Partnership Interoperability Initiative
The Partnership Interoperability Initiative (PII) was launched at the Wales Summit in 2014 to ensure that the deep connections built up between NATO and partner forces over years of operations will be maintained and deepened. In this way, partners can contribute to future crisis management, including NATO-led operations and, where applicable, to the NATO Response Force.
NATO Allies convene at the 2014 Wales Summit, where the Partnership Interoperability Initiative is launched.
- NATO partners contribute to NATO-led operations and missions, as well as exercises, often significantly.
- Partner forces need to be interoperable – able to operate together with NATO forces according to NATO standards, rules, procedures and using similar equipment.
- At the 2014 Wales Summit, NATO launched the Partnership Interoperability Initiative (PII) to maintain and deepen the interoperability that has been developed with partners during NATO-led operations and missions over the last decades.
- The PII underlined the importance of interoperability for all its partnerships and proposed new means to deepen cooperation with those partners that wished to be more interoperable with NATO.
- As a result of the PII, NATO granted tailor-made “enhanced opportunities” for deeper cooperation with selected partner countries. The Enhanced Opportunities Partners currently are: Australia, Georgia, Jordan, Sweden and Ukraine.
- The PII also launched the “Interoperability Platform” (IP) to provide a wider group of partners with deeper access to cooperation on interoperability issues – currently 22 selected partners, who are interested and committed to deepening interoperability for future crises, participate in meetings of a number of NATO committees and bodies held in the IP format.
A focus on interoperability
Partners can contribute to NATO-led operations and missions – whether through supporting peace by training security forces in the Western Balkans, or monitoring maritime activity in the Mediterranean Sea or off the Horn of Africa – as well as NATO exercises. To be able to contribute effectively, partners need to be interoperable with NATO.
Interoperability is the ability to operate together using harmonised standards, doctrines, procedures and equipment. It is essential to the work of an alliance of multiple countries with national defence forces, and is equally important for working together with partners that wish to contribute in supporting NATO in achieving its tactical, operational and strategic objectives. Much of day-to-day cooperation in NATO – including with partners – is focused on achieving this interoperability.
The Partnership Interoperability Initiative (PII)
In 2014, Allied leaders responded to the need to maintain and enhance interoperability built up with partners during years of operations (including in Afghanistan and the Western Balkans), recognising the importance of maintaining interoperability with partners for future crisis management. NATO launched the Partnership Interoperability Initiative (PII), which aims to:
- re-emphasise the importance of developing interoperability with and for all partners, and of ensuring that all existing partnership interoperability programmes are used to their full potential;
- enhance support for those partners that wish to maintain and enhance their interoperability, including through deeper cooperation and dialogue;
- offer enhanced opportunities for cooperation to those partners that provide sustained and significant force, capability or other contributions to the Alliance;
- underline that interoperability also needs to be a priority for NATO’s relations with other international organisations with a role in international crisis management.
More tailor-made cooperation: "Enhanced Opportunities Partners"
The PII recognised that deeper interoperability underpins and complements closer relations between NATO and partners. As partner nations’ contributions to NATO missions and operations as well as force pools became more ambitious and complex, they would benefit from a more tailor-made relationship to help sustain such contributions, based on specific “enhanced opportunities” for cooperation, including:
- regular, political consultations on security matters, including possibly at ministerial level;
- enhanced access to interoperability programmes and exercises;
- sharing information, including on lessons learned;
- closer association of such partners in times of crisis and the preparation of operations.
Shortly after the 2014 Wales Summit, five partners were granted these “enhanced opportunities”: Australia, Finland, Georgia, Jordan and Sweden. Since then, each “Enhanced Opportunities Partner” (EOP) has taken forward this programme of cooperation with NATO in a tailor-made manner, in areas of mutual interest for NATO and the partner concerned. Ukraine was recognised as a sixth EOP in June 2020. Upon completing the accession process on 4 April 2023, Finland’s relationship with the Alliance evolved from that of an Enhanced Opportunities Partner to a full member of NATO.
A standing format for cooperation on interoperability issues: the Interoperability Platform
Interoperability for current and future military cooperation to tackle security challenges is a key focus of day-to-day work at NATO, including in a broad range of committees, working groups and expert communities. The PII recognised that if partners are to be interoperable to manage crises with NATO tomorrow, they need to work with NATO on interoperability issues today – and be part of those discussions.
This is why the PII launched a standing format for NATO-partner cooperation on interoperability and related issues: the Interoperability Platform (IP). The format cuts across traditional, geographical frameworks for cooperation, and brings together all partners that have contributed to NATO operations or have taken concrete steps to deepen their interoperability with NATO. Participation in these programmes and activities changes, so the North Atlantic Council – the Alliance's highest political decision-making body – adjusts participation every year. Currently, 22 partners are members of the IP.
In this format, Allies and partners discuss projects and issues that affect interoperability for future crisis management, such as command and control systems, education and training, exercises or logistics.
Recognising the breadth and depth of work needed on interoperability, any NATO committee or body can meet in IP format, at different levels. It was launched by a meeting of defence ministers in IP format at the Wales Summit, and since then has met in a number of configurations at NATO Headquarters, including at the level of the North Atlantic Council, the Military Committee, the Partnerships and Cooperative Security Committee, the Operations Policy Committee, and technical groups such as the Conference of National Armaments Directors, the Command, Control and Consultation Board, the Civil Emergency Planning Committee and others. At the Warsaw Summit in July 2016, the defence ministers of the IP nations will meet with their NATO counterparts to review progress since Wales.
The following 22 partners are currently part of the Interoperability Platform:
Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Ireland, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, New Zealand, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates.