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Interview

Visit by B&H Minister of Defense Marina Pendes, 18. 05. 2015.

 

INTERVIEW: BIH MINISTER OF DEFENSE, MARINA PENDES

 

By Ajsela ZAHIROVIC

SARAJEVO, May 19 (ONASA) – The BiH Minister of Defense Marina Pendes in an interview for ONASA talks, among other things, about the activities that the Ministry of Defense (MoD) of BiH takes in order to activate the Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the NATO, registering perspective military assets, surplus weapons, ammunition and explosive ordnance, how intensively the Armed Forces (OS) BiH work on it destruction and how far that process is…

ONASA: Recently, the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mladen Ivanic stated that entry to NATO is directly dependent on Serbia’s accession to the organization. How much such statements and opinions can hurt integration into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?

PENDES: I must say that I have not heard such a statement by the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mladen Ivanic, but somehow I doubt that he said it exactly in that way, because each independent state that applies anywhere, as well as in NATO, submits its application independently of every other state. In this sense, it seems illogical that Ivanic could say such a thing. After submitting an application for NATO, and we have full commitment, BiH will make as an independent state.

ONASA: The leaders of the RS have the unanimous view that people through a referendum should decide about the BiH’s entry into NATO. Is the referendum an acceptable solution?

PENDES: The referendum is one of the tools of a democratic society, as well as in many countries which have become members of NATO and the European Union (EU). But what is the authorities’ job and all of us in Bosnia and Herzegovina? It is before us, that before the final decision on BiH’s membership in NATO or the EU, to undertake all what is needed, if the referendum should have been organized, in order to get the support of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which I have no doubt in.

ONASA: The international military circles, members of the Armed Forces of BiH have been evaluated very positively to participate in military missions around the world. How can it help our country on the road to NATO?

PENDES: It certainly helps, thus we have shown, when it comes to participation in the framework of the coalition forces, together with the United States in Iraq, now in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, missions under the auspices of United Nations (UN) in Africa, where now we have a certain number of people, that we are ‘side by side’ with the power of large-scale military forces. Members of the AF BiH can participate together and show very high results, for which some of them have been even awarded certain number of medals for their contribution to peace-building. Also, when it comes to military exercises organized in Bosnia and Herzegovina or Europe, we have shown that the standards that are applied in the NATO countries are also valid in the AF BiH.
We have shown that we are part of Europe, and that in the future, no matter what, we can become part of NATO.

ONASA: What activities does the Ministry of Defense (MoD) of BiH take to activate the Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the NATO?

PENDES: We got the MAP in 2010, but its activation will be after the registration of promising immovable defense property. We have started that process and until May 15 this year, eight locations were registered that are promising, over 20 applications through our State Attorney’s Office have been sent for further registration. We expect the positive feedback because those are the locations where there are no problem in terms of the rightholder. At a number of locations there are problems in terms of harmonization of cadastre and grunt, in this sense it is possible that we will not be able to completely eliminate the problem, because it’s not in our jurisdiction, so it is possible that we will not be able to register all 63 locations in time.
On the other hand, we have shown what we as a country are willing to do, and that is that we have begun a significant destroying surplus of weapons and ammunition, primarily unstable ammunition, being helped by a number of international organizations with their advice and with providing substantial financial resources, as we have undertaken that destruction in own capacity – Tromb Doboj – but we also work at our locations by the method of open procedure. Until now, certain military industry factories were involved that operated in the dismantling of larger caliber when it comes to ammunition.
It is also significant that our participation in peacekeeping missions shows that the Armed Forces of BiH are prepared to be together with all the other members of the NATO countries, and that we have achieved a degree of interoperability and compatibility with these forces.
We have done a lot concerning demining of the contaminated areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

ONASA: According to many estimates Armed Forces (AF) of BiH are the best product of all reforms in BiH so far. Where would you rank the AF BiH in comparison to armies and armed forces in the region?

PENDES: It is difficult to make a comparison of our Armed Forces, as AF of each country are based on the basis of the needs of the country, as well as on the basis of budgetary resources that each country can set aside for their defense and security. For a simple reason, which is that we are a country that is not very developed and that there are insufficient funds to develop all branches of the service, we opted for a collective security system, for membership in NATO.
Why develop something if we have together someone who is responsible for developing aviation for example.
We have a helicopter units which are sufficient to respond adequately in case of natural catastrophe and disaster, which to respond in case of medical evacuation etc.
For fixed wing we need too many resources, trained personnel, if we cannot develop and support it from our own resources then it is logical that we get that support of another NATO members. In this sense, the system of collective security is very good and necessary to countries that do not have a large number of members of the Armed Forces.
When we talk about the comparison of our people in terms of training to meet the challenges and tasks I believe that we can completely be ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with all members of the armed forces and the strongest armies.
However, we can not compare when it comes to equipment and modernization, because we have had the problem for many years since the founding of the MoD and AF BiH.

ONASA: How much does the participation of BiH Armed Forces in the exercise “Saber Junction 15” in Germany means for the AF BiH?

PENDES: Military exercises helps us test ourselves on how much have trained our members of the Armed Forces of BiH. By participating in this military exercise which was in Germany, we have concluded that members of the Armed Forces of BiH are truly well educated and trained.

ONASA: The surpluses of weapons, ammunition and explosive ordnance remains a major problem in BiH. How intensely are the AF BiH working on their destruction and how far along are you when it comes to that process?

PENDES: We do not have enough of our own capacities in the MoD and AF BiH, so we need to use the capacities of the military industry, where we receive help from, the EU with its funds, UNDP, the United Nations in BiH, and a significant number of embassies such as the US, Sweden, Switzerland, which are helping the Project of destroying surplus weapons, ammunition and explosive ordnance but also ensuring Project locations where these surpluses are located at, which is very important.
We are all interested to resolve as soon as possible the unstable ammunition and surplus weapons in order to raise the safety level in BiH and the region.

ONASA: Is there a possibility that the donation of surplus weapons and ammunition in the fight against the IS will be continued?

PENDES: As far as this decision goes it is not made by BiH MoD but BiH Presidency on the basis of certain events and recommendations, so at this moment I cannot say anything, but you will certainly be informed in due course if this occurs.

ONASA: During last year’s flood AF BiH have been a significant factor in saving lives and property. Are you planning a renewal of equipment and resources necessary for such ventures?

PENDES: The budget adopted for this year does not guarantee the right to modernize and better equip the Armed Forces of BiH, which does not mean that we, in our planned resources of many years, will manage to receive significant funding for MoD and AF BiH from the Parliament of BiH.
It is often speculated on the fact that within the budget of AF MoD BiH about 80 percent is allocated for staff, this is a fact, but by comparing other NATO countries which would be standard for defense related costs should be circa two percent of GDP, and current budget recognizes one percent GDP for the MoD then there is a logical conclusion that in if MoD had 1.5 percent GDP that this percentage of 80 would be closer to maybe 65 percent that the relationship between the cost of personnel and possible investment in modernization of the Armed Forces of BiH in favor of modernization would increase.
Thus we expect that the need of MoD for allocating additional funds for modernization and equipment will be adequately accepted by those who make decisions about the budget of BiH institutions. (end)