Challenges in Southeastern Europe

By
James Swigert

The following is excerpted from a keynote address delivered by Mr. Swigert at a conference, "Greece in Southeastern Europe: Security, Commerce, and Geopolitics," organized by the Western Policy Center on April 25, 2001.
May/June 2001 - The challenges in southeastern Europe constitute an issue that is very high on the foreign policy agenda of the Bush administration. The U.S. is engaged and committed to working with our European allies and partners within the region to protect regional security.

Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia are democratic countries committed to a common approach to the challenges they face and to working together to address these challenges.

The Bush administration supports NATO's commitment to the region: our forces, which came in together, will go out together.

Obstacles remain in the Balkans, but progress is real and considerable. It is important to recall that the situation is dramatically different than it was a decade ago.

Ten years ago, in the unstable environment created by the breakup of Yugoslavia, people seized opportunities to commit unspeakable violence in pursuit of unacceptable goals. The United States and Europe have learned from the mistakes that were made and have reduced opportunities for this mischief-making to lead to absolute destruction.

Macedonia secured its independence peacefully and, for years, has taken a peaceful approach toward resolution of differences between ethnic communities. Multi-ethnic governments including representatives of the Albanian community have been the norm.

Despite the recent violence, we can see proof that we can avert the sort of tragedy in Macedonia that occurred elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia. International solidarity with Macedonia has sent a signal to would-be supporters of the insurgents and allowed the government to turn the security crisis into an opportunity for political progress.

The EU has played an important leading role in encouraging dialogue by helping to move Macedonia toward Europe, signing the first Stabilization and Association Agreement with the country, a step toward European integration. The OSCE is engaged in Macedonia, as well.

NATO is engaged directly in Macedonia through KFOR and will play a leading role in the effort by Macedonia's friends and neighbors to help the government control further outbreaks of violence.

The United States is working hard to assist. U.S. security and development in 2001 will total more than $55 million-over $17 million in military assistance and over $38 million in economic assistance.

The process of dialogue has begun. Secretary of State Powell has applauded and encouraged the effort by the government and leaders of both principal ethnic communities to open this dialogue, which we are confident will bring tangible results to resolve the legitimate concerns of the Albanian community.

President Bush's meeting with Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski provided further support for Macedonia and further encouragement for settlement of Macedonia's political and social issues within the context of the democratic system.

Those who might still contemplate using violence should heed what President Bush has said. Violence is unacceptable. Those who use violence will be condemned. They should seek to address their concerns through the democratic political process.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, though a small group of Bosnian Croats is challenging the Dayton Agreement, recent elections have shown a continued decline in support for mono-ethnic parties. Moderate leaders and multi-ethnic parties are now assuming positions of power at every level of government.

In Croatia, there have been impressive strides in democratic reform. Croatia has joined the Partnership for Peace and the World Trade Organization, and has initialed a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU. We have also begun to rely on Croatia as a real partner in the region.

In Serbia, since the democratic uprising in October, we have witnessed significant steps toward reintegration into the international community and efforts to implement long-overdue economic and political reforms that will bring Yugoslavia into sync with its neighbors. An important milestone was reached with the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic. We hope this will mark the beginning of further steps toward cooperation with the War Crimes Tribunal.

In Kosovo, we support U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244 to build a multi-ethnic, democratic, self-governing society. We strongly support the holding of elections this year, as called for in the resolution, because elections offer the best hope of tamping down support for extremism in Kosovo.

In Montenegro, recent elections have raised prospects of a further fragmentation of what remains of Yugoslavia. The U.S. favors a democratic Montenegro within a reformed, democratic Yugoslavia as the best solution for the region and the countries of the region, and in the best interest of the people of Serbia and Montenegro.

Along with our European allies, we are encouraging dialogue between Podgorica and Belgrade and discouraging unilateral acts. This is not 1991 again. Both governments are committed to reform and democratic solutions. The people of Montenegro have seen what happened when people sought to use violence to resolve political disputes in the region.

Turning to the eastern Mediterranean, an important element in this overall positive trend in southeastern Europe has been the constructive engagement of two leaders, Greece and Turkey. Both are our NATO allies, and both have made great strides in their bilateral relationship since the advent of "seismic diplomacy" in the aftermath of the 1999 earthquakes.

In early 2000, Greek and Turkish foreign ministers completed the first visits to each other's capital in 40 years and signed nine bilateral agreements on everything from tourism to environmental protection to combating drug trafficking and organized crime. Ratification of most of the agreements is nearly completed.

In a historic March 2001 meeting, Foreign Minister Papandreou and Foreign Minister Cem worked out a plan to remove land mines from the Greek-Turkish border along the Evros River and intensified coordination on Turkey's EU accession process. From January 2000 through April 2001, business, academic, media, and other exchanges-the Track Two initiatives-have also flourished between Greece and Turkey.

This is a substantial record of progress in bilateral relations, occurring against a background of constructive action by both countries in southeastern Europe, where both have common goals and concerns. Both countries have contingents in the Balkans. They also have units in KFOR and SFOR and have contributed to multilateral efforts to rebuild the police forces in both areas.

Greece has made an impressive commitment to Balkan reconstruction, with a five-year, $500 million program. It is important to the region that the Greek program move ahead as quickly as possible.

Plans between the Greeks and Turks for joint projects in the region are building on the positive record of assistance and investment. Greek private investment, an important development engine for the region, has now reached a level of $2 billion. The dynamic Greek private sector can help drive structural reform in the region, and its investments in Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Romania, to name a few, have been significant. U.S. companies are beginning to partner with Greek firms for joint projects, a trend we hope will continue.

As Greece and Turkey have engaged their forces, their resources, and their private investment, they have also engaged together politically in regional discussions such as the Stability Pact, which is a key mechanism to further the integration of the region into European and Trans-Atlantic institutions; in the Southeast European Cooperation Process, a gathering of countries within the region, including Greece and Turkey; and in the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI), working on practical discussion of trade and lowering the barriers between the countries in the region.

The Bush administration welcomes this engagement and encourages efforts by Greece and Turkey to continue to improve their bilateral relations.

We look to Athens and to Ankara to chart the path ahead to resolving remaining issues between Greece and Turkey. We hope that Foreign Minister Papandreou's recent visit to Ankara is the start of a period of increased engagement in that regard.

While not part of southeastern Europe, Cyprus deserves a special word because of its importance for Greece-Turkey relations and for the eastern Mediterranean. The U.S. is working hard and will continue to work hard to assist the parties in achieving a comprehensive settlement of the longstanding division of Cyprus. We believe now is the time to reach such an agreement, and we are very committed to supporting U.N. efforts to restart the talks.

The prospects for the future of southeastern Europe are quite clear. Progress has taken place in the last years. The cooperation between the U.S. and our partners in Europe made clear that we have a completely different situation today than was the case 10 years ago. I am confident that the challenges we face in dealing with this region are not obstacles, but opportunities.

As Secretary Powell made clear in discussing the situation in Macedonia, the key to progress is not the use of force, but the building of political and social conditions that foster the peaceful resolution of disputes. This approach is as applicable to the region at large as it is to Macedonia. It works.

The United States will continue to support open societies and democratic political systems, encourage the international cooperation that makes such systems possible, and oppose with determination threats to political, social, and economic progress. The U.S. cannot and should not do this alone. And we are not doing it alone. We are part of a combined effort that includes regional leaders like Greece and Turkey, who play a critical role in southeastern Europe.
 

Experts & Staff

  • Christian F. Ostermann // Director, History and Public Policy Program; Global Europe; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
  • Emily R. Buss // Program Assistant