Zoran Šajinović, Assistant Defense Minister for International Cooperation, with Atlantic Initiative:

Ongoing Excellent Relations with NATO

Our country is in a very demanding position regarding NATO accession.  Several unfulfilled conditions for entry remain ahead of us, but meeting these goals will guarantee the stability and security of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).  Zoran Šajinović, Assistant Defense Minister for International Cooperation, spoke with Atlantic Initiative about BiH’s current status regarding NATO accession, next steps and other issues of interest. 

After failing to meet all the requirements for MAP, what is the current relation between BiH and NATO like?

{artsexylightbox}Regarding the conditions for the accession of BiH to MAP at full capacity, essentially the possibility of submitting and implementing the first annual work program, I must say that the process is personally frustrating.  The fact is that one year after having officially received the request to implement MAP, and after the conditions being set, BiH is still not in a position to fully implement this powerful tool of cooperation with NATO due to our inability to fulfill certain conditions.  On the other hand, the fulfillment of these requirements is not so simple.  Specifically, the resolution of property issues in BiH is not easy.  I know that individuals face administrative difficulties in registering property even when it is not subject to litigation or political controversy.  However, it turns out in the case of the 69 locations in question, insufficient documentation exists for the resolution of this issue.  Despite this, this is no time for excuses and we should not accept excuses.  I believe it should have been possible for us to demonstrate a credible effort in at least beginning to solve this problem.  NATO views the resolution of the property registration as an important technical issue.  The requirements set by NATO are actually a test of the credibility of BiH’s aspirations to join the alliance.  This is a test of the ability of BiH’s institutions to make decisions and stand behind their commitments.  At present, we are failing the test.

Is our application for MAP still valid?  Or would it be if we were to meet this condition?  Is there a chance that we will have to reapply?

BiH is technically a member of the Membership Action Plan (MAP).  There is still a chance that the NATO Council, in permanent session the North Atlantic Council (NAC), would accept BiH’s annual program if the condition were to be met.  This means that when circumstances change, or when the status of implementation changes and the existing conditions or terms are reviewed, BiH can submit its annual national program.  I hope this will happen very soon.  MAP is a cyclical program with a one-year duration.  The application or program proposal is discussed in September each year.  My hope is that this year and this September will not represent yet another missed opportunity for BiH.

What does this mean for BiH’s relations with NATO?  Have we lost our credibility?

I think we have quite stable, high quality instruments of cooperation with NATO. As you know, BiH has been involved in an Individual Partnership Program (IPP) sine 2007, which allows us to closely interact with NATO on an annual basis.  BiH is also in the Planning and Review Process (PARP).  This means we participate in intensified dialogue, in which at least one round of consultation is held with all relevant chapters of NATO Headquarters annually.  We have a very powerful cooperation instrument, the IPAP program, which is currently being used as a substitute for MAP.  One noteworthy point regarding defense and military cooperation between partner countries and NATO is that PARP is actually a constant through every phase of institutional relations with NATO.  This means that regarding defense and military matters, which will actually comprise a chapter of our annual national program of cooperation with NATO, the essential points will not change much when compared to the existing instruments of cooperation.  In fact, the MAP should be used to contribute to the quality of cooperation between BiH and NATO in terms of defense and security matters.  However, we should use the MAP in such a way that allows us to make a qualitative shift from primarily the areas of defense and security cooperation into other relevant areas.  Here, I am speaking about the remaining four MAP chapters.  It is not a coincidence that defense and military issues is not the subject of the first chapter.  The first chapter is about political and economic issues, followed by defense and military and then subsequently resource issues, security issues and finally, legal issues.  So, these other topics become increasingly relevant as we move closer to NATO membership.

If I return alone to the defense and military issues, there will be a significant difference between current instruments of cooperation and future instruments used for BiH and NATO once we have implemented the IMP.  We are now beginning to implement small changes in the structure of the Armed Forced of BiH (AFBiH), which will later be implemented throughout the entire structure of the AFBiH.  Essentially, the MAP will focus on defense and military issues and partnership goals, which we will implement via the PARP on the overall structure of the AFBiH.  At this time, we are only implementing specific objectives of NATO via a small section of the AFBiH.  This can be viewed as a possible contribution of BiH to NATO-led operations.  On our end, one special challenge we face is the provision of sufficient resources, in terms of both material and human resources.

What activities are the AFBiH and the Ministry of Defense currently carrying out to address the issue of immovable military property by this September?

The Ministry of Defense and the AFBiH can only address issues within their jurisdiction.  With the help of NATO Headquarters in Sarajevo, an analysis of existing property and legal documentation has been prepared.  We are working on obtaining all missing documentation, including appropriate cadastral sketches of the parcels in question, a cadastral extract and any other relevant documentation.  This process represents an essential element of any application for registration of property ownership.  We will continue to prepare this documentation until the moment when a political decision can be reached regarding acceptable methodology.  The solution to these problems could be reached in a relatively short period of time and then talks about meeting the conditions of registration of these sites to the AFBiH could finally begin.