ALLIED JOINT FORCE COMMAND NAPLES, Italy, –
Today I had the pleasure of hosting a Balkans Conference at the Allied Joint Force Command Naples headquarters.
We gathered around the table, my NATO Balkan experts in uniform and icons of public diplomacy: leaders from U.S. European Command and U.S. Ambassadors to Serbia, Kosovo, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the newest NATO Ally Montenegro. We've come a long way in this region that was devastated by war less than 20 years ago, but as Ambassador Maureen Cormack (U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina) said, we're not at the finish line yet.
The concept of a regionally focused think tank was not originally mine. Two of my NATO AFSOUTH/JFC Naples predecessors, Adm. Greg "Grog" Johnson (2001 to 2004) followed by Adm. Mike Mullen (2004 to 2005). Adm. Johnson and Adm. Mullen had the helm right after most of the Balkan wars and conflicts ended. As such, their primary role was to ensure continued stability in a very fragile region. They did so under the leadership of EUCOM Commander and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Jim Jones - the first Marine to be appointed to the position from 2003 to 2006. With ongoing importance of the Balkan region and my responsibilities to best employ the NATO-led international peacekeeping Kosovo Force, I decided to reinvigorate this forum.
Moving forward, we made a commitment to meet quarterly and continue to build on our success, as we maintain a safe and prosperous region. The work we have achieved until now - the recent peaceful elections in Kosovo, for example, gives us tremendous hope that we achieve stability AND democracy in the Balkans.