On behalf of the Intelligence College in Europe (ICE), from 6 to 10 February 2023 the Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA) hosted a session on security processes and challenges in the Western Balkans (WB) and their impact on Europe. 30 participants from 14 ICE member countries joined the session in Zagreb to reflect on the security in South East Europe from several different perspectives and on current challenges facing this area.
The session was organized in cooperation with the Faculty of Political Sciences and the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Zagreb and in addition to speakers from SOA and the faculties, participants also heard from lecturers from the Office of the President of the Republic of Croatia, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, the Office of the National Security Council, the VERN’ University, the University Department of Forensic Sciences in Split, the Croatian Military and Police Academies and a representative of EU INTCEN.
On the first day, the participants were welcomed by SOA Director, Mr. Daniel Markić, and they were familiarized with the political situation in the WB, the history and relationships that define it, with specific features of this area and how they impact WB countries’ EU perspective. The WB is known to be an area undergoing constant transition and adjustment and a bridge, as well as crossroads, between the main geopolitical actors. The main challenges to the WB countries’ transition process include political instability, ubiquitous corruption, inter-ethnic tension, strong organised crime, autocratic tendencies and limited human rights. Throughout history, these impeding factors have kept the WB area under foreign influence.
The lack of political, economic and security consolidation in WB countries “enables” non-Western countries to exert their influence and pursue their strategic interests in the area.
Extremism, terrorism, organised crime and illegal migrations are the principal risk factors affecting the security and stability of the WB, and they may directly affect the security and trends across Europe as well.
The session especially focused on illegal migrations and the impact of the Balkan route on European security. The issue of illegal migrations in Europe raises concerns for national, economic and social security and its resolution warrants an international approach.
The participants heard about Croatia’s strategic goals for the region: stability and prosperity, EU and NATO membership and social, state and institutional reforms. Croatia supports the EU enlargement process in the WB, contributes to preparations and accession negotiations and provides political assistance to finding solutions both on the EU level but also with individual WB country candidates. Overall, this ICE session showed how important the WB area is in terms of position, security processes and challenges and how they directly impact Europe’s security. That is why Croatia believes that, with the help of the EU and the West, the WB countries’ transition will be a successful step forward on their way to Euro-Atlantic integration.