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Discussion: Lack of transparency a common problem in defence sector in Western Balkan

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BELGRADE – In defence sector, Croatia remains the most transparent in all areas, followed by Montenegro, while Albania can be described as the least transparent, due to the least disaggregated budget and the Ministries of Defence website not working, it is one of the conclusions of this-year Balkan Defence Monitor report published by Belgrade Center for Security Policy (BCSP).

When it comes to financial information, the report shows that budgets of the ministries of defence, as parts of annual national budgets, can be found on the governments’ websites of all six countries.

„However, these budgets differ to a large extent, with Croatian being the most and Albanian the least transparent, judging by criteria such as the level of disaggregation and references to specific procurement projects. While information about donations cannot always be easily accessed, all ministries are somewhat responsive to requests for access to public information“, the report stated.

The report shows that strategic documents are generally accessible, with certain exceptions which are classified as secret as in the case of Serbia, or when they cannot be obtained via research, like with some documents from Albania and Montenegro.

However, the BCBP researcher Vuk Vuksanović pointed out during the discussion “Walking the (Barb)wire: Balkans Between the War and Peace”, that none of the Western Balkan countries has yet adopted a defence strategy, the doctrinal pillar of a country’s security policy.

He said that in most countries in the region, the process of creating strategic documents and their implementation is often a painful bureaucratic process. Vuksanović added that the main consequence of not adopting such documents is that citizens have no idea what governments are planning to do.

“The fact that non of the Western Balkan countries have adopted a security strategy in the context of the war in Ukraine means that there is not so much debate about security policy in society or state administration “, Vukasnović underlines.

Andreja Stojkovski, Executive Director and researcher at Prespa Institute, said during the event that the Ministry of Defense of North Macedonia is recognized as the most transparent ministry in the government. He said that the National Defense Strategy and Security strategy of North Macedonia is outdated, but that institution started to work on their updating.

„List of legal and strategic documents will be elaborated through this process. Experts from civil society will participate in this process“, Stojkoviski said.

He emphasized that a special part of these documents will tackle with disinformation because even though North Macedonia has aligned with EU sanctions against Russia, the citizens are still largely exposed to Russian propaganda.

Arjan Dyrmishi, Executive Director at Center for the Study of Democracy and Governance,  said that the lowest transparency is present in the defence sector in Albania. He added that low transparency is not only a problem in the defence sector but is a practice in the Albanian administration in general. According to Dyrmishi, the big problem in administration is corruption and the pressure on investigative journalists who request data from institutions.

Regarding strategic documents, he said they were adopted and contained some priorities.

„However, the problem of strategic documents in the defence field in Albania has often been coherence. For example, you can find completely different definitions of threats in different documents”, Dirmishi said.

He concluded that if you want to think strategically, threats should not change in the short term but should be defined in a long time.

 The Balkan Defence Monitor is a research project that was launched by the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) to collect data and analyse key information about defence policies in the six countries of the Western Balkans region (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia) and Croatia.

The initial Balkan Defence Monitor of 2022 was a pilot research project (it was completed in 2022), and this report represents its continuation. Just like the previous one, it provides an overview of the annual defence expenditures, key strategic documents, international military cooperation (military exercises, military donations and participation in peace missions) and representation of women in the defence sectors of the six selected countries. The new report however includes transparency in the defence sector as another area of analysis.

Ambassador of Canada to Serbia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia Giles Norman assesses that this Balkan Defence Monitor is more important than ever before, due to the war in Ukraine and the fact that the region of the Western Balkans is exposed to Russian disinformation.

 

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