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NO 137-138

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INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE1 > Helsinki Charter No. 137-138 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 137-138

March - April 2010



By Edina Becirevic

In the last week of April 2010, two events marked the Bosnian but also the regional political-security scene: Bosnia-Herzegovina obtained the Membership Action Plan /MAP/ for NATO and the Istanbul Declaration was adopted at the trilateral summit meeting assembling the leaders of Turkey, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Abdullah Gul, Boris Tadic and Haris Silajdzic put their signatures under the Declaration emphasizing, above all, the significance of the process of national reconciliation and of taking all the steps necessary leading towards regional peace, stability and prosperity.

The two events are interconnected and are the outcomes of months-long preparations and "silent diplomacy"of several friendly states fully aware of the security crisis in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Turkey was the most active all in the groups of countries that contributed to the Tallinn decision to give Bosnia-Herzegovina MAP, while Norway, Hungary, Slovenia, Poland and Croatia were lobbying for it as well.

Symbolically, MAP for Bosnia-Herzegovina coincided with the 11th anniversary of the program's establishment at NATO summit in Washington in 1999. MAP was created to assist the countries aspiring to NATO membership in the achievement of the highly-demanding NATO standards. The assistance is given through Annual National Plans for necessary reforms the candidate countries and carrying out in cooperation with NATO. Since 1999 the mechanism has been successfully applied to today's full-fledged NATO member-states: Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Rumania, Albania, Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. Apart from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia are presently under the program.

Though opposing MAP for Bosnia-Herzegovina even after NATO summit meeting in Brussels, US administration eventually yielded to the pressure from Turkish diplomacy - but also thanks to the lobbying of other "friendly countries."

Besides, major steps made in the past several weeks broke the diplomatic silence and led towards a change in America's attitude. Two preconditions for a compromise agreed on in Tallinn - though without finding much echo in the press - were given a green light at the 44th extraordinary session of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The meeting decided to have surplus arms, ammunition and explosives in the possession of the Armed Forces of Bosnia-Herzegovina destroyed and to dispatch a unit of infantry to the mission of international security in Afghanistan. Given that a consensus on these issues was reached before the meeting itself, these decisions did not raise a great hue and cry.

Under the bilateral agreement between Bosnia-Herzegovina and US, the US administration shall bear the costs of the destroyed surplus arms, amounting to millions of dollars.

One of the crucial decisions to be made related to NATO mission in Afghanistan to which the unit of infantry of Bosnia-Herzegovina would be delegated. Most serious offers were coming from Turkey, Denmark and Great Britain. However, Serb political elite politicized Turkey's offer in the context of historical bias. Nebojsa Radmanovic, Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, said he would not vote for Turkey's offer though this offer had been assessed as the best and the safest for Bosnian soldiers by a commission of the Armed Forces. Without responding publicly but with silent support from other NATO member-states, Turkey withdrew its offer and the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina opted for the second better offer on the list - the one that was logically more risky for soldiers of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

However, though it obtained MAP Bosnia-Herzegovina cannot use its mechanisms until it solves the third key issue - the problem of military real estate. The message from Tallinn was unambiguous: implementation of MAP begins only once all military real estate used for defense is registered as public property.

Hence by September 2010 politicians from Republika Srpska, whose election campaign rhetoric rests on the denial of Bosnia-Herzegovina's statehood, would have to accept registration of some barrack and other military facilities in the territory of their entity as the property of the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The conditional decision on MAP for Bosnia-Herzegovina is a precedent of a kind and indicates the international community's concern over the possibility of secession that is being announced by Republika Srpska and over warnings of many analysts that such an act would inevitably lead to a war.

The decision made in Tallinn also clearly messages that further destabilization of the country will not be tolerated. The issue of military property will have to be solved by September: many wonder whether this is possibly against the backdrop of the election campaign. On the other hand, we have witnessed that many by more complex issues in Bosnia-Herzegovina had been solved under the pressure from the international community. Domestic crises were often mirroring the wavering of international factors. The more so is the conditional MAP good news - it testifies that major decision makers in the international community are resolute to take Bosnia-Herzegovina towards Euro-Atlantic integrations.

Turkey's activities prove that solutions for Bosnia-Herzegovina cannot be found by the means of "public diplomacy," i.e. the media's active participation in negotiations. This is best exemplified by the failed Butmir negotiations on constitutional reform in 2009. Led by Karl Bildt and James Steinberg the negotiations only made the political situation more complex. The fiasco of multilateral diplomacy, involving Americans and their unprepared European counterparts, testified that other partners had to be relied on in the Balkans. No matter what results will be achieved in the months to come, the Istanbul summit and the decision on MAP for Bosnia-Herzegovina were Turkey's lessons in successful diplomatic mediation for European Union.


NO 137-138

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