NATO conference begins in Belgrade
NATO opened its annual Strategic Military Partner Conference on Monday in the Serbian capital of Belgrade. Military representatives of about 70 countries will participate in three days of workshops and discussions, aimed at sharing perspectives on strategic issues, Xinhua reported.
The agenda of the conference's theme "Post Lisbon: Delivering Transformation" is expected to follow three major topics: Innovative Approaches to Effective Capability Development, Assured Access to the Global Commons, and finally Training, Partnerships and Outreach.
According to a NATO press release, this annual conference is a "core event" within its military engagement campaign. As a strategic level conference it will be used to inform members and partners of NATO's transformational efforts and provide a forum for the discussion these ideas from national military points of view.
"We expect nations to provide us with their specific insight, national perspectives and recommendations," according to the NATO statement.The findings of this multi-national strategic discussion will be published in the SMPC Analysis Report after the conference.
Serbia's main opposition political parties held a rally on Monday to protest the conference. Members of the nationalistic Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and the Serbian Radical Party ( SRS), demanding that Serbia remain militarily neutral, hung banners "No to NATO" and "Never in NATO" from the bridges over the River Sava, linking the old town with the towers of New Belgrade.
As Serbia moves toward EU integration, membership in NATO remains an emotional and politically divisive issue.
In 1999, NATO forces bombed Serbia, forcing its army to leave its southern province of Kosovo. In the aftermath, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence and has been recognized by most members of NATO. As many as 3,500 people were killed and 12,500 wounded; with damage to infrastructure estimated between 30 million and 100 million U.S. dollars.