To the astonished eyes of Philip the father, the boy who became Alexander the Great tamed his magnificent horse. Legend has it that father then said to son, Alexander, find other kingdoms, Macedonia will never hold you! Alexander died in Babylon possibly by poisoning. Bucephalos his beloved horse died in the River Jhelum an eastern tributary of the Indus from severe battle wounds. Philip skilled in military tactics and diplomacy dominated almost all of his neighboring Greek city-states. His death in 336 during his daughter’s wedding can be construed as a terrorist act if not more simply a result of a domestic row, another act of Olympia the mother of Alexander? Happy and unprotected Philip fell to an assassin’s friendly sword with Persian hands upon it. Little did Alexander know then, of the rumpus that he would cause two and a half thousand years later.
My first question today is would Philip king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon be supportive of this, a NATO event in the middle of the Balkans? NATO was established to contribute, at a regional level, to maintaining international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations and in cooperation with the Security Council. After it smart bombed the Balkans two decades ago it may take some considerable effort to demonstrate its sincerity today. The bombing was a response to real ethnic cleansing but the consent of the international community to bomb came after the fact. The recent incident, when by accident two Greek military officers stepped over the Greek-Turkish frontier and now held captive in Turkey calls for a much different NATO response than an indifferent expression of concern and the given advice sort it out yourselves. The line separating the two NATO member countries suddenly reddened opening up the possibility of a destabilizing flow of refugees towards Europe and mainly to Greece. To remain sturdy and sustainable NATO should have the ways and means to censure such behavior when it occurs in its member states. It does, but it doesn’t want to use them! Full Balkan membership to the European Union should not be further delayed and should take place before any new member is admitted to NATO.
I was privileged thanks to NATO to participate in a Science for Peace and Security Programme in Skopje even if Philip did not make it. Myrianne Coen (Italy) and Ljubomir Kekenovski (FYROM) conducted the programme and spoke respectively, on the fundamentals for resilience of NATO Democratic Members States and the perceptions and expectations of security asking if defense is a common good. The still fragile Balkans is a special case. While it is often conceptualized as a weak link in the security chain, it certainly is in need of a comprehensive action plan to fight terrorism that I would suggest includes public health and well developed case studies for the purposes of training. One Case Study that I suggested is a scientific comparison of the social health damage contributed by austerity, migration and terrorism in Balkan countries. Our current understanding suggests that austerity and terrorism have only detrimental effects to society while migration has a predominantly positive effect. In all three categories there are believers to the contrary and such conclusions reflecting behaviors must be understood by sociologists and anthropologists. The coordinate pair (Resilience, Vulnerability) for each country can be assessed and they can be used to compare countries. I suggest that the dynamic relationship or interaction between a coordinate pair has properties of hysteresis.
Thirty or so experts gathered to express what I thought was a praiseworthy and altruistic purpose, namely, to contribute to strategy development aimed at defeating terrorism and protecting citizens. My American neighbour discussed man’s multiple Identities that can lead via multiple societal pathways to a variety of choices possible only in a democracy. She suggested that all democracies must develop a better understanding of their institutions and the institutional tools available within a framework of the rule of law. One avenue of study would be to address risks arising from identity, issues and choices. Different roles may be added including that of the role of the terrorist. We should also be looking for potential footholds and opportunities presented in a democracy that might facilitate the emergence of a terrorist mind set, the establishment of an active cell or group with the intention of destabilization. Taking my seat next to her on the first day she said with a smile I hope we are not going to fight over the name. She went on to say that the most recent suggestion by Mr. Nimetz of Vardar Macedonia was not the best ever in seeking resolution to the name row. My response was Vadarska (Bardaska) is not such a bad one. Vadarska she queried, while adding we are not going to fight. But fight we did, but nicely. The question what is your stand on the name of Macedonia came up quite often.
The programme made reference to criminal networks at war with fundamental rights, support for terrorism as revealed in investigative files relating to human trafficking and smuggling, deterrence through resilience building, abuse of power against victims, one country’s dilemma in the face of terrorist strikes (France) and another’s counterterrorism policies (Germany). Noteworthy, was a comprehensive presentation and with the aid of an informative video from Ohrid on radicalization especially of youth and violent extremism in the Western Balkans. One analysis of terrorism’s driving force suggest that contributors include poor governance by society, lack of political accountability in government, uncontrolled corruption and the presence of inter-ethnic tensions. The drive can be augmented where conflict is frozen, as in BiH, FYROM, and Kosovo. One indication of radicalization is associated with the emergence of the foreign fighter phenomenon. From 2012 until 2016 between 900 and 1.000 individuals from the Western Balkans travelled to Syria. Up to 1/3 are believed to be still in that region.
My personal concern turned on the thought that neither the rule of law nor any national legal system adequately protects population health, directly. Coming from public health, my suggestion was that health diplomacy be introduced first in education but viewing it as an instrument to develop trust in the Balkan region. My talk construed terrorism as a public health issue suggesting that it can help counter terrorism aided by calling up support from human security and health diplomacy and that it becomes ever more relevant to develop directed educational programmes in all these areas. Here I believe that NATO can make a meaningful mark. My starting point kicked off with the two freedoms, namely, from fear and from want to which I now add a third, freedom from terror. This echoes words written in the Atlantic Charter, namely, in its goal to assure that all men, women and children in all lands live outtheir lives in freedom from fear and want.
My talk was structured around a simple line, straight or twisting to portray or represent a boundary, a frontier or a separation. Great historical divides include the one between Europe and Asia, influenced by Alexander the Great and imprinted into the story of Zeus disguised as a bull in his abduction of Europa, the girl with the wide eyed gaze. Another one is Yalta, orchestrated by the big three, America, England and the Soviet Union, which became known as the iron curtain to usher in the cold war. One historical linguistic line is the Jirecek or Latin Line that symbolizes a boundary through the ancient Balkans separating Latin and Greek linguistic regions. Of course in ancient times there was no Balkans. Its naming came much later.
In continuation I discussed past cases of frontier shifts as when the Ottoman Empire instantaneously shrank shifting dominance in the west from Muslim to Christian. It resulted in mass migration including first the movement of Muslims east in large numbers and later a westward movement of orthodox Christians as the new Turkey emerged. My talk ended with the recent incident of two Greek soldiers who stepped over the line by accident and are now held captive in Turkey. This particular case minor incident-major outcome is of a frontier separating Greece and Turkey that turned red even though it runs through both NATO and EU space. Neither have the power to gain their immediate release. The EU at least maintains an appropriate stance with respect to Turkey's admission to its ranks and in light of its known human rights violations. Unlike Aegean airspace the land line (FRONTIER) also overlaps another route or migration corridor, which until now has been reasonably well regulated and stable. Are we dealing with a case of fake stability or double standards? Whichever, it has dangerous dimensions. Frontiers bear a relation to THE RULE OF LAW and imply a system of widely shared ideas and norms embedded in a coherent picture of the world. In the case of the two Greek soldiers the rules suddenly changed, and coherence collapsed. Instead of the Turkish commander calling his opposite number to say I’m sending your boys back, intentions shifted and additional psychological and political factors crept in and the threat level escalated. The resulting deadlock infers that the benign became malignant calling for a new norm and guides for action within the EU and NATO. This must materialize before a dangerous spiral into the unknown takes place. The total collapse of good neighbor relationships by the illegal holding of the officers is a threat to international peace.
The conference made it abundantly clear that an efficient and effective fight against terrorism requires a comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach expressing a well articulated commitment by all actors in the international community to the rule of law, to international law and peace. The development of synthetic and analytical capabilities is mandatory in order to better understand behaviors and vulnerabilities within interacting systems. It is important to identify unfolding risk for the purpose of modeling terrorist and system behavior. Fear must be allayed in advance and panic lessened should a dramatic event take place. The prediction of likelihood of such events must be built into the capability of society to deal with terrorism. My final thoughts are that the international community still lacks an adequate understanding of the multicultural Balkans, Balkan leadership still has limited knowledge of the health status of its peoples and the European Union’s emphasis on public health has fallen short of its aspirations as a tool for economic and human development. In the Balkans unity in the face of threat is all the more necessary and for NATO to find its place at its table must not weaken itself by failing to take a position.
Recently, Europe has witnessed a series of unprecedented terrorist attacks as well as other disastrous events that have precipitated dramatic outcomes: physical, financial, environmental, psychological and political. Now it is mandatory for each and every nation, supranational entity (EU) and NATO to have a scientifically based preparedness and response capability for terrorism. Here NATO could be a strong motive force by supporting science for peace in the Balkans. Herein, lays a test for international collaboration between the Balkans and the European Union in human security enhancement and the containment of terrorism.
NATO and the EU: Defence against Terrorism, Enhancing Resilience of Democratic Institutions and Rule of Law, 2 May 2018
Jeffrey Levett. Radiological Terrorism Scenarios (Prehosp Disaster Med. 2007 Jul-Aug; 22(4):346.)
Federico Mayor Zaragoza. Urgent: a new concept of security Monday, August 29, 2016 Reflections
Donev, D., Laaser, U., Levett, J., Skopje Declaration on Public Health, Peace & Human Rights Dec 2001 Croat Med J. 2002; 43(2): 105–6 Adopted by World Federation of Public Health Associations, 2003
Jeffrey Levett. Defective Democracy, Weak Governance. Proceedings of Peace and Democratic Multilateralism, Belgrade, 2017
Note: Before this year 2018 is out the European Center for Peace and Development (ECPD) University for Peace established by the United Nations will call for a new approach to Security (Belgrade) and conduct its VIth Youth Forum; the EUPHA will conduct a major public health event (Ljubljana) in concert with ASPHER in which Farhang Tahzib (UK) has proposed to discuss Youth as protagonists for healthy communities with an emphasis on learning from Balkan initiatives as well as an examination of radicalization of its Youth.