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          • Year: 2003
          • The Public Image of Security, Defence and the Military in Central and Eastern Europe

          • Marie Vlachová (ed), The Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces and the Centre for Civil-MIlitary Relations, Belgrade, 2003

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          The case studies in this book examine how the publics in some post-communist European countries reacted to recent security challenges such as NATO enlargement, the forging of a European Security and Defence Policy and reforms of national armed forces. Security has never been a prominent topic of public opinion polls both in Western and Eastern Europe, mainly because complex politico-military issues were not considered fully eligible for public scrutiny. The marginal character of security in the European post-Cold War context also contributed to the relatively small attention politicians paid to public evaluation of security. But by the end of the millennium the situation had changed. With the emergence of international terrorism public acceptance of political security decisions began to gain more importance. The completion of the transformation of post-communist security forces, the shift from conscript to all-volunteer militaries, new challenges of the European rapid-reaction forces cannot be achieved without persistent public support, especially when any increase of national security budgets comes into question. More then ever before public opinion represents a strategic component of any decision-making.

          The European countries of transition from totalitarian to democratic regimes have been in Geneva DCAF’s focus from its very foundation. This book introduces another chapter of the transition - public attitudes toward the changes in security and defence policies in order to reveal the trends in achievement of a balance between political decision-making and public views. It adds to a number of other studies, concentrating on the various stages of transformation in defence and security matters in the Eastern part of Europe. Inevitably, collecting case studies on public opinion polls in security from 12 countries met with some constraints, the first of them being caused by the very nature of public opinion.

          Eleven case studies from Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine, Russia, Slovenia, Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Romania were included in the edited volume, covering Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe. The selection has been oriented mainly to the countries of the first and second waves of NATO enlargement, with special interest to the members of the Stability Pact for South East Europe. Of course, only countries where polls on representative samples had been carried out by a professional agencies guaranteeing reliability and validity of data could be included in the volume. Although we did not manage to gain studies of all the countries planned, the choice of our case studies has been quite representative, providing for a good overview around the Eastern part of Europe. Switzerland has been included as well, not only as a tribute to DCAF’s motherland, but mainly because of a long-term and rich experience in polling on defence and security issues. The Swiss case cannot be considered a model for the countries in transition, since its political and military system has been unique, not only in Europe, but all over the world. But Karl Haltiner’s analysis offers a fascinating view on the different, sometimes even contradictory attitudes of politicians and citizens to security, and the ways they are slowly but steadily balanced within the Swiss political system. Although rather exclusive from the geographical scope of the book’s studies, the Swiss case does make sense in a volume devoted to national publics’ perceptions of security.

          The most precious public opinion results arise from trend analyses, investigating the process of creation of an opinion; unfortunately, such surveys are very demanding from the point of financing, investment of time and expertise. In this volume, two trend analyses have been included: the chapter on public opinion on defence policy in the countries of the European Union by Philippe Manigart, and the study on NATO membership in aspiring countries by Alina Zilberman and Stephen Webber. Within the context of public opinion in the European countries in transition they represent additional information, giving the South Eastern European region an all-European dimension, even if only in specific issues of NATO and ESDP. They may also serve as an example of how much profit can be made from a longitudinal trend analysis. The minimum framework of topics covered by data from national polls consists of the following issues:

          1. perception of threats, especially from the point of view of 9/11

          2. attitudes to NATO and the EU

          3. trust of security institutions

          4. acceptance of various roles of armed forces (non-military, territorial, international, regime-defence, etc)

          5. opinion about the progress of defence reform

          6. views on change in armed forces’ formats

          7. attitudes to the military profession.

          The book is dedicated to scholars concerned with the sociological analysis of societies in transition, as well as to political practitioners, who design new security and defence policies, and who are concerned with issues of public opinion. In spite of the restrictions mentioned, the editor hopes the book will contribute to an increase of knowledge about security and defence issues in Europe, specifically in the countries in transition.

          Marie Vlachová

        • Tags: public, public opinion, europe, military, armed forces, defense
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