NATO membership still a point of dispute among BiH politicians

NATO membership still a point of dispute among BiH politicians

Nine months after the elections, Bosnia and Herzegovina still have no executive power established. The Council of Ministers, a kind of the state Government, still works with the old composition, with a discussion about new composition is still far from reality and new conditions are emerging almost every day.

During the turbulent post-war history, BiH had longer periods in a similar situation but never in bigger uncertainty. During the period when Serb member of the BiH Presidency, Milorad Dodik, was Chairman, the candidate for the new Council of Ministers Chairman was his associate and high official of the Alliance of the Independent Social Democrats, Zoran Tegeltija. But, Bosniak member, Šefik Džaferović, following the guidelines of his party leader, Bakir Izetbegović (Party of the Democratic Action), set several conditions for the continuation of the nomination process. One of them was the signing of the Membership Action Plan (MAP) with NATO. This condition, according to the Serb side, is the biggest obstacle for the establishment of the new Council of Ministers.

Positions are so different that Dodik and Republika Srpska highest officials, along with MPs in the entity Parliament, months ago voted in favor of “military neutrality”. A convenient Resolution was adopted and all the representatives of RS in joint BiH institutions are called to respect it, regardless of the fact that the RS Constitutional Court decided that the Resolution is a political rather than a legal document and does not imply any obligations.

Although the parties state political reasons to justify their positions, it seems that the only real reason is much less poetic. It seems that it is all about money.

According to the BiH Foreign Trade Chamber, BiH in 2018 exported weapons, ammunition and parts for a weapons worth 205.070.665 BAM (about 102.535.332 Euro). In the first six months of 2019, it is 88.048.683 BAM (or about 44.024.341 Euro). The “cake” is very big but BiH entities, Republika Srpska and Federation BiH, obviously are not ready to share it.

The fact is that most of the military industry is situated in Federation BiH and that most of the managers are members of the Party of the Democratic Action. But, the factories, although their products meet NATO standards, are not able to sell the weapon and ammunition to NATO countries. A things stand, they are forced to sell their goods to mediators who take part of the cake for themselves. Without mediators, in theory, these factories would increase the income and therefore they are the ones who stand to gain the most from a BiH NATO membership.

The situation in Republika Srpska is slightly different. This entity’s military industry is not as developed and as such they have no incentive in joining NATO. On the other hand, a most powerful politician in Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, is under US sanctions as the “Russian man” of the Balkans. His meetings with Russian President, Vladimir Putin, have always been faced with criticism from Federation BiH. However, it is obvious that Russia does not want to see BiH becoming a NATO member.

Russia in the past promised to give very affordable loans to Republika Srpska, to invest in the industry and to financially help the RS economy. However, none of that has actually happened.

The pride of the RS military industry, the “Despot” armoured vehicle, was made in accordance with NATO standards, but it can also withstand several hits from NATO shells.

With the change of BiH Presidency Chairman a few days ago, when Dodik handed over the Chair to Croat member Željko Komšić, the story takes a very different direction. Serb Democratic Party’s – opposition in RS – new president Mirko Šarović recently hinted that he would be willing to take the position of the Council of Ministers Chairman and accept the MAP, allowing for Bosnia and Herzegovina to continue its path toward NATO membership.

And from some to have a large financial benefit./ibna