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CIDOB - [06/16/2008]

Javier Solana: “We are exporting to Serbia the military reform model that was applied by Narcís Serra”

Accompanied by Javier Solana, the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Secretary General of the Council of the European Union, Narcís Serra held a presentation in Barcelona for his book, The military transition. Reflections on the democratic reform of the armed forces, published by Debate.

Javier Solana praised the political career of Narcís Serra, who in his opinion possesses the three great qualities of a politician: “a hard worker, quiet and speaks well when necessary”; meanwhile, he called the book “an example of his many silences during his time as Minister of Defence”.

Solana called the publication a “well-thought-out, very well-written work” which in his opinion was indispensable "for anybody who wants to discover more about the military side of Spain's transition". Solana stressed that the fact that Spain's experience has been recorded in a book has been of great use to others, given that it has since been directly applied in other political transitions to democracy. He mentioned the case of Serbia, and spoke of how he acted as intermediary between Boris Tadic, the current President of Serbia, and Narcís Serra at the time when the then Serbian Defence Minister was forced to embark on a reform of the armed forces following the resignation of Slobodan Milosevic.

In this book, Narcís Serra's intention has not been (as he says) to write "a memoir of his time in government, nor a historical account" but rather a rule-based essay that can be applied, at least partially, to other transition processes. The author contextualised his work within the framework of the political theory that studies transitions, and which is known as "transitology". While it is essentially a thoughtful, theoretical work, the book focuses on real events and important figures of the Spanish transition. Serra mentions several key figures among the military, including General Manuel Díez Alegría, “the only general who, during Franco's dictatorship, believed that the army should be under the control of civil power" and Gutierrez Mellado, Chief of Staff of the Suarez government, and who opposed the idea that the military junta should have full powers within the Constitution. Without his intervention, Serra points out, “the 1984 military reform would have been impossible”.

Serra explained that the idea for the book initially sprang from a conference in London, where the academics Anthony Giddens and Paul Preston encouraged the author to draft a more extensive version of the military transition model that was proposed. He remembered with particular affection that the book's link with Barcelona was Mercé Sala, who invited Narcís Serra to give a talk at the headquarters of the Catalan Federation of Engineers.

The author concluded that the consolidation of the military transition has not resulted in the problem of “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes”; or rather, "who watches over the watchman” and defended the involvement of civilians and the military in a continuous process.

The events concluded with a request by Solana to the author that in future editions, he include a subject that is not covered in the book: the reform of the security services.

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