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          To turn the popular phrase upside-down, we can say that, at this moment, for Serbia and Montenegro no news is bad news. For some time already, this country has been experiencing unique, post-conflict and post-authoritarian transitional challenges and we could claim that 2006 may propel some of these challenges into risks and even into serious security threats. Within the context of the weak democratic government in Belgrade facing some nearly insurmountable economic and political issues, we shall here enumerate only four security challenges. These include the two basic challenges that may remain for an unpredictable period of time: the slow and unsatisfactory security sector reform (mostly concentrated on the army reform) and the Kosovo status. The other two challenges that - on an almost daily basis - may bring abrupt changes in the security situation, include the Serbian failure to fulfil its international obligations and the potential tensions after the referendum in Montenegro. In the end, an idea for a possible happy ending of this murky scenario will be offered.


          1. Slow and unsatisfactory security sector reform in Serbia and Montenegro


          The continued existence of unsatisfactorily reformed armed forces that are not under proper democratic civilian control, hampers the whole security sector reform. The facts and figures relating to the changes that have already been made are generally well-known and widely accessible. Here, only the most important benchmarks are mentioned, while the standards which have not been met yet are underlined.


          A. Political and legal framework of security sector reform has not been completed.


          - Defence Stategy - was adopted in November 2004, formulating the general options for the country’s defence and security, and identifying the new challenges such as regional instability and terrorism.


          - The White Book of Defence of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro - was presented to the public in April 2005.


          - Strategic Defence Review - has not been completed yet. The document should precisely define the size of the Armed Forces for the coming period, their future tasks, as well as armament and equipment types to be used. The fourth Strategic Defence Review Draft has been completed, but not adopted yet.


          - Military Doctrine - the document was discussed by the Supreme Defence Council, at a meeting held on March 16, 2006 but its adoption was delayed because of some inter-state problems.


          B. It is extremely important that the subordination of the General Staff of the Serbian and Montenegrin Armed Forces (SMAF) to the Ministry of Defence was instituted on May 6, 2003 and is completely functional.


          However, though the process of subordination of the military intelligence to the Ministry of Defence started in 2002, we cannot claim it has been accomplished in a completely transparent procedure and there is no evidence that this subordination is fully functional. Intelligence that is not under proper democratic civilian control presents a serious challenge, but this issue will not be discussed here.


          C. Transformation of the Serbian and Montenegrin Armed Forces has started, and as a benchmark December 2001 can be taken when the Supreme Defence Council decided on the transformation of the Armed Forces into a corps structure. In addition, the Armed Forces are facing serious changes in personnel numbers and the rank structure.


          Here we are talking about the army which will have to dismiss about 700 lieutenant colonels by the end of May 2006 (Source: Magazine "Odbrana", No. 13, April 1, 2006), interview with Zoran Jeftic, Assistant Minister for Human Resources)[2]. This army will have to reduce the number of its servicemen from the present 40,000 to 28,000 by 2007. And it will face further reductions heading for some 21,000 in 2010. So, according to the plans - and certainly pressed by the financial situation and the accepted standards - the reduction will go for some 66%. At this point, more than 70%[3] of the military budget is spent on salaries and pensions while 20% goes for operative costs and only 5% for investments (cited in "Politika" daily, April 2, 2006, interview with Gen. Zdravko Ponos, Deputy Chief of the SMAF General Staff.).



          SMAF - Current Structure


          NATO standards


          Second lieutenants/Captains     44%




          Majors                      13, 1 %




          Ltc.                        38, 9%




          Colonels                    13, 7 %


          1, 6%


          Generals                     0, 3 %


          0, 3%






























          Civil servants









































          All ranks









          E. Democratic civilian control of the Armed Forces is still weak and insufficient.


          1. A proper legal framework is still lacking because the laws listed below are either missing or need further changes: Law on DCAF, Law on the Supreme Defence Council, Law on the Army, Law on Defence, Law on Security Services, Law on Civil Service, Law on Private Security-Related Activities.


          2. Parliamentary control of armed forces is still non-functional due to (a) the relationship between the State Union Assembly and the Serbian National Assembly, and (b) partisan conflicts on both levels.


          3. Public oversight of the armed forces is still weak.


          From the author’s personal point of view, there are now several reform-minded people in the Ministry of Defence of Serbia and Montenegro (SaM) but they do not have wholehearted government support for their reform efforts. Here, we cannot go through the whole list of activities that show the new energy in the Department of International Military Cooperation, the hard work that is being done in the Centre for Peace Operations, which is preparing the servicemen to be sent to the UN missions and getting ready to become the regional training centre. The Ministry of Defence’s Public Relations Department has just been ranked among the best positioned agencies in the country, in regard to the accessibility to the media and public.


          2. The future status of Kosovo


          Discussing any of the decisions that are currently presented as solutions is not the aim of this text. If the word "solution" is understood as a statement or an act that solves the problem, then the present situation - which seems to lack any "win-win" strategy - has to be more carefully addressed.


          As recently discussed at the roundtable held in the Centre for Civil-Military Relations/Belgrade School of Security Studies (more at www.ccmr-bg.org), the dispute is focused on independence, stressing the issues such as sovereignty and territory, while individual rights and needs are completely pushed aside. The Rand Corporation study, also cited in the interview Ambassador Kai Eide has recently given to the BBC, reports that "after the fighting the US and its allies invested 25 times more money and 50 times more troops, on a per capita basis, in Kosovo than in Afghanistan"[4] and yet the international community has not been able to secure even the mere freedom of movement (of non-Albanians) not to mention the rule of law. So, the most important problem, which does not seem to be included in any political agenda, but cannot and should not be ignored by security experts, is: does Belgrade, or Priština, really have the capacity to govern Kosovo, though their questionable capacity derives from different reasons. What should be done is to look for the process that would focus on individuals’ rights and needs.


          Otherwise, no matter which solution is agreed on, there is a huge risk this will mean renewed ethnic tensions and political instability that may lead to violence, particularly in southern Serbia. This will have to be resolved with the assistance and involvement of the international community. Problems such as Kosovo as one of the centres of organized crime and insecurity in Europe, "the domino effect" as a possible consequence of Kosovo independence, the security challenges within Serbia, in terms of the radicalization of the political scene, or the possible spillover of Albanian claims for independence to Macedonia have already been widely discussed.


          What should also be stressed is that the political discourse is not helping in explaining the real situation to the public - both in Serbia and Kosovo, and also in other countries which are concerned with the situation in Kosovo and with the tax money they are hoping is used sufficiently. There are many phrases that are completely untransparent, such as: "more than autonomy, less than independence" (which nobody could understand or explain, the government’s recent clarification notwithstanding, or the internationally widely used phrase "there will be no return to the situation prior to 1999" (which actually is not possible unless somebody invents a time machine), "double standards" (actually a logical fallacy since there is no standard if not consistently applied), or the abuse of the word "solution" for options which are not going to solve any problem, etc. The use of such expressions brings in confusion and can distort the perception of the actual situation in the field. If we want to strengthen the role of the public in the whole security sector reform, if we want the public to understand and take its role in the political process responsibly, particularly facing sensitive issues, then the present situation and future possibilities have to be realistically depicted and transparently explained. Only clear expressions make the dialogue possible.


          3. Failure to fulfil international obligations


          In addition to keeping the SaM back from the Euro-Atlantic integration, the inadequate response by the Government of Serbia to its international obligations in terms of full cooperation with the Hague Tribunal continues to demonstrate that Serbia still fails to come to terms with its recent past.


          Moreover, there is the associated danger of people not feeling motivated to engage in the political process, leaving a vacuum for extremist elements to exploit. Nobody should ignore the fact that, according to the latest polls, there are 1, 5 million undecided voters in Serbia (cited in a CESID survey, "Danas" daily, April 22-24, 2006.) 


          4. Potential tensions after the referendum in Montenegro


          If three states appear from what is presently Serbia and Montenegro, this can certainly bring more security challenges. Political instability and ethnic tensions will be particularly severe if the result of the referendum in Montenegro does not show a clear difference in numbers of those pro and contra the independence.


          However, it is very important that the SaM Minister of Defence and the Chief of General Staff both stated clearly and in public that the SMAF would not interfere with the referendum process no matter whаt its results were (cited from the official MoD website, February 13, 2006).


          5. Happy ending scenario


          It is not impossible to have a happy ending of this grey scenario. Most of the aforementioned issues are expected to be resolved in the near future - point 4 in four weeks, point 3 perhaps in a matter of days, and point 2 probably by the end of 2006. Apart from the problems discussed above, Serbia (Serbia and Montenegro) has a number of security potentials, which can contribute to coping with the internal and regional security. These are:


          ·        This is a country with an important strategic position in the region.


          ·        It is the most populated country in the Western Balkans region. According to the census of December 2002, SaM has 8,118,146 citizens (without Kosovo and Metohija). The population in Serbia (without Kosovo and Metohija) is 7,498,001, while Montenegro has 620,145 citizens (according to the official website of the SaM Ministry of Foreign Affairs.)


          ·        The population presents a favorable combination of experience and education (still working generations with professional and international experiences from the pre-conflict period + young, highly educated generation, speaking foreign languages).


          ·        The professional capacity of the Armed Forces is assessed by international partners as very high (e.g. capacity to participate in peace missions and to cope with other modern security challenges).


          ·        There is an on-going process of normalization and stabilization of relations with the former Yugoslav republics (particularly important with Croatia, if we agree that Serbian/Croatian relationship is a key factor of regional stability).


          ·        The government proclaimed its willingness to cope with the threats that could also endanger regional stability, such as organized crime, corruption, terrorism, trafficking in human beings, money laundering etc.


          ·        Civil society is moderately strong, for at least two reasons: "(former) Yugoslavia’s socialist system conceded niches for a small segment of urban intellectuals and because the protest movement against the Milosevic regime mobilized many citizens, nurturing civic practices" (Brusis, Martin, Serbia and Montenegro: Democratic Consensus Susceptible to Populist Actors, Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1, March 2006, pp. 114).


          However, these factors are not self-sufficient and security capacities of Serbia (Serbia and Montenegro) will strongly depend on the tempo of reforms and consolidation of democracy. 




          [1] Paper presented at the 62nd Rose-Roth Seminar, held in Tirana, Albania on April 24-26, 2006, within the session on The New Security Challenges: The Contribution of the Western Balkans


          [2] There are, for example, 2,432 lieutenant colonels (38,9%) and 1,152 lieutenants (13,7%) in the Serbian and Montenegrin Armed Forces at this moment.


          [3] More than 50% of the military budget is being spent on pensions, which makes the wave of dismissals look bad even to those who will stay in the army.


          [4] http://mondediplo.com/2003/12/10rand 



        • Tags: SSR, Serbia, Montenegro, military, strategic documents, democratic control co, civilan control, Kosovo
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