SARAJEVO, May 22 (FENA) – The global pandemic caused by Covid-19 is an unprecedented challenge for NATO members, but Commander of NATO Headquarters Sarajevo, Brigadier General William J. Edwards, firmly believes that NATO will come out of this stronger.
“Cohesion and unity are important principles of the Alliance, and all NATO members are united in the support they provide not only to each other but also to our long-term partners, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said General Edwards in response to FENA’s inquiry.
At the same time, he stressed, NATO is preparing for the long-term consequences of Covid-19 and working to improve its resilience, including basic civilian preparedness requirements.
“This will enable us to continue providing support to both Allies and our partners,” he stated.
He announced that talks on these topics would be held at the next meeting of defense ministers in June.
“It is clear that we must continue to strengthen the resilience of our societies, to better plan in case of future pandemics, protect critical industry and improve business continuity planning,” he said.
Asked what assistance NATO provided to BiH in the fight against the pandemic, he said that the Alliance has already provided significant assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina to fight Covid-19 and continues to coordinate assistance to other NATO countries through the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC)
“The importance of this response is even greater if we keep in mind that the NATO member countries themselves are currently fighting the pandemic while we are talking. Nevertheless, the Allies responded to BiH’s call for help. Assistance was provided to a number of local institutions throughout the country, including the BiH Ministry of Security, the FBiH and RS Ministries of Interior, the BiH Armed Forces, the RS and FBiH Ministries of Health, and local civil protection institutions. This assistance only shows that in BiH and around the world, NATO Allies and partners stay together, help each other during this pandemic through various NATO arrangements, bilateral assistance, or by providing support to countries in their efforts in the field of civil protection,” Edwards replied.
Answering the question about his impressions of the cooperation between BiH and NATO in the past few years and how he sees that cooperation in the coming period, he said “We support the authorities in BiH in their reform goals.”
“In the previous period, key results were achieved in defense reform – from the establishment of the BiH Ministry of Defense and the Joint Staff in 2003 to the agreement on merging the two entity armies into one military force and creating the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina as they are today. Equally important are the key moments in Euro-Atlantic integration, from joining the Partnership for Peace in 2006, to steady progress through NATO programs and the 2010 call for accession to the Membership Action Plan. In that light, the Allies welcomed the submission of the BiH Reform Program document in December last year. It has been discussed at the technical level and is considered a good basis for continued co-operation between NATO and Bosnia and Herzegovina. As Bosnia and Herzegovina continues to implement reforms contained in the Program, NATO looks forward to supporting the authorities in these efforts, as well as to continuing our talks on NATO-BiH cooperation and regional security,” General Edwards concluded in his response.