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News 04 Sep 14

Balkan States Expect No Breakthroughs at NATO Summit

Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina expect to be praised for their progress towards NATO but the Western military alliance’s summit in Wales will not see any new members named.

Dusica Tomovic, Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Elvira M. Jukic
BIRN
Podgorica, Skopje, Sarajevo

NATO has already made it clear that its high-level meeting on Thursday and Friday in the Welsh city of Cardiff will not be an ‘enlargement summit’ but the three Balkan aspirants are hoping that they will be offered some encouragement in their quests for membership.

Montenegro expects reconfirmation of NATO’s often-stated ‘open-door policy’ and a promise that the country could become part of the military alliance by the end of 2015.

It expects to be praised for its contribution to the NATO-led operation in Afghanistan, to which it has deployed 25 troops.

Montenegro will be represented by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, Defence Minister Milica Pejanovic Djurisic and Foreign Minister Igor Luksic.

Luksic said the summit could define the final phase of the country's path toward NATO membership and give a "clear time frame" for that.

"Achieved progress, with final stage of an intense and focused dialogue with NATO and the completion of reforms in the sphere of security and intelligence will put Montenegro in a phase of full and lasting political stability," Luksic said in a statement on Tuesday.

Podgorica has pushed to join the alliance after it split from Serbia in 2006. It was given a Membership Action Plan in 2009, which is regarded as a final step before membership.

However NATO decided in June to once again postpone the country’s admission to the end of next year.

NATO officials said Montenegro should implement "profound reforms" in the security and intelligence services and secure majority public support as key conditions for membership.

Public support in Montenegro for joining NATO remains low, according to opinion polls. Djukanovic’s government claims 46 per cent of Montenegrins support it, but opposition parties and NGOs believe that figure is much lower, around 35 per cent.

The Montenegrin government said the country has actually received a "conditional invitation" to join. But some analysts have argued that it has not gained membership yet due to the lack of rule of law and issues with organised crime and corruption.

Macedonia will again not be offered an invitation to join because of its long-standing and unresolved ‘name’ dispute with Greece, although the country is expected to be praised for its participation in NATO-led missions.

Greece, a NATO member country with the right of veto, blocked Macedonia's NATO accession in 2008. It insists that Macedonia’s name implies territorial claims to its own northern province, also called Macedonia.

As a result, NATO is expected to reiterate its conclusion from previous summits that Macedonia will be offered to join as soon as it resolves the name issue.

Macedonia has downgraded its presence at the summit in Cardiff. Although invited, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski is not going. Instead, the country will be represented by Defence Minister Zoran Jolevski and Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki.

“Being invited to join NATO is very important for us and Macedonia remains dedicated to this goal, although, as the public knows, this will not be an enlargement summit,” Jolevski told media recently.

Bosnia and Herzegovina meanwhile also expects praise for contributing eight troops to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, but the country still faces a series of obstacles on its road to membership after its Membership Action Plan was signed in 2010 but never put into force.

It still needs to register military property as state property and carry out various political, judicial, economic and defence reforms.

Bosnia has already destroyed surplus ammunition and arms and had united soldiers from its two entities, Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation, into one army.

But a political agreement on registering defence property, reached in March 2012, has not yet been implemented. It foresaw 63 military properties around Bosnia and Herzegovina to be registered to country's state-level defense ministry.

NATO officials have said that the alliance is ready to activate the Membership Action Plan as soon as this is done.

“This condition was unfortunately still not fulfilled and represents a problem for the ambitions of Bosnia and Herzegovina on its path to membership in NATO,” Defence Ministry spokesperson Uma Sinanovic told Balkan Insight.

“However, when it comes to our progress in NATO, we expect positive marks for our participation so far in the ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] mission in Afghanistan,” she added.

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