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06SARAJEVO3058 2006-11-30 15:47:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Sarajevo
Cable title:  

BOSNIA: PFP DECISION HAILED AS A HISTORIC MILESTONE

Tags:   PREL PGOV MARR BK 
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1. (SBU) Bosnian leaders and the general public hailed the
decision to offer Bosnia an invitation into the Partnership
for Peace (PfP) at NATO's Riga Summit as an historic event,
noting Bosnia's clear progress in integrating into
Euro-Atlantic structures. The decision could serve as an
impetus to spur the lagging reform agenda, and is a
high-profile validation of the difficult choices made by
Bosnian leaders in accepting defense reform. The PfP
invitation further provides us an opportunity to highlight
the benefits of continuing with sometimes difficult reforms.



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OFFICIALS, PUBLIC EMBRACE CLEAR SIGN OF PROGRESS


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2. (SBU) The decision to offer Bosnia membership in PfP came
as a surprise to government officials and the public alike.
The announcement from Riga was met with celebration and
self-congratulation in official circles and resulted in
striking images of unity. In an extraordinary joint news
conference in front of the Bosnian state flag, all three
members of Bosnia's Tri-Presidency hailed the decision as a
validation of Bosnia's progress. Presidency member Haris
Silajdzic stated, "this invitation represents a reward for
all efforts, reforms and transitions, as well as
encouragement for all those who want to see BiH as an EU
member state." Defense Minister Radovanovic welcomed the
decision, and announced that Bosnia had now started the
process towards full NATO membership. Radovanovic also urged
authorities to not allow their cooperation on PIFWC issues to
slow. Prime Minister Adnan Terzic claimed responsibility for
leading Bosnia into PfP, saying it was "the crown of my
government's work." Even RS Prime Minister Milorad Dodik
publicly and vocally praised the decision as "great news."



3. (SBU) The PfP announcement led both television and print
news. With headlines such as "Historic Decision for our
State," "Our Country Finally Part of the European Family,"
and "Big Day for Bosnia and Herzegovina," the decision was
portrayed as a profound and positive step towards lasting
peace and security. A television news poll found 75 percent
of respondents saying that PfP membership would serve to
strengthen security within the country. Newspaper
commentaries also trumpeted the invitation, focusing on the
potential contributions to stability that PfP would bring
along and its corresponding validation of defense reform.
The only sour note sounded during the day came from ICTY
Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte. The Bosnian press widely
quoted Del Ponte who is visiting Bosnia November 30, as
stating that PfP was an "award for non-cooperation."



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BOSNIA READY TO PROCEED


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4. (C) Assistant Defense Minister and Bosnia's co-chairman of
the inter-agency PfP working group Zoran Sajinovic told us
that Bosnia is prepared to move forward and engage Brussels
on its PfP requirements. Sajinovic noted that the
announcement at Riga had taken the Bosnian government by
surprise, but that fact should not delay Bosnia's ability to
meet its obligations. While clearly pleased with the
decision, Sajinovic sounded two notes of caution: that the
Bosnian leadership now had to "get serious" and recognize
that Bosnia is on the threshold of the preeminent security
organization; and, that Bosnia continued to be linked to
Serbia, whose record on PIFWC and other cooperation remains
deficient.



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STABILIZING DEFENSE REFORM?


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5. (C) Inclusion in PfP should provide a boost to the pace of
defense reform, which has slowed in recent months. At the
very least, political and military leaders can now point to a
tangible benefit to pursuing defense reform. Furthermore, as
Defense Minister Radovanovic noted yesterday, Bosnia's next

SARAJEVO 00003058 002 OF 002


objective will be full alliance membership, a goal shared by
most political leaders. Moving through the PARP and MAP
processes will require the MOD and armed forces to exhibit a
greater level of cohesiveness and competence in implementing
key defense reforms-- to "get serious" in Sajinovic's words.



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COMMENT: SHOWING THE PATH FORWARD


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6. (C) The importance of the PfP decision for Bosnia cannot
be overstated. For the first time, Bosnia received an
unequivocal signal that it is firmly on par with other
countries in Europe and moving down a path of further
integration. The decision also illustrates the potential to
unite a divided population presented by recognition in
Euro-Atlantic organizations. Following the announcement, the
Bosnian leadership engaged in displays of unity and mutual
congratulation not witnessed in recent memory. This reaction
demonstrates that despite the fractious current political
climate, Bosnian leaders across the political and ethnic
spectrum share the broad policy goal of integrating into
Euro-Atlantic structures. Political leaders adopted defense
reform not due to an appreciation for the importance of a
single, multi-ethnic armed force in itself, but rather
because all sides recognized the value of moving under the
security umbrella of the NATO alliance and further into "the
West."



7. (C) In the face of the international community's drawdown
in Bosnia, NATO and PfP should serve to partially fill the
vacuum and provide a new impetus for continued reform. The
decision also presents opportunities for the U.S. to leverage
key reform commitments We can point to a tangible benefit to
undertaking what Bosnian leaders sometimes view as painful
and forced reforms. The PfP decision will also serve as a
powerful reaffirmation of our message that the international
community is not abandoning Bosnia, and continued reform is
the key to further integration into Euro-Atlantic structures.
CEFKIN