Hamza Višća is a retired military brigadier of Bosnia and Herzegovina army. For our portal, he spoke about regional security, obstacles on the Euro-Atlantic path of Bosnia and Herzegovina, NATO’s influence on the Western Balkans region, and the possible NATO referendum in the Republika Srpska.
European Western Balkans: What do you see as a main security challenges and dilemmas in the Western Balkans region today?
Hamza Višća: The Western Balkans region is not isolated from global security challenges, such as terrorism, organized crime, refugee crisis, corruption and human trafficking and narcotics. If the anomalies and consequences of the conflict were added to the end of the last century, then this region faces a permanent challenge of building and preserving a secure environment. The revision of history, the rehabilitation of fascism and the strengthening of nationalisms make the additional security situation in the Balkans more complicated.
In the search for the right answer, the need for a common and comprehensive approach of the WB countries with security challenges, as well as integration into the European and Euro-Atlantic system of collective security, is imposed.
EWB: What do you see as biggest obstacles on the Euro-Atlantic integration path of Bosnia and Herzegovina?
HV: The lack of a unified vision of the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a fundamental brake in the process of Euro-Atlantic integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Political will, to do something about this issue, which existed at the beginning of this century, more precisely from 2002 to 2010, simply disappeared. There are at least five different visions how Bosnia should look like in 20-30 years. The BiH Defense Law is also not respected, which in Article 84 specifies the obligation of all state institutions to do everything within its competence to fulfill BiH entry requirements.
Unfortunately, there is no general social dialogue on this issue, which would undoubtedly help rational judgment about the positive and negative effects of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. For the past seven to eight years, the issue of NATO membership in the BiH institutions has not been given enough attention. More loud are voice of opponents of entry than those who allegedly advocate this. There is no dialogue or controversy, they are characterized by lags and inaccurate ratings, often based on stereotypes and emotions.
EWB: How do you interpret Milorad Dodik’s announcements for NATO membership referendum in Republika Srpska?
HV: Lack of social dialogue and public debate on the issue of NATO membership gives room for manipulation by the public, even through the announcement and possibly holding a referendum in a smaller BiH entity. I do not care whether or not a referendum will be held in the part of BiH, I am more concered about inertness majority who advocates for NATO membership. In that sense, it is necessary that state-level institutions, primarily the Presidency of BiH, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs etc… urgently make the BiH Communication Strategy for NATO membership, an action plan for its implementation, and thus establish a Platform for general social dialogue about positive and negative consequences of BiH’s entry into the NATO.
EWB: Would the expansion of NATO security umbrella in our region bring more stability?
HV: Of course, this region would be safer with joining NATO, the Western Balkan countries that have not yet done so. First of all, NATO members do not wage war against each other, regardless of the level of eventual disagreement. In addition, NATO has a mechanism of mediation, which proved to be very effective in the case of Greece and Turkey. Thanks to this mechanism, peace has been preserved, although there have been serious spillovers between Athens and Ankara.
Already today, we are safer with Montenegro joining NATO, than only a year ago, when there was a narrative about the possible Ukrainian and / or Macedonian scenario in BiH.
Macedonia is a very instructive example of how neglecting integration processes can lead to a wave of insecurity, violence and the worst scenarios. Namely, the measures and tools of approaching and joining the EU and NATO in Macedonian society, as well as the Bosnian-Herzegovinian society, should also be used to strengthen the cohesion of that society. The lack of these measures would diminish the chance of Bosnia and Herzegovina for a better, realistic integration of the society, devasted in the past war.
EWB: How do you assess the military cooperation between Bosnia and Herzegovina and NATO, and what are the perspectives for developing it?
HV: NATO has been present in BiH since 1995, has done a lot in the implementation of the so-called. military annexes of the Dayton Agreement. Together with the OSCE Mission to BiH, NATO is being focused particularly on reforming the defense sector, the establishment of a single Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces of BiH. Today, the NATO Headquarters in Sarajevo is involved in the achievement of procedures and standards in the defense sector, by which operative forces of BiH becomes interoperable with the forces of NATO members and its partners.
Military cooperation between the Alliance and BiH is realized through a series of activities, the scope of which depends on BiH’s readiness to increase it. For more than a decade BiH has been participating in NATO exercises and peacekeeping operations. NATO recognized and supported the development of ABiH capabilities, such as demining, destruction of non-exploded killings, military-police tasks and training. Most courses in the Peace Support Operation Training Center (PSOTC) in Sarajevo are accredited by NATO and are open to all countries of the region, members and NATO partners.
Bosnia and Herzegovina should take the opportunity to continue with the Membership Action Plan by building and strengthening the capabilities that will contribute to the eventual call for full membership. To begin with, a platform for a general social dialogue on the benefits of NATO membership must be established.
Publication of this article has been supported by the Balkan Trust for Democracy of the German Marshall Fund of the United States