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

Nikolay Svinarov, Minister of Defense of Bulgaria

Dear Mr. Deputy Prime Minister,
Dear Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me first to thank the Center for the Study of Democracy for hosting a second international security conference, a conference where we – policy makers, government members and experts, can get together to discuss the present-day security issues.

Due to the immense progress of information technologies and the ever freer movement of ideas, people, goods and capital in the last fifteen years globalization has affected all human endeavors. On the positive side, this process has greatly facilitated communication at all levels – between states, organisations, communities, and individuals, and in all possible spheres – political, economic, financial, and cultural. It has enlarged the scope of cooperation towards the achievement and protection of common interests. The inter-dependency and growing interaction between states and individuals have increased mutual trust and undermined the sources of contradiction and tension between the states.

Globalization’s negative drift, however, has made nation-states much more vulnerable to asymmetric security threats. The nation-states are therefore trying to establish areas of common interests and responsibilities which could sustain and reinforce world peace and security.

Today’s conference has brought together representatives of SEE states, and Southeast Europe is a region in which the common security interests have been recognized. We have recognized the need for peace, stability and national prosperity, but also the need to create favorable living and developmental conditions for each one of our citizens. The SEE perspective on security takes its many dimensions into account.

SEE countries today are facing similar problems. It is common knowledge that local organized crime has quickly weathered inter-state and inter-ethnical clashes and has used globalization to benefit from its own international integration. We must grudgingly admit that the Balkans are a junction of major trafficking channels – of drugs, human beings and arms. Some historians and analysts of the region consider its geography and the range of ethnic, religious and cultural communities a formidable challenge to SEE governments. I prefer to view them as opportunities which, if properly used, could be transformed into advantages and help overcome our present-day problems.

Through their membership in NATO and the EU SEE countries can achieve and guarantee greater security at home, but they also could contribute to the joint efforts of all member states towards greater peace, stability and prosperity.

I will not dwell on the political aspects of this membership. I cannot but mention, however, that EU and Euro-Atlantic prospects are transforming the region’s economic and investment climate. Security is a staple of investment-friendly environments. But ample investment could in its turn bring stability and prosperity to states, businesses and individuals.

Along with this, NATO and EU membership is a responsibility which we must prove our readiness to bear. For the positive effects to be achieved accession is only done at a certain level of a country’s readiness. So progress to accession means a deep transformation in all areas of life and also, a different security philosophy.

Bulgaria espouses NATO’s open-door policy reconfirmed at the Istanbul Summit. Bulgaria’s foreign policy prioritizes the NATO integration of SEE countries. The next cycle of NATO enlargement will be a further vital contribution to the security and stability in the Western Balkans.

Bulgaria supports the new candidate states in their efforts to full NATO memberships, as well as Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina on their way to becoming PfP countries. These countries’ integration efforts must be backed by active bilateral and multilateral defense and political cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me at the end to reiterate my conviction that the West Balkan states are facing bright prospects in terms of joint political and defense efforts. We don’t have to start from scratch, but we need to go deeper and look for solutions even in hands-on matters.

Bulgaria would gladly participate in both high-profile and expert-level meetings; in joint military exercises; in joint economic and technical defense initiatives; in information exchange, etc. We are ready to share our NATO and EU applicant experience, our planning and defense expertise, our knowledge of staff training and of the necessary legal framework in the defense and security domains.

I believe that the right approach involves consultations and experience sharing which is being proven by today’s conference.

Thank you for your attention! I wish you every success!
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