Newsletter 21/2012 - Our South East Europe

ARTICLE by Ivan Mrkic, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Serbia

Regional fora - frameworks for establishing peace and prosperity for the peoples of South East Europe

The atmosphere of cooperation and an active interaction in South East Europe was created due to the dedicated efforts of all countries of the region, and above all, the trust that the pursuit of good-neighbourly relations is deeply rooted in human nature, and not a mere fulfilment of conditions.

Continuous dialogue among the peoples in the region opens the door through which the spirit of good-neighbourliness spreads steadily.

It is clear that without a strong and continuing cooperation within the region, opportunities for cooperation with other regional organizations, such as the EU itself, would have been narrowed.

The regional initiatives and fora are the frameworks where we aim to meet the goal of establishing lasting peace and prosperity for the peoples in the region of South East Europe.

The Republic of Serbia has demonstrated its commitment to strengthen regional cooperation, by holding chairmanships of a number of important initiatives. At the end of the last year and early this year, we brought to an end our presidency over the Central European Initiative (CEI); the Migration, Asylum and Refugees Regional Initiative (MARRI); and the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative (AII). On 15 June this year we completed the chairmanship-in-office of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) by organizing the Summit of Heads of States and Governments. Since January this year, Serbia had also presided over the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), which ended in June as well.

For a little more than four years after its establishment, the operational arm of the SEECP, the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), played a very important role in accelerating the reform processes and bringing the region closer to the European Union. The RCC has successfully established a new concept of regional cooperation based on the active relationship of all the relevant subjects, of all the participants, international organizations and financial institutions, and the donor community.

We highly appreciate RCC's engagement at the international level so far, especially in light of the positioning in the EU institutions and the effort towards forming a positive image of the region as a whole.

We believe that the project-oriented regional cooperation is a key mechanism for the effective implementation of political and economic priorities of all countries in the region.

We are particularly interested to see that the next steps to rationalize the existing network of regional initiatives, the Secretariat and the centres, are based on a realistic perception of their role and are focused on the project-oriented function of activity. Emphasis should be placed on institutional, administrative and functional capacity building of all South East European countries in the process of European integration.

The Republic of Serbia is interested in improving the investment climate in the region, development of energy and infrastructure, through the implementation of the Energy Community Treaty and the implementation of major infrastructure projects on Corridors X and VII, as well as the conclusion of the Transport Community Agreement in Southeast Europe. We consider the positive experiences relative to the functioning of the Southeast Europe Transport Observatory, located in Belgrade, to be very important and expect, considering our geo-strategic position, that the seat of a future Transport Community Secretariat will also be in the capital of the Republic of Serbia.

We strongly support the regional cooperation in other areas within the RCC. Of course, among the priorities are: fight against organized crime and corruption, as well as cooperation in the field of security, which is the basis for constructing stable, modern democracies of the present day world.

Particular attention is focused on the strengthening of human resources, promotion of the principles of the knowledge based economy and the application of modern information technologies. To our great pleasure, the seat of the Secretariat of the Education Reform Initiative of South Eastern Europe will be located in Serbia. The signing of the Host Country Agreement by all member countries is in progress.

The Republic of Serbia supports the participation of all from the Western Balkans in regional initiatives. Serbia is of the opinion that this is possible only by respecting the statutes of regional initiatives and the UNSC Resolution 1244 and the Arrangements regarding Regional Representation and Cooperation.

The countries of the region have realized that only together can they breathe new life into the words that we repeat like a mantra - regional cooperation - and take advantage of the great possibilities that it opens.

With this in mind, during the Chairmanship-in-Office we have formally launched with great enthusiasm the exchange of ideas among the SEECP member countries on deepening and expanding regional cooperation, as well as the reform of the Process and RCC, and establishment of the Group of the Wise.

Another important issue marked the end of the SEECP Chairmanship of the Republic of Serbia: the election of the RCC Secretary General. Given the significance and responsibility of this position, and current successes of the Council, it is of a great importance that prominent figures enrich the list of candidates. The quality, expertise and work for the well-being of the whole region were the guidelines in the selection of the RCC Secretary General.

Bringing to an end the chairmanship of the SEECP, the Republic of Serbia continues with devotion its commitment to the idea of integration, with the certainty that it originates from the existence of a long common political and economic history, geographic proximity and multi-ethnic, linguistic and cultural links and mutual influences, the natural instinct of people to live in harmony and peace with its environment.

The common goal of all regional initiatives in the Western Balkans is the development of multilateral cooperation as a basis for economic progress, political and economic stabilization and consolidation of good-neighbourly relations. These are also the presumptions for our integration into the European Union.

With a goal to achieve lasting peace and wellbeing of the people in the SEE region, the full EU membership imposes itself as a political priority.

Ivan Mrkic has been State Secretary of the Serbian Foreign Affairs Ministry since 2011. Prior to that, Mr Mrkic was Ambassador of the Republic of Serbia to Japan (2006-2011). Among his numerous positions since the beginning of his diplomatic career in 1978, Mr Mrkic served as President of the National Commission for the Implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, appointed by the Council of Ministers of Serbia and Montenegro (2005), Ambassador in the Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs (2001-2004), Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to the Republic of Cyprus, Nicosia, (1993-1999), etc. Ivan Mrkic graduated at Law School of the Belgrade University in 1977.

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE