Key priorities for cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina include strengthening cooperation with European and Euro-Atlantic structures, the rule of law, democratic control of the armed forces and intelligence security system, defence reform, defence planning and budgeting, military interoperability, human resource management, crisis management and civil emergency planning, security system and protection of data, and public diplomacy. NATO also supports the wider democratic, institutional, and judicial reform process underway in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Since 2009, Bosnia and Herzegovina has contributed officers to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan as part of the Danish and German contingents. More recently, it has committed itself to contributing to NATO’s post-2014 mission in Afghanistan. Although not part of a NATO operation, the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina deployed an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) platoon to Iraq from 2005 to 2008 and an infantry platoon during 2008, under the multinational coalition’s operation.
The authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina have signed and ratified the PfP Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the Allies, in accordance with its national legislation. The PfP SOFA is a multilateral agreement between NATO member and partner countries, which deals with the status of foreign forces while present on the territory of another state. This agreement facilitates Bosnia and Herzegovina’s military-to-military cooperation and other practical cooperation with NATO member states and other partner countries.
NATO and Bosnia and Herzegovina have started to improve the exchange of information on combating terrorism. The Allies are assisting the country in establishing a relevant counter-terrorist capability and providing advice on improving the existing national apparatus.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has declared a number of forces and assets as potentially available for PfP activities, including for NATO-led crisis-response operations. Engineering (explosive ordnance disposal) capabilities and related equipment as well as other units could be available.
The country has also made a number of training facilities available, including a Combat Training Centre at Manjača and a Peace Support Operations Training Centre at Butmir, which is the only certified PfP Training Centre in the region. A Professional Development Centre in Travnik has also been established that would be available within the PfP framework.
Defence and security sector reform
Defence and security sector reforms are core elements of cooperation. The Alliance as a whole and individual Allies have considerable expertise which Bosnia and Herzegovina can draw upon in this area. A key priority is working together to establish affordable and sustainable defence structures, which would reflect the security needs of the country and be able to provide usable military capabilities that are interoperable with those of the Alliance.
A key aspect of the work of the NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina up to 2004 concerned reform of the country's defence structures, which were divided into three separate structures for each of the country’s main ethnic groups. Within the framework of a Defence Reform Commission (2003-2005), SFOR and NATO helped the country build a unified command and control structure, and develop joint doctrine and standards for training and equipment that are compatible with NATO standards. In March 2004, a newly established state-level defence ministry brought the country’s separate armies under a single command structure.
Subsequent to SFOR, NATO's military headquarters in Sarajevo took a leading role in the Defence Reform Commission during 2005, leading the effort that resulted in the complete merger of the entity armies into a single military force on 1 January 2006, and continues to work with Bosnia and Herzegovina on defence reform to this day. NATO’s Secretary General has also appointed the Assistant Secretary General for Defence Policy and Planning as his Senior Representative for defence reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The country is working to develop fully professional armed forces that are interoperable with NATO forces and are manned by volunteers who meet high professional standards. The process of restructuring and reorganisation of the armed forces in order to reach these goals is ongoing. A key instrument for supporting such military and defence reforms is the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP).
The implementation of a NATO/Partnership Trust Fund project for assistance to redundant defence personnel has helped the country downsize its armed forces. This Trust Fund supported the reintegration of approximately 3,000 released personnel, whose contracts with the Bosnian Armed Forces ended between 2010 and 2012. A similar Trust Fund was conducted a few years earlier.
Civil emergency planning
NATO and Bosnia and Herzegovina carry out cooperation in the field of civil emergency planning. The country is developing its national civil emergency and disaster-management capabilities. In consultation with the Allies, the country has developed the legal framework for coping with civil emergencies, and is working to establish a civil crisis-information system to coordinate activities in the event of an emergency.
In May 2014, Bosnia and Herzegovina requested assistance from NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre following devastating floods that hit the country. NATO coordinated emergency assistance from Allied and partner countries, sending for instance helicopters, boats, drinking water, food, shelter and funds.
Bosnia and Herzegovina and NATO aim to improve public access to information on the benefits of cooperation and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s possible membership in the Alliance. To this end, a national NATO communications strategy is in place. Particular emphasis is placed on activities that entail sustainability and that link key stakeholders: government, civil society, and media. Regional exchange of best practices is an important element.
NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division closely cooperates with a number of partners including NATO’s military headquarters in Sarajevo, non-governmental organisations, Allied embassies and others in the planning and implementation of public diplomacy activities to increase public awareness about cooperation with NATO and MAP.
In every partner country an embassy of one of the NATO member states serves as a contact point and operates as a channel for disseminating information about the role and policies of the Alliance. The current NATO Contact Point Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey.
Science and environment
Under the Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, Bosnia and Herzegovina has received grant awards for a number of cooperative projects, including seismic risk hazard reduction studies and legal aspects of countering terrorism. The aim is to increase scientific cooperation, such as in areas relevant to regional security issues and environmental initiatives.