Defense Minister of Boznia and Herzegovina Dr. Selmo Cikotic


Dr. Selmo Cikotić
Defense Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Interdependence in International Relations:
A View from Bosnia and Hezegovina

Let me start with some globally relevant remarks. I believe that the progress of civilization and globaliztion, besides bringing many very positive achievements and the free flow of people, ideas, goods, and values, has brought some globally relevant and present challenges and threats, not only to civilization but even to the nature of threats and challenges, which tend to change due to the changes of the modern world. We live in a time that is characterized by the speed of change, which is unprecedented in history, with a tendency for further acceleration. All of this applies not only to any single country’s security system but also to the entire world’s security situation.


Because of all of these changes, interdependence has become a major feature of international relationships. No country, regardless of its size, strenth, and potential, can provide its own security. Countries depend on each other more and more. And with all of these things in mind, we have to recognize the trend of power to migrate outside state structures and also the migration of security threats. It is difficult to predict to what extent security structures per se will be the subject of security environments and guarantees versus the influence of some research laboratories, medical institutions, migration offices, or environmental institutions, and how the leadership and organization of security structures will change. However, I believe that firm, strong, vertically organized hierarchies will be replaced increasingly by more flexible, horizontal organizations that cover a bigger area.


Bosnia and Herzegovina feels all of these changes and concerns and shares them with all of its neighbors. Bosnia and Herzegovina, if I may say, is part of the heartland of the western Balkans. In many aspects, it is representative of the region but also represents a kind of problem and solution for the western Balkans. I will not talk about the entire problem but focus instead on the defense structures of Bosnia and Herzegovina, reminding you that at Dayton it was impossible to organize the defense of the country at the state level, and it was very difficult to include this single sentence within the overall framework agreement: “The presidency of the country will form a standing committee on military matters that will coordinate defense issues between entities”, and all defense structures were to be provided at entities’ level. Today, fifteen years after Dayton, we have a functioning state-level ministry of defense and a single armed force of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thus we completely abandoned the entity level of defense structures.
Ten years before these reforms, that was completely unthinkable. This illustrates how much progress can be achieved within Bosnia and Herzegovina when there exists an understanding, the will of local politicians and the oweners of responsibility, and cooperation with international actors, namely NATO and, particularly, the United States and its government.

Defense reform represents the most significant change of the Dayton Accords, which in a way can be characterized as a constitutional reform of the country. But this reform not only changed the defense system of the country: It changed the mindset of the people. It set the stage and created a role model for many other security reforms and changes as well as many other state-level reforms in many other areas.


The most valuable heritage of the defense reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina is that ethnic interests in the country are best protected and promoted by effective and workable state-level institutions capable of taking our country into NATO and the EU, helping everyone to be better off. It is our experience, and this is true not only for Bosnia and Herzegovina but the West and the Balkan region in general, that if you do not create a solution that enables everyone to win, then no one wins. It is also our experience that an imperfect division of revenues and gains that produces success is much better than an ideal division of responsibility that produces failure. In the long run, things balance out, and we are quite sure that in promoting this idea we serve not only internal progress but our external international contribution to the value of international collective security mechanisms and cooperative security concept of the EU. This is the best way, we believe, in which NATO and the EU can work with and assist us.

Unlike some regional states, we do see NATO and the European Union as separate but not separable institutions. We also understand the transition pattern in which a country is taken into NATO first and later considered for EU membership. And we understand that fulfilling the different requirements and prerequisites for membership in both organizations is complementary, and requires the state-building process that brings about positive consequences both internally and externally. We have full national consensus on our European identity and on joining NATO and the EU in the future, and this is not always the case regarding many political issues in the country.
We now have an election campaign ahead of us, and most politicians will care much more about the elections’ outcome than the speed of our progress through PfP mechanisms and the resolution of defense immovable property, which is a prerequisite for our enrollment in the first Annual National Plan within MAP. Therefore I do not want to provide any guarantees for the resolution of this issue before the September time, even though the Ministry od Defense and Armed Forces is taking an active position, and we have provided and prepared all necessary forms and documents to get this issue fixed in a month or two. If that does not happen, this issue will need to be resolved after the elections are completed, and it will be one of the first and key challenges of the new government that will be formed after the October elections.

I am quite sure, however, that on a daily basis this is an important issue. In the long run, though, it is much more important that we see progress, and I share in the thoughts of my Georgian colleague that any kind of NATO and EU investment in the progress of internal affairs in Bosnia and Herzegovina and its international position is worthwhile.


Our region has a tendency to make very positive changes regarding its future. Some of you know that Croatia, in addition to Turkey, was one of the very active NATO members that opted for MAP for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Just 10 years ago, that would have been impossible. And when Croatia won access to NATO in 2009, it received only positive comments from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that would have been impossible if it had happened just five or seven years ago. So, all of these changes are very important. Now we focus more and more on practical issues, on future-oriented issues. With all of the global trends, every state in the western Balkans and in the region understands that integration is better than fragmentation, cooperation is better than confrontation, and inclusion is better than exclusion. I dare say today that the western Balkans region will be better integrated in 10 years’ time, than it used to be 20 years ago, before the crisis erupted and war broke out.

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