Newsletter 6/2010 - Our South East Europe

INTERVIEW with Avgustina Tzvetkova, Deputy Minister of Defence of Bulgaria

Stronger political and military cooperation in the region needed to confront emerging security threats

Minister Tzvetkova, what does cooperation in the area of security mean for the region, and where do you see the value added?

The countries from South Eastern Europe (SEE) realize the substantial need for intensifying the regional cooperation alongside with the bilateral one, so that at the end of the day the needed progress on security issues is achieved and a permanent tendency to reducing the difference between the security levels in SEE and other European regions is established. From a periphery, the region is turning more and more into a centre for security initiatives of the SEE countries, and attracting the interest of global players. The countries tend to seriously reconsider and better coordinate a great deal of ideas, initiatives and security mechanisms. That is why one of the priorities of the Bulgarian South East Europe Defence Ministerial (SEDM) Chairmanship is to focus the efforts of the countries to transform the SEDM from a discussion forum into a mechanism for efficient and improved practical cooperation.

To which extent are the SEE countries open to regional cooperation in the security sector, given the specificity of national defence policies and the sensitivity of the issue?

The SEE countries understand they have to strengthen the political and military cooperation to confront the existing and emerging 21st century security threats. The SEDM countries have already reached remarkable progress. From now on, we have to encourage the efforts towards achieving more concrete results to further enhance peace and stability, cooperation and good neighborly relations within South East European region and beyond. One of the priorities of Bulgarian Chairmanship is to encourage SEE countries and to support their aspirations for full SEDM membership. To our great satisfaction, Montenegro and Serbia became full members of the process under the Bulgarian Chairmanship. We will continue to deepen the cooperation in this direction and, furthermore, to enhance the process of integration into Euro-Atlantic structures.

NATO and the European Union (EU) member countries have at their disposal the best tools and experience, but we should not underestimate the enthusiasm of the other countries willing and determined to take the fast track to full integration into the European and Euro-Atlantic security structures. We still need to make some additional efforts and continue the Open Door Policy as long as the region is homogeneous from the point of view of its security.

How does the SEDM contribute to the security cooperation and confidence building measures in South East Europe?

We consider SEDM the major regional cooperation format in the area of security. The South East European Defence Ministerial Process is characterized by the best laid goals, the longest evolution history, the most developed cooperation mechanism and the highest practical level of achieving results. The very fact of establishing and functioning of the South East European Brigade (SEEBRIG) speaks for itself for the concrete steps and confidence building measures which within a decade abolished the consequences of a half a century prevailing hostility. In its capacity of the SEDM Chair, Bulgaria is making efforts for enlarging the process’s scope, achieving a higher level of efficiency within the framework of the process, and establishing a pragmatic and straightforward approach – the features that we consider important for the current period of continued reforms in the security sector under the current financial and economic crisis.

Quite naturally, the scope of SEE cooperation is much broader as compared to the SEDM process and our goal should be to aim at uniting and providing for cooperation and stimulating the evolution of the two processes rather than dividing them.

Where do you see the region in terms of security in the next five years?

The future of regional security is a function of our present efforts. I do believe all countries will continue to work for the better regional cooperation of their nations. I very much hope that in five years at least one more wave of NATO and EU enlargement in SEE would be a fact; we will have a much better interoperability of the Armed Forces of the countries from the region; we would have the experience of SEEBRIG’s participation in a multinational mission under international auspices; the objectively existing problems that as of today provoke difference of opinion and delay the progress on the bilateral and multilateral arena in the security area would sufficiently be reduced. I would also wish for a much more simplified but more efficient system for interaction on major regional security issues.

How do you view the role of the Regional Cooperation Council as a promoter of regional cooperation?

The Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) is a result of our joint efforts which for the time being is still at the initial stage of clearly stipulating its tasks and responsibilities. We still remember the great deal of difficulties the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, as its predecessor, had to face. I very much hope that the RCC-embedded idea of focusing on “regional ownership” is still attractive to all. It is evident that security remains indivisible and it would be more difficult under today’s circumstances of high level of civilization to even dare think that anyone can guarantee his own security by threatening somebody else’s security. The contents of the recently elaborated RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013 concentrates on encompassing all major regional security problems and comes up with different solutions for them. The active engagement of all participating nations in the approval of the RCC strategy and its follow up on the implementation would be the cornerstone for the assessment of RCC’s role in the near future. This would obviously be a kind of self assessment as well. I would very much like to see a straightforward positive assessment.

Avgustina Tzvetkova has assumed duties of Deputy Minister of Defence of Bulgaria in 2010. Before that, Ms Tzvetkova was political advisor to Nickolay Mladenov in both his capacities: as Minister of Defiance and later Foreign Affairs Ministe of Bulgaria. Tzvetkova holds a Masters Degree in history and archaeology from Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski. She started her professional career as a journalist at the Bulgarian National Radio and Television, after which she worked as a Program Director and Secretary General of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria. Her expertise involves foreign policy, relations with NATO and the USA, anti-corruption policies and regional and Euro-Atlantic integration. Avgustina Tzvetkova is a member of the Advisory Board of the International Institute for Political and Economic Studies (IIPES).


Avgustina Tzvetkova, Deputy Minister of Defence of Bulgaria (Photo:

Avgustina Tzvetkova, Deputy Minister of Defence of Bulgaria (Photo: