By Drazen Remikovic
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) conditionally accepted the Action Plan for NATO membership (MAP) in April 2009, but the status of the country’s military property remains unresolved.
These properties are mostly military warehouses, barracks and administrative buildings that cannot be used until land registration is completed. The government annually allocates approximately 1m euros from the state budget to maintain these facilities.
Unregistered military property in the land register is the result of years of political dissent. Experts say that in the upcoming period, a rapid political agreement and progress is possible.
US Ambassador to BiH Patrick Moon and the President of the Republika Srpska (RS) parliament, Igor Radojicic, met in Banja Luka on Sunday (December 11th), and were optimistic about resolving the issue.
“Political leaders have stated that BiH membership in NATO is one of their strategic objectives. NATO has offered a MAP to BiH, under the condition that BiH first resolves the registration of immoveable defence property. We urge BiH to resolve this issue as soon as possible so that BiH can begin its Annual National Programme,” Moon told SETimes in a written statement.
He added that the parties can find a compromise.
“It is deeply disappointing that BiH political party leaders missed the opportunity to resolve the MAP condition before the NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels on December 8th. It is time for political leaders to do their part, move past rhetoric and focus on national priorities that strengthen security,” Moon noted.
A total of 69 military holdings need to be registered in the land books, but currently, there is no political agreement on how to register the property. The official Sarajevo proposal is that all property should be registered in BiH and the ministry of defence.
RS suggests that the ministry of defence uses all 69 properties till the time the army needs them, and when the same properties are no longer needed for military purposes, they are returned to entities and local communities.
Zivko Marjanac, BiH deputy defence minister, told SETimes that it is up to the political parties and the defence ministry to finish “their part of the work”.
“Despite the fact that the politicians could not agree, we have continued to work on collecting necessary legal documentation for the property and locations, so now we have more than 90% of required documentation for all 69 military sites,” Marjanac told SETimes.
“In addition, we established a central data base for military property at the level of the defence ministry, which so far has had three levels: the ministry, Sarajevo NATO headquarters, and Office of the High Representative (OHR),” he said.
Mirko Okolic, former chairman of the parliamentary committee for defence and security, says that RS and Sarajevo have different views on resolving the problem.
“The problem is political, like every other thing that happens in BiH. I think that it needs to be solved with other important issues, such as the Sejdic/Finci case, forming of state government,” Okolic told SETimes.
He added that of the total 69 military facilities, 23 are located in RS and 46 are in Federation of BiH.
According to recent polls, about 60% of the population support joining NATO, and about 28% are opposed.
Sarajevo resident Mirza Cupica thinks that benefits from entering the Alliance are guaranteed, adding that serious politicians should not let this opportunity slip away.
“By entering NATO, we will be safer and more stable in every respect, and when you have security and stability, then economic growth is inevitable. Perhaps NATO officials can teach our politicians how to use property, since they don’t know what to do with it,” Cupica told SETimes.
International Community officials have repeatedly warned the political elite to address the question of military property, as resolving it is also a condition for closing the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in BiH.
The OHR says it hopes to see progress soon.
“Solving this issue is just a matter of political will. BiH politicians have the ability to achieve compromise and show proven political maturity, and these are important elements for NATO, and for the Council for Peace Implementation,” Ljiljana Radetic, OHR spokesman told SETimes.