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.