How has security sector reform (SSR) progressed in the Western Balkans? This Austrian Ministry of Defence paper examines the progress of SSR and Integrated Border Management (IBM) against EU and international criteria in Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia. It finds that the biggest weakness in SSR reform is the lack of implementation capacity and the political realities of reform. International cooperation and assistance for all countries would be useful.
The normative criteria for assessing success and progress are improvements in various aspects of internal security. Standards are incorporated in the Guidelines for Integrated Border Management in the Western Balkans which spells out the threshold criteria for EU accession and in the Way Forward Document. The wish and perceived need to join the EU has become a powerful force for policy reform. However, the wish to become acceptable has to be balanced against local (in) security realities within and at the borders of the six countries, their political histories and dynamics, and the institutional traditions and cultures of security providing agencies.
Countries in the Western Balkans suffer from a lack of implementation capacity. This is either because little capacity exists at all and has to be substituted by international advice and assistance, or because politics makes implementation difficult. In:
- Albania, the lack of change in the political system systematically hampers reform efforts in the security sector. Well intended and constructed laws have been passed, but implementation and progress are lacking.
- Macedonia, the prospects for SSR are a long way ahead for a number of reasons. For example Macedonia, since its creation, has had to cope with the sometimes hostile attitudes of neighbouring countries.
- Serbia, the legacy of conflicts about ethnic identities and territory, the unresolved status of Kosovo, internal instability and political violence, criminalised and politicised policing, military and border control systems bedevil reforms and hamper even the passing of needed legislation.
- Montenegro, the new government has begun to pass laws for the security sector which reflect European and international standards but has little capacity to implement them.
- Bosnia-Herzegovina (BIH), the establishment of a border control force was resisted. The EU Police Mission in BIH approved numerous laws on accountability and transparency but lots still needs to be done.
- Croatia, extensive set of documents, plans, regulations and directives on border management and the police which have been passed since Croatia declared its independence. It hopes to join the EU in the next round of accessions.
International cooperation and assistance would be useful for all countries in three areas. However, all international involvement has to withstand susceptibility to being perceived as a challenge to or interference in the sovereign affairs of independent states:
- Continuing support for the creation of research centres which can evaluate and assess progress and obstacles to implementation. These can form the core of civil society efforts to counterbalance state claims about security needs and policies and help in enhancing transparency and accountability;
- A compilation of best practices learned not just from the EU experience but from efforts to reform security sectors in Balkan states. Lessons are more applicable if drawn from similar contexts.
- Support for training and education, especially of mid-level managers in new border control agencies and systems.