NATO ministers have agreed to grant a Membership Action Plan, or MAP, for Bosnia and Herzegovina, which could help it advance its aspirations in the alliance. At the recent NATO ministerial meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reaffirmed continued U.S. support for NATO enlargement. She noted the "experience and contributions" of host-country Estonia as an example that "NATO's open door strengthens our alliance and advances our shared goals."
Secretary Clinton said the decision on Bosnia and Herzegovina was made "with the expectation it will serve as a catalyst for important reforms that will help strengthen Bosnian institutions and allow it to function more effectively as a state."
A Membership Action Plan is a multi-step process involving political, judicial, economic, and defense reform to help a country meet NATO standards for membership. It does not include a guarantee of membership or a timeline for completion. Bosnia first applied for the MAP plan in October 2009; at their meeting in December 2009, allied foreign ministers indicated that Bosnia would start MAP once it completed reforms.
In the last several months, NATO ministers said Bosnia has made "significant progress on reform." The alliance welcomed Bosnia's decision to destroy surplus ammunition and arms and to contribute troops to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Bosnia also succeeded in uniting its rival ethnic armies that fought each other during the 1992-95 war, no small task in a country that remains ethnically divided.
NATO officials, however, remain concerned that military property, such as bases, have not yet been registered as belonging to the Bosnian state and for use by the defense ministry. While Bosnia was invited to enter into MAP, NATO ministers decided that this issue must be resolved in order for Bosnia to begin the steps within the MAP process.
The United States supports NATO enlargement and the efforts of nations such as Bosnia that aspire to meet the standards for membership. As Secretary Clinton said, "We will be working with and looking to Bosnia's leaders to deliver further progress. And we made very clear that we are inviting Bosnia into [the] membership [action plan], but they have to take certain steps in order to proceed in the MAP process."