NATO awaits BiH progress on Alliance membership

03/07/2014

An Alliance membership action plan will be activated as soon as the issue of military property registration is resolved.

By Mladen Dragojlovic for Southeast European Times in Banja Luka -- 03/07/14

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Participants at a NATO conference in Banja Luka discuss issues concerning the membership of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in the Alliance. [Mladen Dragojlovic/SETimes]

NATO is waiting for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to make progress in the process of becoming an Alliance member despite a political stalemate in the country that has delayed activation of the membership action plan (MAP), officials said.

A conference on the 65th anniversary of NATO took place last month in Banja Luka during which local analysts, NATO representatives and other visitors discussed issues pertinent to Alliance membership.

Experts said the BiH political stalemate needs to be overcome to avoid the country becoming isolated while the other regional countries move along in the integration process.

"Since the war, BiH made some progress and has one army, which is significant. But if we compare the situation with that in other countries in the region, BiH is left behind," Damon Wilson, executive vice president of the Atlantic Council and a key speaker at the conference, told SETimes.

Wilson also said lack of progress will translate into a huge loss of opportunities and a brain drain.

"The best [cadres] will leave the country and find opportunities elsewhere. ... In the worst case scenario, it can lead to additional tensions and more serious challenges in political arena," Wilson said.

BiH has fulfilled almost all conditions for activating the MAP, but the main obstacle is the registration of military property in state institutions, said Ole-Asbjorn Fauske, deputy commander at the NATO headquarters in Sarajevo.

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"The allies thought it will be an easy matter to resolve, but it was not. ... But when BiH activates the MAP, there will be more mechanisms available in society. It will provide greater, additional opportunities. But it remains on the politicians to resolve it," Fauske told SETimes.

Some experts raised the issue of Republika Srpska's close ties to Russia. In all countries that joined NATO there was an internal consensus about Alliance membership, and that is not the case with BiH, said Milos Solaja, a professor at the Political Science Faculty in Banja Luka.

"We need to reach consensus on a very important question: whether we stand for a society of liberal values or not? The Alliance members are not advanced [democracies] because they are in NATO, but vice versa. We are really emotionally linked with Russia, which geopolitically cannot help us too much. But, we have Russian investments in Republika Srpska," Solaja told SETimes.

What can Bosnia and Herzegovina do to advance membership in NATO? Share your opinion in the comments section.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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