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Strategic Regional Meeting: Turning CBRN Priorities into New Projects

Strategic Regional Meeting: Turning CBRN Priorities into New Projects

Belgrade, Serbia -

 

The first Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) National Focal Points (NFP) Round Table Meeting (RTM) for the South East and Eastern Europe (SEEE) region in 2024 took place in Serbia. The 21st NFP RTM convened in Belgrade from 17 to 18 April 2024. Hosted by Serbia, the event brought together key stakeholders dedicated to addressing CBRN risks and threats. The meeting took place within the framework of the European Union CBRN Centres of Excellence Risk Mitigation initiative (EU CBRN CoE). The partner countries of the initiative in the SEE Region are: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Ukraine.

The meeting commenced with a warm welcome from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, which leads the coordination of the CBRN National Team. Their opening remarks underscored Serbia's commitment to fortifying national CBRN capabilities, setting an inspiring tone for developing the National Strategy and Action Plan to tackle CBRN risks and threats. The host country speaker outlined the success stories and achievements in strengthening their CBRN national capabilities. The European Union Delegation in Serbia also welcomed attendees, outlining the organisation’s collaboration with the host country and ongoing efforts in this field.    

The main objective of the 21st NFP RTM was to take stock of the existing regional priorities, needs and gaps reflected in the CBRN Regional Action Plan (RAP) and turn them into new projects. Another objective of the meeting was to hear from the NFPs if those regional priorities adopted back in 2022 remain valid or require some update. Based on the feedback to the questionnaire disseminated to all NFPs and their consultation with the relevant national stakeholders, the SEEE region managed to collectively crystalise a few new ideas for regional projects. Through extensive consultation with National Focal Points (NFPs) and pertinent stakeholders, the SEEE region identified emerging project ideas reflective of evolving geopolitical dynamics and regional threats.

Advance planning and discussion with the beneficiary Partner Countries bring timely drafting of the Terms of Reference of new regional projects and address the project details properly after internal consultation with the national subject matter experts. The so-called “Bottoms Up Approach” is the main pillar of the EU CBRN Centres of Excellence Initiative, which initiates its projects based on the needs and gaps of its 64 partner countries. Rather than imposing predetermined priorities, this approach honours the autonomy of the beneficiary countries in shaping their CBRN priorities.

In line with these principles, the On-Site Technical Assistance (OSA) team of the SEEE region will draft two Concept Notes for new projects within 20 days. These drafts will undergo rigorous scrutiny by NFPs and national authorities, with a view to refine project details and activities. The subsequent iteration of project blueprints will be presented at the 22nd NFP RTM, slated to coincide with the CBRN Academy in November 2024.

Moreover, the EU CBRN CoE Initiative's steadfast support in crafting CBRN National Action Plans (NAPs) remains pivotal to regional progress. Notably, significant strides have been made, with five out of ten countries having already developed their NAPs. Georgia managed to complete two NAPs and validated its third plan for the period of 2024-2026.  After providing direct assistance in the preparation of the NAPs to the CBRN National Teams of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and North Macedonia, the SEEE region received interest from Albania, Moldova, and Ukraine. Efforts to extend assistance to additional nations are underway, aiming for full regional coverage by the EU CBRN CoE's 15th anniversary in 2025.

The EU CBRN CoE’s assistance and support to partner countries in developing the CBRN National Action Plans remains a regional priority to achieve full results in the SEEE region. Currently, five out of ten countries have developed their NAPs, either independently or with direct involvement from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), using the Needs Assessment Questionnaire (NAQ) methodology. This work will continue throughout the year to ensure that all ten countries are supported by the 15th anniversary of the EU CBRN CoE Initiative.

The second day of the RTM provided a platform to review the advancements of ongoing and completed regional projects, generously funded by the European Union. The implementing consortia presented the following updates to the ten beneficiary countries of the SEEE region:

  • Project 88: Strengthening of CBRN Medical Preparedness and Response Capabilities in SEEE Countries.

  • Project 92 and new ideas: MediLabSecure III Preventing Biological Threats Increased by Environmental and Climate Change in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and Sahel Regions.

  • Project 100: Strengthening of Front-Line Biosafety and Biosecurity Measures in the SEEE Region.

  • Project 101: Enhance the CBRN Critical Infrastructure Protection and Security.

  • Project 64 and progress update on Project 103: EU P2P - Export Control Programme for Dual-use Goods.

 

The culmination of the meeting included a visit to the Serbian Radiation and Nuclear Safety and Security Directorate (SRBATOM), where delegates received a compelling briefing showcasing the Directorate's exemplary capabilities in investigating radiological and nuclear incidents. The invaluable insights gleaned from SRBATOM's expertise underscored the collective commitment to safeguarding regional security against CBRN threats.

In essence, the 21st NFP RTM epitomized a collaborative endeavour to translate regional priorities into tangible projects, underpinned by a commitment to inclusive decision-making and partnership-driven approaches. As the SEEE region marches forward, fortified by the collective resolve of its member nations and international allies, the vision of a safer, more secure future looms ever closer on the horizon.

 

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