NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with representatives of the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He said that the Alliance is concerned about the rhetoric of division in the country and external influences from Russia. He also assured that NATO is committed to the region’s security and supports “reform efforts.” In Bosnia and Herzegovina, opinions on NATO membership are divided.
– We are concerned about secessionist rhetoric, as well as external influences, especially from the side Russia. This threatens to undermine stability and weaken reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina. All leaders in the country must work for unity and progress, Stoltenberg appealed during his first visit to this Balkan country.
Stoltenberg: we are committed to the security and stability of the region
– We are extremely committed to the security and stability of this region. You know that we have been involved in this for years because Bosnia and Herzegovina is important for the entire Western Balkans region. That is why we are deepening our cooperation, our political dialogue and our practical cooperation. The NATO Representation in Sarajevo provides support to the EU Althea mission, he added.
The Secretary General assured the Bosnian authorities and society that the Alliance will continue to support “reform efforts” in the country and the development of its defense capabilities. – This will strengthen Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ability to respond to natural disasters, as well as deal with cyber threats, he explained.
NATO Secretary General visits Bosnia and Herzegovina
Stoltenberg arrived in Sarajevo on Sunday evening and attended a working dinner with members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. After Monday’s meeting with a delegation of the country’s council of ministers, which included Speaker Borjana Kriszto, ministers Elmedin Konaković and Zuksan Helez, and deputy minister Josip Brkić, Stoltenberg plans to visit the NATO base in Butmir. The Secretary-General also met with Christian Schmidt, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, representing the international community in the country and UN.
According to the Law on Defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina, adopted in 2005, state institutions are obliged to carry out “all actions necessary to admit the country to NATO”. The act also integrated three armies – Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian – and created a unified Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Republika Srpska authorities oppose NATO membership
For about 10 years, however, the authorities of Republika Srpska (a majority-Serb administrative unit of Bosnia and Herzegovina) have been opposing NATO membership and supporting neutrality, following the example Serbia. In October 2017, the National Assembly of Republika Srpska adopted a resolution on the military neutrality of the region.
Research conducted by the non-governmental organization Atlantic Initiative showed that in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the majority Bosnian-Croat part) 90 percent of respondents support membership in the Alliance, while in Republika Srpska – only 33 percent.
Milorad Dodik, a pro-Russian and involved in, among others, leader of Republika Srpska under American sanctions. – Cooperation with NATO is possible, but membership is excluded. We are following Serbia’s example in this matter, Dodik repeated several times in recent years.
Main photo source: FEHIM DEMIR/PAP/EPA