The 10th International Symposium of G.A.A.E.C took place at the Zappeion Conference Hall on December 15-16, 2000. During its sessions several important issues were raised, related to the Euro-Atlantic area and especially to South-Eastern Europe. More specifically there were three round tables, each with its own subject: the first one was the enlargement of NATO, the second one involved European Defence and Atlantic Solidarity and the third issue was concerned with Stability in South-Eastern Europe, making special reference to the Stability Pact.
Ambassadors, MPs, Former Ministers, Army Officers, representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Defence attended the Symposium. In addition young students attended the Symposium, coming from the Balkans, Eastern, Central and Western Europe. They attended, as participants of the 1st Academic Seminar organized by G.A.A.E.C, in memory of Dr. Spyros Philippas, the late Greek Liaison Officer and Head of Academic Affairs at NATO. Before the inaugural ceremony a small ceremony was organized and dedicated to his memory, which his family attended as well, paying tribute to a person that helped our organization so much.
The President of G.A.A.E.C, Mr.Theodossis Georgiou, in his inaugural speech, referred to the enlargement of NATO, the activities and opportunities offered by the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and by the Partnership for Peace. In addition to the recent decisions taken at Nice, by the Intergovernmental Summit of the EU, he made a special reference to the transatlantic relations, especially on the issue of European Defence. He then underlined the importance of NGOs, with special mention to the Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA), in fostering relations of cooperation and trust. In addition, a special reference was made to the meeting between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Greece and Turkey, in the context of the General Assembly of ATA in Budapest, which ended up in the adoption of 17 Confidence Building Measures.
The inaugural ceremony begun with a speech by the Greek Minister of National Defence, Mr. Apostolos Tsochatzopoulos, who touched upon the recent developments in the European continent, those of security and defence, and the possible consequences these developments may have on transatlantic relations.
Mr. Tsochatzopoulos, started his speech with the following questions: "...is there a perspective for a common Defence among a wider number of countries? Is there a possibility for a common security and defence policy that will include all the countries of the Euro-Atlantic zone?..." He further noted the importance of these questions, because we are living in a period of radical and huge changes at all levels and because it is recognized that no country, by itself, can handle the management of security problems in the Euro-Atlantic area.
He then moved on, making a special reference to the institutions that are burdened with the management of security, namely the EU and NATO. Furthermore, he mentioned the steps they have taken in order to adapt to the new security environment and the management of the problems facing the new era. Both organizations have begun procedures for their enlargement but by a pace that does not satisfy candidates.
NATO has initiated its "open door" policy but will not materialize it, as long as it does not transform itself and adapt to the needs of the new era. On the other hand, the EU through a series of decisions tends to give substance to the European Security and Defence Policy, through the introduction of European Security Forces, able to manage crisis operations. This development, according to the Minister, is inescapable and is imposed by the EU's position as an economic giant. The critical question then is whether the US and the EU will continue to deal with the challenges of the 21st century simultaneously.
The big challenge for the new century will not be the Balkans, according to Mr. Tsochatzopoulos. He indicated that the situation in this delicate region of S.E. Europe is becoming more stable, especially after the recent, positive developments in Yugoslavia. He also hinted at an initiative of regional security and defence policy, which is already being implemented. It comes in the form of the Multiethnic Brigade, cited at Adrianoupolis (Turkey), which is operationally ready to contribute to crisis management missions.
The "Balkans" of the next century will be Eurasia, especially the Caucasus. The Minister considers; that the energy needs of Europe and the US will lead us to consider that this is the place where the next clash will take place. This will be the challenge for the 21st century. With this in mind, a substantial reason for the evolution of the European Security will be the relations with Russia and the Ukraine. Mr. Tsochatzopoulos indicated that a European integrated security system without a substantial contribution and connection with these two countries cannot exist.
Finally the Minister noted the role of Greece in this new environment. Our country in all this strategic evolution, participates steadily, trying to secure its position as a factor of stability, by promoting equal cooperation with all the nations of the region. He also presented the project that is underway for the strategic revision of the Greek armed forces, through the reduction of the cost of maintenance towards more effective, flexible and modern armed forces, as the army of the 21st century ought to be.
From the opposition party, the former Greek Minister of National Defence, Mr. Ioannis Varvitsiotis, spoke of the instability in S.E. Europe and the reasons that create it. He also referred to the role of Greece in this sensitive area, which is that of a stabilizing actor, and the relations of Greece with its neighboring countries.
The inaugural ceremony closed with a speech from the Ambassador of the US in Greece, Mr. Nicholas Burns and a speech from the Minister of Defence of Latvia. Mr. Girts Kristovskis. Mr. Burns put special emphasis on the issue of transatlantic relations, especially in what concerns the cooperation between NATO and the EU, on issues of defence and security. He noted the need for the European Security and Defence Identity to continue to function in the context of NATO, by including also all the European countries that are not EU members. He also indicated that in the context of the new strategic concept of NATO, all NATO members should give special emphasis on the reformation of their armed forces in the context also of the decisions taken on the "Strategic Defence Initiative", at the Washington Summit. He closed by stressing that NATO should remain the primary security organization in Europe, pointing out the negative consequences on transatlantic relations the opposite could have.
Mr. Kristovskis began his speech by saying that managing the new threats to security requires professional and effective armed forces for crisis management. He then presented the fragile security situation that exists in his country, which arises from Russia's concern over NATO expansion, and further to the point, on how its integration into NATO can overturn this situation. The Atlantic Alliance is considered the principle security player in the complex security environment created after the end of the Cold War. He also made a special reference to the positive stance of Greece to the enlargement of the Alliance.
The first round table begun with a speech by Mr. Evangelos Chorafas, Director General of the Ministry of National Defence of Greece. Then followed Mr. Vaino Reinart, Political Director General of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who once again declared the desire of his country for full integration to the Euro-Atlantic security structure. Next was, Ambassador Yury Kashlev, representing Russia. Mr. Kashlev repeated the well-known Russian objections to NATO enlargement but also gave hints concerning the policy of the new Russian leadership on the issue of the Euro-Atlantic Security. More particularly he described the negative image NATO has in Russian public opinion. He also explained the attempt undertaken by Russia to adjust her foreign policy according to the current parameters of its position in the international system. Then, Ambassador Mr. Vernon Penner, Deputy Commandant of the NATO Defence College and Mr. Solomon Passy, President of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, followed. Dr. Konstantinos Ifantis, Ass. Professor, at the University of Athens, was the commentator of the first table.
Concerning the issue of NATO's enlargement, it should be noted that the desire of most of the countries participating in the program "Partnership for Peace" for membership and integration to the Alliance, is still very strong. The day of the next possible invitation is not very far and all candidate countries don't miss a chance to declare their progress along with factors that make imperative their inclusion to the next wave of NATO enlargement. The fact is that this time the Alliance has set stricter conditions and has also institutionalized the process of enlargement by setting up a "Membership Action Plan." On the other hand, candidate countries believe that they have every reason to become NATO members and even the slightest disapproval of their expectations could have negative consequences concerning the goals of the Alliance regarding security and stability in Europe without artificial divisions. Their decision concerning the next opening of the Alliance will be much more difficult in comparison to the decision taken in Madrid.
The topic examined at the second round table, was transatlantic relations. Especially the issues of development regarding the European Security and Defence Identity, in light of the recent American Presidential Elections and the successive decisions taken in the context of the EU on the issue of European Defence. First, the Minister Counselor of the Turkish Embassy in Greece, Mr. Attila GUNAY took the floor where he stressed the need for a common approach to threats but also to the regulation of joint activity for the accomplishment of goals. He then went on by noting the need for the participation of European, non-EU, NATO members concerning the development of the European Security and Defence Identity, also stressing the importance Turkey has put on that. Then followed, Ambassador, Mr. Edouard Braine, Ambassador, Mr. Erich Hochleitner, President of the Austrian Institute for the European Security Policy, Admiral (ret) Mr. Otto Ciliax of the German Atlantic Association and Mr. Alexandros Rondos, Special Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece. Mr. Ciliax noted that European Defence and Atlantic solidarity should function in conjunction. The second round table ended with the comments of Dr. Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos, Ass. Professor at Panteion University, Greece.
The issue of European Defence was again setback after the recent decisions taken at Nice, at the intergovernmental Summit of the European Leaders and after the recent American Presidential elections. At Nice, the European leaders decided the creation of a permanent, fully European Rapid Reaction Force dealing with crisis management. This force will function in the context of the European Security and Defence Policy.
This development has disturbed the Americans and the European members of NATO that are not EU-members, especially Turkey, whose reaction was forceful. Turkey, appealing to vital interests did not hesitate to threaten a veto in case the EU requests the use of NATO assets, in the context of the decisions taken in Brussels and in Berlin. On the other hand, the change of guard at the White House along with the well known statements of the new administration on a possible revision of the American engagements all around the world, have resulted in European concerns on the devotion of the Americans to the transatlantic relationship.
Therefore we see, at the level of transatlantic relations, a strange situation has developed and the gap between the two sides has only been created by the manifestation of intentions and the elaboration of long-term plans. The EU is certainly looking to mature but in the sector of European defence and security it remains sensitive and awkward.
The next day, on the 16th of December, we had the third round table, which concentrated on the developments in S.E. Europe and especially in the Balkans. Special emphasis was given to the Stability pact. Very important was the presence of Mr. Jelico Jerkic, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, in charge of Multinational Relations in Bosnia Herzegovina; and to the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Mr. Victor Gaber. Mr. Jerkic mentioned that the issue of stability in S.E. Europe has for long be an issue of priority for the international and European agenda and will remain as such. As far as his country is concerned this is very important. Five years after the signing of the Dayton Agreement, the situation is relatively calm, and Bosnia is on its way to integrate in the international and regional system and rebuilding its economy and its political system. Mr. Jerkic added that for both these endeavors the way is long and painful. Mr. Gaber from his side presented the basic orientations of his country, which are: membership to NATO and the EU and the building of substantial relations with their neighbors. He also mentioned that Greece is the model concerning the accomplishment of those goals. He finally added that security is not guaranteed by better armaments but through economic development and trust among people and through collective security and defence that can create the potential for the above.
In the third table, the participants were: Mr. Nikolaos Dimadis, Chairman of the Coordinating Committee of the Ministerial Conference (MOD) for South-Eastern Europe, Mr. Sotirios Athanasiou, Head of the Office of the Chairman of the First Working Table of the Stability Pact for Democratization and Human Rights, Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Antoine Giansily, President of the French Association for the Atlantic Committee, Mr. Miklos Derer, Secretary General of the Hungarian Atlantic Council and Mr. Radovan Vukadinovic, President of the Atlantic Council of Croatia. The third table was summed up by Dr. Alexandros Koutsis, Ass. Professor at Panteion University and by Dr. Aristotelis Tsiampiris, Visiting Lecturer at the University of Athens.
Mr. Athanasiou, described the basic parameters of the Stability Pact as an initiative of the EU, under the auspices of the OSCE, whose main goal is to create the conditions for peace, stability, democracy, economic development and security in the region of S.E. Europe. The basic characteristic of this initiative, up to that moment, has been the rigorous mobilization of the international community concerning the financial support of the program. He also noted the emphasis given by the Stability Pact, on the creation of democratic institutions, since development cannot succeed in societies with a democratic deficit.
In retrospect one could claim that some positive developments have occurred in S.E. Europe. There definitely still exists some tension but not in the degree of the recent past. The most important fact has been the gradual re-integration of Serbia to the international community. At the same time the Balkans are always at the center of the attention of the international community and finance.
Given the dramatic events of the last decade, nobody can claim that stabilizing this fragile area will be an easy task. Beyond the historical parameters, other factors lead to this ascertainment: the fact that the newly created states are fragile from every point of view and they are faced with threats with witch they are not accustomed to deal with. Moreover we should not forget the Albanian factor that affects three states of the region.
Ambassador, Mr. Spyridon Dokianos, National Coordinator for the Stalility Pact, of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as a guest speaker, also contributed to the further comprehension of the Stability Pact.
The conclusions to be drawn from the Symposium were presented by Dr. Athanassios Dokos, Director of Studies at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy. Mr. Dokos started by analyzing the basic characteristics of the new international system along with the dangers and the threats that it has to deal with. He noted the different character of these dangers and the different way they have to be dealt with. He then referred to the role of international organizations and especially to that of NATO, by concentrating on the region of S.E.Europe. He proposed a division of labor, depending on the comparative advantage of each organization. He then continued by citing the issue of the transatlantic relations, in relation with the development of the European Defence Identity and the American elections. He did emphasize the difficulties of the European venture and the little progress that has been achieved, despite the serious decisions and initiatives that have been taken recently. He closed his presentation by stating that the transatlantic relation that has endured for so long should not be left to fade away, since what unites the two shores of the Atlantic is much more important than what divides them.