PANEL SESSION, 12.05.2012



organized by the Balkan Security Forum

Panel discussion topics:

– the Western Balkans in the coming decade and

the Republic of Macedonia and the region in NATO – reality or alternatives

12 May, 2012, Hotel “Slavija“, Ohrid

Conclusions and recommendations

From the panel session

The association Balkan Security Forum held a panel discussion on May 12, 2012 entitled “Regional Challenges after the Chicago Summit”. The discussion, held at the Hotel Slavija in Ohrid, was a continuation of the November 26, 2011 panel discussion in Skopje entitled “Macedonian and regional challenges before the NATO Summit in Chicago”.

Reflecting the keen interest in this topic in the Western Balkans, particularly in the Republic of Macedonia, invited guests included local and regional experts from the socio-political sphere, representatives from the NGO sector and higher education, as well as other institutions and organizations from the area of international relations, international cooperation and security. Also in attendance were representatives of political parties and the media.

The experts focused on the political, economic and security challenges confronting the region and Macedonia in the aftermath of the Chicago conference. In so doing, the participants sought to promote established economic, political and security values and to point out the most efficient ways to establish a safe and politically stable environment in the region.

With this panel discussion, the Balkan Security Forum set the goal through expert analysis of the current security and stability aspects to give an overview of the development of the region as a secure environment and enhancing the trust and cooperation in the region in the context of stability at national and regional level as a challenge and priority in directing and intensifying the activities in the area of security values and creating conditions for sustainable development at the local and regional level. 

A significant and expected outcome was that the authorities, experts and scientists who deal with the issues and international relations, security and defense, related with politics and analysis will contribute to a wider and deeper knowledge of the risks and possible emergencies of new crises and crisis situations, of the ideas and organizational readiness to respond to the challenges and  necessary improvements in the concept of  national and regional security. Through an exchange of experiences and ideas, the panel was aimed at generating proposals to further enhance trust in the region.

With these goals in mind, the panelists embarked on two discussions: The Western Balkans in the coming decade and The Republic of Macedonia and the region in NATO – reality or alternatives.

The panel session was opened by  Blagoja Markovski, Ph.D., who holds a doctorate in military-political science and is president of the Balkan Security Forum. The role of moderator was undertaken by Prof. Stojan Kuzev, Ph.D.,who teaches conflict resolution at Skopje’s First Private University – European University. Introductory remarks were given by the panelists:

1) Prof. Biljana Vankovska, Ph.D.,

Professor at the Institute for Defense, Security and Peace Studies, Faculty of Philosophy, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje, and the European University for Peace Studies, Schlaining  (Austria)

2) Prof. Zhidas Daskalovski, Ph.D.,

Director of the “Mother Theresa” Faculty for Public Policy and professor at the Faculty of Business Administration and Information Systems, Bitola

3) Prof. Metodi Hadzijanev, Ph.D.,

Head of the Department of Humanities, Military Academy “General Mihailo Apostolski”, Skopje, and an assistant professor at the Law Faculties in Skopje and Shtip

4) Prof. Ridvan Peshkopia, Ph.D., special guest at the panel session,

Dean of the College of Humanities at the American University “George Washington”, Tirana

5) Prof. Kiril Hristovski, Ph.D., special guest at the panel session,

Professor at the State University of Arizona at Tempe, USA

The panel discussion featured a useful exchange of views among the panelists, with additional contributions offered by members of the audience.

The following salient points emerged from the opening remarks, panel presentations and discussions concerning the regional challenges following the NATO Summit in Chicago:

Conclusions and recommendations

  • Since the final decade of the past century, the Balkans have been in the grip of a political, ideological and spiritual disintegration. In the 1990s, this atmosphere of mistrust, intolerance and even hatred created a kind of ghettoization, the consequences of which were to prove tragic, especially in the newly created states that emerged after the collapse of Yugoslavia.
  •  The nationalistic ideology fabricated a rigid system of social values, through which Balkan governments, scorning mutual cooperation, fostered the supremacy of their own nations. In that way, a kind of ghettoized patriotism was created, and any dissent from it was labeled as a betrayal of the nation. 

Overcoming these conditions called for a new approach, a redefining and a radical change, not only in politics and ideology but also in strategic priorities.  This entailed changes in socialization, in the cultural model, and in the overall system of societal values.

  • At the global level, significant changes have occurred. Starting from the principle that in politics the highest priority must be accorded to interests, the western Balkan countries have sought to realize their strategic interests through membership in the EU and NATO, as well as through bilateral cooperation with the USA, Russia, China, Turkey and other countries of the West and East. A new approach has been defined, Atlantic or Eurasian in its perspective, although, in parallel with this, certain countries are looking for new alternatives with which to further their national interests, in a sense “playing the field” with all parties. The impression is gained that the West is no longer “the only game in town” and that Eurasia may offer the best and most enticing rewards.
  • The task of maintaining existing partnerships and forging new ones is giving a new demeanor to the Balkans, as the countries of the region seek new markets and new ways to energize their enfeebled economies.
  • The conclusion is unavoidable that it is in the interest of all the countries of the Western Balkans to seek membership in both the EU and NATO and to form quality partnerships with all countries, thus expanding the circle of friendly states. This is particularly true for those countries that face an extended waiting period before they can expect approval from the EU and NATO. In that respect, the existing constellation of relations is characterized by complementary strategic goals, not mutually exclusive ones.

– At the moment, the Western Balkan countries are not threatened with classical war or aggression, but there are numerous asymmetric threats which call for an appropriate response from each country individually and all the countries collectively.

  • Currently, although not under major security threat, the Republic of Macedonia is still subject to minor destabilizing events, principally on the home front, as a result of which the country should exercise caution. Macedonia should especially work on its internal stability as a prerequisite to maintaining external stability. It should also monitor trends in the region and beyond, and in a timely manner adopt positions in response to developing situations. Clearly, Macedonia is under pressure from a certain quarter and is being asked to fulfill exceptional conditions for admission to the European family and NATO.  However, this does not mean that the country should resort to hasty proposals for resolution of the bilateral dispute over its  constitutional name.
  • The Republic of Macedonia does not pose a threat to the immediate region or to the Balkans and Europe. However, due to the roadblock that Macedonia is facing, it is only realistic to ask whether there are other options available to the country and what it should do while waiting for accession to NATO and EU. In short, does Macedonia need new partnerships and markets? This is especially important because, with the integration problem still unsolved, a new domestic conflict is developing. On the other hand, the fact of the matter is that the socioeconomic development of Macedonia is not proceeding in the desired and necessary fashion, in addition to which the country is facing grave tests. If the EU and NATO delay too long before accepting Macedonia as a fully fledged member, the question then arises as to the future course of Balkan processes. Furthermore, the existence of that kind of “hole” in the Balkan umbrella could call into question the very concept of NATO as the effectuation of the declared Atlantic world order. At the same time, it is the duty of the Macedonian government to look for other solutions to the political and economic situation, which means establishing stronger political and economic relations with countries outside the EU.

– It is in Macedonia’s interest in the coming period to focus on and intensify  economic cooperation, trade and the attraction of direct foreign investment from outside the EU.

The Balkan Security Forum stands ready to contribute its intellectual resources and dedication to the further study and analysis of socioeconomic and political issues, especially in the areas of security and defense, and in so doing to contribute towards peace and stability both in the Republic of Macedonia and the region of Southeastern Europe as a whole.

Balkan Security Forum