Analysis: Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Path to NATO


Bosnia and Herzegovina aspires to join NATO. Support for democratic, institutional, security sector and defence reforms are a key focus of cooperation. The country actively supports the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan and works with the Allies and other partner countries in many other areas.

The Alliance has been committed to building long-term peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the early 1990s, when it started supporting the international community’s efforts to end the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. NATO played a key role in implementing the Dayton Peace Agreement through peacekeeping deployments over a nine-year period from December 1995 to December 2004. In December 2004, primary responsibility for military aspects of the Peace Agreement was handed over to the European Union (EU).

Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme in 2006.

The country’s cooperation with NATO is set out in the Bosnia and Herzegovina Reform Programme.   This Reform Programme outlines the reforms the government intends to undertake and facilitates the provision of support by NATO toward these efforts.

Bosnia and Herzegovina was invited to join the Membership Action Plan in 2010

To facilitate cooperation, Bosnia and Herzegovina has a diplomatic mission at NATO Headquarters as well as a liaison office at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE).

NATO retains a military headquarters in Sarajevo with the primary mission of assisting the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina with reforms and commitments related to the PfP and closer integration with NATO, and the secondary mission of providing logistic and other support to the European Union Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The country was invited to join the Membership Action Plan (MAP) in 2010

Participation in the MAP does not prejudge any decision on future membership. Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to continue pursuing democratic and defence reforms to fulfil its NATO and EU aspirations and to become a well-functioning independent democratic state.

Key areas of cooperation

Bosnia and Herzegovina is working to develop fully professional armed forces that are interoperable with NATO forces and are manned by volunteers who meet high professional standards. To this end, the country has been participating in the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP) since May 2007. The role of the PARP is to provide a structured basis for identifying forces and capabilities that could be available to the Alliance for multinational training, exercises and peacekeeping and crisis-management operations. It also serves as the principal mechanism used to guide and measure defence and military reform progress.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has declared a number of forces and assets as potentially available for PfP activities, including engineering (explosive ordnance disposal) capabilities and related equipment.

Since 2014, under the Partnership Interoperability Initiative, Bosnia and Herzegovina has participated in the Interoperability Platform, that brings Allies together with 24 selected partners that are active contributors to NATO’s operations.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is an active participant in the tailored Building Integrity (BI) programme, which focuses on good governance and transparent and effective use of defence resources.  The country’s NATO-accredited Peace Support Operations Training Centre (PSOTC) offers expert training on building integrity and other topics to NATO and partner countries.

Support for NATO-led operations and missions

Since 2009, Bosnia and Herzegovina has contributed officers to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan as part of the Danish and German contingents, and now contributes to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission (RSM) in Afghanistan.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is developing its national civil emergency and disaster management capabilities in consultation with the Allies, including developing the legal framework for coping with civil emergencies and working to establish a civil crisis information system to coordinate activities in the event of an emergency.

In May 2014, Bosnia and Herzegovina requested assistance from NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) following devastating floods that hit the country. NATO coordinated emergency assistance from Allied and partner countries, sending helicopters, boats, drinking water, food, shelter and funds.  In 2017, the country hosted the annual EADRCC disaster preparedness and response exercise that brought together Allies, partners, and international organisations.

Bosnia and Herzegovina and NATO aim to improve public access to information on the benefits of cooperation and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s possible membership in the Alliance. To this end, a national NATO communications strategy is in place. Particular emphasis is placed on activities that entail sustainability and that link key stakeholders: government, civil society and media.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has participated in the Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme since 2007. Leading areas for cooperation include advanced technology, disaster response, explosives detection and cyber defence.

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