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NATO Assesses Regional Prospects

Alliance conference examines obstacles and progress on road to EU and NATO membership.
By IWPR staff

At the 57th Rose-Roth seminar in Ohrid, September 25-27, the NATO parliamentary assembly discussed Balkan steps towards Euro-Atlantic integration.

Diplomats, parliamentarians, soldiers, journalists, experts and NGO representatives debated issues ranging from the risks attending Macedonia’s referendum on decentralisation to Kosovo’s progress – or not – to final status.

After a keynote address by Marcus Tanner of IWPR on the history of Great Power rivalry in the region (see Changing Face of Balkan Diplomacy), the conference heard addresses from Macedonian defence minister Vlado Buchkovski and the EU representative to Macedonia, Michael Sahlin.

Buchkovski detailed the Macedonian armed forces’ progress towards achieving NATO norms and rectifying the low representation of ethnic Albanians in the ranks. From insignificant numbers a few years ago, the percentage of Albanians was now just over 8 per cent, he said, adding that the goal was to raise this figure to 13 per cent by 2005 and 25 per cent by 2007.

In his frank speech, Sahlin warned that Macedonia risked stepping backwards from EU-Atlantic integration if the November 7 referendum on decentralisation delayed implementation of this crucial component to the 2001 Ohrid agreement. Macedonia faced a choice between becoming a “security provider” or a “security consumer”, Sahlin said (see Macedonia Referendum: Step Backwards on Road to EU).

On day two, on Kosovo, much attention was given to Kai Eide, Norway’s Permanent Representative to NATO, who cautioned against the temptation to let the status quo in Kosovo drag on. However sensitive the final status issue, it needed tackling rapidly, he said. It was not a question of standards “before” status, either, but standards “both before and after” status, he added.

The day also heard addresses from Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic and the new French KFOR commander, General Yves de Kermabon.

The final day included presentations by media society representatives, including Iso Rusi, editor of the Albanian-medium Macedonian magazine, Lobi, before concluding remarks from US ambassador to Macedonia, Lawrence Butler.

In another hard-hitting address, Ambassador Butler warned that the forces behind the referendum, in spite of their claims to be defending Macedonia’s integrity, “are in reality doing everything they can to sabotage Macedonia as a multiethnic, unitary, democratic state within its existing borders”. The referendum, he concluded “threatens to put Macedonia back on a course towards isolation and ethnic division”, he concluded.

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