At the Chicago Summit in May 2012, Allied leaders welcomed the political agreement reached on 9 March 2012 on the registration of immovable defence property as state property. They welcomed the initial steps taken regarding implementation and urged the political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina to further their efforts to work constructively to implement the agreement without delay in order to start its first MAP cycle as soon as possible.
Following the Summit, NATO’s Deputy Secretary General visited Bosnia and Herzegovina on 20 July 2012. This visit represented and important political signal of NATO’s continued strong commitment to the Balkans, and to those countries in the region aspiring to NATO membership in particular.
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.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tripartite presidency were unanimous about the decision to apply to join the MAP. Unfortunately, this has not yet led to the fulfillment of the condition for the country to join the MAP, namely, the need for all immovable defence properties in the country to be registered as state property, for use by the country’s defence ministry.
In a speech on 29 June 2011, NATO’s Secretary General called on the political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina “to demonstrate vision, leadership and the ability to compromise, and to continue on the path of political and economic reform. A solution to the property issue would demonstrate that Bosnia and Herzegovina functions like one state. That it is capable to interact with NATO and to fulfil its commitments within the Membership Action Plan.”
Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to continue to pursue far-reaching democratic and defence reforms, not just because this will further its aspirations to join NATO and the European Union, but because such reforms are essential for the country to become a fully functioning independent democratic state. The Allies remain committed to supporting the country’s wider reform programme, particularly in the area of defence. But, ultimately, the initiative has to come from the political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Beyond supporting reform, another key 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. Since 2009, Bosnia and Herzegovina has contributed to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
The Alliance has been committed to building long-term peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the wider Western Balkans, since the Alliance started actively 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 and closer integration with NATO, and the secondary mission of providing logistic and other support to the European Union Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as supporting the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on a case by case basis.