THE FACT that we do not always see our enemies does not mean they do not exist. Recent terrorist attacks, like the bombing of the Boston Marathon, demonstrate how security cannot be taken for granted. Therefore it is necessary to invest resources in prevention, even in times of economic crisis and cuts, according to one of the organisers of the eighth GLOBSEC Bratislava Global Security Forum, which took place between April 18 and 20.
Security policies were the predominant theme of the discussions held at GLOBSEC, be it the need for more cooperation among the Visegrad Group (V4) countries, strengthening relations within the transatlantic area and with the EU’s neighbours, or possible steps the countries should take in order to protect themselves from cyber-attacks.
“Security is the key prerequisite for positive development in all areas, including the economy, and we should never take it for granted,” said Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico during his opening speech. “With our historical experience in central Europe we are especially sensitive in this regard.”
This year the forum welcomed more than 1,000 guests from 62 countries, Vladimíra Briestenská, public and external relations director of the Slovak Atlantic Commission (SAC), the organiser of GLOBSEC, wrote in a press release.
Discussion of security issues 'necessary'
The recent attack in Boston, which resulted in the deaths of three people and injuries to some 180 athletes and onlookers during the city’s annual marathon, highlighted the importance of the topic of security, Róbert Vass, the founder of the GLOBSEC Forum, secretary-general of the SAC, told The Slovak Spectator.
According to Vass, the paradox in today’s society is that it “feels relatively safe”.
“Today we consider [our] security guaranteed, but we forget [that] security is not guaranteed at all,” Vass said.
He compared the current situation with insurance, explaining that we do not insure our house or car in the expectation that it will be destroyed the next day, but for unexpected events. It is the same with defence, he said, since even if we feel secure, we have to realise that security cannot not be taken for granted.
Strong US-EU relations crucial
Cooperation between the US and Europe remains the most crucial factor in today’s world, though it is hampered by the economic crisis and subsequent scepticism and mistrust, said Zbigniew Brzezinski, formerly national security advisor to US President Jimmy Carter, pointing to the importance of international security, as quoted by the SITA newswire.
Brzezinski also praised the steps central Europe took after 1990, as well as the countries from this part of the world that joined NATO. He stressed that it is important to remain united on behalf of peace and security.
“During the past 25 years the world has changed dramatically,” Brzezinski said, as quoted by SITA. “Moreover, we do not have leaders like Winston Churchill, [Charles] de Gaulle or [Konrad] Adenauer. In the 21st century the big threat is not the hegemony of tyrants, but the tyranny of global chaos.”
V4 should cooperate more
Vass praised the fact that for the first time in its history, all foreign affairs ministers of the V4 countries – Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland – attended GLOBSEC. During the forum, the ministers adopted a common declaration entitled, ‘For a More Effective and Stronger Common Security and Defence Policy’, initiated by Slovakia’s Miroslav Lajčák.
The minister stressed that the document was prepared “to guide the discussion and ensure that our views were reflected” during the talks held at the summit of the European Council planned for this December, at which the EU ministers will discuss, among other things, a common defence and security policy, SITA reported.
“The need for effectiveness is important, as well as the involvement of our market with the defence industry, [and] connecting the EU with NATO,” Lajčák said, as quoted by SITA.
V4 battlegroup to join EU military forces
Experts from V4 countries also discussed the challenges of the Defence Austerity: A New Paradigm for Defence and Security Cooperation in the Visegrad Region project, informally known as DAV4. The aim of the programme is to strengthen joint defence initiatives and strategies within central Europe. It is based on a policy of pooling and sharing, or ‘smart defence’ as it is called by NATO.
DAV4, which is still in the preparatory phase, has two main principles: to explore the most cost-effective, practically feasible and militarily useful areas of cooperation; and to establish regional defence collaboration as one of the top priorities of the V4.
During GLOBSEC the members of the expert group represented by all V4 countries confirmed the ambition to create the Visegrad battlegroup, which is to become part of the EU’s military forces in the first half of 2016, even though the defence budgets of all four countries are facing cuts.
“The lack of money will not be removed with the end of the economic crisis,” István Gyarmati, president and CEO of the International Centre for Democratic Transition in Budapest, told journalists, adding that the crisis is often mentioned as the primary reason for cutting defence budgets.
Mário Nicolini, advisor to the state secretary of the Slovak Defence Ministry, said the countries have already redistributed the majority of the tasks within DAV4. Slovakia will, for example, be responsible for the area of radiation, chemical and biological protection, while the Czech Republic will cover logistics, he told public-service broadcaster Slovak Television (STV).
The EU and its neighbours
The current economic crisis has also resulted in the need for structural changes within Europe and the whole EU. According to Philip Stephens from the Financial Times, Europe should interconnect its economies with politics. His partner in the discussion, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, stressed that at first we have to identify what we mean by the term ‘European Union’. There is a “fundamental incompatibility between the rules which should be observed and solidarity when someone does not observe the rules,” he said, as quoted in the press release.
According to Lajčák, the perception of the crisis in the EU has been exaggerated, adding that “I would call this crisis the crisis of trust; we lost the trust of the markets, the trust of citizens and our own [politicians]”.
Other important issues discussed by the experts include the integration of the western Balkans, the future of Afghanistan after the departure of NATO troops and the current situation in countries like Syria, North Korea and Iran.
The need for cyber-security
About two months ago several Czech banks were victims of a large-scale cyber-attack by hackers, Tomáš Rezek from the Research Center of the Association for International Affairs in Prague told journalists on April 19, pointing to the fact that the risk of cyber-attacks in central Europe is as high as in other parts of the world.
The members of the expert group who met at GLOBSEC discussed ways to prepare a common project that would unite the national policies of all V4 countries, since the current solutions to these problems are not sufficient.
Zsolt Illési, an IT audit and risk management expert, told journalists that the expert group has to summarise what the countries learned from the attacks and create a common strategy that is useful for all countries. One of the ways to achieve this goal is to establish a V4 platform for sharing information, Rezek added.
Roman Cuprik contributed to this story
29. Apr 2013 at 0:00 | Radka Minarechová