Relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • Last updated: 25 Aug. 2021 11:25

Bosnia and Herzegovina aspires to join NATO. Support for democratic, institutional, security sector and defence reforms are a key focus of cooperation.

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. NATO played a key role in implementing the Dayton Peace Agreement through peacekeeping deployments over a nine-year period from December 1995 to December 2004. In December 2004, primary responsibility for military aspects of the Peace Agreement was handed over to the European Union (EU).
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme in 2006.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina was invited to join the Membership Action Plan in 2010. 
  • The country's cooperation with NATO is structured through the Bosnia and Herzegovina Reform Programme. This Reform Programme outlines the reforms the government intends to undertake and facilitates the provision of support by NATO toward these efforts.
  • Having submitted their first Reform Programme in December 2019 for the year ahead, Bosnia and Herzegovina submitted their self-assessment on the progress that had been made at the beginning of 2021. 
  • To facilitate cooperation, Bosnia and Herzegovina has a diplomatic mission at NATO Headquarters as well as a liaison office at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE).
  • 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 PfP programme and closer integration with NATO, and the secondary mission of providing logistic and other support to the European Union Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Membership aspirations

 

  • The country was invited to join the Membership Action Plan (MAP) in 2010.
  • Participation in the MAP does not prejudge any decision on future membership. Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to continue pursuing democratic and defence reforms to fulfil its NATO and EU aspirations and to become a well-functioning independent democratic state.
  • At the beginning of 2021, Bosnia and Herzegovina established the Commission for Cooperation with NATO in order to facilitate the development of their Reform Programme for 2021-2022 and other matters on their path to accession.

 

Key areas of cooperation

Bosnia and Herzegovina's cooperation with NATO is mutually beneficial and includes:

Building capabilities and interoperability

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina is working to develop fully professional armed forces that are interoperable with NATO forces and are manned by volunteers who meet high professional standards. To this end, the country has 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 peacekeeping and crisis-management operations. It also serves as the principal mechanism used to guide and measure defence and military reform progress.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina has declared a number of forces and assets as potentially available for PfP activities, including engineering (explosive ordnance disposal) capabilities and related equipment.
  • Since 2014, under the Partnership Interoperability Initiative, Bosnia and Herzegovina has participated in the Interoperability Platform, which brings Allies together with 24 selected partners that are active contributors to NATO's operations.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina is an active participant in the tailored Building Integrity (BI) programme, which focuses on good governance and transparent and effective use of defence resources.  The country's NATO-accredited Peace Support Operations Training Centre (PSOTC) offers expert training on building integrity and other topics to NATO and partner countries. 

Support for NATO-led operations and missions

Wider cooperation

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina is developing its national civil emergency and disaster management capabilities in consultation with the Allies, including developing the legal framework for coping with civil emergencies and 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 (EADRCC) 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.  In 2017, the country hosted the annual EADRCC disaster preparedness and response exercise that brought together Allies, partners, and international organisations. 
  • 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. Public diplomacy is considered a key area in need of dedicated effort and resources to inform the public and authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina about NATO. There is a need to provide accurate information, counter disinformation and promote the benefits of reform efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina. NATO Headquarters Sarajevo provides resources on the ground and works with several Allies.
  • In the framework of the Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, leading areas for cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina include counter-terrorism, cyber defence, advanced technology, mine and unexploded ordnance detection and clearance, and human and social aspects of security. Notably, experts from Bosnia and Herzegovina are directly involved in the implementation across the Western Balkans of the Next-generation Incident Command System (NICS) - a web-based command and control software that facilitates collaboration across all levels of preparedness, planning, response and recovery during natural disasters and other incidents. In addition, scientists in Bosnia and Herzegovina are working on the development of different technologies to deal with the threat of explosive hazards, including trough virtual and augmented reality and enhanced detection systems.
  • Challenges to progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has strained healthcare systems in the region. Representing NATO’s continued support to the country, Allies have approved a NATO COVID-19 assistance package valued at EUR 500,000. The project has been developed based on the country’s request for assistance to the EADRCC and approved by the Operations Policy Committee for implementation.