Rasmussen: Bosnia ‘would profit from being a member of NATO,’ but first needs to implement reforms

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Nebojsa Radmanovic, Chairman of the BiH Presidency

From Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO:  Mr. President, it is indeed a great pleasure to be back in Sarajevo today. Your country is an important partner for NATO. We thank you for the contribution to our mission in Afghanistan. In particular, I welcome your recent decision to deploy a unit of the Military Police to Afghanistan. This shows that you are committed to becoming a security provider, and contributing to international stability.

You aspire to join our Alliance. And I think Bosnia and Herzegovina would profit from being a member of NATO and the European Union. Look at the countries in central Eastern Europe and see they how they have benefitted from NATO and the European Union. They enjoy a security that has also made them very attractive for foreign investments – they have seen high economic growth, job creation and growing prosperity.

Bosnia and Herzegovina can achieve the same if you have the political will. And the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve that. I urge the political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to allow the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina the same opportunities as the peoples of central and Eastern countries that joined our Alliance almost ten years ago.

And let me assure you today that NATO stands ready to assist your reform efforts. But I also have to stress that only Bosnia and Herzegovina can lead them.  Only you can implement the reforms which are necessary to achieve the goals you have chosen – goals that will benefit all people in this country, from all entities. 

NATO has taken the first step by granting Bosnia and Herzegovina a condition-based so-called Membership Action Plan. We’re ready to activate that Membership Action Plan as soon as Bosnia and Herzegovina solves the question of immovable defence properties. That is, to ensure that those defence properties are registered as state property.

Why is that so important?

These are important sites. They include military barracks, training and shooting ranges, radar facilities and airfields. And a resolution on their registration would benefit everyone.

The state would get the property it needs. The rest would go to the entities and municipalities, which could either use them or sell them, to help their citizens. Everyone would have clarity.

But even more importantly, a resolution would show that political decisions in Bosnia and Herzegovina are not just taken, but also implemented. And that all parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina can reach consensus, and work together for the same goal. That is key for any country’s future and key to reach the full potential of a NATO Membership Action Plan. That is why it is so important.

And nearly one year ago, the main political parties in this country reached an agreement on the question of immovable defence properties. Implementing this agreement is a condition to activate your Membership Action Plan. NATO welcomes this political agreement – but it is up to you to take the next step. It is up to you to implement the agreement you have made and register immovable defence property as the property of the state. Above all, it would allow you to take the next step and move closer to NATO. You only need to look around to see how membership of the Alliance has helped transform this region. And the people in Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve to share in that transformation. This is an historic opportunity. And an historic responsibility. So I urge all leaders, and all communities, in this country to show the leadership that is needed to take Bosnia and Herzegovina forward on the path which you have chosen. NATO will be with you, every step of the way. But only you can walk that path – and take the next step.

Opening remarks by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the joint press conference with the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Nebojša Radmanović.  (photo: NATO)

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