• 080 020 137
9. June 17
General Giselle M. Wilz

NHQSa COM REMARKS, "Visit to American University in BiH"


Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.

I consider that speaking with you – the future leaders of this country – is an important part of NATO’s role here in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Debate and communication – the exchange of ideas – is one of the most important factors in society: whether this is in our personal lives or professional lives, communication and debate support our individual and collective decision making; and to form that debate you need information.

With this is mind, I would like to give you some of my thoughts about Bosnia and Herzegovina and Euro-Atlantic Integration. Specifically, why does NATO matter, the importance of the AFBiH, and what NATO is doing to assist BiH on their path.

Why does NATO matter?

Why does a 29 Member Political/Military Alliance that is nearly 70 years old, based in safeguarding the freedom and security of its members through political and military means matter?

Why does an alliance that politically promotes democratic values and encourages consultation and cooperation on defence and security issues to build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict… matter?

Why does an alliance that militarily is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes, but has the military capacity needed to undertake crisis-management operations…..matter?

It’s a question that pretty much answers itself….common sense, safe guards freedoms, promotes democratic values, committed to peaceful resolution of disputes, but able and willing to use military when all else fails.

In previous talks over my tenure here in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I used to say that threats no longer come in the form of state actors; and conventional warfare is extremely unlikely ……

I still believe that, but as we see world events shake out, I don’t think it would be wise for any of us to discount that. I do however, believe attacks from single or group actors – often in the form of terrorism is and will continue to be the most likely case as we have already seen throughout the world. In addition, cyber-attacks against communication systems have increased; and, threats from increasing technological advancement are creating an ever changing spectrum of challenges.

Across the globe, it feels a little bit like we are on a roller coaster, that world order is being tested….we are seeing a resurgence of nationalism on all fronts, posturing by world powers and wanna be world powers……but this isn’t the first time we have been tested….and now, like those times previously, the fundamental principle of the alliance remains…
SO YES….., NATO matters…..

NATO continues to have and open door policy, demonstrated by Montenegro becoming the 29th Member just this week, and would like to see all countries of the former Yugoslavia become members of one day. Membership and even more so the preparations for membership carry positive implications for the political and economic viability of a state.

This in turn can encourage foreign investment, which can lead to jobs and increased economic prosperity: a long-term environment for further economic growth and progress. Additionally, countries joining NATO have found that this has facilitated further steps toward complete Euro-Atlantic integration: success in the accession process itself confers permanent benefits on the country.

Membership for BiH is a discussion, debate for the future….today, I would argue that the path to NATO is critical for a country, regardless whether they ever become members….The path to NATO drives reforms, transparency, helps BiH become better partners with NATO and throughout the Region…..and ultimately supports security and prosperity for its citizens.

I have already answered part of this question, but let’s talk about Why NATO has been and is the right path for BiH? First you can simply look at your neighbors…..and what it has done for them… but fundamentally lets just take a look at NATO.

At the heart of NATO is its partnerships, from the political level in Brussels – offering a mechanism for diplomacy, cooperation and dialogue to the military operations on the ground focused on collective defense…… NATO Partnership – is a cooperative approach to security - driven by the belief that the promotion of security is best assured through a wide network of partners – because no one organisation or country can deal with unpredictable challenges of the dynamic security environment we find ourselves in today.

A NATO Partnership offers a framework to conduct reforms; allows for the development of a relationship with NATO; enhances military capabilities; increases interoperability and compatibility with NATO and Partner forces; allows for feedback and assistance in a broad range of reform areas; improves the ability to respond to crises; and ensures that Allies and Partners gain military benefits from sharing costs and capabilities.

NATO Headquarters Sarajevo plays an important and specific role. Our primary mission is to advise BiH authorities on defence reform including coordination of Partnership for Peace (PfP) activities in order to contribute to further Euro-Atlantic integration.

Our goal, essentially, is to help develop your armed forces, enable them to fulfil their missions and tasks and be of greater valuable to BiH and more importantly…… it’s citizens.

As citizens and future leaders in this country, it is important to understand Why the Armed Forces of BiH is a good and credible thing, and why the continued reform and development of your armed forces is important?

At the very fundamental level, the role of all armed forces today is to prevent bad things from happening – and to respond in cases when they do.

So it only makes sense, that the continued implementation of reforms – and the development of capabilities – would lead to the greater capacity of the AFBiH to fulfil that role….– giving capabilities to BiH and its citizens that are of high value.

This is especially relevant in light of the role played by the AFBiH during some of the natural disasters that have happened here – 2014 floods and fires we see every summer.

We also see, that the development of capabilities to support civil authorities improves the standing of the AFBiH with the BiH population. We can see directly how the AFBiH are of benefit to all peoples – regardless of ethnicity.

It is the effective engagement of the AFBiH together with civil authorities that will improve the credibility of the entire security establishment. This is important – for the population of this country, in NATO’s eyes, for the partners of BiH, and for neighbours with whom the AFBiH work as disasters are rarely limited by borders.

So where is Bosnia and Herzegovina in terms of Euro-Atlantic Integration and more specifically NATO?

Bosnia and Herzegovina has made steady progress since joining the NATO Partnership for Peace in 2006. There has been progressive movement through NATO programmes: from Partnership for Peace Planning and Review Process (PARP), to Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), to the 2010 invitation to join the Membership Action Plan (MAP).

The invitation to the Membership Action Plan is of key importance. Once the invitation to join the MAP is fully implemented, cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina and support for reform will be set out in an Annual National Programme. This programme will outline preparations for possible future membership, including political, economic, defence, resource, security and legal issues.

In other words, NATO’s partnership with Bosnia-Herzegovina is fundamentally about improving the everyday lives of the people of this country. It is about peace and stability, it is about fighting corruption, ensuring that defence institutions are under democratic control, use resources appropriately and are transparent and accountable. It is also about strengthening your ability to respond to natural disasters. That is why in 2014 NATO answered Bosnia’s call for help during the devastating floods. Since then we have been working to strengthen our ability to deal with natural disasters and this September Bosnia will host a major NATO civil emergency exercise in Tuzla, one of the area’s most affected by the floods. But our partnership is a two way street. Bosnia and Herzegovina now makes an important contribution to international security. Bosnia is part of NATO’s ongoing support to Afghanistan with a unit currently on duty with our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.

Going back to condition for activation of MAP - or the Annual National Program – that is the registration of perspective defense property to the state, for use by the Ministry of Defence – this condition has not been met.

But honestly it isn’t as much about the properties, as it is BiH ability to demonstrate the ability to make tough political decisions, demonstration of political will to gain consensus………now just because the conditions haven’t been met, doesn’t mean that the work has stopped.

BiH is still moving forward, and progressing in some areas covered within the annual national program, however not as aggressively as they could or with the support they could have from the alliance once MAP is activated.

Therefore, it is important to maintain momentum and engagement in the programmes in which Bosnia and Herzegovina is currently engaged and to fulfil the associated commitments – to demonstrate capability, ability, and credible partnership. This will be of key importance to continued progress in integration.


In conclusion, there are a couple of points that I would like you to take away from my remarks here today.

I think it is important to consider how the development of the AFBiH helps your country deal with the threats in the modern world – this is not only important to BiH as a country, but to the region, and to the entire Euro-Atlantic community.

Equally it is important to consider the advantages that NATO can offer BiH: the development of capabilities that, for example, can be used at home, in civil emergencies. NATO offers the ability to pool knowledge and skills that can be used – particularly important when we face limits in our financial resources.

I think it is important to think about how the AFBiH, as an institution, effect the standing of BiH as a country. This is an important factor in the viability and success of any state. In the end, NATO wants a united Bosnia and Herzegovina to succeed. We want you to take your rightful place as a member of the Euro-Atlantic community and we will support you on the path in any way that we can. This is about more than meeting common standards and technical arrangements. It is about joining a community of nations dedicated to democracy, human rights, the rule of law and to each other. A community that has spread greater peace and prosperity across our continent than ever before. Joining the Euro-Atlantic community requires responsible leadership and that leadership has to come from you and your political leaders while fully respecting your democratic institutions and your constitution. For a confident and thriving Bosnia and Herzegovina is not only good for you, it is good for the whole of the Western Balkans and for all of Europe.

Thank You and I look forward to your questions and discussion.