Norway’s involvement in the Western Balkans

The countries of the Western Balkans are still undergoing major economic, political and social restructuring and reform processes. Reforms have been initiated in all the countries, but they are politically controversial, and considerable forces are still attempting to obstruct the Euro-Atlantic integration process. Although the potential for conflict is declining in the Western Balkans as a whole, there is still a risk of conflict and political unrest.

The Thessaloniki summit in June 2003 confirmed the EU’s willingness to intensify its efforts to draw the countries of the Western Balkans more closely into the European integration process. The Western Balkan countries have been given the prospect of closer cooperation with the EU and of possible membership in the future. The EU Stabilisation and Association Process has been revitalised with respect to the individual countries in the region. At the same time, the EU is taking increasing responsibility for international operations, including EU police mission EUPM in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the EU military operation ALTHEA, which replaced SFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The challenges in the Western Balkans are thus a driving force behind the further development of the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy. Norway considers it important to contribute to Euro-Atlantic integration and cooperation to promote stability and democratisation in the countries of the region and in the region as a whole. High priority is given to institution-building and concrete reform in connection with the implementation of the EU Stabilisation and Association Process.

Norway allocated NOK 750 million (approximately EUR 95 million) to measures in the Western Balkans in 2005, and is maintaining the same level of support in 2006. Norwegian assistance primarily targets key reform and development processes taking place in the region, and focuses increasingly on democracy-building measures, long-term capacity- and institution-building, and private sector development. Norway’s humanitarian efforts are chiefly aimed at mine clearance and measures to assist refugees, internally displaced persons and vulnerable groups (children, the elderly and the infirm), and are directed towards the areas of greatest need at any given time. Every effort will be made to ensure that these measures pave the way for sustainable return. There is still a need for extensive mine clearance programmes in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Croatia. Mine clearance here is in line with the Mine Ban Convention, and it improves the conditions for private sector development and refugee return.

A substantial amount of assistance is devoted to reform of the police and justice and home affairs sector in the countries of the Western Balkans. These projects include police training, advice, and assistance with reform processes. Priority is given to the fight against international organised crime, with a special focus on corruption and trafficking in women and children. The cooperation with the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and the Police on seconding police and legal advisers from the Crisis Response Pool will continue. It is important to support measures aimed at increasing the countries’ cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and at facilitating the transfer of ICTY cases to national courts. Norway will continue to devote significant efforts to defence reform, including strengthened civilian control of military and intelligence forces, and to facilitating demobilisation. Cooperation has been established in the educational sector bilaterally with Montenegro, and at the regional level through the Norwegian Council for Higher Education and the Research Council of Norway. Support is given to transfers of expertise in the agricultural and forestry and the environmental protection sectors. Special attention is given to measures that reinforce the peace processes in the region, and to efforts to promote inter-ethnic dialogue and reconciliation processes. Measures targeting children, young people and women are also given priority. The measures include efforts to promote human rights, by strengthening local NGOs and authorities such as ombudsman institutions.

Norwegian project assistance to the Western Balkans is channelled mainly through Norwegian NGOs, Norwegian government institutions, the UN system and other multilateral actors. The Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe is also an important channel and framework for project assistance.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs   |   Share on your network   |   print