Southeast European Cooperative Initiative

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Southeast European Cooperative Initiative member states

The Southeast European Cooperative Initiative, or the SECI, has been an initiative that, under the auspices of men like Erhard Busek and Richard Schifter, has been successful in providing stability in an unstable region and has found support in international organizations and countries. As of 2009, the region has found confidence in its new stability and along with the help of the SECI, has created a Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), owned and run by the countries in Southeast Europe aimed at strengthening peace, democracy and the economy in the hopes that the newfound stability can be supported by those countries who not so long ago were the perpetuators of volatility.

The SECI headquarters are located within the Hofburg Palace in Vienna.


Background of the SECI[edit]

The Southeast European Cooperative Initiative was formed in 1996 under the guidance of then, Senior Director for Eastern Europe in the United States National Security Council, Richard Schifter. His initial idea was modeled after the Marshall Plan of 1947 which was used to help rebuild Europe after World War II, and considering that the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was coming to a close, he felt stability in the region would be immediately necessary. His initial plan, called the Southeast European Cooperative Development Initiative, was intended to focus on regional cooperation of the countries in Southeast Europe, or SEE, and not be considered a financial assistance plan. The idea was to allow SEE countries access to resources that would help them rebuild and stabilize, but not to provide them directly with the money. The only assistance provided by outside organizations and countries, like the United States, would be in the form of technical assistance as well as providing experts on relevant subjects. Richard Schifter’s hunch in the autumn of 1995 was realized on 14 December, when a cease-fire was announced and peace negotiations were signed in Dayton, Ohio under the Dayton Agreement. The next step was to get all the countries in the region together and agree to join a cooperation initiative; an extremely difficult task considering the ethnic tension that dominates the regional culture. The SECI was originally composed of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Croatia and Slovenia. However those last three participants caused some growing pains for the initiative in its nascent stages. Yugoslavia’s invitation was revoked after the country cancelled local election results when a minority party won the popular vote, eventually being allowed in as Serbia and Montenegro and Slovenia and Croatia originally agreed to join but only as observer nations. The Slovenian concern was that they were a Central European country, not part of SEE, but once Hungary joined, they quickly followed suit. Croatia was more of a challenge in that not only did they not see themselves as a SEE country, but President Tudjman in an interview with Richard Schifter said that Croatia was a “Catholic, Mediterranean country” that wants nothing to do with the “Orthodox and the Muslims.” In 1999, President Tudjman was hospitalized, eventually dying and shortly after Croatia joined the SECI as a full-fledged member. Kosovo is another area of contention for the SEE countries. During the time of the formation of the SECI, in 1996, they were only recognized as a region and by 1999, they were governed by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), under the UNSC Resolution 1244; in February 2008, the Assembly of Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. Despite this, they are still only recognized as an independent state by 110 UN member states, with Russia and Serbia leading the opposition of the declaration and the European Union having no official position on the situation as well as the United Nations saying that Resolution 1244 will remain the legal framework in Kosovo. Kosovo has never been and currently is not considered a member state by the SECI either, only a permanent observer.

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