Updated: 20-Jul-2005 NATO Speeches


18 July 2005


by John Colston, Assistant Secretary General for Defence Policy and Planning on defence reform in Bosnia

Today, with the signing of the draft laws on a single military force, Bosnia-Herzegovina has made an important step in support of its ambition to join the Partnership for Peace. You may recall that last year, NATO heads of State and Government, at their Summit at Istanbul, referred to progress in defence reform, and in particular towards the establishment of a single military force, and full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia as key conditions for PfP membership and urged the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to make progress on both accounts. They also decided to establish NATO Headquarters Sarajevo which would assist the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina in their defence reform efforts.

Today’s event proves that NATO leaders were right in making such a commitment in support of the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina. On behalf of the Secretary-General, I would like to congratulate all those who have contributed to the agreement and its signing ceremony today. We understand that a lot of hard work has gone into the development of the legal framework for the establishment of such a force and that all parties involved have had to compromise. We particularly welcome the fact that work on the legal framework has been initiated by Bosnia and Herzegovina and the concept has been developed by your authorities in close cooperation with NATO.

To us this demonstrates that, in the area of defence, your country has developed a sense of ownership which is crucial to your ambition to join the Euro-Atlantic institutions. The implementation process will be difficult, and in many respects painful, particularly for those military and civilian personnel, and their families, who become redundant or are otherwise affected by the reorganisation process. Regrettably, these tough decisions are unavoidable if you are to achieve the required results. The reform process will require determination and broad and sustained political support. The envisaged regimental concept and a structure comprising three multi-ethnic brigades, which we applaud, and unified personnel, training and logistic commands will provide the basis for a defence establishment geared towards the challenges of the future rather than the past.

It can only be good for your country. As I said earlier, progress in defence reform is one of the key conditions for joining the Partnership for Peace Programme; the draft legislation signed today, when implemented constitutes an important step forward in this respect. On behalf of the Secretary-General, I urge you to fulfil the remaining Partnership for Peaceconditionality andurge all governing and opposition parties to join together in ratifying the new laws and to turn the underlying concept into reality as soon as possible. You are not alone in this challenging endeavour. NATO nations and NATO headquarters, including those in Brussels and Sarajevo, will continue to support your reform efforts.

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