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Strengthening Partnerships in South Eastern Europe:
A perspective from the Office of the Regional Envoy of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe High-Level Conference on Strengthening Cooperation in South East Europe, UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, 4 – 5 April 2002

By Ramona Calin
Special Advisor to the Regional Envoy for the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe

The European twentieth century started in Sarajevo and ended in Sarajevo. When the 20th century came into being, it found a rather frightening South Eastern Europe hosting neighboring nations that hardly knew one another, which could barely conceal their Brownian evolution. At the other end of the same century, South Eastern Europe was still struggling to take its destiny in its own hands, to define its future while avoiding the mistakes of the past. Today’s success track record is still scarce. I do believe that the mainstay of a solid regional architecture should be confidence based on the values of dialogue, co-operation and good-neighbourliness. It is high time our region proves itself to be not only an area of ethnic and religious strife, the "powder keg of Europe", as it used to be for too long, but also one of smooth accommodation of interests.

Immediately after the Second World War, a few Western European countries were nothing but ruins. The stains of that ravishing war were removed in just a few years, by common joint efforts of the international community. The main reason for this effort was that democratic values had to be safeguarded. In 1989, most countries from South Eastern Europe chose the same way towards democracy.

Seven maps of South- Eastern Europe are juxtaposed. Internationally, our region bears at least seven labels: South Eastern-Europe (SEE), The Balkans, CE -Central Europe, CEEC -Central Eastern European Countries, PAC – The Pre-Accession Countries, the Black Sea Countries and lately, the Carpathian/ Danubian zone. Whatever its accepted label, our identity has often been questioned. Nonetheless, our nations are deeply rooted in a common Europe. In response to persisting instability in the region, the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe was launched in 1999 with the goal of fostering regional co-operation, security, and democracy throughout the area. So far, approximately 250 projects have been launched under the auspices of the Pact.

There is virtual unanimity in South Eastern European countries that the way forward is integration in Europe. It is in this spirit that the EU, which has assumed a leading role in the Stability Pact, undertakes to draw South Eastern Europe "closer to the perspective of full integration...into its structures", including eventual full membership.

Countries wishing to be admitted must, however, first meet the minimum conditions concerning democratic, economic and institutional reforms. This process will require better intra-regional relations and enhanced co-operation in the field of democratisation as well as in the economic and security areas. It will also require fostering a new European Perspective for the South Eastern European countries.

Since the Stability Pact was founded, the Heads of States and governments of the South Eastern European countries have met regularly for consultations. At the SEECP Bucharest Summit in February 2000, they have adopted a "Charter on Good Neighborliness, Stability, Security and Co-operation in South East Europe".

Co-operative relations have offered more substance to regular bilateral relations. Most Stability Pact projects and activities were proposed and are carried out by two or more countries of the region.

It is the Regional Envoy’s conviction that the Stability Pact’s culture of cooperation within a framework of diverse projects represents the initiative best suited to offer countries in the region the opportunity to prepare for Euro-Atlantic integration.

This is the rationale behind the Stability Pact’s continuous efforts directed towards enhancing relations between the 11 beneficiary states, candidates for NATO and EU integration, as well as towards strengthening their participation in structures such as NATO’s: the Partnership for Peace and EU’s Stabilisation and Association Process.

The Regional Envoy’s Office was set up as a new, unprecedented institution, with the main view in mind to foster regional ownership.

The Office of Regional Envoy operates according to the following objectives:

- to represent the Special Co-ordinator and his office of the Stability Pact in Brussels in relation with the national executive bodies and the national co-ordinators;
- to dispatch decisions adopted thereby to the beneficiary countries;
- to coordinate the work of the Stability Pact in 11 beneficiary states: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, the FYR of Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, Turkey, the FR of Yugoslavia, Republic of Moldavia;
- to identify common projects in the region and to find common solutions;
- to represent the countries of the region in their relation with the donors;
- to mediate the dialogue between the beneficiary states and the international financial institutions (IMF, World Bank etc);
- to identify the adequate resources required by projects of regional importance;
- to facilitate contacts between business people in the region;
- to provide concrete analyses regarding political, social and economic progress in the region to the European Commission;
- to assess the political benefits of the projects by evaluating their significance in relation with the EU and NATO, as well as their technical stages of implementation;

Our three-faced philosophy "CCC"

We co-ordinate the activities of our office on the basis of a three-faced philosophy: complementarity, co-ordination and communication - "CCC":

- Co-ordination: We co-ordinate our activities with the beneficiary countries through their national co-ordinators. Together with the Office of the Special Co-ordinator, we co-ordinate the project inventory of every beneficiary country.
- Complementarity: From a EU integration perspective, we foster complementarity among the countries of the region and their neighbors (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Yugoslavia and Turkey, Moldavia) through a series of regional initiatives: Black Sea Economic Co-operation (BSEC), Central European Initiative (CEI), South East European Co-operative Initiative (SECI) and South East Europe Co-operation Process (SEECP)
- Communication: We ensure the public image of SPSEE (Regional Envoy's Office included) in Romania and in the countries of the region.

Last year 3 billion Euro have been pledged to South-Eastern Europe at the Bucharest regional conference. An impressive package of regional infrastructure projects amounting to 2.5 bn Euro were pledged in the scopes of improving the infrastructure network, notably in the areas of transport, energy and water. Another important element was the support for private sector development amounting to 60 million Euro in the fields of trade financing, SME support and banking. In addition, Bosnia, Croatia, and the FRY have committed 550 mn Euro for refugee issues, assisted by the donor community with another 500 mn Euro. These figures give clear evidence of the international community's determination to support the region. And they clearly indicate that support is also forthcoming in times when new priorities challenge world politics.

Significant progress has been achieved under working Table 1 and Mr. Rhondos is here to detail upon the activities carried under his coordination. In our Regional Envoy’s office, we have focused mainly in issues pertaining to education, NGOS liaison and communication. In the case of education, we are personally involved in the promotion of “two-country perspective history books”. Together with the Council of Europe we will host in Timisoara, in June of the current year, an initial workshop to address this perspective, in the hope that neighbouring countries will thus understand each other better and will approach their future with a clearer understanding of their past. In most countries of South Eastern Europe, history has often been taught through the mirror glass of the communist legacy. Basically, often times history has been wiped out from the collective consciousness. A direct exponent of this period, I remember very well the discrepancies between the history lessons I was taught by my family and the history books, in their “pedagogic shape” at school. This dual exercise resulted in “a refrigerator of traditions and history” used solely for one’s own’ identity, and not as an authentic learning exercise. In many ways, this is changing. But it stays quite the same when it comes to express trans-border issues, and here I could speak of the Romanian/Hungarian history books. There is a serious need for both countries to have a clear understanding of their past, to the highest extent possible.

With the same approach in mind, we look at distance learning and wish to promote it in the region, to exploit its trans-border complementarities. We will host, during the month of May, in our office, the first regional distance learning workshop, along with the World Bank and the British Council. Stability Pact countries will meet with major donors to see how they could best benefit of resources in matters pertaining to distance learning.

Also, at our end we have started working at a more coherent communication strategy for the Stability Pact countries. We came to understand that most media groups in the region suffer from a lack of specialized journalists. While we can not address all the grievances of the media, we deem very important to attract support for sustainable training programmes in the areas of European Integration/European Union matters, as well as issues pertaining to conflict journalism. We therefore try to have unified training programmes, in partnerships with national NGOs. This will strengthen the public understanding of European affairs, before these countries will ultimately join the Union. In the case of conflict journalism, we hope, through comprehensive training programmes, to prevent the escalation of crisis. It turns out that in cases such as Macedonia, the media played a crucial role in the development of the Macedonian conflict.
We trust that our regional communication strategy could play an important role in the spreading of public awareness in key areas such as EU affairs (mostly needed for EU candidate countries) and conflict.

Under the Pact’s Working Table II for economic reconstruction and development, 34 infrastructure projects (representing 1,2 billion Euros) have commenced mostly in the fields of road and street reconstruction. A Business Advisory Council brings together major global infrastructure companies with regional private and public operators. The Regional Envoy’s office is promoting a strong cooperation between the public and the private sector, with focus on the social cohesion. “Public-private partnerships within the social cohesion framework” are aiming to link the public and the private sector in matters of labour policy, comprehensive human resources policies, enhancing of the employees’ dialogue through better syndicate cooperation. Major privatization is underway in many of the countries of the Pact and this is only going to continue in the future. Comprehensive policies are highly expected to address the needs of the laid off workers. The Office of the Regional Envoy is assisting to design a sustainable road map linking the private sector and the reform of the social sector.

The Stability Pact’s vision is that today, no organisation can solve current problems single-handedly. Thus, in the field of investment, we are working together with the OECD on the implementation of the Investment Compact, the goal of which is to dismantle investment barriers and to promote private investment. The Compact represents: first, a commitment by SEE countries to undertake policy reforms to improve the investment environment; second, a commitment by donor countries to support this process through concrete projects; and thirdly, a process to monitor reform, identify needs and facilitate implementation and policy dialogue. The Compact has already issued “Country Fact Sheets”--which give a snapshot on the investment environment and major policy issues--and the first draft edition of the “Monitoring Instruments” which provide, in table format, a comprehensive and specific list of policy measures with target dates, responsible agencies, and current status.
Each country’s work is carried through a Country Economic Team, which includes participants from government, the private sector, and the international community.

Progress has also been made on trade liberalisation with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding committing the states of the region to liberalise 90% of their mutual trade in value by the end of 2006.

Under Working Table III for security we operate three regional task forces: on organised crime, corruption, and illegal trafficking. A Regional Arms Control Verification and Implementation Assistance Center (RACVIAC) has been established in Zagreb and in partnership with NATO a retraining program instituted in Bulgaria and Romania prepares military officers for a return to civilian life.

The Pact has also launched an Asylum and Migration Initiative and is currently formulating a regional strategy to fight international terrorism. During last year’s October’s regional conference, the Bucharest SECI (South Europe Initiative) Centre was proposed to become the regional focal point to address international terrorism. There is already a significant amount of co-operation between the SECI Centre and the Pact, but a higher area of common interest will be developed in light of the terrorist attacks on the United States.

After the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States, Europe United embarked in fighting international terrorism. Eradicating poverty, alleviating economic and social differences among nations: East and West via regional co-operation, are most necessary tools of conducting an effective struggle against international terror. In this light, the Stability Pact is today even more a needed platform than before September 11th.
When the Pact was created, many viewed it as an alternative Marshall Plan, a machinery to ameliorate the regions’ hardships. The Marshall Plan was also a Pact of solidarity. The Stability Pact is still a new born. Furthermore, a touch of optimism for a better future is high on the SP countries’ agenda. We cannot envisage a secure and prosperous Europe with unstable countries on the periphery of the European Union but unfortunately, to quote the Regional Envoy, Mr. Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu “what we have at this very moment is a Europe looking like a three-legged round table: one leg is damaged, and if it breaks down, the entire table will crash, in a terrible taste of champagne spilled over fresh blood.” And here comes the difficult question: why is it seemingly impossible now to reconstruct quickly a part of the continent, since the same task was successfully accomplished fifty years ago?

The Stability Pact acts to coordinate international assistance dedicated to South-Eastern Europe, designed to allow it to meet the necessary requirements for integration into Europe. During the first two years of its existence, the Pact has generated substantial additional financial support for the region, although perhaps not as much as it might have been hoped. Also, importantly, it has significantly speeded up the delivery of this aid. But our countries can only participate in a competitive European market if all our citizens share the benefits of the rule of law, with effective state institutions, transparency and accountability in the management of public affairs, respect for human rights, and a say in the decisions that affect their lives. In the end, the main impetus has to come from the national governments and not from the international community.

Seven labels for the Balkan region are still paving the way for rivalry, rather than solidarity in some case scenarios. The Stability Pact works to build solidarity and end rivalries. It seeks prosperity, social justice and equal opportunities for all the citizens of the region, because, in the words of one of the “other” Europe’s most inspirational voices, Vaclav Havel: “the salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and in human responsibility".

Let me now end by thanking our host for this worthwhile initiative. As a former UNESCO staff myself, I believe that UNESCO, by using a cross- sectorial approach and avoid duplication, could make a very good partner for the Stability Pact, especially in programmes pertaining to communication and education. I personally perceive your work as that of an organisation giving a particular human touch to the overall efforts of the international community. This is why, both the Regional Envoy and myself were not surprised, but only pleasantly touched by the commencement of the working document we have received for the preparation of this conference “it is in this sub-region of Europe that, almost three thousand years ago, the European continent was spiritually born”. One of the reasons for which we are here today is to revive this sentiment.

Thank you for all your work.

 
 
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