Analysis: BiH’s NATO Perspective

February 17, 2019 2:00 PM

Where there is a clear will of all political actors and population for the country to sooner or later become part of the Alliance, in Bosnia and Herzegovina the situation is far different and complicated in its own way.

NATO began its engagement in Bosnia in 1992, first through airspace control, and later it culminated with the Operation Delibarate Force, which lasted from 30 August to 20 September 1995. However, the BiH Presidency voiced its desire to join NATO in June 2001, during the visit of the then NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson, who pointed out the numerous reforms that BiH must take on this path. BiH was invited to join the Partnership for Peace program on 29 July 2006 at the Riga Summit, and on 14 December the same year BIH officially became PfP country.

Cooperation with NATO was further deepened in September 2008, when the first (and only) Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) was agreed with the Alliance. This plan, which is unique for each individual country, consists of different areas and mechanisms of cooperation between NATO and individual country. The agreement is considered the last step before launching the mechanism for joining Alliance. For example, Serbia, which does not plan to become a member of the organization, has adopted its first IPAP in 2015, and is expected to adopt another one this year.

In 2009, the chairman of the BiH Presidency at that time – Nebojša Radmanović from SNSD party submitted the application for Membership Action Plan. The country was invited to join Plan in the following year. Membership Action Plan is a program of partner cooperation between NATO and a country aspiring to become a NATO member.  Allied Foreign Ministers have decided in 2018 that NATO is ready to accept the submission of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first Annual National Programme. Now, it is up to the Council of Ministers of BiH to adopt and submit its first Annual National Program to NATO Allies, in order to activate the MAP.

“No country is able to deal with all contemporary security threats alone. That is the reason why the Presidency of BiH has adopted General directions and priorities for implementation of foreign policy of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which expressed that the main foreign policy goals of Bosnia and Herzegovina are membership in NATO and EU – already in 2003. The same goals have been confirmed again 15 years later, in 2018, when BiH Presidency adopted the Foreign Policy Strategy of Bosnia and Herzegovina 2018-2023, in which the activation of the MAP is declared as one of the two main foreign policy priorities. BiH leaders just need to act in accordance with official strategic documents of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina”, explains Damir Duran, President of Euro-Atlantic Action.

He thinks that there are numerous reasons for BiH to join NATO, the main ones being the elimination of the possibility of war and attracting foreign investments. “With the integration into the Alliance, Bosnia and Herzegovina would come under NATO’s security umbrella and this would remove possibilities of another Bosnian war in the future, since NATO member countries have never experienced wars on their territory after they have joined NATO. When a country is secure and stable, that external and internal security attracts inflow of foreign direct investments into a new NATO member country, as we can learn from experiences of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and others”, says Duran and adds that, as a NATO member, BiH would have a chance to experience the same benefits of NATO integration as other members like former socialist countries.

“What if Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, which have led wars between each other in the 90s, now become allies through membership in NATO and EU? I firmly believe the Euro-Atlantic integrations of Western Balkans would create a win-win situation for all countries, a stable and secure region and attract significant foreign direct investments. Balkan nations would become members of the European family of peoples and states, which is the most intelligent idea European nations ever had in the long history of Europe”, points out Duran

However, recent statements by position and opposition leaders from Republika Srpska do not give hope that BiH will soon submit its MAP. Firsty, Milorad Dodik, a member of the BiH Presidency and president of the SNSD Party, said that “Republika Srpska does not have the readiness and support to become NATO member” and that they do not trust the Alliance. And then the president of the opposition SDS party, Vukota Govedarica, stated that [Republika] Srpska and the Serbian people have nothing to do in the NATO alliance, and that they will follow all the moves of Serbia and decide on further steps about this issue with this country.

“I know that some politicians now have the objections to MAP activation. I don’t understand why, though”, states Duran. He points out that among other things, it is expected from BiH to settle its international disputes by peaceful means, to demonstrate commitment to the rule of law and human rights, to settle ethnic disputes or external territorial disputes including irredentist claims or internal jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means in accordance with OSCE principles and to pursue good neighbourly relations.

“How can anybody have any objections to such requests? Through MAP Bosnia and Herzegovina will prepare itself for improvement in the areas of politics, democracy, rule of law, economy, fight against corruption, freedom of media. Why should anybody have any objections to such improvements that will lead to prosperity in BiH?”, concludes Duran.

Duran thinks that lack of knowledge about the effects and benefits of NATO integration as the main challenge for Bosnian accession to NATO. He thinks that there are a lot of misconceptions and disinformation about NATO in BiH, and adds that it is very important to have a dialogue about integration, but dialogue based on facts, security and economic indicators, as well as experience of other NATO member states, European Western Balkans reports.





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