III. Regional Program--Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe
The Stability Pact is an important component of U.S. cooperation with the European Union (EU) to promote peace and stability in Southeastern Europe (SEE) and to further integrate the region into European and trans-Atlantic institutions. Since it was launched in the summer of 1999, the Pact has served as an important vehicle for fostering regional cooperation, and as a mechanism for coordinating international assistance and for encouraging continued Western European focus on the region. Since the Pact's inception, more than $6 billion in assistance has been provided to the region, over 90 percent of which was pledged by European countries.
The Pact's activities are organized under three Working Tables: Table I - Democratization and Human Rights; Table II - Economics, Investment, and Infrastructure Development; and Table III - Security, Law Enforcement, Anti-corruption, Organized Crime, and Trafficking in Persons.
Several USG Agencies implement programs that contribute directly or indirectly to the objectives of one or more Stability Pact initiatives. In FY 2003, while only about $7 million from the SEED Regional Budget was allocated in direct support of Stability Pact initiatives, much more was contributed from the individual SEED-country budgets and through the AID-administered regional budget. SEED-funded programs that contributed directly to Stability Pact activities focused on the following main areas: Working Table I (local democracy and cross-border cooperation, media, reconciliation, and education); Working Table II (Sava River initiative, energy, infrastructure, trade cooperation, improvement in investment climate, and e-commerce); and Working Table III (combating trafficking in persons, the fight against organized crime and corruption, and disaster prevention and preparedness). Virtually all Stability Pact programs are supported by multiple donors, with the U.S. often playing a minor role.
Working Table I: Democracy and Human Rights
Through USG assistance activities both within and outside the Stability Pact framework, the U.S. has carried out many programs to help promote democracy in SEE. The four priorities under Working Table I are local democracy and cross-border cooperation, support for free media, parliamentary cooperation, and education and youth.
Local Democracy: In FY 2003, SEED support for Table I focused on developing cross-border cooperation with local governments and civil society in critical border areas, with special focus on border security, visa regimes, trafficking, and economic development. SEED has supported the development of a network of women parliamentary leaders, who will share experience and skills. Further details on SEED support to the Media and Education and Youth Task Forces follow below:
Media: Through its assistance to the Media Task Force, the U.S. has helped bring media legislation and implementation in line with international standards, and has contributed to regional co-production programs in news and public affairs. The U.S. has supported production of over 30 hours of quality TV documentary productions on issues such as corruption and ethnic reconciliation. In addition, U.S. funding has strengthened domestic media watchdog organizations.
Education and Youth: The Education and Youth Task Force, a platform of almost 40 members (experts, representatives of countries, NGOs, and associations from different countries), deals with six priority areas for education reform: policy development and system improvement, higher education, vocational education and training, young people, education for democratic citizenship and management of diversity, and history and history teaching. With funding from the U.S. and other European donors, the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation organized a series of four workshops for young leaders from different ethnic and religious groups to help the participants understand the meaning of civic participation and the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a democracy, by devising their own inter-ethnic civic projects. In FY 2003, the Joint History Teaching project continued, providing updated History Teaching Packets on Balkan History translated into 10 languages, as well as workshops for primary and secondary school teachers using the new materials. Through the School Connectivity Project, 15 secondary schools throughout the U.S. have been connected via Internet to about 80 schools in SEE states. Teachers and students can increase their understanding of shared history, citizenship, and tolerance through the use of technology and collaborative Internet communication, creating shared projects with peers in other countries. In addition, through the Stability Pact, SEED provided funding to enable governments of Balkan countries to open up their heretofore-secret historical archives to scholars and historians.
Working Table II: Economic Reconstruction and Development
The main priorities under Working Table II are trade liberalization and facilitation, fostering private investment, and regional infrastructure and environment (including e-commerce). SEED funds have been used to directly support all of these.
Trade Facilitation: The Commercial Law and Development Program (CLDP) of the Department of Commerce ($2.1 million) has been instrumental in helping SEE countries to cooperate to reduce barriers to trade and investment, while building mechanisms necessary for increased international and regional trade and investment. Its work has contributed significantly to the development of a regional network of 21 Free Trade Agreements (FTA), which will enlarge the regional market to 55 million consumers, creating better conditions for private investment and economic growth and facilitating the longer-term integration of the SEE countries into EU structures. In FY 2003, CLDP continued its technical assistance to ensure implementation of the FTA's, conformation with WTO rules, and work toward elimination of non-tariff barriers. CLDP also trained officials in drafting regulations and provided judicial training to ensure that laws and regulations are enforced. The CLDP added training for customs officials and worked with ministry representatives on conformation to international standards and certifications. CLDP continued its work with local American Chambers of Commerce to focus on how AmChams can better represent their members with their respective governments. Through CLDP, a technical expert was provided to help the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina with its WTO accession process.
The Investment Compact: The U.S. has supported the implementation of the Stability Pact's Investment Compact for Reform, Investment, Integrity, and Growth. The Investment Compact's (IC) objective is to lay the economic and structural policy foundations for sustained growth and development in SEE. The Investment Compact has continued its targeted strategy of calling on the countries of the region to commit to a number of specific policy actions that will result in an improved investment climate within a limited period of time. The peer review and the monitoring mechanism built into the Investment Compact have been instrumental in keeping SEE governments focused on the necessary economic reforms. The development of local Foreign Investors Councils has strengthened private sector involvement in the reform process and has brought constructive, practical advice. The first Regional Network of Foreign Investors Councils was held in Belgrade, in December 2003. Romania has taken the role of co-chair of the Investment Compact, a first step in gaining more active buy-in from the region. In addition, the IC is planning increased cooperation with Stability Pact Working Groups on Trade and on Anti-Corruption.
E-SEE: The E-Southeast Europe (E-SEE) initiative's main objective is to promote the development of an information society in the region and help governments to harmonize laws and policies in areas such as telecommunications, Internet regulation, and e-commerce. Through CLDP, FY 2003 SEED funds were used to help the SEE countries develop common policies on the Information Society.
Infrastructure: USAID provided valued assistance in the infrastructure field under its Energy and Regional Infrastructure projects. Please see the AID chapter for additional details.
Sava River: Using SEED funds, the U.S. provided critical legal and technical expertise and secretariat support, through the Stability Pact, to the Sava River riparian states to create a framework for negotiating and concluding an International Framework Agreement to reopen navigation and protect the environment and natural resources of the Sava River Basin. Representatives of the four countries (Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia and Montenegro) are pursuing the ratification process to establish the International Sava River Commission, which will provide a process for reopening navigation, establishing sustainable water management and disaster prevention (floods, spills, drought, etc.).
Working Table III (Security and Defense/Justice and Home Affairs)
Initiatives under Working Table III are divided into two sub-tables: "Security and Defense" and "Justice and Home Affairs." SEED funds have been used to help implement initiatives under each of these sub-tables.
Security and Defense
The U.S. priorities under this sub-table relate primarily to the reduction of surplus small arms/light weapons in the region and disaster preparedness and prevention. During FY 2003, the U.S. provided $500,000 (of the total $1.68 million committed by other donor states) toward the development of an incinerator project to destroy almost 12,000 tons of small arms ammunition in Albania. In addition, the U.S. provided $100,000 to fund a public awareness campaign in the region to encourage the return of weapons in private hands. Under the Small Arms-Light Weapons (SALW) Initiative, the Stability Pact has succeeded in collecting almost 303,000 weapons and destroying more than 585,000 weapons throughout the region, through mid-2003.
Disaster Preparedness and Prevention: SEE is prone to natural disasters that transcend borders or overwhelm the capacity of a single country to cope. As the level of preparedness to deal with these threats varies from country to country and regional cooperation does not exist to the extent needed, the Stability Pact's Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Initiative (DPPI) provides a framework for developing regional cooperation. In concert with contributions from the governments of Switzerland and Norway, the U.S. provided $300,000 in SEED funds in FY 2003 to fund the operations of a two-person expert DPPI Secretariat and support a number of specific projects. A Joint Fire-Fighting Unit (JFFU) is being established to include BiH, Croatia, and Serbia and Montenegro to develop rapid, cross-border procedures to facilitate a joint response capability in case of emergency. In 2003, a Joint Fire-Fighting Management Team and eight Fire-Fighting Teams were trained and preparations were made to purchase interoperable fire-fighting equipment for the JFFU. The DPPI also conducted 14 training events and seven management courses in support of its Disaster Management Training Project for Southeastern Europe. It also has developed an effective consultative and coordination mechanism in fostering regional disaster preparedness and prevention.
Justice and Home Affairs
The U.S. is pursuing three main priorities under this sub-table: the fight against organized crime and corruption, migration and asylum (including trafficking in persons), and law enforcement/institution building. FY 2003 SEED funds have been used to support implementation of initiatives under the first two priority areas.
Organized Crime: The Stability Pact Initiative to fight Organized Crime (SPOC) was designed to strengthen regional capacities to combat organized crime, in accordance with internationally recognized standards. The Initiative focuses on adopting policies, strategies and legislation; developing multi-disciplinary, inter-agency co-ordination mechanisms; encouraging the establishment of specialized units; and enhancing regional and international co-operation. In FY 2003, the U.S. provided $70,000 in SEED funds to support the organization and operation of the SPOC Secretariat, which is co-located in Bucharest, Romania, with the Regional Center to Combat Trans-border Crime, a Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI) initiative. In addition to creating awareness of the SPOC through public relations, the SPOC Secretariat is tasked with advancing the development of legislation in the region aimed at facilitating witness protection and allowing for the processing and protection of personal data for law enforcement investigations.
Anti-Corruption: The Stability Pact's Anti-Corruption Initiative (SPAI) is based on four principles of action to develop institutional mechanisms and lay the foundations for the sustained fight against corruption in SEE: country ownership, regional cooperation, civil society involvement, and international coordination. Since the Iniative's inception, there has been significant progress. All countries in the region have signed the SPAI Anti-Corruption Compact, committing to specific actions to fight corruption, including working closely with civil society on reform. All countries have appointed Senior Representatives to oversee implementation of the Compact and have developed National Action Plans to combat corruption. In FY 2003, the U.S. committed $500,000 in SEED funds to support country-specific anti-corruption projects and the relocation of the SPAI Secretariat Office to the region. At its September 2003 meeting, the SPAI Steering Group approved the establishment of the SPAI Regional Secretariat Liaison Office (RSLO) in Sarajevo, under the sponsorship of the Bosnian Government. The RSLO will gradually assume the secretariat functions provided by the OECD and Council of Europe, thus fostering the U.S. priority of promoting regional ownership and leadership of this initiative.
Trafficking in Persons Task Force: Led by an Austrian expert, the Stability Pact's Task Force on Trafficking in Persons has prepared a multi-year strategy to promote international coordination and avoid duplication of efforts, identify sustainable solutions, and focus activities on the most urgent aspects of the trafficking problem in SEE. Countries of the region, with help from the Task Force, have taken major steps toward developing anti-trafficking policies. All have set up national working groups, nominated governmental coordinators, developed National Plans of Action, and approved an initiative to grant legal status and temporary residence to trafficking victims to aid in the prosecution of traffickers. In FY 2003, the U.S. provided $400,000 in SEED funds for projects (training, legislative reform, safe houses) to spur the development of anti-trafficking policies in the region.
Migration, Asylum, Refugees Return Initiative: The Migration, Asylum, Refugees Regional Initiative (MARRI) seeks to achieve a solution to the issue of population movements in the Western Balkans by promoting closer regional cooperation and a comprehensive, integrated, and coherent approach to the related issues of asylum, migration, border management, visa policies, and refugee return and settlement.
Under its Program of Action, the MARRI is developing a number of projects aimed at reaching lasting solutions to the problems of displacement in the Western Balkans. The proposed projects cover areas such as regional dialogue on migration/ asylum/refugees; capacity building and training with a regional and integrated focus; information exchange and better access to documentation; targeted cooperation among source, transit, and destination countries to reduce irregular migration; data exchange; housing; and closure of collective centers related to refugee return and settlement. A major strategic objective is to focus more on issues of freedom of movement, citizenship, and non-discriminatory access to rights.
The U.S. has contributed a total of $160,000 to the MARRI in FY 2002/2003 funds for support for a regional information exchange and for workshops on refugee and asylum issues.