Relations with Serbia
Unlike other Western Balkan partners, Serbia does not aspire to join the Alliance. However, the country is deepening its political dialogue and cooperation with NATO on issues of common interest. Support for democratic, institutional and defence reforms is an important focus of NATO’s partnership with Serbia.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Prime Minister of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić (Belgrade, November 2015)
- NATO and Serbia have steadily built up cooperation and dialogue, since the country joined the Partnership for Peace programme and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 2006.
- NATO fully respects Serbia’s policy of military neutrality.
- Kosovo remains a key subject for dialogue, given the presence of the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR), which continues to ensure a safe and secure environment.
- The Allies welcome progress achieved through the European Union-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and the commitment of both to normalise relations.
- In January 2015, Serbia agreed to deepen cooperation with NATO through an Individual Partnership Action Plan.
More background information
Training is an important part of security cooperation and Serbian personnel participate in activities organised under the PfP programme. Training and exercises with NATO and individual Allies help ensure that Serbian military personnel are able to work effectively and safely within the UN and EU missions in which they serve.
Moreover, Serbia’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Training Centre in Kruševac was recognised as a Partnership Training and Education Centre in 2013, opening its activities to Allies and partners.
Kosovo is of course a key subject in NATO's dialogue with Serbia. The Alliance intervened militarily in early 1999 to bring an end to the violence in Kosovo, subsequently deploying the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) to provide a safe and secure environment and facilitate reconstruction.
KFOR remains crucial to guaranteeing security in Kosovo and will remain in Kosovo on the basis of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 to ensure a safe and secure environment, including freedom of movement for all people.
The Serbian armed forces have cooperated with KFOR for many years through the Joint Implementation Council (JIC), based on the 1999 Military Technical Agreement between KFOR and the Serbian armed forces (Kumanovo Agreement).
Defence and security sector reform
Defence and security sector reforms are core elements of cooperation. Serbia is committed to develop, through the reform process, an efficient and economically viable defence system, a modern, professional and efficient army. It is also determined to develop the capacity of its forces to participate in UN-mandated multinational operations and EU crisis management operations. These are areas in which NATO and individual Allies have much expertise to offer.
An important vehicle for this cooperation has been the Serbia/NATO Defence Reform Group (DRG). The group was jointly established in February 2006 to provide advice and assistance to the Serbian authorities on reform and modernisation of Serbia’s armed forces, and to build a modern, affordable, and democratically-controlled defence structure.
Serbia also joined the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP) in 2007. The PARP provides a structured basis for identifying partner forces and capabilities that could be available to the Alliance for multinational training, exercises and operations. It also serves as a planning tool to guide and measure progress in defence and military transformation efforts.
The reforms undertaken within the DRG and the PARP are supported through the selection of training activities and exercises.
Strengthening good governance within defence institutions is a priority for the Serbian defence ministry. It is actively engaged in the NATO Building Integrity (BI) Programme – a defence capacity-building programme aimed at providing practical tools to strengthen integrity, transparency and accountability and reduce the risk of corruption in the defence and security sector. Following the completion of the NATO BI Self-Assessment Questionnaire and Peer Review Process in November 2012, the defence ministry started to implement the resulting recommendations. Furthermore, Serbia contributes to the development of the educational component of the BI Programme by hosting workshops and sharing good practice and lessons learned with NATO members and partner countries participating in the BI Programme.
The Allies have supported a number of NATO/PfP Trust Fund projects in Serbia. These include a project to destroy 28,000 surplus small arms and light weapons, which was completed in 2003, and another for the safe destruction of 1.4 million landmines and ammunition, which was completed in June 2007. A third Trust Fund project for the destruction of approximately 2,000 tonnes of surplus ammunition and explosives is being prepared.
Another Trust Fund project to develop alternative livelihoods for former members of the Serbian armed forces was completed in 2011. The implementing agent for this project is the International Organization for Migration (IOM). This project, carried out over five years and worth €9.6 million, helped almost 6,000 discharged defence personnel in Serbia start small businesses.
Security-related scientific cooperation
Serbia has been actively engaged within the framework of the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme since 2007. The SPS Programme enables close collaboration on issues of common interest to enhance the security of NATO and partner nations. By facilitating international efforts, in particular with a regional focus, the Programme seeks to address emerging security challenges, support NATO-led operations and advance early warning and forecast for the prevention of disasters and crises.
Today, scientists and experts from Serbia are working to address a wide range of security issues, notably in the fields of energy security, counter-terrorism, and defence against CBRN agents. In a recent series of SPS-funded workshops led by Serbia and the United States, experts also developed a scorecard for the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women in Peace and Security. This set of indicators will help to assess how NATO and partner countries are mainstreaming gender in military operations.
Serbia and NATO aim to improve public access to information on the benefits of cooperation with NATO and the key elements of NATO-Serbia cooperation. A broad and effective communications strategy is an important aspect of PfP cooperation. The NATO Military Liaison Office in Belgrade plays a role in this process.
The Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) concluded in January 2015 is a jointly agreed framework in which a partner nation lays out its reform goals and the areas where NATO can provide assistance to achieve those goals. It will help to organise bilateral cooperation, ensuring that NATO and individual Allies can provide support to Serbia in achieving its reform goals. The IPAP offers an important step forward in the relationship, allowing NATO and Serbia to deepen both their political consultation and practical cooperation.
The NATO Military Liaison Office in Belgrade, established in December 2006, supports Serbian defence reforms, facilitates Serbian participation in activities in the framework of the Partnership for Peace programme and provides assistance to NATO’s public diplomacy activities in the region.
24 March – 10 June 1999: A 78-day NATO air campaign is triggered by violence in Kosovo.
June 1999: The NATO-led Kosovo peacekeeping force (KFOR) is deployed to maintain security and support reconstruction efforts. KFOR and Serbian Armed Forces sign Military Technical Agreement (Kumanovo Agreement).
2001: NATO and the newly elected government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia cooperate in crisis-management operations in southern Serbia.
2003: Belgrade formally applies for PfP membership.
2003: The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is replaced by a looser state union of Serbia and Montenegro.
2003: NATO completes a PfP trust fund project to destroy 28,000 surplus small arms and light weapons in Serbia
2005: Serbia and NATO sign a transit agreement for KFOR forces.
2005: NATO launches a PfP trust fund project to develop alternative livelihoods for former Serbian armed forces personnel as the service is downsized.
2006: Serbia joins the Partnership for Peace.
2006: NATO opens a Military Liaison Office in Belgrade.
2007: Serbia joins the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP).
2007: NATO completes a PfP trust fund project that safely removed 1.4 million anti-personnel landmines from Serbian territory.
September 2007: Serbia submits its PfP Presentation Document to NATO.
2009: Serbia agrees its first Individual Partnership Programme with NATO.
September 2010: NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen meets the President of the Republic of Serbia, Boris Tadić, while in New York.
April 2011: The North Atlantic Council approves Serbia's request to undertake an Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) with NATO.
June 2011: Serbia hosts the Allied Command Transformation Strategic Military Partners Conference, one of the largest NATO partnership events each year.
April 2013: NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomes the Belgrade-Pristina Agreement on Normalisation congratulating all parties for their constructive approach to finding a lasting solution through EU-mediated talks. He emphasises that NATO will continue to ensure a safe and secure environment throughout Kosovo and stands ready to support the implementation of this latest agreement.
June 2013: The North Atlantic Council accepts Serbia's offer to make its Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Training Centre in Krusevac a Partnership Training and Education Centre, opening its activities to Allies and partners.
July 2013: Work begins on a project to assist the Serbian Ministry of Defence in the decommissioning of Serbia's stocks of approximately 2,000 tonnes of surplus ammunition and explosives.
September 2014: At the Wales Summit, Allied leaders reiterate their support for the Euro-Atlantic integration of countries in the Western Balkans region and also welcome Serbia’s progress in building a stronger partnership with NATO. They welcome progress achieved in Kosovo and the improvement in the security situation, encouraging both parties to continue towards full implementation of the Belgrade-Pristina Agreement on Normalisation. Serbia, represented by Defence Minister Bratislav Gašić, is invited to participate in an Interoperability Platform meeting, as one of 24 partners that have demonstrated their commitment to reinforce their interoperability with NATO.
January 2015: Serbia concludes an Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) with NATO to deepen dialogue and practical cooperation, particularly in the area of defence reform.
February 2015: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meets Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić during the Munich Security Conference.
March 2015: First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić and Defence Minister Bratislav Gašić visit NATO Headquarters, meeting Secretary General Stoltenberg and the North Atlantic Council.
16-17 April 2015: The Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, General Knud Bartels, visits Belgrade to develop further the NATO-Serbia military relations, following Serbia’s agreement of an IPAP with NATO. He meets the chief of the general staff of the armed forces, the assistant to the foreign minister and the state secretary at the ministry of defence.
8 July 2015: The Serbian parliament ratifies the PfP SOFA – a multilateral agreement between NATO member states and countries participating in the PfP programme, which facilitates cooperation and exercises by dealing with the status of foreign forces while present on the territory of another state.
19-20 November 2015: During a two-day visit to Serbia, the Secretary General discusses NATO-Serbia relations and current security challenges with the country’s prime minister and other senior government officials. Commending Serbia’s strong commitment to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Mr Stoltenberg stresses that “normalisation and dialogue is the only way forward. I encourage both parties to continue on this path.” He also welcomes the strengthened cooperation between NATO and Serbia, pointing to the start of a new project to help Serbia safely dispose of up to 2,000 tonnes of surplus ammunition, and announces that KFOR will fully relax the air safety zone, which has been in place since 1999.
13 October 2016: An opening ceremony in Serbia marks the beginning of the implementation of a project to help the country safely dispose of up to 2,000 tonnes of surplus ammunition.
9 July 2016: At the NATO Summit in Warsaw, Allied leaders underline their continued commitment to the stability and security of the Western Balkans, as well as their support for the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of countries in the region. They emphasise that democratic values, rule of law, domestic reforms, and good neighbourly relations are vital for regional cooperation and for the Euro-Atlantic integration process. With regard to Serbia, they welcome the continued progress made in building the NATO-Serbia partnership and support further political dialogue and practical cooperation to this end. They also welcome the progress achieved in the EU-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.
23 November 2016 – Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic visits NATO HQ for a meeting with the North Atlantic Council to discuss a range of issues and common challenges as well as the strengthening of Serbia’s partnership with NATO. This is the first time a Serbian Prime Minister has ever addressed NATO’s principal political decision-making body.
December 2017: A three-week training course of medical experts from Iraq’s security forces is conducted at the Serbian Military Logistics Training Centre in Niš, Serbia. The course has been developed within the framework of the NATO Defence Capacity Building Initiative for Iraq.