NATO’s relations with Serbia

  • Last updated: 16 Jan. 2015 14:43

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 deepening cooperation with NATO through an Individual Partnership Action Plan agreed in January 2015.

Bilateral meeting between the NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the Serbian President, Tomislav Nikolic

At the Wales Summit in September 2014, Allied leaders reiterated their support for the Euro-Atlantic integration of countries in the Western Balkans region. They also welcomed Serbia’s progress in building a stronger partnership with NATO, encouraging Belgrade to continue on this path.

The framework for reinforced cooperation was provided with  the agreement of an Individual Partnership Action Plan.“The Republic of Serbia has been a valued member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme since 2006.  NATO fully respects the Republic of Serbia’s policy of military neutrality and works closely with many countries on such a basis. The new agreement concluded on 15 January will allow us to enhance our cooperation on issues of common interest and to our mutual benefit.  For instance, in working together to promote stability and security, in addressing the security challenges that we face today, and through NATO’s provision of defence and security sector reform expertise,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a statement.

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 Wales Summit, Allied leaders welcomed progress achieved in Kosovo and encouraged further efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and the rule of law throughout a multi-ethnic Kosovo. They welcomed the improvement in the security situation and the progress achieved through the European Union-facilitated dialogue. They commended both parties for their commitment to the Belgrade-Pristina Agreement on Normalisation that was concluded in April 2013 and encouraged continued work on its full implementation.

  • Framework for cooperation

    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.

    The Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) concluded in January 2015 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, allowing 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.

  • Key areas of cooperation

    Security cooperation

    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.

    Public information

    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.

  • Evolution of relations

    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.
    2015 Serbia concludes an Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) with NATO to deepen dialogue and practical cooperation, particularly in the area of defence reform.