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Cablegate: Seecp Foreign Ministers: Regional Cooperation And

VZCZCXRO4976
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSF #1185/01 2760644
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 030644Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY SOFIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4367
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 SOFIA 001185

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ECON EAID SR HR EUN MI RO BU GR BK MW YI TU
UNMIK
SUBJECT: SEECP FOREIGN MINISTERS: REGIONAL COOPERATION AND
TRANSITION TO REGIONAL COOPERATION COUNCIL FULLY ON TRACK

Ref: Zagreb 00427

Summary

1. (SBU) Meeting on September 14, SEECP Foreign Ministers and
UNMIK/SRSG renewed their commitment to an operational regional
cooperation agenda, building on the future Regional Cooperation
Council (RCC) and its secretariat in Sarajevo. There was a familiar
discussion of Kosovo, with the group agreeing on the need for the
SEECP and Contact Group troikas to dialogue on the region's concerns
about Kosovo status issues. By signing the RCC headquarters
agreement, the Ministers and UNMIK/SRSG set in motion the process of
formally opening the RCC office in Sarajevo on October 10 and
allowing initial staffing the Secretariat as of January 1, 2008.
There was a consensus to push meaningful regional cooperation on
disaster preparedness and response in view of the past summer's
destructive wildfires and the heavy flooding of 2006. NATO's
importance to the region was also highlighted as Adriatic-3 FMs all
spoke expectantly of NATO membership invitations at the NATO summit
in Bucharest in April. The group opted to leave the question of
possible observer status for Ukraine in a study mode. Stability Pact
Special Coordinator Busek and his team received uniform praise for
the effectiveness of the Pact's work to ensure a smooth transition to
the regionally led RCC framework. Although not discussed openly,
Ministers remain concerned that, after Bulgaria's active SEECP CiO
year (para 12 below) , incoming 2008 CiO Moldova, which lacks clear
EU and NATO accession perspectives, may do less well in sustaining
the regional cooperation momentum generated by the Stability Pact-RCC
transition process. Looking ahead, for their parts, Busek and RCC
Secretary General Biscevic will be seeking to visit Washington in

SIPDIS
January to brief on the transition and the future program of the RCC.
End Summary.


A Meeting on the Move

2. (SBU) The Ministers and UNMIK SRSG Ruecker and guests met on
the former Bulgarian royal train as it made its way from Sofia to
Plovdiv where the seat agreement signing took place. The meeting
consensus: that the regional cooperation agenda, like the royal
train, was very much on track. The meeting was preceded on September
13 by a meeting of SEECP Political Directors, joined with
representatives of the Stability Pact, the EU Presidency, the
European Commission, and Slovenia (as incoming EU President).


FMs: Interest in Dialogue with Contact Group, Coordination on
Disaster Response

3. (SBU) Discussion was largely routine. Bulgarian FM Kalfin opened
the exchange with a focus on Kosovo. He reported on his September 13
meeting with EU troika rep Ischinger, who committed to brief the
SEECP troika on Kosovo developments during the UNGA in New York. On
the Stability Pact-RCC transition, Kalfin led what became a steady
chorus of appreciative statements of the work accomplished by SP
Special Coordinator Busek and the new RCC SecGen Biscevic. Croatian
FM Grabar-Kitarovic argued for regional coordination on disaster
response management as a common SEECP project, without making
specific reference to Croatian PM Sanader's August letter to EC
President Barroso proposing such a center be established in Croatia.
Completing the SEECP Troika interventions, Moldovan FM Stratan
pointed to political dialogue and regional cooperation as upcoming
Moldovan SEECP CiO themes. He welcomed EU involvement and support
given that it enhanced regional cooperation possibilities.

4. (SBU) Beginning his remarks with a weak Hercules Poirot Orient
Express joke, BiH FM Alkalaj argued that having the RCC secretariat
in Sarajevo would help the reform process in BiH. He pointed to the
common interest in addressing disaster response planning as evidence
that the region was not divided. Alkalaj invited FMs to join him on
October 10 for the opening of the RCC Secretariat office in Sarajevo.
Acknowledging the impasse over crucial reforms in BiH, Alkalaj said
that OHR Lajcak would need to step in to break the deadlocks.
Albanian FM Basha spoke positively of Albanian relationships with the
EU and NATO. He offered support for the creation of a regional fire
response center and highlighted the meeting of the Stability Pact
working tables in Tirana on December 3-4. Speaking strongly in favor
of the Ahtisaari plan for Kosovo, Basha did not raise issues
regarding the seat agreement text, as did his PolDir in the previous
day's meeting (para 11 below).

5. (SBU) Given strong Macedonian interest in seeing progress in
developing Corridor VIII (Black Sea to Adriatic) infrastructure, FM
Milosovki expressed the hope for a future ride on a Sofia-Skopje
train (there is still no through track on the route). He welcomed
RCC priorities but emphasized Macedonian interest in transportation
infrastructure, energy and justice and home affairs as SEECP and RCC
action areas. Milosovski weighed in with a statement of support for
the Ahtissari plan for Kosovo. Serbian Assistant Minister Delevic
underscored Serbia's quick progress on SAA negotiations and welcomed
the prospect on September 18 of a visa facilitation agreement with

SOFIA 00001185 002 OF 004


the EU. An adverse resolution of the Kosovo status issue would be an
extreme development for Serbia and the region and prejudging the
outcome of status talks and the establishment of deadlines did not
help. Endorsing the RCC lead priorities, Delevic added a focus on
refugee returns, mentioning the (moribund) Sarajevo declaration of
January 2005 as in need of revival.

6. (SBU) UNMIK/SRSG Ruecker's remarks focused on the need to ensure
that Kosovo was fully part of the SEECP process. He expressed
appreciation for Kosovo's inclusion in major energy and regional
trade accords, and noted that this helped to underpin progress and
reform within Kosovo. Further progress was needed, particularly with
regard to IDPs. The Ahtisaari plan was a solid basis for the way
forward after eight long years of uncertainty. There was a need for
prudent planning for mid-December and the period to follow. Ruecker
briefed on preparations for local elections in Kosovo, arguing the
strong need for the elections to buttress local government legitimacy
given the political dynamics over the period since the previous
elections. Kosovo Serb participation was important and he urged the
Belgrade leadership to support such participation.

7. (SBU) Ministers were perhaps most attentive when EU Enlargement
Deputy DG Truszczynski spoke. Firmly critical of Bosnia-Herzegovina,
Truszczynski asserted that the EC wanted to see BiH fully on track
and that there should be a BiH political agreement by the end of
September to enable the SAA to be concluded. More generally, he said
that further enlargement in the region was an issue for the medium to
long-term. With that in mind, the European Commission was adjusting
its support instruments and focusing on key priority areas. He noted
the November 6 date for the next EC progress assessments. He argued
that the EU's interest was in seeing results from Belgrade-Pristina
talks and that otherwise it would be hard to see progress on regional
cooperation. The EU would spare no effort to achieve a positive
outcome for Kosovo within the regional cooperation scheme and he
reiterated the EC position that Kosovo must be fully integrated into
regional cooperation. Thanking Stability Pact Special Coordinator
Busek for his contribution, Truszczynski stressed that the Commission
was looking to the RCC and Secretariat to become a solid interlocutor
on regional cooperation issues and programs. EC priorities (within
the Instrument for Pre-Accession program) closely matched those of
the RCC. He challenged the Ministers and RCC SG Biscevic to work
together to develop specific projects, and emphasized tht disaster
response could be good place to startgiven that the EC was beginning
to stand up its wn EU disaster monitoring unit.

8. (SBU) EU Pesidency Rep Tanger of Portugal spoke positively o
progress in the region with respect to EU integation. The exception
was Bosnia-Herzegovina, wih Tanger highlighting the government's
failure t achieve police and constitutional reform. He praied
Macedonia as doing an excellent job and confimed that Serbia had
completed the technical aspets of the SAA negotiations with only the
signingprocess remaining.

9. (SBU) Completing the rund of Ministerial statements, Greek
Political Diector Christides highlighted the Greek proposed Reional
Development Center in Thessaloniki as a prvate sector focused
support to the RCC economic genda. New Turkish FM Babacan pointed to
the Ahtisaari report as the basis for moving forward on Kosovo. He
said that Turkey would try to be helpful via its links to both
Belgrade and Pristina, and that Turkey was supportive of Serbia's EU
and Euro-Atlantic integration. Romanian State Secretary Buga
endorsed the consensus in favor of the region's EU and EuroAtlantic
integration, but reiterated Romani's familiar position on Kosovo
status. Montenegrin FM Rocen had little to say, other than to
express appreciation for the support for Montenegro's entry into the
SEECP last May.

10. (SBU) As regional participants, Busek and Biscevic
concentrated on current tasks and future challenges, respectively.
Busek recapped the upcoming intense series of Ministerial Meetings on
SP initiatives (CEFTA, Employment, Education, and Information
Society) as well as meetings on Justice and Home Affairs, defense
reform (RACVIAC) and disaster management. On the latter, he pointed
to his earlier letter to regional Prime Ministers and pressed hard
for clear and decisive action to replace the desultory attitudes of
regional governments in the past. For his part, and concluding the
session, Biscevic outlined the RCC Secretariat budget (three million
euros annually) and staff (26 in Sarajevo and five in the Brussels
liaison office). He explained the timetable for hiring personnel and
for completing the legalities of formally establishing the Sarajevo
and Brussels office. The latter will take some month given
cumbersome Belgian government procedures, but could move quicker
given Belgian helpfulness.


Political Directors Validate Stability Pact-RCC transition, Endure
Albanian Clumsiness

11. (SBU) The September 13 session of SEECP Political Directors
focused on the Stability Pact-RCC transition and the Bulgarian SEECP
CiO program of meetings and its linkages to the range of Stability

SOFIA 00001185 003 OF 004


Pact regional initiatives. The sole discordant note was struck by
the Albanian delegation which, as it had done in the most recent
PolDir and FM meetings, clumsily raised issues related to Kosovo
status. This most recent case was perhaps the most vexing, with the
Albanians demanding the deletion from the title of the RCC seat
agreement of a UNSCR 1244 reference to UNMIK, despite the text's
consistency on the matter and the fact that all other delegations had
already submitted the agreement (and title page) for government or
parliamentary ratification. A stern reprimand from the Bulgarian
chair left the Albanians to seek Tirana guidance and the issue faded
the next day when Albanian FM Basha signed the seat agreement
uneventfully with the other Ministers.


Bulgarian SEECP Agenda: Helpful to the Stability Pact/RCC Transition

12. (U) Discussion of the Bulgarian CiO program of meetings
underscored the particular importance of meetings scheduled for the
initial months after the operational opening of the RCC secretary in
late February. Stability Pact Deputy Special Coordinator Mozur
emphasized the need for the SEECP and the RCC secretariat to ensure
successful meetings of SEECP Ministers of Environment and of Civil
Defense/Disaster Management in March and of Defense in April. On the
latter, he stressed the need for SEECP MoDs to highlight the regional
cooperation dimension and to work to gain the recognition and support
of NATO and the Bucharest Summit for stepping up the regional agenda
in the defense area.

13. (U) The Bulgarian SEECP program encompasses an active series of
meetings through mid-2008, when its CiO term concludes:

* July-November: Various events organized by the Ministry of Regional
Development and Public Works, focusing on infrastructure projects in
the region;

* October: Joint Meeting with the Central European Initiative (CEI)
Ministers for Transport and SEECP Ministers for Transport organized
by the Bulgarian CEI Presidency and with the participation of the
Bulgarian SEECP CiO;

* December: Meeting of the SEECP Political Directors Committee and
Seminar on regional cooperation and possible synergy between the
SEECP, Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC),
RCC, CEI, the Danube Cooperation Process with the participation
representatives of the Stability Pact, European Commission and
non-governmental organizations;

* 2008 (dates tbc): Meetings in the field of Justice and Home Affairs
and on parliamentary cooperation

* February 2008: Meeting of the SEECP Ministers for Foreign Affairs
(and PolDirs) in cooperation with the Slovenian EU Presidency,
back-to-back with the first meeting of the RCC and the final meeting
of the Regional Table of the Stability Pact;

* February: Round Table of the SEECP Ministers for Tourism/Presidents
of Agency for Tourism, organized be the Bulgarian State Agency for
Tourism

* March: Meeting of the SEECP Ministers for Environment;

* March-April: Meeting of the SEECP Speakers of Parliament

* Meeting of the SEECP Ministers for Defense

* April: Spring Meeting of the Stability Pact Disaster Prevention and
Preparedness Initiative (DPPI);

* April: Conference, organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Ministry of Education and Science and Ministry of Culture, in
cooperation with the Bulgarian Balkan Political Club, focused on
building human capital and implementation of new technologies
together with the contribution of education, research, business and
public administration;

* May: Meeting of Heads of State and Government, preceded by meetings
of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Poldirs

* June 2008: 16th Meeting of the SEE Health Network

Comment: Regional Framework Strengthening; Busek-Biscevic Washington
Visit

14: (SBU) The message from the Foreign Ministers meeting was
positive, a message of a region moving forward, like the venue
itself. Kosovo cast its certain shadow as always. But the basic
work of bringing the region closer together, including via the
Stability Pact transition to the regionally owned and let RCC, is
continuing and with excellent prospects for success and thus real
impact for the good of the region's development and stability. For
his part, appointed RCC Secretary General Biscevic, who will continue

SOFIA 00001185 004 OF 004


as Croatian MFA State Secretary through the late November elections
in Croatia, is making his presence and leadership felt in the
preparations for establishing the RCC and its Secretariat operation.
He has worked closely with the Stability Pact team and demonstrated
flexibility and understanding for the need for a transparent and
competitive approach to hiring Secretariat staff. But he has also
begun to set out his vision and priorities, with economic development
and notably infrastructure heading the list.

15. (SBU) Looking ahead, several issues will need Washington
attention. First, as part of their relationship building with key
RCC partners, Busek and Biscevic will be looking to make a joint
visit to Washington, with January the notional target. They are
hoping for a program to include the senior level at State and USAID,
and possibly at Defense, in addition to calls on the Hill, with the
World Bank and think tanks. Within the regional cooperation agenda,
there will be interest in achieving recognition of the RCC - and its
relevant defense reform activities -- within the NATO summit
declaration. Here, NATO international staff in Brussels is
supportive, viewing the existing Stability Pact initiatives as a
valuable contribution to the overall defense reform process in the
region. Lastly, and more operationally, it would be helpful to the
establishment of the RCC secretariat if the US financial commitment
could be disbursed soon after the required RCC administrative
arrangements are in place. End Comment.

BEYRLE

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