Helez expects NATO candidate status, Knežević says that Reform Program does not imply membership

SARAJEVO, April 8 (FENA) – The BiH Minister of Defense Zukan Helez said today at the opening of the NATO Conference of Strategic Military Partners in Sarajevo that he expects that BiH will receive candidate status for membership in that alliance at the spring session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and that it will become part of NATO in the near future.

“Our goal as a small and constitutionally complex country is membership in NATO for the sake of our security,” said Helez.

He added that the partnership between Bosnia and Herzegovina and NATO has lasted for 20 years, during which the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina has achieved exceptional progress, which is reflected in the alignment with NATO standards and participation in peacekeeping missions.

Helez stated that Bosnia and Herzegovina already has several units that are declared according to NATO standards and that he is particularly pleased that the representatives of the alliance have noticed our work and progress.

The Chief of the Joint Staff of the Armed Forces of BiH, Major General Gojko Knežević, said that cooperation with NATO refers primarily to the areas of education, training, equipping, and assessing the degree of interoperability.

He pointed out that the obligation of the generals is to build operational capabilities and capacities for the execution of tasks defined by law, and that the process of accession to NATO is the responsibility of the BiH Presidency.

Knežević reminded that in the last report of the Secretary General of NATO for 2023, it was stated that Bosnia and Herzegovina intensified cooperation with the alliance, among other things, within the framework of the reform program, in which it was stated that this ultimately does not prejudice the question of membership.

Deputy Chief of Staff of the Partnership Directorate of the Supreme Allied Command for Europe, Rear Admiral Gunnstein Bruasdal, stated that it is extremely important that representatives of 65 countries attend the conference, which provides an opportunity to build relationships between partners.

He emphasized that BiH has been a close partner of NATO and that since 2006, when BiH became an official partner, significant progress has been achieved.

Bruasdal explained that during the multi-day conference, the further path of the partner countries will be jointly determined and that it is up to the countries themselves to decide on the level of cooperation with NATO or on eventual membership.

The Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina are hosting the NATO Conference of Strategic Military Partners, which lasts until April 12. The conference will be an opportunity to exchange opinions on important strategic issues of NATO partners and improve military cooperation.