With the support of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Atlantic Initiative organized a public discussion entitled “Is NATO the Only Defense Alliance?” on April 11, 2013 in Banja Luka.

The goal was to open dialogue on the Euro-Atlantic integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a special emphasis on the Republika Srpska.

Speakers were Igor Pilić, consultant to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, presenting “BiH and NATO Terms and Concepts;” Momir Brajić, Chief of NATO and PfP at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, presenting “The Current Situation of BiH and NATO;” Vanja Matić, Head of Gender Equality at NATO Headquarters in BiH, presenting “Women, Peace, and Security;” and Edina Bećirević, President of the Atlantic Initiative, presenting “Activities and Research of the Atlantic Initiative.”

Pilić expressed that “Euro-Atlantic integration gives us the opportunity to improve the situation in the country. For Bosnia and Herzegovina, the most important issue is fulfilling obligations. Nobody is forcing us to become part of NATO, but for us the most important thing is the process of integration in reforming society. The real issue is the political risk of not becoming a NATO member.”

Vanja Matić stressed that NATO is foremost a political, and then a military, alliance. “NATO is a regional organization whose only members are countries in Europe and the United States and Canada. Geographically this alliance is closed to all other countries,” said Matić.

Momir Brajić shared that “Bosnia and Herzegovina is in the process of the seizure and the destruction of obsolete weapons, which has been mostly accomplished. In addition to the mostly completed destruction, a significant portion of the guns seized were sold, and yet another portion was donated.”

Edina Bećirević presented to participants the activities and research carried out by the Atlantic Initiative. Students were given detailed instructions on how to involve themselves and become members of these organizations, engaging in research that addresses broader security issues.

Participants in the forum were very eager to ask questions and engaged in a very valuable discussion following the panelists’ presentations. Some of the issues that were debated with the most vigor were: What is the interest of BiH in becoming a member of the NATO Alliance? Why can’t BiH be neutral, like Austria? Is membership in NATO a requirement for membership in the EU?

During this discussion, the point was made that membership in NATO ensures lasting peace and security, which is the first prerequisite in attracting foreign investment. Experience in the former Eastern Bloc has shown us that it is an unwritten rule that a country first become a member of NATO before attaining membership in the European Union. In all these countries, foreign investment increased substantially following NATO membership.

Written by: Svetlana Krstić
Atlantic Initiative, Banja Luka