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Mediterranean Quarterly 15.2 (2004) 58-82
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Changing Patterns of Civil-Military Relations in Southeastern Europe
Since the end of the Cold War, the southeastern European countries have made tremendous efforts to build market economies and democratic institutions. A central issue of their democratization has been the reform of the armed forces and democratization of civil-military relations. Establishing civilian oversight of the armed forces and building mechanisms for civilian control are seen as important indicators of progress.
However, southeastern Europe is an area in which civilizations have clashed over the centuries; conflict has spilled over the region. Not long ago the Balkans were called the "powder keg of Europe," due to many local wars and the ignition of one world war. The twentieth century started with the Balkan Wars and ended with the Kosovo problem. The perception of southeastern Europe as a problematic and backward area has continued despite efforts to escape from that label.1
But in the late 1990s, the leaders of Western countries showed a commitment to put an end to Balkan conflicts and to reaffirm that the North Atlantic [End Page 58] Treaty Organization's doors were open for the aspirant countries willing to embrace Western democratic values of governance. In order to assist the aspirant states and to evaluate their progress, NATO launched a membership action plan that required, among other things, the establishment of a democratic civil-military pattern. The reform process led to the invitation of three southeastern European countries, Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia, to join NATO in November 2002, while Slovenia becomes a full member in 2004.
Since a democratic civil-military pattern of relations was an important test for the political development of the aspirant countries, in this study I trace the progress in their effort to join NATO. However, the literature dealing with civil-military relations, in general, and Eastern European transitions, in particular, although extensive, has focused mostly on the Vishegrad group (Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland), with some later studies on Eastern Europe. Only a few of the studies refer to southeastern Europe. There were some early studies, by Daniel Nelson, Ronald Linden, Constantine P. Danopoulos, James Gow, and Anton Bebler, but each had a narrow focus, since they dealt with either some specific issues of civil-military relations or focused on a particular country, and none of them was comparative in scope.2 In this essay I aim to fill the gap of our understanding of southeastern European transition by providing a comparative study on how Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia succeeded in changing civil-military patterns. I will also look at the role Western assistance played in the transition.
The Dynamics of Civil-Military Relations in Southeastern Europe
I consider democratic civil-military relations to be a complex mechanism for the oversight of the armed forces, civilian control by democratically elected politicians, and the existence of a professional military that functions as an expert organization for defending the state. This operational definition is based on the findings of a collective research endeavor, coordinated by [End Page 59] Andrew Cottey, Timothy Edmunds, and Anthony Forster, in which I was an active participant. Starting from that definition, I will follow the transition process in the direction of two vectors:
- one related to society and how the democratic mechanism of oversight was set up, and
- the other related to the professionalization of the military and how the armed forces internalized the norms of democratic control.
Civilian Democratic Control
In this section I describe the setting up of the constitutional and legal framework of civilian democratic control, the specific institutions for exerting such control, and the mechanisms of control in Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia.
The transformation of the Bulgarian legislative and constitutional framework began at a slow pace but accelerated after 1997. Between 1989 and 1991 the opposition vocally criticized the armed forces as being a partisan instrument of the Socialist Party, which was a continuation of the defunct Communist Party. The adoption of the new constitution in 1991 set up a democratic frame of control, established...