The Second Annual International Conference, organized by the Center for the Study of Democracy as part of the series of events addressing the new security threats, was held on October 29-30, 2004 in Sofia. It has been approved as a NATO flagship event and co-sponsored by the Alliance, as well as by the Bulgarian Government and other public and private partners.
The 2004 conference follows the very successful high level event Shaping a Common Security Agenda for Southeast Europe: New Approaches and Shared Responsibilities, held in September 2003 in Sofia with the participation of NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson and Bulgarian and SEE officials, including 8 ministers of defense and the interior.
The forum aimed to generate further substantial debate on today’s security situation in Southeast Europe, and especially in the Western Balkans and to emphasize the importance of continued assertive involvement of the international community and its leading organizations like NATO and the EU as they enlarge. Among the major objectives of the conference were to promote further political, professional and academic debate, on the broader issues of defense and security forces transformation.
The conference benefited from the participation of NATO Deputy Secretary General and EU representatives, as well as government ministers, professional military and security leaders from SEE, NATO and the EU.
In his opening remarks Dr. Ognian Shentov, CSD Chairman, underlined that the new challenges and risks to the international security require a new way of thinking and cooperation. In this respect one of the advantages of the conference is its innovatory format of public-private partnership, he said. Dr. Shentov pointed to two of the major threats to security – international terrorism which is one of the risks to the global security and transnational organized crime which is a specific problem for the SEE region. Non-state actors such as corporations and business associations as well as influential NGOs have to be major players in developing a common strategy to counteract organized crime and corruption. The success of the reforms would be guaranteed if national governments, international organizations like NATO and EU and the civil society join their efforts, he concluded.
The protection of peace and security in Southeast Europe is one of the priorities of the Bulgarian government, said Mr. Plamen Panayotov, Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria. The cause “peaceful and prosperous Balkans” has two important supporters – NATO and the EU, he added. NATO’s contribution to security and stability can be seen in the enlargement policy of the Alliance and the European Union turned into a catalyzer for the transition to peace, stability and democracy through its integration policy and the military operations, carried out by its members-states in the Western Balkans, he underscored.
Security and stability in South East Europe is challenged by organised crime, corruption, illegal migration, human trafficking and the unlawful trade in small arms, said Ambassador Alessandro Minuto Rizzo in his address to the participants. These activities have the potential to weaken governments and they tarnish the image of some parts of SEE, he added. He acknowledged that a number of measures are being taken to address these challenges but more need to be done. It is essential that the rule of law be strengthened. The police forces must be made more accountable and the judiciary must be seen to be both robust and independent and border security must be improved, Amassador Rizzo concluded.
In his address Mr. Nikolay Svinarov, Minister of Defense of Bulgaria, put a stress on the fact that globalization, free movement and the opening of the countries make them more vulnerable to the asymmetric threats to security. Therefore, the states are willing to create spaces of common interests and responsibilities aimed at guaranteeing and strengthening of peace and security. He underlined the important link between security and investments which are a crucial factor for security of the state, business, people. The relations between the EU and NATO are a test for the security in Europe and the world, Mr. Svinarov added.
2003 International Conference Shaping a Common Security Agenda for SEE – New Approaches and Shared Responsibilities – September 5-6, 2003