NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, visited Sarajevo on Thursday to meet the highest political and military officials in BiH and to encourage them to continue the process of joining the Alliance.
After meeting with members of BiH Presidency, Stoltenberg said that there is still a lot of challenges on that path.
“I want to thank to BiH for participating in missions in Afghanistan, and on your contribution in the fight against terrorism as global threat. We appreciate the fact that you donated ammunition to Iraq and contributed to the fight against ISIS”, Stoltenberg told the media after meeting in BiH Presidency building.
In his address, Stoltenberg emphasized that BiH is a candidate for membership in NATO and that already have the necessary tools that can allow it to progress. As he said, NATO is ready to activate the Membership Action Plan (MAP), but it is essential that BiH register military assets in the frame of reforms in the security sector. He said that the document “Defense Review” is a step forward on the BiH path to Alliance membership.
“I welcome the progress and strong commitment and I urge you to do even more. Through NATO, BiH will be even closer to the EU. We want to help BiH to implement the Defense Review, but I stress that we support the territorial integrity and sovereignty of BiH”, said Stoltenberg.
NATO Secretary General also mentioned the security situation in the Balkan region, saying that Alliance does not want any escalation of the conflict between and in the Balkan countries.
In the answer to reporter’s question Stoltenberg commented the report about the impact of Russia in the Balkans, and especially the impact of Russia on Montenegro before the elections, saying that NATO monitors the situation and works with partners to strengthen their intelligence capabilities, the same way with Montenegro. Stoltenberg said that the best way to avoid external influences is strong institutions that can withstand the influence and continue the democratic processes.
Chairman of the BiH Presidency, Mladen Ivanic said that three members of this institution have full political consensus for the activation of the MAP as soon as possible and that agreement about this issue exists also at the level of political parties in BiH. But, he also said that it is too early to talk about BiH membership in NATO.
“BiH is committed to further cooperate with NATO, take part in peacekeeping missions and continue the joint battle against the terrorist organisation, Islamic State”, Ivanic said.
He added that the fulfilling of the main condition for MAP activation, registering of military assets as a state property, goes “a bit slower than it was planned” because of political reasons, since there is a disagreement about concept of property. Also, the process is slower because of various technical reasons, including the legal documents.
However, the Chairman of the BiH Council of Ministers, Denis Zvizdic, said that the registration process is ongoing and that it is not a political issue anymore. He informed the NATO Secretary General that 24 location have already been registered and for 18 more the process is in progress. Zvizdic emphasized that there is no politician who can stop this process.
During his visit, Stoltenberg had a meetings with representatives of BiH Parliament and delegation of BiH Ministry of Defence, leaded by minister Marina Pendes. She said that BiH and its Armed Forces are proud to participate in peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan. Pendes emphasized that Stoltenberg visit proves NATO’s attention and support for the state institutions in the process of reforms./IBNA