NATO HQ in Sarajevo supports the efforts towards the formation of the state government in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and is ready to provide advisory and professional assistance including among other things the explanations on the Annual National Programme (ANP), said Brigadier General Marti Bissell, NATO HQ Commander.
“ANP is another step in the partnership between Bosnia and NATO. That's an important step but is not a decision on membership nor it prejudges the membership. There is a lot to be done both within the Alliance and Bosnia before the NATO and Bosnia could start talks on the membership,” she emphasised.
Although the ANP is an important technical document, Bissell explained, once adopted it can be available to the general public.
“NATO trusts in the transparency of the process and sovereignty of every country. There is no hidden agenda. Bosnia and Herzegovina is the one to decide what will the ANP contain, using the basic ANP framework. It is up to the country to decide which specific reform goals it plans to deal with within that,” she underlined.
The NATO HQ Sarajevo Commander also recalled that Bosnia is already taking part in the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), which differs from the ANP in the number of chapters they consist of. However, the data in those documents may be the same.
“In simplest words, those documents can be different versions of the same information organised in a different way, assuming that the ANP is based on the IPAP and that's the information that Bosnia already agreed on,” she added.
The ANP adoption has been a burning issue in Bosnia ever since the NATO gave a green light to the country last December to send it for the first time, which would mean activation of the Membership Action Plan (MAP) and a step forward in Bosnia's relations with the Alliance.
But, due to the opposing stances on the NATO membership among three major ethnic groups, the first ANP has not been adopted or sent to Brussels.
While the Serbs strongly object the country's membership in the Alliance, maintaining the stance on military neutrality, the Bosniaks and the Croats advocate for it.
The disagreement directly affected the formation of the state-level government, which has not been formed ten months after the last October's election.
Asked what comes first in a country's integration processes, the European Union or the NATO, Bissell replied that this is the matter that Bosnia alone should decide on but that it is important to keep in mind that many reforms the EU would like to see implemented are the very same reforms that the NATO supports as well.
If and when a partner country expresses the interest in joining the alliance and when the allies invite the country to join, she stressed, the country receives the official call to start the accession talks.
The road towards the membership consists of a series of formal steps which both the aspirant country and the Alliance continuously confirm over and over again, concluded Bissell.