26th Mar 2019

Nato grants Bosnia pre-membership status

Nato foreign ministers gathered in Tallinn on Thursday (22 April) agreed to include Bosnia and Herzegovina in the military alliance's official pre-accession programme dubbed the membership action plan (MAP), but linked the process to a series of outstanding reforms in the fragile post-Yugoslav state.

The decision was taken after intense discussions, with some members arguing that Bosnia was not yet ready for the step, while others, notably Turkey, pressed strongly for it. The programme offers technical assistance and practical support in reforming a country's defence and security structures ahead of accession.

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  • Nato ministers are hoping the candidate status will spur reforms in Bosnia (Photo: Nato)

"Last night Nato foreign ministers made an important decision to invite Bosnia and Herzegovina to join Membership Action Plan, but made clear that there are still important reform issues that need to be solved," Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen wrote on this Facebook page.

"All Balkan countries should have the prospect of integration into the Euro-Atlantic community," he added.

Bosnia and Herzegovina applied for MAP last year. But at a meeting in December, Nato foreign ministers decided to postpone its inclusion in the programme, pending a series of reforms which had stalled due to political bickering between the country's Serb, Bosniak and Croat leadership.

"Since then, Bosnia and Herzegovina has made significant progress on reform. Nato foreign ministers welcome its decision on destruction of surplus ammunition and arms and its new ISAF contributions (soldiers in Afghanistan)," a Nato statement reads.

One of the outstanding issues, however, is defence property, which should be solved before the multi-ethnic state is accepted into the Nato fold.

The leadership of the largely autonomous Serb community in Bosnia, Republika Srpska, is against transferring these properties from regional to federal level, Waz.EUobserver reported.

Meanwhile, Bosnia's progress towards Nato membership is likely to hit a nerve in Moscow. Russia's envoy to Bosnia already warned against the country joining the military alliance, seen by Moscow as an aggressor during the Yugoslav war.

Nato enlargement is considered a threat to national security in the new Russian military doctrine put forward in February by President Dmitri Medvedev. However, this wording refers more to Ukraine and Georgia, who are Russia's immediate neighbours, than the Balkan countries.

Both Kiev and Tbilisi sought to be accepted for a Membership Action Plan in 2008, but Nato members hesitated in granting it to them, amid staunch opposition from Russia. After the August war between Georgia and Russia, MAP for these two countries seems to have been postponed indefinitely, although it has been promised that they will join eventually.

Bosnia's real estate row obstacle on road to Nato integration

Nato foreign ministers are expected to take a decision at their meeting in Tallinn this week on whether to include Bosnia and Herzegovina into the alliance's official pre-accession programme known as the Membership Action Plan (MAP), Nato officials and diplomats said.

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