or eliminating the threat of terrorism. To solve this task it is important to strike a careful balance among all available international instruments. Along with the traditional military counter-measures we need adequate new political, legal, and economic initiatives that would limit the social base of terrorism.

The topic of terrorism is closely connected to the issue of organized crime, which is the most immediate threat to our region. Organized crime threatens not only the security, the rights, and the interests of the citizens but also the stability of the democratic institutions and the success of economic reforms. Most CSD analyses that examine the symbiosis among organized crime and political corruption, and the “gray-black” economy, provided policy-makers with valuable knowledge to design effective policies to counter these threats.

• Organized crime groups in Southeast Europe are connected and have similar roots—the former security and intelligence services and ex-combatants in the region’s wars. Often, organized crime groups in Southeast Europe exchange “favors” and commit crimes in neighboring countries, thus being able to more easily escape investigation and prosecution.

• The structure of organized crime in Southeast Europe does not correspond to the traditional hierarchical model of such crime groups. Instead, it is rather a complex network of individuals and organizations.

• The “gray” and “black” sectors of the national economies account for between 20% and 40% of the GDPs of the countries in the region. In some areas of the Western Balkans these sectors create more than 50% of GDP and along with widespread corruption mechanisms they provide a fertile soil for continuing or expanding criminal activities.

• When the “gray” and “black” economies reach such large share of the GDP, they become a significant source of investments in the legal economy. The formal and informal economies become so interdependent and interconnected that the line between legal and illegal economic activity becomes blurred.

• The above facts along with an environment, often marked by closely-knit networks of friends and family members, guarantees an easy access of “gray” and “black” networks to law-enforcement agencies. This makes the security-sector reform in Southeast European countries a challenge that most countries or institutions cannot surmount on their own.

Under the influence of studies like CSD’s and the monitoring of national or international think-tanks, the closed institutional approach of government agencies towards organized crime began to change. More efficient instruments and more concerted efforts are needed to prevent the coagulation of organized crime and state power. We believe that it is necessary to consider the development of a common strategy to counter organized crime and corruption in Southeast Europe in accordance with the common European priorities and practices.

A key role in such an effort is to be played by non-state actors in politics and international relations—corporations, business associations and influential non-governmental organizations. Successful, though, could be only reforms that mobilize the efforts of national governments, international actors, such as NATO and the European Union, and their member-states, as well as civil society.

I wish success to all participants in the conference.
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