Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Željko Komšić, Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • 18 Mar. 2014
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  • Last updated 19-Mar-2014 15:21

Joint press point with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Zeljko Komsic, Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mr. Komsic, it is a great pleasure to welcome you here to NATO headquarters.

Our meeting today reflects the importance and value of our partnership. 

We thank you for your continued contribution to our mission in Afghanistan, where you have helped make a difference. We are grateful for your additional deployment of 26 military police this January to Kandahar where they are partnering with American National Guard troops.

NATO is committed to the stability and security of the Western Balkans, and we are committed to the Euro-Atlantic integration of those nations that aspire to join our Alliance.

Your meeting today with the North Atlantic Council provides an important opportunity to discuss progress made in your reforms and in your membership aspirations.

As you well know, Allies stand ready to activate Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Membership Action Plan. That’s what we agreed to offer you in Tallinn in 2010 and reaffirmed at our Chicago Summit in 2012.

The Membership Action plan will move your country closer to NATO and closer to the Euro-Atlantic community.

We stand by our offer to activate the Membership Action Plan. But only Bosnia and Herzegovina can unlock that offer.

To do so, it must implement the agreement on immovable defence properties. I welcome the efforts under way and your leadership and spirit of compromise  to resolve the issue.

We also look forward to progress in other defence reform areas, and for  wider democratic and economic reforms to tackle corruption and improve the rule of law. Recent demonstrations reflect a popular call for reforms.

I urge all leaders in the region to show their commitment to reform and reconciliation. Because that will benefit their citizens, their countries and the entire Euro-Atlantic family.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (NATO Secretary General): (...) Mister Komšić, welcome once again.

ŽELJKO KOMŠIĆ (Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina):   (TRANSLATION THROUGHOUT) Thank you Mister Secretary General.  I would be very pleased to be able to repeat verbatim what you just told me, to reiterate it once again.  But on behalf of the Bosnian and Herzegovinian Presidency and my personal behalf I express the pleasure that this meeting is taking place and express the pleasure that this series of meetings will continue with the Secretary General and with the Member States of NATO. 

Of course, this was an opportunity, Ladies and Gentlemen, for us to inform His Excellency the Secretary General about the progress of Bosnia Herzegovina.  How far did we fair, did we come down this road towards NATO?  What have we done with the Action Plan? The key issue is the registration of the prospective real estate and into [… inaudible] the property of the defence forces.  This is the pre-condition.  This is the condition outstanding for Bosnia Herzegovina to activate the Action Plan for Bosnia to achieve, to gain the Action Plan.

Of course, I took the opportunity this morning to explain to the Secretary General and his associates why this issue is practically sitting in Bosnia, why we have... we are still in this stalemate position and why nothing is done in Bosnia.  We have on legislative side regulations that we've all the legal preconditions to register this property in land register books.  All the premises which are necessary to the Ministry of Defence are actually in the position (sic)... possession sorry of the Armed Forces, the MOD entered into possession of all these premises.  But we're living in a political world.  We have politics.  We have political preconditions.  And in Bosnia you need political consensus between political parties. And political parties are now... which are the parliamentary majority in Bosnia Herzegovina.  And here we have hit the problem. 

Legally, technically, we have the conditions to solve this quickly.  But the political consensus is lacking.  However absurd this might sound, this is the case.  This is... There is no political consensus to implement a valid legislation, a piece of legislation which is enacted.  We understand what the position of the NATO Member States.  We understand the position of the Secretary General. 

This issue which is blocking Bosnia Herzegovina to proceed with the Action Plan is looking from the NATO perspective, from the Member States' perspectives is actually a measure of Bosnians' capability to act together, to act as a single State. 

We know that the 63 real ... the 63 premises are not something which is essential for the existence of NATO.  But implementing these preconditions is necessary to show, to demonstrate to NATO that we are able to function as a country, as a reliable partner of NATO, as a reliable partner to the Member States.  We fully understand this rationale.

However much we would like to circumvent this precondition, everybody in Bosnia should realize we're not going to get the waiver here.  It has to take place.  This is an exam... This is a test for us to show that we can act as a real country, as a proper country.  And I have to say this to our friends, to our future collaborators in this framework: we need to show that we are able to communicate and act as a normal regulated society and as a country.  And to be very honest, I expected to face this issue when I came today to Brussels. And this will remain as a condition for us.

On the other hand side, we should not think that everybody... everything ground to a halt because of this in Bosnia Herzegovina and our NATO integration.  No, things are happening in other ratio.... in other frameworks and fora.  The Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces, Secretary General Mister Rasmussen said that we are taking part in NATO missions or under the NATO's umbrella so to speak, under NATO roof.  And Bosnia Herzegovina will carry on in this way.  We are going to fulfil, to discharge our obligations fully.  But we have this political condition. We have... we have it... And if we are clever, if we take care of the future of our country, it should not be a major obstacle.  We should fulfil it and join NATO.  Thank you very much.

MODERATOR:  Bosnian State TV please.

Q: Yes, (...inaudible...), Bosnian State Television.  One question for both gentlemen.  These days, ministers of EU are starting discussion about Bosnia, finally, trying to find some tailor-made approach to the Bosnia, gaining probably some special status for Bosnia or approaching to the situation which is there.  And Bosnia’s very unique situation within the European continent.  So could we expect.... And what do you think about it that a special tailor-made approach to Bosnia and the problems of having in mind all those obstacles when Bosnia... when it comes to the Bosnians’ membership of the Membership Action Plan.  Is that the way how the NATO maybe should approach Bosnia, to that specific and unique example in Europe? 

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN:  First of all, I would very much like to see the Membership Action Plan for Bosnia-Herzegovina being activated as soon as possible. And we stand ready to activate it as soon as this defence property issue has been solved.  Actually, I would call it a "tailor-made arrangement" because we have offered such a condition-based Membership Action Plan.  We are ready to activate it as soon as Bosnia-Herzegovina takes the necessary steps. And today I have listened carefully to the presentation by Mister Komšić on behalf of the Bosnia-Herzegovina presidency.  It's been very interesting.

In my opinion, it shouldn't be insurmountable to solve this issue.  And I would very much like to see it solved before the NATO Summit which will take place on the 4th and 5th of September this year. 

ŽELJKO KOMŠIĆ:  Now I can answer.  You call it, as you wish, tailor-made approach, special way.  I have to be very sincere, speaking to you, speaking to the Bosnian public.  We are not going to live to see this will not take place.  There are standards.  There are conditions.  We've heard, even today, this morning that there are standards and conditions.  I expect to hear the same message in the meeting that follows with the North Atlantic Council.  There is a condition, Gentlemen, please fulfil the conditions, we carry on with the business. Same thing with the European Union, Lady Ashton paid a visit to Bosnia a few days ago.  There was a direct question:  "Are we going to have a different approach to Bosnia in terms of Euro... integration?"  And I will this opportunity to thank the authorities in Croatia and Slovenia which are always advocating this special approach to Bosnia. 

We've heard directly from Lady Ashton our standards were lowered more than enough in our approach to Bosnia:  what you have undertaken, you have to fulfil, to translate it.  There will be no relaxation in terms of fulfilling some basic standards that NATO has set; or the European Union has set.  You may call those standards any which name you wish. What we are requested by NATO or by the EU is not something which is impossible.  These are not conditions that we cannot fulfil. 

It is up to us.  It is up to our political will.  It is in doing the business in a normal regular way and the politicians, the people who are creating the political scene, political atmosphere, situation in Bosnia, it's up to us.  It's up to us to think about the future of our country, what kind of country we want and what life we want to the people in our country; not to take our immediate political interests and what short or maybe mid-term political goals we might wish to achieve.  Solving the military property issue is not a problem which cannot be solved.  No!

Speaking about EU integration, say this is the case is easy to deal with again.  It is just the question if you are holding an office, if you’re in a decision-making position, what is your motivation?  Do you care about the future of Bosnia-Herzegovina?  Do you care about better life in Bosnia-Herzegovina?  If yes, you find a solution and deal with it quickly.  If you want to gain immediate political profit for your party, for yourself, then you will come to no solutions; because then you're negative in political negotiations.  I hope I was clear. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.