New Sarajevo-based organization prepares to replace Stability Pact

The Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) was set up by a decision of the foreign ministers’ summit of the Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP) in February 2008 in Sofia. The Council is slated to replace the Stability Pact for SE Europe, which followed the Balkan wars of the 1990s. The new institution, based in Sarajevo, aspires to become the first regional forum of its kind, its secretary-general, Croatian diplomat Hido Biscevic, told Kathimerini. The challenge is sizable, since the member states must cooperate without the benefit of international mediation. Biscevic is nonetheless optimistic, believing this cooperation to be possible while realizing the problems and understanding the sensitivity of the issue. Nonetheless, Biscevic urges the region to get in step with the new global reality, observing that the combative view of international relations is a thing of the past and that Russo-European relations are at present excellent, favoring closer and more constructive relations between Southeast European states. The region’s countries must rid themselves of historical baggage, through long-term planning and ambitious visions. Would you please give us an outline of what is happening at the RCC and its specific goals? In which way will it differ from the Stability Pact that it will replace? At the moment, the RCC is in the final stages of its operational setup. The office in Sarajevo is quite a busy place these days – staff and officials are assuming their new duties, the office is taking shape with a new communication system and equipment. It feels like a pioneering task because, for the first time ever, the countries of Southeastern Europe have decided to establish their own framework of cooperation. For the first time ever, it is genuine regional ownership, and not paternalism from the outside. It is neither Versailles nor Yalta – and this is where I come to the difference with the Stability Pact. The Stability Pact was a valuable tool for overcoming the immediate postwar frustrations in the Bal-kans, but it was also perceived as something coming more from Brussels, or rather from the capitals of Europe, than as genuine interest from the countries of the region. Political classes in the region accepted it, but they were still victims of the circumstances and political atmosphere in their own countries. Now, almost two decades after the collapse of the former security and stability architecture in Southeastern Europe, the time has come to take the helm in our own hands. It is now all about maturity. The underlying question is whether the countries of Southeastern Europe are capable of taking their destiny in their own hands. My firm answer is – yes, they are. If for nothing else, then for the fact that we can benefit from the richness and diversity of our own relations and the relations between each individual Southeast European country with Euro-Atlantic institutions. Would you consider the RCC to be a political presence in the southeastern region or an opportunity for greater economic cooperation among member states? The RCC is, of course, a political fact of life, a new one. Its very establishment at the summit of the Southeast European Cooperation Process in Zagreb, in May last year, was a reflection of the political decision that the time had come to take over from the Stability Pact. But, at the same time, the RCC is not a direct political stakeholder in the region. It is an operational arm of the SEECP – the countries of the region at their annual summits or ministerial meetings decide about their priority agenda, and the RCC steps in as an operational body. In that sense, the RCC is more of a project-oriented and economic development-focused body than a political forum. It is not the task of the RCC to deal with Kosovo or any other status issue in the region, but I would hope that through the good achievements of the RCC in sustaining the economic and social development of the region, we can contribute to creating a more conducive atmosphere for resolving even the most difficult issues.

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