Why is the adoption of the new Serbia-NATO IPAP delayed?

Visit to NATO by the President of the Republic of Serbia; Photo: NATO

BELGRADE – The adoption of the new Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) between Serbia and NATO is delayed because there is no political will. Furthermore, civil society was hardly consulted during its preparation, Katarina Đokić, Researcher at Belgrade Center for Security Policy and Igor Novaković, Research Director of the ISAC fund point out.

Although it is one of the most important documents in the field of Serbia-NATO cooperation, and it was expected to be adopted earlier this year, this did not happen. IPAP is NATO’s most intensive form of bilateral cooperation with countries that are not on the road towards membership.

“Serbia has chosen its preferred elements of IPAP. Everything on the list and all the areas it deals with indicate that it is in Serbia’s interest to implement them. This also enhances trust and cooperation with NATO, which surrounds Serbia, as well as with its member states”, says Novaković for EWB, adding that Serbia has the opportunity to deepen its cooperation with this alliance without intending to become a member.

He also believes that with the implementation of IPAP, Serbia has the opportunity to fulfill certain priorities that are not exclusively related to cooperation with NATO, but also have to do with the European integration process.

Katarina Đokić is of the same opinion. She points out that IPAP has a double benefit for Serbia – continuing cooperation with NATO and improving communication with NATO-led KFOR mission in Kosovo.

“Most of our neighbours are members of NATO, and in this regard cooperation with NATO contributes to strengthening regional security cooperation and stability. On the other hand, Serbia has a clear interest in having good communication with the KFOR mission. This was also recognized in the proposal for a new Defense Strategy of the Republic of Serbia”, says Đokić.

She further explains that, since IPAP is a political document that “lists” the priorities of the Serbian government over a two-year period, it provides the public with an image of how the Serbian government views cooperation with NATO.

“Given that the Defense Strategy is a fairly general document and other defence planning documents are marked with a degree of secrecy, IPAP provides the public with a picture of what the Government wants to achieve in the area of defence and where it sees room for cooperation with NATO”, concludes Đokić.

The endless adoption process?

The Government of Serbia is responsible for the adoption of the IPAP document, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs coordinates the process of preparing this action plan and collects proposals from other state bodies regarding what should be found in it, Đokić explains for EWB.

In February 2011, the Serbian government decided to initiate the procedure for drafting this plan, and the Presentation Document was adopted in July of the same year. Finally, the first and only (so far) IPAP was adopted by the Serbian government in December 2014, and NATO in early 2015.

However, as the first IPAP was adopted for a period of two years, and at the initiative of the Serbian Government, it was extended to 2017. Since then, it has been speculated many times when the new one will be adopted.

Ten months have passed since that deadline and the public has heard almost nothing about this procedure. The EWB sent inquiries to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to find out more about the reasons for the delay, but we did not receive answers to our questions until the publication of this article.

Igor Novaković sees the main reason of why the new IPAP in the fact that the old one was not fully implemented.

“My assumption is that the current IPAP has not been fully implemented and that it would not make sense to start a new cycle without it. But the mere fact that the new cycle is about to start is enough, regardless of the fact that the adoption process is delayed”, points out Novaković for EWB.

Katarina Đokić is of the same opinion, though she thinks there is still no political will to adopt the plan. She also points out that of the previous IPAP, only three of the seven measures related to the defense industry were implemented due to poor planning, and those are the regular participation of Ministry of Defense officials at the meetings of the NATO Conference of National Armaments Directors. The process of demilitarization of surplus ordnance at the Technical Overhaul Institute (TRZ) of Kragujevac, financed by the NATO Trust Fund. Serbia has also acceded to the NATO system of codification of parts of weapons and military equipment.

“Therefore, adopting IPAP alone does not guarantee that the Government and the Ministry of Defense will take IPAP measures seriously”, concludes Đokić.

“Civil society is not sufficiently involved”

Both interlocutors point out that civil society is now chronically under-involved in the whole process, and that its involvement would be very useful.

“There is very little consultation with civil society in the process of its creation, regardless of initial intentions. To a large extent, the potential for cooperation between state and civil society has not been fully utilized so far, and it would be very good to be improved in future. Cooperation would be very useful, especially in the field of public relations”, believes Igor Novaković and adds that the initiative for cooperation should come from the Government itself.

However, Novaković emphasizes that in most cases when civil society initiated talks and public events on this topic, Government representatives responded and participated.

Katarina Đokić has a more critical view and believes that, as in the case of the previous IPAP, the whole process of preparation and adoption is closed to the public and the involvement of civil society is mostly reduced to the participation of state representatives in certain debates organized by the civil society organizations themselves.

“There is a lack of quality discussion about individual measures and their impact. Given that institutions involved in the formulation and implementation of IPAP are increasingly closed to the public and experts from civil society, it is increasingly difficult to monitor and analyze the implementation of individual IPAP policies and make good recommendations,” points out Đokić.

Therefore, she believes that it is not enough for the representatives of the institutions to appear only at civil society events and then say that civil society is involved in the processes of formulating public policies.

Given that the EWB did not receive replies to its query sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Serbian Parliament, speculation on the date of the new IPAP is the only thing that remains. This has long been the practice in Serbia when it comes to documents in the field of defense and foreign affairs.