Kosovo Not Expected to be Major Theme at SEECP Meeting on March 11

Kosovo Not Expected to be Major Theme at SEECP Meeting on March 11

The head of the Defence Ministry's International Cooperation Directorate Yordan Bozhilov said he does not expect Kosovo to be a major topic during the meeting of Southeast European Defence Ministers to take place in Sofia on March 11.

The meeting is part of the events of Bulgaria's presidency of Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP), due to end in May, BTA reports.

No Kosovo representatives have been invited as it is not yet part of the SEECP, and we see no possibility of inviting any at this stage, Bozhilov said. "The Kosovo problem has many aspects - political, economic, cultural - and I hope the matter does not affect defence issues, as do all countries in the region," he said.

Hido Biscevic, the newly-elected head of the Council for Regional Cooperation (CRC), will attend and inform Ministers of his views on the cooperation, which the CRC will coordinate.

The CRC will not have the highly-developed structure of the Security Pact (whose duties it inherits), so each country will have to develop its own priorities, Bozhilov said.

The main aim of the March 11 meeting will be to discuss the three initiatives created by the Stability Pact: the Regional Arms Control Verification and Implementation Assistance Center (RACVIAC, based in Zagreb), the South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC, based in Belgrade) and the Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Initiative (DPPI).

Bulgaria will point out the similarity of the transformations being carried out by all countries in the region, and that security is no longer measured by the sizes of armies but by the level of cooperation and trust, Bozhilov said. He added that Bulgaria will propose that the various structures and approaches are not doubled up, but that the countries share resources for real cooperation. He expressed his hope that the meeting can conclude with an as closely-knit position among all the participants as possible.

Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev is expected to attend the meeting, which will take place at Sofia's National Palace of Culture.

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