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Bosnia Faces Decision on NATO Pre-Membership Plan

Expected opposition from Bosnian Serbs could further erode the country’s fragile political balance.

7 December 2018

NATO’s long-awaited gift to Bosnia could prove to be a poisoned chalice.


NATO foreign ministers earlier this week agreed to start implementing a Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Bosnia, the last major hurdle before full membership of the alliance.


“Today, NATO foreign ministers also agreed to continue supporting Bosnia and Herzegovina with its reforms. We are ready to accept the submission of the country's first annual national program. This includes practical measures covering political, economic and defense reform which will help them to prepare for the membership,” Bosnia’s N1 broadcaster quotes NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (pictured) as saying.


Implementing the reforms Stoltenberg mentioned will not be simple. Bosnia has been unable to agree on them since 2010, when NATO offered to begin the MAP process. There is also strong opposition to NATO membership among Bosnia’s Serb community.


The most powerful Serb leader, Milorad Dodik, underlined his rejection of NATO during his successful campaign for the Serb position on the country’s tripartite presidency this fall.


Dodik argues the country should remain neutral, like Serbia itself, Balkan Insight reports. Another of his campaign promises was to work solely in the interests of Bosnia’s Serbs.


The Bosniak and Croatian presidency members both said the country should immediately start preparing its MAP, RFE/RL reports.


Stoltenberg alluded to the difficulties ahead.


"We made our decision: we are ready to receive their annual national program. But let them decide and we are ready if they are ready," he told reporters after the ministerial meeting.


NATO’s expansion into the Balkans has been rocky, with Russia opposing it every step of the way in Macedonia and Montenegro, the two most recent regional members. Montenegro accuses Russian military intelligence of plotting to overthrow the government in 2016 primarily to stop its ultimately successful NATO bid.



  • European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini attended the NATO meeting, underlining the two institutions’ shared vision for the Balkans. EU membership is strongly favored by all major political forces in Bosnia, N1 says, even as the Serbs have built strong ties with Russia.


  • Dodik told N1 why the Serbian entity, Republika Srpska, had changed its stance on NATO: "NATO is a serious organization … and the RS discussed the NATO accession then because we thought we should talk with that alliance. Even Russia talked with them at that time. Today, the geopolitical situation has changed."

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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