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News 15 Dec 17

Bosnia Serbs Vow to Block NATO Accession Plan

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik said he will seek to block efforts for the country to one day become a member of NATO, insisting on military neutrality, in line with Serbia.

Danijel Kovacevic
Banja Luka
Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik. Photo: Anadolu

Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik said on Thursday that Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity will not get involved in any activities to implement Bosnia and Herzegovina’s NATO Membership Action Plan, MAP programme.

Dodik said that this was in accordance with Republika Srpska’s declaration on military neutrality, and insisted that all representatives of the entity must abide by it.

He claimed that NATO only supports Bosniaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“RS will reject all proposals, regardless of the NATO alliance,” Dodik told media after meeting Aleksandar Vulin, the defence minister of Serbia, which has also declared military neutrality.

“We support the policies of military neutrality that are being carried out by Serbia. The RS parliament has also adopted a declaration on military neutrality and at this time we are trying to develop models to apply this declaration, and we have the right to do so, no matter what they say, because that is our position within Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Dodik said. 

In October, the Bosnian Serb entity’s assembly passed a largely symbolic resolution declaring the neutrality of Republika Srpska in relation to military alliances - a perceived counterpoint to Bosnian state moves to join NATO.

The resolution said Republika Srpska is committed to coordinating its future status with Serbia, where opposition to NATO membership remains strong after the military alliance bombed the country in 1999 in a bid to stop its campaign in Kosovo.

Russia has also been urging military neutrality for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

However, Bosnian state-level officials believe that Dodik does not have the authority to block activities within the Membership Action Plan, which the country requested in 2009 but has not yet activated.

“Mr Dodik has no jurisdiction over this issue because it is work done by the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina and not the entities,” Sifet Podzic, the chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Commission for Defence and Security, told Bosnian media. 

“His statements will have no consequences for further activities undertaken by the Ministry of Defence on MAP activation,” Podzic said.

The current chairman of the Bosnian presidency, Dragan Covic, said earlier that he is optimistic that the country will activate the MAP programme by the end of the year, as an important step towards membership of NATO.

Bosnian Serb political leaders have long been strongly opposed to NATO membership, but until now the MAP had not been a major political issue.

Bosnian Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak told a meeting of foreign ministers of the American-Adriatic Charter in September that there is no consensus regarding NATO membership, but there is a full consensus regarding cooperation with NATO, including activating the MAP.

The request for the MAP was signed by the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina in June 2009, when the Serb member of the presidency was Nebojsa Radmanovic, a party colleague of Dodik.

But the road to activating the MAP was significantly slowed by court disputes over the re-registration of military assets within Republika Srpska from the entity to the state, which Bosnian Serb leaders strongly opposed.

But after the state-level Constitutional Court ruled in August this year that a military facility in Han Pijesak must be registered to the state, Bosnia was given the opportunity to accelerate the process.

The Membership Action Plan is a NATO-designed programme of advice, assistance and practical support tailored to the individual needs of countries wishing to join the Western military alliance.

Participation does not prejudge any decision by the alliance on future membership. Its current participants are Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia.

Countries participating in the MAP submit annual national programmes on their preparations for possible future membership. These cover political, economic, defence, resource, security and legal aspects.

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