New Conventional Dynamics, Hybrid Threats and Security Infrastructure Transformation

Opening Speech

Unfortunately, in the past few years we have had the opportunity make sure that, despite strong development, people are still vulnerable, and humanity is going through difficult periods in which wise strategic decisions are needed, so that progress does not stop, so that cooperation continues, the relations between the states become deeper....

Dear organizers from the Turkish-Asian Center for Strategic Studies, dear practitioners and scientists. It was with particular pleasure that I accepted the invitation to participate in the 8th Istanbul Security Conference “Post-Security Dilemmas, Integrations, Models and Asia“. Thank you for the opportunity to share with you the lessons learned and the experiences gained during the most security and social challenges facing humanity in the past few years.

We live in a rapidly changing world, a world in which the development of technology has enabled strong progress in many spheres of social life, many diseases have been eradicated, the standard of living is significantly higher, and access to resources and services from the public sector are much simplified. Unfortunately, in the past few years we have had the opportunity make sure that, despite strong development, people are still vulnerable, and humanity is going through difficult periods in which wise strategic decisions are needed, so that progress does not stop, so that cooperation continues, the relations between the states become deeper.

Today we are faced with perhaps the most serious security challenge since the end of the Second World War. Russia’s open aggression against Ukraine and the change of the borders in the four regions of Ukraine is a dangerous precedent, which can tighten the relations between the states to unpredictable limits and inflame already strong military actions, in which, in the end, innocent civilians suffer the most. The entire democratic world has an obligation to call for a cessation of hostilities, finding a solution as soon as possible and stopping the bloodshed. As never before, we are faced with the challenge of lack of energy and reliability in the uninterrupted supply of food and other resources necessary for normal life, as a direct result of the war in Ukraine.

In the past few years, North Macedonia has gone through many significant processes that resulted in NATO membership and start of negotiations for European Union membership. As a result of the wise and predictable policy, the decades of disputes with neighbors – which have left the Macedonian society out of regional and global integrations – were resolved, although geopolitical developments and security challenges never bypassed our country. It is precisely at this moment, at a time of serious instability in Eastern Europe, that we can fully feel the benefits of NATO membership and what it really means to be part of the most powerful military and political alliance in the world. Our borders are secure, and together with our partners and friends we seek the best possible solutions to every security challenge, even the energy crisis and resource shortages. The exchange of quality security information and the positioning of North Macedonia as a relevant and respectable partner in regional and international security organizations and integrations make our position secure and our country stable and safe.

Another very significant challenge, which also had serious security implications, was the Covid-19 pandemic. Although we are at a stage in which the disease has been significantly suppressed, the risks we have faced and are still facing only point to the fact that many more efforts are needed to completely eradicate it and the prevent the emergence of other, new pandemics. First of all, the health systems, but also the economic, security, and social systems were put to the test, and we witnessed that almost all of humanity was looking for a quick and high-quality solution to prevent the spread of the disease and find an effective vaccine that saved many human lives. The Macedonian police had a key role in ensuring the normal course of life in the new, changed security conditions.

At the same time, we were forced to fight another pandemic - the fake news pandemic, popularly called “the infodemic“. Fake news is shaping public opinion related to Covid-19, to political developments in the world, to migrations, to the security of countries as a whole, in a much more pronounced way and with a much greater impact than a decade or two ago. The best defense against fake news is the timely release of accurate information. The truth that will be communicated in a timely and precise manner and that will reach as many people as possible, will be the best prevention to suppress the spread of fear and panic among the population and will help to fight the serious security and political risks that the spread of fake news brings along.

Dear attendees, I would also like to point out several significant security challenges that we face as a country that we face as a country, but also as a region. Migrations, especially illegal migrations, are still a current topic, which police services in the region and in Europe face on a daily basis. No matter how controlled the so-called Balkan route is, numerous networks of organized criminal groups are registered through it, which use all opportunities to acquire extraordinarily large sums of money earned in a criminal way. We must continue as responsible institutions to build the capacity to respond to this serious crime. We must invest in additional training of law enforcement authorities, continue to invest in material and technical assets, especially in information technologies that can significantly help in border control and surveillance. Allow me to underline here the fact that by signing the operational agreement with FRONTEX, we expect North Macedonia to further regulate and specify policies and practices for border protection and to contribute to strengthening the capacities for migration management, especially the illegal migration. I am also pleased to be able to inform this distinguished forum that we have achieved a significant step towards strengthened management of borders and irregular migration, which is in the common interest of North Macedonia, the countries in the region, the European Union and international organizations such as UNHCR, OSCE, IOM and others.

The Republic of North Macedonia and the Ministry of Interior, which is under my management, have always had a proactive and open approach, have always been and will remain an active and credible partner of the United Nations and UNHCR, and in relation to the Global Compact for Refugees and the Global Compact for Migration, as accepted international instruments, the state gave and continues to provide strong support. Among the main priorities of the Ministry of Interior in the field of migration is fostering and maintaining international cooperation with the countries of the region, with the transit countries and with the countries of origin, with EU agencies and other relevant international organizations, as well as through active participation in numerous international and regional platforms, initiatives and processes.

Several projects are underway with the aim of further synchronizing with European standards, not only in the area of migration management, but also in border management as a whole. Last year, the twinning project “Harmonization of the national systems for border management with the requirements of the EU and Schengen“ was successfully finalized, within the frame work of the which the National Strategy for Integrated Border Management of the Republic of North Macedonia, in accordance with the European concept for Integrated Border Management. The Republic of North Macedonia remains a strong supporter of the UN, a dedicated and responsible partner in the global dialogue and a strong, generally recognized generator and pillar of peace, stability and security in the Balkans, in Europe, and globally.

A major security challenge for all countries in the Balkans and in the region of Southeast Europe is the fight against organized crime and corruption. The figures show that it is precisely organized crime and corruption that eat up jobs and the economy to as a significant extent. The police and other law enforcement agencies have a duty to strengthen their capacities to respond quickly and vigorously to corruption and to bring to justice all those convicted of offering or accepting bribes, or who organize themselves into groups and criminal associations intending to misuse the people’s money. Let me emphasize the satisfaction of implementing preventive public awareness campaigns among the population, resulting in an increase of the number of citizens in North Macedonia reporting illegal activities which is fundamental to further prosecute and prove individual criminal acts.

The cooperation between responsible institutions, civil society and the media is key to the development of good practices to fight against organized crime and corruption in the country. To these end, in the middle of October this year, as Minister of Interior, I signed an agreement with the president of the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption on cooperation and exchange of data in electronic form, as well as a Memorandum of Cooperation that regulates the way of cooperation, coordination and implementation of joint activities for the protection of whistleblowers, as an effective tool to fight corruption.

To have real success, we need to connect even more and jointly, as security services in Europe and the world, to seek the best possible solutions to respond to the ever-increasing number of well-organized criminal groups, which often cross the borders of the continents, not only of the states. Hybrid threats, especially cybercrime and other unconventional forms of activity of criminal groups, but also the threats of violent extremism and terrorism, are the modern forms of security risks that we must be aware of and direct the attention of professionals, practitioners, but also of scientific workers, who only through a joint, integrated approach, will give useful advice and propose possible solutions to overcome these challenges.

In cooperation with our partners from the international community, we are actively working to advance the fight against illegal actions that undermine democratic society. It is exactly during this period that we are preparing the fourth consecutive National Strategies for the prevention of violent extremism and the fight against terrorism, and previously the National Strategy for the Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism and the National Strategy for Cyber Security were adopted for the first time, and together with the action plans the latter are already producing the expected results.

Dear professors, respected researchers, security service practitioners. Let me finally address the possible solutions that will contribute to the control and prevention of international organized crime and dealing with security threats in Europe and the world. In the essence of the development of quality policies and response to modern security dilemmas, is the strengthening of cooperation between competent ministries and services and deepening of integrations, in which strong messages for peace, stability and security will be intertwined.

Let us continue investing in our societies, continue supporting he development of human resources and improving the material and technical working conditions, as well as specifying the legal bases and procedural aspects of prosecuting crime and criminal groups and individuals. I am confident that precisely such important events in the science of security will significantly contribute to expanding our horizons, to perceive and verify the new possibilities that are available to us for a common – comprehensive response to common problems and challenges.

No society is immune to crime, nor does a certain form of crime originate and end only within the borders of a country or a region. Therefore, I strongly support efforts and ideas for a global, joint response in which we all contribute to safer societies and safer states. I sincerely thank you for the invitation and wish you successful work at this very important conference.

( Oliver SPASOVSKI, Minister of the Interior of the Republic of North Macedonia, Opening Speech, 8th Istanbul Security Conference, 03 November 2022 )

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