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

Ambassador Lubomir Ivanov , Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to NATO

It is a pleasure for me to be part of CSD’s second security conference. These conferences are turning into a valuable tradition and rightly so since the topics we are discussing are of immense impact. That this is a high-profile event is also quite relevant to the issues debated. I’d like to start with the topic of security risks in Southeast Europe because they are often defined in divergent terms. The concept of new risks has bee overused not only lately. In my opinion, the novelty of these new challenges or new risks is rather relative. The actual new development, I think, is that after the September 11 attacks in the US and the March 11 in Spain international institutions have started paying considerable attention to these risks, although unfortunately it has taken an immense tragedy, trauma and shock for them to become properly noticed. The shock, however, has thrust the international community’s agenda in the right direction and it is from there we should start discussing the SEE situation.

NATO and the EU first encountered the so called new challenges quite early – in Southeast Europe in the 1990s. The new developments that are presently inspiring new hopes concern the way key international organizations like NATO and the EU are starting to think and act – concertedly and consistently. This approach has produced the ESDP as a fundamental EU policy and a number of concrete EU-led key operations such as the one in Macedonia and Bosnia’s operation Altea. The approach has led NATO to initiate a process of basic transformation which is visible in concrete operations – Afghanistan, the new plan for the Kosovo operation after the March events, and the mission of training the Iraqi security forces. All these processes clearly indicate the new approach of both NATO and the European Union to security issues. The adoption of this approach, however, is neither easy, nor unproblematic.

I would like to discuss here the perspective of Bulgaria, a country which has just joined NATO and will very soon, hopefully in 2007, become a European Union member. One of the cornerstones of NATO as a defense alliance are the mechanisms of collective defense set forth in Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty. Since NATO has functioned primarily as a collective defense organization for decades, it has almost flawless planning and synchronization in this area. The not-so-good news is that collective defense is least likely to be needed in the modern world. Of course, the Alliance does possess decision-taking and implementation mechanisms for operations and missions outside Article V’s scope. But NATO needs a great deal of concrete input and consistency as to the nature and level of commitment in operations not covered by Article V. They also need a reasonable degree of predictability and transparency in a sufficiently long term.

This would be impossible without adequate forces and capabilities which should be interoperable, mobile and ready to deploy. Because of all this, NATO and the EU are trying to make careful and sound assessment of the risks and challenges involved. This needs to be done at SEE country level as well. We need to step beyond inherited complexes, inertia and the special interests of particular branches or clubs. Such an objective approach might seem easy to achieve, but as some discussions over the strategic issue of defense have shown, we have not grown out of these restrictions yet.

What are the forces and capabilities needed? We need quality – quality in materiel, maintenance, and communications which are the usual weak points of an operation. The classical territorial defense forces are completely outdated because NATO-led operations require outstanding interaction capabilities. Territorial defense units could be numerous, but unusable. The concept of usability was introduced by NATO as very important and its meaning is still being negotiated. Next, each country needs to work on the basket of issues for which its capabilities are suited. These baskets will of course often overlap when NATO and EU matters are concerned because both organizations’ requirements are similar despite the division of labor they are trying to achieve. Thirdly, in order to make a tangible assessment of our collective efforts needs, NATO and the EU should tailor their planning to efforts made at the national level. For instance, when we were discussing the air forces to be used in the NATO Response Force amphibious exercise in Sardinia we found out that fighter planes were offered by the member states during the planning of most operations. And to these offers strategic commanders invariably have to reply: “We kindly thank you but it’s not what we need. We need cargo aircraft, refueling planes, things that we don’t have and not those we have plenty of.” There are many such examples and they imply that planning on both organizational and national level has to carefully take them into account, or otherwise our old problems will persist.

Each separate member state needs to consider these problems when planning its national defense. Territorial, air and sea defense should be planned so as to meet the actual needs and risks. Military efforts should be purposeful and carefully planned, realistic and supplied with all necessary resources.

The next key point is how most rationally to use the thin defense resources not only of recent NATO members like Bulgaria, but throughout the Alliance. There is a very simple solution to this problem – resources shouldn’t be wasted on other than priority matters and goals. Another relevant idea is currently debated at NATO – the increase of common funding. Bulgaria and many other countries support the idea of common funding and they have a good reason for that. The requirements for deployment or expedition forces are the same for all, but they don’t match the number of armed forces and the resources of the individual countries. Some requirements are set as proportions from the total number of armed forces – those for land troops - 40 % and deployment forces - 8 %, for instance. Others, however, are not compatible to the standards and available resources of the individual states which places different burdens on these states’ budgets. Bulgaria, for instance, has allotted 12 % of its defense budget for operations, but in purely financial terms this resource cannot meet the 8 % indicator required from Bulgaria and the other NATO members. Common NATO funding could be used to mitigate these disparities. It could cover a larger part of the key activities common for the Alliance. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be expected that common funding by NATO or any other organization could fully replace funding from national budgets. This is the reason why practical priorities with tangible effects must be discussed again and again.

Old NATO members also have to take these approaches into consideration since not all of them are equally prepared to meet the new challenges. They are all the more important for the new and the aspiring members with much more work on their hands. It wouldn’t be politically, and even psychologically, right to think that our NATO entry does it all because in reality we have ways to go to full preparedness. Accession is just a good start that should be followed by intense work and dedication.

The functions of NATO and the EU to the current problems of Southeast Europe are also worth discussing. Their roles shouldn’t overlap, but along with this the ESDP is developed on the same founding principles and with the same capabilities as NATO’s or even with NATO’s own capabilities as in the Berlin Plus arrangements. The initial success of Berlin Plus in Macedonia and, hopefully, in Bosnia must be developed further. EU’s advantage is that it has a wide range of crisis-management procedures. NATO is also striving to enlarge its crisis-management approaches, including collaboration in some civil aspects of the crises, readiness to react to situations similar to the Kosovo crisis in March, riot policing, and generally functions characteristic of the police and gendarmerie forces. The EU is still building its defense and security mechanisms, but I think it should try to increasingly include in these mechanisms non-member states as well, especially the ones whose membership is pending. This necessity is motivated by practical considerations as has become clear also from operation Altea. From the start of 2005 Bulgaria will provide 3 % of the forces in operation Altea, while the share of all non-EU forces in it is 1/6 of the whole personnel.

Finally, from the perspective of the relatively new challenges Southeast Europe and the Western Balkans may be considered as a test for NATO and the EU. It is commonly considered today that Afghanistan is the testing ground of what NATO can do today globally and this is so. Why is then Southeast Europe important? I think the fact that the new challenges were first fought there is a sufficient reason to probe the methods and techniques of counteraction in the same region. It is in Southeast Europe that integration processes can be tested for their stability effect. Southeast Europe is thus a region where NATO and the EU can face the full spectrum of challenges – from the enlargement process, i.e. states on the threshold of meeting accession standards, to crisis-management issues in post-conflict environment which has turned out to be the most problematic phase of conflicts. The right approach, I think, is for NATO and the EU to step up their influence and involvement and for all of us to join our efforts for the solution of our Southeast European problems. Thank you very much!
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