Macedonia and Montenegro are already benefiting from the NATO membership and it is very important that BiH has submitted its Reform Program and that, as the candidate for the NATO membership, it is in a position to benefit, like other members, from the cooperation, exchange of information and mutual assistance, particularly in a view of the fact that NATO is already present in the country and that its entire staff in BiH share our destiny. The assistance provided by the USA, the leading NATO member, to the Armed Forces of BiH to be further distributed, was an overture and a signal that the current situation can be overcome through the mutual cooperation and assistance.
Having submitted its first ANP, i.e. the Reform Program, Bosnia and Herzegovina has formally and factually confirmed its intention to joint NATO. In the framework of political and economic issues, which are an integral part of the Reform Program submitted to NATO HQ, there is a special chapter on “The Crisis Management and Civil Emergency Planning”.
The Coronavirus pandemics has caused a huge crisis all over the world and the NATO members have introduced scores of mechanisms to secure a mutual assistance and cooperation, which is also secured for the non-members, i.e. its partner countries that have indicated their intention to join the strongest global organization. “This is a very important tool that can help countries to continue their work on political, economic and defense reforms. It is now up to BiH to use the chance we have given to it”, said Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General.
Material and Technical Assistance
Macedonia has already started benefiting from NATO’s NICS information and advisory system, which was tested last year in Montenegro and then, on 26/27 March this year, Montenegro submitted a request to NATO (EADRCC) for material and technical assistance.
In the Preamble of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Reform Program for 2019/2020 it is stated that the country would continue activities on strengthening its crisis management and civil emergency planning capabilities. It is also stated that the partner countries (NATO and PfP member countries) will continue to participate in the work of NATO Civil Emergency Planning Committee (CEPC) with experts from the relevant government institutions in the areas of cooperation that are of a relevance for these committees.
The Ministry of Security of BiH will be in charge of these activities and, in line with the country’s legal framework, it will take part in the operation of ad hoc teams of the Civilian Protection Group with experts and, where necessary and when invited by the Civilian Emergency Planning Committee, with other such groups as well.
In line with the country’s Reform Program, the Ministry of Security of BiH will coordinate the planning that will be carried out by its institutions and bodies tasked with the protection and rescue activities. This Ministry is also tasked with the international cooperation, strategic planning, establishment of structures and training. According to the Reform Program, the Council of Ministers will need to establish a specialized multi-sectoral protection and rescue unit in BiH.
The Program of development of the protection and rescue system needs to develop a methodology and mechanisms for the building of capacities of the country’s institutions and bodies in the protection and rescue field. This program also needs to give guidelines to the entities and District Brčko to harmonize the programming of protection and rescue in their zones of responsibility. The Annex to the Reform Program in its Table, Point 6 enumerates concrete measures to be undertaken by the Ministry of Security of BiH and the Civilian Protection institutions. Thus, inter alia, it is stated that mechanisms of crisis management should be introduced and capacities for civilian emergency planning should be strengthened, along with the cooperation within the region and with neighboring countries, and implementation of the Program for the Protection and Rescue System.
Science in the Service of Security
The Coronavirus pandemics represents the greatest challenge ever for the world and it is logical that the member countries of NATO and NATO itself have been adapting to the current situation.
We need to remember that the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) was founded in 1998 in the NATO HQ and that, interestingly enough, it was done at the initiative of (the then) Russia. The Centre is active 24/7 and acts as the key point for the information exchange on all types of disasters. In the time of its establishment, an agreement was reached to form a Euro-Atlantic unit with national elements, i.e., the forces that the countries are ready to give at NATO’s disposal in the situations of crisis.
EADRCC collaborates with all the relevant international institutions, including the World Health Organization (WHO). EADRCC was first engaged in Kosovo in the operation of providing shelter for refugees, when it provided medical equipment, clothing, means of telecommunication and tents for 20.000 persons. It also helped Montenegro in 2017, in the time of floods.
As of 9/11 2001, in addition to numerous measures in combatting terrorism, measures for fight against the use of biological and chemical substances by terrorist organizations were strengthened and the competences of EADRCC were extended.
Today, there is still no response in terms of a ”weapon” for an effective fight against Coronavirus - regardless of the fact that it may be a natural phenomenon or the case of the virus having escaped from a laboratory - and how to confront it. That is why the entire global system, including NATO, is adapting to the threat it poses. NATO has developed mechanisms through other prevention programs, such as the CCMS Project, aka “science for security.” The planning of emergency civilian operation, the terms commonly used in NATO that has been in force for years now is not related to the NATO members only - if disasters and crises are global, then a mutual cooperation is the only logical response.
As already underlined, Macedonia and Montenegro are already benefiting from the membership of NATO and it is very important that BiH has submitted its Reform Program and that, as a candidate for the NATO membership, it is in a position to benefit, like other members, from the cooperation, exchange of information and mutual assistance, particularly in a view of the fact that NATO is already present in the country and that its entire staff in BiH share our destiny. The assistance provided by the USA, a leading NATO member, to the Armed Forces of BiH to be further distributed, was an overture and signal that the current situation can be overcome through a mutual cooperation and assistance.
Crisis and Emergency Situations
EADRCC has already acted in more than 30 NATO operations - from Pakistan, Azerbaijan, The Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, to Ukraine, Turkey, North Macedonia, Portugal and Moldova. EADRCC has established and manages the database of national capabilities to be used in situations of chemical, biological, nuclear radiological attacks or crises caused by biological and chemical actions. This database contains information on the capabilities that can be put at disposal by NATO and its member countries to the national authorities for the purpose of protection of their civilians.
Crises and emergency situations are directly related to security challenges. The outbreak of Coronavirus has given rise to mistrust at the global level, while suspicions are a fertile soil for many different actions. The European Union (majority of its members being also members of NATO) reports on Russian activities targeting the EU in the current crisis, which are reflected on BiH as well. Alternatives that are being imposed on the region more than ever before, inter alia through the public promotion of the assistance received from China and Russia, which was pointed out by Carl Bildt, the former Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs and the first High Representative in BiH, who has warned that Serbia is hiding the information about assistance it has received from the European Union from the public.
Unfortunately, besides fighting against Coronavirus, the crisis committees and all the institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina must pay greater attention to possible scenarios of destruction of BiH in the time of the greatest crisis the world is faced with, given that only Serbia and the Republika Srpska have declared the state of emergency. All the recent developments indicate that there is synchronization between Serbian and Russian actions, which continuously threatens peace and security in this part of Europe.
Bosnia and Herzegovina must use all available mechanisms to inform the European Union and NATO on its current situation that is not only “the life in the time of Corona”, but also entails manifold security challenges posed by those who are exploiting this crisis, instead of taking care of their citizens - in the time when the cooperation, solidarity and care for citizens should be of utmost priority.