Joint press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Chair of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Šefik Džaferović

  • 25 May. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 25 May. 2022 16:35

(As delivered)

President Džaferović,

Welcome to NATO Headquarters, it’s great to see you here. And it is really a pleasure to welcome you because Bosnia and Herzegovina is a valued partner for NATO.

We strongly support your sovereignty and territorial integrity.
And remain committed to your Euro-Atlantic aspirations, for the benefit of all your people.
NATO is a steadfast supporter of peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and across the Western Balkans.

Our political dialogue and practical cooperation are more important than ever, with Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine and its malign influence across the region.

So NATO will do even more to stand with our partners.
We have just had a very constructive discussion on how we can further deepen our cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This could include developing a new defence capacity-building package.

Enhancing our cooperation on small arms and light weapons, counter-terrorism, crisis management and cyber security.

Reinforcing our Headquarters in Sarajevo with more personnel and financial resources. 

And supporting expert team visits and counter-disinformation efforts. 

By stepping up both our political and practical support, we can help build resilience and prevent any future aggression. 

Any further assistance would be tailored, demand driven, and fully coordinated with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

We also discussed NATO’s role in Operation ALTHEA.
Our cooperation with the European Union on this remains essential.
And we will continue to support this important EU operation.  

We also addressed the importance of unified structures of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Including the armed forces, one of the country’s strongest multi-ethnic institutions.

These institutions are absolutely vital for the stability of your country.
And they must be preserved. 

I urge all sides to stop divisive rhetoric and take concrete steps towards reconciliation.

So President, thank you again for being here today.
You will now participate in a meeting of the North Atlantic Council with all the 30 Allies.
And that will provide you to continue the discussion on how to further strengthen the partnership between Bosnia and Herzegovina and NATO.

A further demonstration of how important our dialogue and cooperation are with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

So once again, welcome. Please, you have the floor.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: So we'll take, go to Sarajevo first by Zoom, N1 TV, Esmir Milavić. Go ahead Esmir. We can't hear you.

Esmir Milavić (N1 TV Bosnia and Herzegovina): Now you should hear me. Thanks Oana. Question for the Secretary General yesterday you spoke with the Croatian President Milanović he's threatening to veto Finland's membership in NATO in relation to the electoral reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, what is your comments on that? And will you work with the President Milanović to fix that issue and also will you invite Bosnia and Herzegovina and other partners to join you in Madrid for summit next month? I'm going to switch to Bosnian for President Džaferović.

[As Interpreted] Question for President Džaferović. Mr. Džaferović, in Bosnia and Herzegovina there is a lot of talk about peaceful separation while from Croatia we have been receiving messages on the forming of a potential self-government. This is specifically what was told by President Milanović. Do you expect NATO to be one of the forces that will continue preserving stability and peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Firstly on my conversation with President Milanović yesterday. That was a constructive conversation, constructive call and he raised the concerns. He also has expressed publicly especially on the situation in Bosnia Herzegovina, but we also discussed the potential membership of Finland and Sweden and I will just say that I'm confident that we will find the solution. Finland and Sweden will become members of the Alliance. All Allies agree that NATO's door is open and that Finland and Sweden are mature and well developed countries that meet the NATO standards. And therefore I'm confident that we will find a way to also find the common ground on how to invite Finland and Sweden to become members of our Alliance.

On the format of the Madrid Summit. That is not yet finally decided. But what I can say is that I'm absolutely confident that heads of state and government when they meet in Madrid that they will make decisions and recommit to the strong partnership with Bosnia Herzegovina to further strengthen the partnership with Bosnia Herzegovina, and to recognise the importance of the NATO presence, including the NATO headquarters, and the importance of strengthening, defence capacity building, ensuring interoperability, and also addressing the important issue of the ethnic armed forces on Bosnia Herzegovina. And that will continue both very close political dialogue but also practical cooperation with Bosnia Herzegovina and that will be decided and stated clearly when that sort of thing government meet in Madrid.

Chair of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Šefik Džaferović: [As Interpreted] The election law of Bosnia Herzegovina is an internal issue of Bosnia Herzegovina and we in Bosnia Herzegovina will be decided on that issue in line with the standards of the European Court of Human Rights and European Convention on Human Rights. They've invested a lot of efforts so far to implement those decisions. And I think that the entire world knows, the EU, and the US, everyone knows why those negotiations on the election law have not succeeded so far and where the responsibility for that lies. But I would like to mention here, that it's not acceptable for Bosnia Herzegovina to condition anyone's role to NATO with our election law, and we regulate those issues according to the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. That would be my comment regarding the question about the election law. And when it comes to the recent statements by Mr. Dodik, Dodik and everyone else should know that there is no and especially no peaceful separation in Bosnia Herzegovina, and everyone else should also know that there can't be any additional territorial or ethnic division in Bosnia Herzegovina. There is the Dayton Peace Accords and the 27 years of painstaking reforms in our country and it's the best for everyone in Bosnia Herzegovina to strictly and with no reservation, maintain all that we have in force today. It is not possible for anyone to change what we have as applicable solutions today with any unilateral action. They can only threaten peace and stability in that way. And all of those who attack Bosnia Herzegovina they should finally learn something from the past and from history and they should know that even stronger ones have not succeeded to destroy Bosnia Herzegovina and they will not succeed either and if they continue, they will end up how those who, who try to break Bosnia Herzegovina in the 1990s, will see the same end. I'm convinced that we will preserve peace and stability in our country that Bosnia Herzegovina will continue going down its road and that the institutions will finally be deblocked and that the decisions taken in the entity of Republika Srpska will be annulled and they attacked the constitutional order and institutions of the country and that we will successfully continue our Euro Atlantic road and our reform path within the country. Which is what is best for all of us, for all of us in Bosnia Herzegovina for the Western Balkans in general and for Europe, and the entire world. Of course, I'm confident that NATO, as Bosnia Herzegovina's partner will protect peace and stability in Bosnia Herzegovina including on the basis of the obligations stemming from the Dayton Peace Accords and that no destabilisation will be allowed, and that's why it's important to keep international troops in Bosnia Herzegovina to reinforce them, to extend the mission Althea at the Security Council session in November this year. But if the extension of the mandate is called into question, international forces should stay even then based on the Dayton Peace Agreement to protect peace and stability in Bosnia Herzegovina that's the best for Bosnia Herzegovina, Western Balkans and the entire world.

NATO Spokesperson: We'll go to Al Jazeera Balkans, Nadina Malicbegović.

Nadina Malicbegović (Al Jazeera Balkans): Thank you so much. I hope you hear me. I have two questions for Secretary General. First one. Okay. We know that NATO is helping to Bosnia every time, all the time, but is NATO aware of very tense situation in Bosnia and what can Bosnia expect if there is a real threat to peace? Second, President of Croatia Zoran Milanović said some very delicate things about Bosnia, about Croats in Bosnia, and about their situation. So we understood that as a President of another country, his speech and his words were delicate. So how can you comment this?

NATO Secretary General: Well we are of course monitoring very closely and following very closely the developments in Bosnia Herzegovina. NATO has a long history in Bosnia Herzegovina, we helped to create peace in Bosnia Herzegovina, end the brutal ethnic war there and we continue our presence in Bosnia Herzegovina with the headquarters in Sarajevo and also with the support to the EU Operation Althea. So we are committed for long haul we are there to continue to provide support to ensure peace and stability. And of course, we are concerned, and we follow closely some of the divisive rhetoric, some of the inflammatory messages, not least coming from Republika Srpska, and the that's exactly why we also are now looking into how we can further strengthen our practical support, including on defence capacity building measures on how to strengthen our presence at the headquarters, and also how we can work more closely together on light arms, but also on other areas which are of importance for helping to preserve peace, stabilise Bosnia Herzegovina, and also to counter disinformation and also work on issues like for instance, cyber defence, so there's a wide range of issues where we are now looking into to further strengthen the demand driven tailored capacity building support for Bosnia Herzegovina. And the aim of this is of course to prevent new instability, to prevent a new war. So we are there to preserve peace, of course in close cooperation with Bosnia Herzegovina our close and highly valued partner.

And then on the phone call with the President of Croatia. I don't have anything more to add that he raised concerns that he has also raised publicly. And of course, when NATO Allies raises concerns, then I listen, and it's part of the dialogue between allies that issues, also sensitive, difficult issues are discussed, and that's part of being 30 allies and then also, of course, Bosnia Herzegovina being close and the highly valued partner. Then we also discuss issues with them also difficult issues when that is needed. So that's what I have to say on that phone Call.

NATO Spokesperson: We have one last question from the Swedish News Agency.

Wiktor Nummelin (TT Swedish News Agency): Yes, Wiktor Nummelin from the Swedish news Agency TT. For the General Secretary, could you fill us in a little bit what NATO is doing to solve this dispute between Turkey, Sweden and Finland and if it would be a good idea to separate Finland and Sweden, to take one by one instead of doing it together? And for the president as well, what can Bosnia do in this situation? Can Bosnia have a feeling to help Sweden and Finland or to assist in some way in this application process? Thank you.

NATO Secretary General: We are of course working on this issue and there is a regular and ongoing dialogue with Sweden and Finland. And of course we are in close contact with the NATO Ally, Turkey. There's a meeting today and there are contacts at different levels, meetings at different levels, phone calls at different levels. And I myself also spoke with President Erdoğan on Saturday, I spoke with the Croatian President yesterday. There is an ongoing dialogue also here at NATO where we have the presence of all 30 Allies including also Turkey and then we have the diplomatic missions of Finland and Sweden. So from the Prime Ministers, Presidents, and at the different levels and in different ways we engage also at the Ambassadorial level to find a solution. My message is that I'm confident that we will find a solution, all Allies agree that NATO's open door has been and is a great historic success. We are proven again and again when there are differences among NATO Allies when Allies like Turkey raises concerns we sit down and then we address them and we need 30 allies to agree we're working on that. Finland and Sweden of course they made their own separate decisions but they decided to apply the same day and we are working on this together and I think it is an important message that Finland and Sweden are sending that they submitted their applications on the same day and we are working on this as one joint effort by the two countries to join our Alliance and we will we would welcome the applications from both Finland and Sweden.

Chair of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina: [As Interpreted] I support the NATO path of Sweden and Finland and I've said this publicly there is no dilemma for me about that. I really believe that the solution will be found regarding the concerns expressed by Turkey as said by the Secretary General.

NATO Spokesperson: Many thanks, this concludes this Press Point, I'm afraid that's all we have time for.