NATO’s relations with Serbia
Serbia has been a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme since December 2006. Democratic, institutional, and defence reforms are a key focus of cooperation. While not an aspirant for membership of the Alliance, the country is currently in discussions with NATO on deepening cooperation through the development of an Individual Partnership Action Plan.
At the Chicago Summit in May 2012, Allied leaders reiterated their support for Serbia’s Euro-Atlantic integration. They also encouraged Belgrade to continue building a strong partnership with NATO, making full use of its Partnership for Peace (PfP) membership, while at the same time respecting Serbia’s policy of military neutrality. Work is ongoing to provide the framework for reinforced cooperation through the development of an Individual Partnership Action Plan.
“Serbia’s future lies in peaceful cooperation with its neighbours and with the European Union and NATO. […] We have made good progress these past few years in developing a sound basis for partnership and cooperation. It is now up to Serbia to decide if it wants to move forwards in its cooperation with NATO, and how fast,” declared NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in a speech about the Western Balkans in June 2011.
Kosovo is of course a key subject in NATO's dialogue with Serbia. The Alliance intervened militarily in early 1999 to bring an end to the violence in Kosovo, subsequently deploying the NATO-led Kosovo peacekeeping force (KFOR) to provide a safe and secure environment and facilitate reconstruction. KFOR remains crucial to guaranteeing security in Kosovo and will remain in Kosovo on the basis of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 to ensure a safe and secure environment, including freedom of movement for all people.
At the Chicago Summit, Allied leaders called upon Serbia to support further efforts towards the consolidation of peace and stability in Kosovo. They urged Belgrade and Pristina to take full advantage of the opportunities offered to promote peace, security and stability in the region, in particular by the European Union-facilitated dialogue. The NATO Secretary General welcomed the Belgrade-Pristina Agreement on Normalisation, that was eventually concluded in April 2013 as a big step forward for regional peace and security. He underlined that NATO and in particular KFOR would support the implementation of this latest agreement to the best of its ability within its current mandate.
Serbia indicated its intention to become an active participant in the Partnership for Peace (PfP) in its PfP Presentation Document submitted to NATO in September 2007. It submitted its first Individual Partnership Programme (IPP) under the PfP in early 2009. Areas of cooperation and specific events in which Serbia wishes to participate are detailed in this document, which is jointly agreed with NATO.
In April 2011, the North Atlantic Council approved Serbia’s request to develop an Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) with NATO. The IPAP is a jointly agreed framework in which a partner nation lays out its reform goals and the areas where NATO can provide assistance to achieve those goals. It will help to organise bilateral cooperation, ensuring that NATO and individual Allies can provide support to Serbia in achieving its reform goals. The IPAP offers an important step forward in the relationship, as it will allow NATO and Serbia to deepen both their political consultation and practical cooperation.
The NATO Military Liaison Office in Belgrade, established in December 2006, supports Serbian defence reforms, facilitates Serbian participation in activities in the framework of the Partnership for Peace programme and provides assistance to NATO’s public diplomacy activities in the region.
The Serbian armed forces have cooperated with KFOR for many years through the Joint Implementation Council (JIC), based on the 1999 Military Technical Agreement between KFOR and the Serbian armed forces (Kumanovo Agreement).
In July 2005, Serbia signed a transit agreement with NATO to allow Allied forces serving as part of KFOR to pass through Serbian territory. This agreement between NATO and Serbia mirrors similar arrangements between NATO and other countries across and beyond Europe. The transit agreement provided for the establishment of the NATO Military Liaison Office in Belgrade, which liaises with the Serbian military authorities on the practical aspects of the implementation of the transit agreement.
Training is an important part of security cooperation and Serbian personnel participate in activities organised under the PfP programme. Moreover, Serbia’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Training Centre in Krusevac was recognised as a Partnership Training and Education Centre in 2013, opening its activities to Allies and partners.
Defence and security sector reform
Defence and security sector reforms are core elements of cooperation. An important vehicle for this cooperation has been the Serbia/NATO Defence Reform Group (DRG). The group was jointly established in February 2006 to provide advice and assistance to the Serbian authorities on reform and modernisation of Serbia’s armed forces, and to build a modern, affordable, and democratically-controlled defence structure.
Serbia also joined the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP) in 2007. The PARP provides a structured basis for identifying partner forces and capabilities that could be available to the Alliance for multinational training, exercises and operations. It also serves as a planning tool to guide and measure progress in defence and military transformation efforts.
The reforms undertaken within the DRG and the PARP are supported through the selection of training activities and exercises.
The Alliance as a whole and individual Allies have considerable expertise upon which Serbia can draw in the area of defence and security sector reform. An important priority will be working together to further promote transparent democratic control over the armed forces.
The Allies have supported a number of NATO/PfP Trust Fund projects in Serbia. These include a project to destroy 28,000 surplus small arms and light weapons, which was completed in 2003, and another for the safe destruction of 1.4 million landmines and ammunition, which was completed in June 2007. A third Trust Fund project for the destruction of approximately 2,000 tonnes of surplus ammunition and explosives was launched in July 2013.
Another Trust Fund project to develop alternative livelihoods for former members of the Serbian armed forces was completed in 2011. The implementing agent for this project is the International Organization for Migration (IOM). This project, carried out over five years and worth €9.6 million, helped almost 6,000 discharged defence personnel in Serbia start small businesses.
Science and environment
Serbia has been actively engaged within the framework of the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme since 2007. The SPS Programme enables close collaboration on issues of common interest to enhance the security of NATO and partner nations. By facilitating international efforts, in particular with a regional focus, the Programme seeks to address emerging security challenges, support NATO-led operations and advance early warning and forecast for the prevention of disasters and crises.
Today, scientists and experts from Serbia are working to address a wide range of security issues, notably in the fields of defence against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents, counter-terrorism, environmental security and disaster forecast and prevention of natural catastrophes.
Serbia and NATO aim to improve public access to information on the benefits of cooperation with NATO and the key elements of NATO-Serbia cooperation. A broad and effective communications strategy is an important aspect of PfP cooperation. The NATO Military Liaison Office in Belgrade plays a role in this process.
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 Serbia is the embassy of the Slovak Republic.
1999 A 78-day NATO air campaign is triggered by violence in Kosovo. The NATO-led Kosovo peacekeeping force (KFOR) is deployed to maintain security and support reconstruction efforts. KFOR and Serbian Armed Forces sign Military Technical Agreement (Kumanovo Agreement) 2001 NATO and the newly elected government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia cooperate in crisis-management operations in southern Serbia 2003 Belgrade formally applies for PfP membership. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is replaced by a looser state union of Serbia and Montenegro. NATO completes a PfP trust fund project to destroy 28,000 surplus small arms and light weapons in Serbia 2005 Serbia hosts a PfP trust fund workshop ‘Together reducing unsafe surplus tools of war’ in Belgrade. Serbia and NATO sign a transit agreement for KFOR forces. NATO launches a PfP trust fund project to develop alternative livelihoods for former Serbian armed forces personnel as the service is downsized 2006 Serbia joins the Partnership for Peace. NATO opens a Military Liaison Office in Belgrade. 2007 Serbia joins the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP). NATO completes a PfP trust fund project that safely removed 1.4 million anti-personnel landmines from Serbian territory. In September, Serbia submits its PfP Presentation Document to NATO. 2009 Serbia agrees its first Individual Partnership Programme with NATO. 2010 NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen meets the President of the Republic of Serbia, Boris Tadic while in New York. 2011 In April, the North Atlantic Council approves Serbia’s request to undertake an Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) with NATO In June, Serbia hosts the Allied Command Transformation Strategic Military Partners Conference, one of the largest NATO partnership events each year. 2012 At a meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council on 11 December, ambassadors observe a minute of silence in memory of the Serbian Ambassador to NATO, Branislav Milinkovic, who had passed away the previous week. 2013
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomes the Belgrade-Pristina Agreement on Normalisation, on 19 April, congratulating all parties for their constructive approach to finding a lasting solution through EU-mediated talks. He emphasises that NATO will continue to ensure a safe and secure environment throughout Kosovo and stands ready to support the implementation of this latest agreement.
In June, the North Atlantic Council accepts Serbia’s offer to make its Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Training Centre in Krusevac a Partnership Training and Education Centre, opening its activities to Allies and partners.
A project was launched in July to assist the Serbian Ministry of Defence in the decommissioning of Serbia’s stocks of approximately 2,000 tonnes of surplus ammunition and explosives.