NATO’s relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • Last updated: 26 Oct. 2015 14:40

Bosnia and Herzegovina aspires to join NATO. Support for democratic, institutional, security sector and defence reforms are a key focus of cooperation. The country actively supports the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan and works with the Allies and other partner countries in many other areas.

Bilateral meeting between NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Minister of Defence of Bosnia and Herzegovin, Marina Pendes


  • The Alliance has been committed to building long-term peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the early 1990s, when it started supporting the international community’s efforts to end the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the Partnership for Peace in 2006
  • The country has been engaged in an Intensified Dialogue with NATO on its membership aspirations and related reforms since 2008.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina has been invited to join the Membership Action Plan, pending the resolution of a key issue concerning immovable defence property
  • Since 2009, Bosnia and Herzegovina has made valued contributions to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan

More background information

  • The road to integration

    The Allies are committed to keeping NATO’s door open to Western Balkan partners that wish to join the Alliance, share its values and are willing and able to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership. Euro-Atlantic integration is seen as the best way to ensure long-term, self-sustaining security and stability in the region.

    The Membership Action Plan (MAP) is a NATO programme of advice, assistance and practical support tailored to the individual needs of countries wishing to join the Alliance. Participation in the MAP does not prejudge any decision by the Alliance on future membership.

    Although Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Presidency members were unanimous about the decision to apply to join the MAP, the fulfilment of the condition set by the Allies has not yet been met. Effectively, all immovable defence properties in the country need to be registered as state property, for use by the country’s defence ministry.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to continue pursuing democratic and defence reforms to fulfil its NATO and European Union aspirations and to become a well functioning independent democratic state.

  • Building long-term peace and stability in the country

    The Alliance has been committed to building long-term peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina since it started supporting the international community’s efforts to end the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995).

    NATO played a key role in implementing the Dayton Peace Agreement (formally, the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or GFAP) and in securing this peace through peacekeeping deployments over a nine-year period from December 1995 to December 2004. In December 2004, primary responsibility for military aspects of GFAP was handed over to the European Union.

    NATO retains a military headquarters in Sarajevo with the primary mission of assisting the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina with reforms and commitments related to the Partnership for Peace (PfP) and closer integration with NATO, and the secondary mission of providing logistic and other support to the European Union Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. (More on NATO’s operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina)

  • Key areas of cooperation

    Security cooperation

    An important objective of NATO’s cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina is to develop the ability of the country’s forces to work together with forces from NATO countries and other partners, especially in peacekeeping and crisis-management operations. Participation in joint planning, training and military exercises within the framework of the PfP programme is essential in this regard.

    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, and now contributes to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.

    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. 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 reflect the security needs of the country and are able to provide usable military capabilities that are interoperable with those of the Alliance.

    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. A key instrument for supporting such military and defence reforms is the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP, see below – Framework for cooperation).

    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 helicopters, boats, drinking water, food, shelter and funds.

    Public information

    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 United Kingdom.

    Security-related scientific cooperation

    Under the Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, Bosnia and Herzegovina is currently leading a workshop to identify best practices for cultural property protection in NATO-led operations. Scientists from Bosnia and Herzegovina also work together with colleagues from Croatia and Ireland on a multi-year project on maritime security and environmental monitoring. Following a joint UN-NATO workshop on conflict resolution in the Western Balkans, the aim is to further increase scientific cooperation, in particular in areas relevant to regional security issues.

  • Framework for cooperation

    The country’s cooperation with NATO is set out in an Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP). The first IPAP was agreed with the Alliance in September 2008 and an updated version was agreed in September 2014. These plans are designed to bring together all the various cooperation mechanisms through which the country interacts with the Alliance, sharpening the focus of activities to better support domestic reform efforts.

    Once the invitation to join the MAP is fully implemented, cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina and support for reform will be set out in an Annual National Programme under the MAP, replacing and building upon the IPAP.  This programme will outline preparations for possible future membership, including political, economic, defence, resource, security and legal aspects.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina has also been participating in the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP) since May 2007. The role of the PARP is to provide a structured basis for identifying forces and capabilities that could be available to the Alliance for multinational training, exercises and operations. It also serves as the principal mechanism used to guide and measure defence and military reform progress. A biennial process, the PARP is open to all partners on a voluntary basis.

    To facilitate cooperation, Bosnia and Herzegovina has a diplomatic mission at NATO Headquarters as well as a liaison office at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE, Belgium).

  • Milestones in relations

    April 1993:  NATO begins Operation Deny Flight to prevent aerial intrusion over Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

    14 December 1995:  The Dayton Peace Agreement is signed and the 60,000-strong NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR), NATO’s first peacekeeping operation, starts to deploy to implement the military aspects of the peace agreement. .

    September 1996:  The first elections are held in Bosnia and Herzegovina; the Allies agree to maintain a security presence in the country to facilitate the country’s reconstruction.

    December 1996: The Stabilisation Force (SFOR) replaces IFOR.

    December 2003:  Establishment of a state-level command structure over the two entity armies.

    December 2004:  The European Union peacekeeping force (EUFOR) takes over responsibility for maintaining security in Bosnia and Herzegovina. NATO supports the operation through the Berlin Plus arrangements, and establishes a military headquarters to administer this support while carrying out its primary mission of supporting the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina with defence reforms and anticipated PfP commitments.

    1 January 2006:  Agreement is reached to merge the two entity armies into a single military force, the Armed Forces of BiH.

    2006:  Bosnia and Herzegovina joins the PfP and agrees its first Individual Partnership Programme.

    2007:  Bosnia and Herzegovina joins the PfP Planning and Review Process.

    April 2008:  The country is invited by NATO to begin an Intensified Dialogue on the full range of political, military, financial, and security issues relating to its aspirations to membership.

    September 2008:  Bosnia and Herzegovina agrees its first Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) with NATO.

    2009:  Bosnia and Herzegovina deploys officers to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

    April 2010:  Bosnia and Herzegovina is invited to join the Membership Action Plan (MAP), pending the resolution of a key issue concerning immovable defence property.

    10 April 2012:  The Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegović, visits NATO Headquarters to meet NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and address the North Atlantic Council.

    May 2012:  At NATO’s Chicago Summit, Allied leaders welcome the political agreement reached in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 9 March 2012 on the registration of immovable defence property as state property. They urge political leaders to implement the agreement without delay to allow the country to start participation in the MAP.

    July 2012: NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow visits Bosnia and Herzegovina and other countries in the region aspiring to NATO membership.

    February 2013:  The Secretary General visits Sarajevo to discuss with political leaders how to take forward the country’s aspiration to move toward membership of the Alliance.

    21 May 2014: The Secretary General meets government officials in Sarajevo and reiterates NATO’s support for the membership aspirations of Bosnia and Herzegovina.