Relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina
NATO and Bosnia and Herzegovina pursue a wide-ranging and mutually beneficial programme of cooperation, which includes support for democratic, institutional, security sector and defence reforms. The Reform Programme, as the main framework for cooperation, helps guide the country’s reform efforts as it continues to pursue its Euro-Atlantic path.
- 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.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme in 2006 and was invited to join the Membership Action Plan (MAP) in 2010. Participation in the MAP does not prejudge any decision on future membership.
- Within the Membership Action Plan, the country's cooperation with NATO is structured through the Bosnia and Herzegovina Reform Programme, which outlines the reforms the government intends to undertake and facilitates the provision of support by NATO toward these efforts.
- To facilitate cooperation, Bosnia and Herzegovina has a diplomatic mission at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium as well as a liaison office at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Mons, Belgium.
- NATO retains a headquarters in Sarajevo with the primary mission of assisting the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina with defence and security sector reforms and commitments related to the PfP programme, and the secondary mission of providing logistic and other support to the European Union Force (EUFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. NATO provides support to EUFOR Operation Althea under the Berlin Plus Agreements.
- In light of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and changed security environment in Europe, NATO is increasing its support for partners, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, to help them build their capabilities and strengthen their resilience. In February 2023, Allied Defence Ministers endorsed a new Defence Capacity Building package for Bosnia and Herzegovina. This assistance package will strengthen the country’s defence and security capabilities, including in areas such as crisis management, cyber defence, aero-medical evacuation and countering terrorism.
Evolution of relations
Following the 1992-1995 war 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. The NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR) was deployed in December 1995 to implement the military aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreement and was replaced a year later by the NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR). SFOR helped to maintain a secure environment and facilitate the country’s reconstruction in the wake of the war.
In December 2004, primary responsibility for military aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreement was handed over to the European Union (EU), which has been conducting EUFOR Operation Althea in Bosnia and Herzegovina ever since. NATO provides support to EUFOR Operation Althea under the Berlin Plus Agreements.
Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme in 2006. It subsequently was invited to join the Membership Action Plan (MAP) in 2010, 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 on future membership. The country needs to continue pursuing democratic and defence reforms to fulfil its Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
To that end, under the MAP, Bosnia and Herzegovina presented its first Reform Programme in 2019. This programme outlines the reforms that the government intends to undertake and facilitates the provision of support by NATO toward these efforts. At the beginning of 2021, Bosnia and Herzegovina established the Commission for Cooperation with NATO, which coordinates the implementation of reform activities under the Reform Programme.
In light of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, NATO is increasing its support for partners, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, to help them build their capabilities and strengthen their resilience. The Defence Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina participated in the 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid. During this summit, Allies agreed a set of additional political and practical measures to support the country in strengthening its resilience, including by developing a new Defence Capacity Building (DCB) package. NATO Defence Ministers endorsed the new DCB package for Bosnia and Herzegovina in February 2023.
Key areas of cooperation
Bosnia and Herzegovina's cooperation with NATO is mutually beneficial and includes:
Building capabilities and interoperability
- NATO supports the development of security and defence capabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina through the Defence and Related Security Capacity Building (DCB) Initiative. The 2023 DCB package for Bosnia and Herzegovina includes initiatives in areas such as crisis management, cyber defence, aero-medical evacuation and managing the consequences of incidents involving chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) substances.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina is working to develop fully professional armed forces that are interoperable with NATO forces and are staffed 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.
- In 2022, as part of the Operational Capabilities Concept Evaluation and Feedback (OCC E&F) programme, which is designed to assess the level of interoperability of partner units, Bosnia and Herzegovina successfully certified a light infantry battalion group to NATO combat readiness standards.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina has declared a number of forces and assets as potentially available for PfP activities, including engineering capabilities (explosive ordnance disposal) and related equipment.
- Since 2014, under the Partnership Interoperability Initiative, the country has participated in the Interoperability Platform, which brings Allies together with 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
- Since 2009, Bosnia and Herzegovina contributed officers to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan as part of the Danish and German contingents, and also contributed to its follow-on Resolute Support Mission (RSM).
- In the framework of the Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, leading areas for cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina include advanced technology, mine and unexploded ordnance detection and clearance, cyber defence, counter-terrorism, and human and social aspects of security. Notably, scientists from Bosnia and Herzegovina are involved in an SPS research project aiming to increase the security of communications by employing quantum technology in 5G networks. Recently completed activities involving Bosnia and Herzegovina include 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 have worked on the development of different technologies to deal with the threat of explosive hazards, including through virtual and augmented reality and enhanced detection systems.
- 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, the country 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. The EADRCC is NATO’s principal civil emergency response mechanism in the Euro-Atlantic area. It is active all year round, operational on a 24/7 basis, and involves all NATO Allies and partner countries. The Centre functions as a clearing-house system for coordinating both requests for and offers of assistance mainly in case of natural and man-made disasters.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina and NATO aim to improve public access to information on the benefits of cooperation with NATO for all people living in the country, and on the country’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 highlight the benefits of reform efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina. NATO Headquarters Sarajevo provides resources on the ground and works with several Allies.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina has been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Demonstrating NATO’s continued support to the country, in October 2020, Allies approved a COVID-19 assistance package for the country, for the amount of EUR 500,000. This assistance package provided critical medical equipment, including pressure chambers, X-ray devices, non-contact infrared thermometers, masks, protective clothing and antigen tests. In 2021 and 2022, additional support was provided from NATO’s Pandemic Response Stockpile, which included ventilators and personal protective equipment. The projects were developed based on the country’s request for assistance to NATO's Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC).