MAS Special ReportWestern Balkans

Weekly review NATO - UE LEVANT Western Balkans Black Sea Region

06 iulie 2018 - Special reports - Western Balkans

West Balkans: Important events seen from BUCHAREST- June 2018

Monitorul Apărării şi Securităţii

Wrong declarations of Serbian Minister of Defence. On 17th of June, 2018, Serbian Minister of Defence, Aleksandar VULIN, talked to a Serbian newspaper agency „Tanjug” about the process of various projects regarding the equipment of the Serbian military. (Vojska Srbije/VS)

Sursă foto: 123RF

[ Romanian Version HERE ]


An amazing announce refers to the Serbian military air force that is supposed to have, by the end of 2018, or by the beginning of the next year (2019), „all the 14 MiG-29 planes”. Also, in the military air force area, the Serbian minister announced that by the end of 2018 they will receive two Airbus helicopters, one for VS and the other for the Serbian police (Policija Srbije/PS).

The Minister also talked about improving all the MiG-29 planes, by taking these to the “4+ or 4.5” level in order to satisfy Serbia’s need to discourage a potential attack. Moreover, the Minister reminded about the Russian donation made in December 2016, but unaccomplished at the moment, of around 30 T-72 tanks and 30 BRDM-2 armored vehicles (improved). He also talked about adding “Lazar 3” fight armored vehicles to the VS, and around 40 different weaponry systems. 

In a short analysis, the Serbian site “Tango Six”, specialized on air force, shows that a lot of statements of the Serbian Minister are wrong and can misinform the public regarding the actual condition, but also the future of the Serbian military air force.

Among the wrong statements that “Tango Six” remarked we have:

-VS has 4 MiG-29 operational planes, considering that it is known that a plane did not flew in a long time (eight years actually!), but it was used for its machine parts in order to maintain functional the other three planes (the so-called “cannibalism” in the common language).

- the functioning period between the capital reparations expired for two of the MiG-29 planes (the planes cannot fly, but they must send these in time for the capital reparation and the remaking of the flight resource).

-none of the 5 planes donated for Serbian Air Force by the Russian Federation flew, even after 8 and a half months since those entered Serbia. The seventh plane, send to capital reparation (at 121 manufacturing Kubinka, Russian Federation) immediately after it passed the custom papers, in October 2017, did not come back to Serbia.

-from the previous information there are 4 MiG-29 planes that should be donated by Belarus to Serbia at the end of 2019, but without knowing if these will be delivered with the full capital reparation effectuated (so able to fly) or will have to follow the same process as the ones donated by the Russian federation.


There are little chances that by the end of the year 2018, or the beginning of 2019, to have all the 4 planes of the Serbian Air Force in function. Even if this would happen, it would be for a short time, because at least three of the old planes (from the JNA period) must be sent to capital reparation. Making this capital reparation and transferring a MiG-29 plane from the Russian Federation to Serbia, receiving the Byelorussian planes and how these will be transferred to Serbia only depends on the Serbians.  In these circumstances, we must remark that the Serbian public was not informed about the T-72 tanks donation or the BRDM-2 armored vehicles, and also there is no information about the process and the details of the Byelorussian donation. (4 MiG-29 planes)

Another unknown fact remains the remake of the MiG-29 planes. Belgrade and Moscow have a treaty that allows the modernization of 10 MiG-29 planes (eventually at 4+ or 4.5 level), but we do not know the details regarding the beginning of the process, or where did they get with negotiating about this. Often, this modernization of the military air force machines is linked to Moscow offering aerial defence rackets systems. 


Trilateral tactical exercise “2018 Slav Brotherhood”


Between 18-28.06.2018, in Russian Federation (Raevski range from Krasnodar region) was held a trilateral tactical exercise, called “2018 Slav Brotherhood”, that had around 1.000 military men from the special operations in Belarus Republic, Russian Federation and Serbian Republic, with the support from the Russian military air force and other army forces categories from the Russian Federation.

The exercise is a traditional one, annually made, on a rota, in one of the states mentioned above, the active phase of the exercise being from 26 to 28 of June, 2018. During the exercise it was planned the special assault, including the fight assault technique. The themes of the exercise were “Antiterrorists actions in the region” and “Offering help to the civil population”, being stimulated the development of actions made during a maintaining peace operation.

Among the new things of the exercise in 2018 we mention forming a Special Forces combined tactical group at a battalion level by the military men of the three armies. Also, it was about increasing the participation, in the exercise being involved a fight group from a regimental level (called by the organizers “coalition fight group” for the multinational participation). Organizing an independent fight group level offers a large freedom of action and its purpose is to create the possibility of accomplishing various tasks and missions independently of the principal forces. This way, the fight group can benefit of almost all forms of resources for a fight: research, electronic war, intelligence insurance, CBRN defence and logistic insurance. We must underline that, during the exercise, they launched an armored technical assault from the aerial Russian forces assault (“Rakuska” BMD and MDM armored vehicles and the 2S25 “Sprut-SD” self-propelled anti-tank cannon). Not least, at the exercise participated also the representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

During the active phase of the exercise, the CICR personal, in cooperation with the multinational fight group forces, trained to implement specific procedures that refers to launching from IL-76MD planes some human resources loads for the affected civil population, divided in hard to access counters, in this phase being planned also the use of the CICR technique.


The supplementation of military men for the borders

The Independent Committee of Parliament Assembly of BIH, an organization responsible for the activity of the Bosnian police forces, asked on 18.06.2018, the immediate supplementation with at least 200 officers of the forces that are responsible for the frontier guard. Nowadays, the BIH frontier police has 1847 officers (not all of them are in charge with the frontier guard of 1551 km of the country), so it needs a supplementation of 500 more officers.

We need to remark that, since the begging of 2018, the Foreign Business Service of BIH registered over 6000 illegal migrants. Even though 5887 of these asked for asylum, only 611 received it until now. The migrants and the refugees that crosses the West Balkans came especially from Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Iraq and the Palestinian territories. 

In accordance with the measures adopted by the Bosnian authorities, we must remark that on 18.06.2018, the Bosnian frontier police blocked the entry on the BIH territory for almost 100 migrants, at the border with Croatia, due to the increasing number of people that use the routes from the West Balkans to get to West Europe. In these circumstances, the Croatian police increased the number of patrols across the 1000 km border with BIH. Moreover, Slovenia, Austria and Germany asked the Croatian authorities to increase the checks on the BIH borders, and also suggested to pay more attention to the area that surrounds Cazin and Velika Kladusa.

Managing the mitigation phenomenon on routes that have as a destination Western Europe became a really serious issue for the BIH Government. The territories from Velika Kladusa (BIH) that confronts a significant number of migrants, offered alimentation support, clothes, medical assistance and temporary accommodation. The increasing of the migrant numbers that entered BIH is actually a cause of the traffickers’ actions that created a new route: from Greece (through Albania, Montenegro and BIH) to Croatia and West Europe. The illegal migrants issue can become a challenge even bigger and hard to handle for BIH. Recently, new migrant groups were identified in Ilidza (south of the Sarajevo canton) Bihac, Trebinje, Zvornik, Bijeljina and other parts of BIH.


Intense Belgrade- Pristina meeting


The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/ Vice-president of the European Committee, Federica Mogherini, held an important meeting and made possible the dialogue between the presidents Aleksandar Vučić, from Serbia, and Hashim Thaçi, from Kosovo, in Bruxelles, on 24.06.2018, this being the only important political meeting after the one in 23.03.2018. Before the meeting of the two presidents they had technical negotiations. Initially, Pristina refused to continue the technical dialogue with Belgrade, asking to change the focalization of the debate from “the issues of the Serbian communities to all the unaccomplished agreements, including the one regarding the energy”. The High Representative and the presidents of the two entities from the West Balkans had intense and productive discussions regarding finding a proper way to balance the relations between the two parts. The parts agreed to increase the activity in the next weeks.

After the meeting, the president of Kosovo underlined that the meeting with the president of Serbia was difficult, considering that the discussions regarding the old problems between the Serbians and the Albanians continue. Hashim Thaci highlighted that “he knows that, with a possible treaty, both parts can win a lot, but he is afraid that if such thing won’t happen, they will lose, because they will affect the European future, they will delay the European future and they will remain isolated”.

In the same context, the Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić highlighted that a solution for the Kosovo-Serbia disagreement should be rational, the Serbian official adding that he “agrees that all the issues should be solved easily, through mutual respect, this being really important to the Serbian Kosovars and the citizens of Serbia”. He also announced that he will talk to the Serbian citizens about solving the Kosovo issue in the future, without offering any other details. The Serbian President confirmed also that the dialogue with Kosovo and UE will be more intense.


With the help of its representative, Federica Mogherini, EU continues the meetings and the activities with Vučić and Thaçi, the main objective being balancing the relations, as until now they took in consideration various existent agreements and also the results obtained for fixing the precious steps.

In these circumstances, we must remark that in the diplomacy area, but also in the one regarding the analysis of the dynamics situations of the West Balkans, we do not see any more how the disagreements between Greece and the Macedonian Republic, regarding the name of the Macedonian state, increases the pressure on the Belgrade and Pristina leaders to accelerate their own issue about the stature and the future of the Kosovo state.

Eric Gordy, Political and Cultural Sociology professor, at the Slavic and East-European Studies School from University College in London said that “Serbia’s president, Vučić, is aware that he cannot get to an agreement with the Kosovar leaders from Pristina […], also it is obvious for everyone what would such an agreement involve: the recognition, strong guarantees of protection and representation for the minorities and a certain autonomy for the Serbian municipalities”.


London stays involved in the West Balkans

UK announced that around 50 military men will participate at supervising the general elections from BIH, on 07.10.2018. The announce was made by the British Secretary of Defence, Gavin Williamson, during the recent reunion of the defence ministers from the NATO states, from Bruxelles (08.06.2018), the British official saying that the adopted decision has the purpose to avoid any “malign foreign influence” and also to assure “free and correct” general elections in BIH.


More often, the British officials send messages to the international community and especially to EU, assuring that the Brexit will not affect the involving of the Great Britain for over 20 years in the West Balkans. In this way, the last decisions adopted by the British leaders confirm the high level of credibility that the United Kingdom has in the defence, security and stability area. Probably, the British military that will participate at the elections supervising will be prepared in the intelligence area.


That being said, it is important to remark the reaction of the Russian ambassador in BIH, Piotr Ivantov, and especially of the Serbian president, Milorad Dodik, the two criticizing the Great Britain for its intervention in the electoral process that will take place in the entities of the BIH.


Bosnia and Herzegovina citizens do not trust the future of their country

On 19.06.2019 the International Republican Institute (IRI-Washington, DC 20005) offered the public the results of a new poll made in BIH, in which it is showed that the majority of the citizens are pessimist regarding the future of the country, and in the same time, the poll shows that there are big vulnerabilities against the external influence.

The Regional Deputy Director in Europe, Paul McCarthy, highlighted that the: „combined pessimism, concerns about the security country and the assurance that the ethnical nationalism it is an extremism character” is disturbing, adding that “there is the danger that these feelings to be influenced by the illiberal forces from the inside or the outside the country, to increase the extremism, in these circumstances being essential that BIH take some precautions to see the issues that activates these kind of negative attitudes”.

The results are:

-around 86% of the citizens think their country goes in the wrong direction, meanwhile only 9% think that BIH goes in the right one;

- 53% think that the country’s security is unsatisfying, 42% of them thinking that the ethnic nationalism if the most known type of extremism;

-the study shows also that the majority of the respondents support the European and euro-Atlantic institutions, 56% support the accession to NATO and 75% to EU. Meanwhile 48% from the BIH citizens think Russia should play an important role in the European security, only 28% think that the US should be involved in the European security.

In these circumstances, Paul McCarthy added that “the comments of the Bosnian citizens regarding the western institutions and Russia show that they could be influenced by Kremlin”, also saying that” it is vital that the trans-Atlantic structures to invest more in BIH, to be sure that the country stays on a democratic and European trajectory”.

As 57% of those who responded to the poll show, the biggest problem that BIH is facing is the high rate of the dole and corruption, bribery, the law level of the economy, the reduced salaries and pensions, politicians, and politics parties are among the 5 biggest issues that BIH is facing (41% are unhappy regarding the actual policy in BIH- 27% of the Serbian Bosnians, 46% Serbian Muslims, and 48% of the Croatian Bosnians). Around 35% of the ones that answered the poll think that organized crime is the biggest threat against the security of BIH, followed by the conflicts between the religious groups and the ethnic ones. Regarding their preferences for international actors, 21% of the BIH citizens were for Turkey actors, the importance of this state being seen as positive by BIH. Next after these preferences is the Russian Federation with 20%, the US with 13% and the South Arabia with only 10%.

As we can see, these preferences show the division of the ethnic and religious groups, as 76% of the Muslim Bosnians stand for Turkey, 77% of the Bosnian Serbians preferring the Russian Federation, and 40% from the Bosnian Croatians preferring the US.

As 37% of the respondents say, the lack of economic opportunities and the high level of poverty are seen as the main reason why some people leave the country for entering terrorists’ groups that are fighting on foreign states, and 49% of the respondents see their return as a threat against the security.

The lack of economic opportunities, the fragility of the political system and the ethnical and religious tensions from the army conflicts led to the collapse of the ex-Yugoslavia and represent the main factors that contributed in creating a tensioned and unhappy climate in BIH, which transformed this region in the West Balkan in the main target in propaganda actions, made by inside or outside the country actors, whose main role is to stop BIH to accession NATO and EU. The BIH citizens are still confronting a lack of understanding the true dimension of the bad external influence and the extremism. The problems of this area are often the target of the speculation, manipulation, misinformation and confusion, all with the purpose of making difficult the constructive, efficient and effective approach of the issues that BIH is confronting with these days.

In these circumstances, solving economic and social issues that increases the pessimism and the insecurity feelings of the Bosnian citizens, demand the development of cooperation and a reconciliation between the three main ethnic groups (the Bosnian Serbians, the Bosnian Croatians and the muslin Bosnians). Even so, there are low chances to make this process possible quickly, considering the influences from the in or out the country “actors” on the ethic and religious tensions in the region. As a consequence, it is really important that the ones in charge with the decisions of BIH to keep in contact with the international “actors” that want the stability of the region and the integration of BIH in the European and euro-Atlantic structures, so that the country can have, finally, the peace and prosperity that al the BIH citizens want to achieve.


Opportunity for the West Balkans researchers

On 13.06.2018, in Bruxelles, was set up the meeting of the West Balkans Work Group for Research and Development. The participants discussions were focused on the possible participation of the West Balkans at the “Horizon Europe” program, this being linked with the proposal that the European Committee made to finance around 100 billion euros for research and innovation programs for 7 years (2021-2027). Vanja Ivosevic, the main expert of the RCC (Regional Cooperation Council) for Ability and Mobility, was really pleased  hearing about the proposal of having an augmented bugdet for sharing the excellence during the „Horizon Europe” program.  


In these circumstances, we have to remark that the RCC presented the conclusions of the questionnaire that was sent at 5 focus points of the EURAXESS, in the West Balkans region, noticing that the main challenges that EURAXESS is facing are:

  • A small number of researchers are using EURAXESS sites and services;
  • There is also a reduced number of national institutions that is publishing available positions on the EURAXESS site;
  •  The Reduced capacities of the EURAXESS offices;

Regarding attracting foreign researchers in the West Balkans region, the EURAXESS offices identified as challenges the reduced attractivity for the region researchers positions (due to the insufficient developed research infrastructure that is reducing the probability of reaching the excellence level in research), and also the irreconcilability between the work conditions and tax systems and health assurance, and the standards in this area from another states, especially the standards that EU states have.

EURAXESS contact points agreed to prepare a common plan of training, to increase the West Balkans EURAXESS centers capacity, and to face together the challenges. This plan is about to be launched in September 2018, by the RCC centers that have EURAXESS in the region.

“Horizon Europe” is a key instrument that allows the West Balkans researchers to collaborate with high research institutions from the EU states. However, the low-level development of the economy in the West Balkans states provokes a series of challenges regarding their capacity of being at the level of the EU member states that have superior research systems, well financed and that are reaching the excellence level.

Having said that, we can appreciate the attitude of the six West Balkans entities leaders, that admitted the importance of the mobility in the regions, but also the importance of the researcher’s mobility in the region, considering the mobility pillar from the Multiannual Plan of action regarding the regional economic space (MAP REA). These committed themselves to erase by the end of 2020 the obstacles that make impossible the mobility of the researchers in the region. Such attitude could accelerate the implementation process in the West Balkans of the European standards from the research area and reaching the excellence level, that could also positively influence the accession to EU.