SARAJEVO, August 22 (FENA) – Brigadier General Eric Folkestad, NATO HQ Commander and NATO’s top military representative in BiH, stressed that Bosnia and Herzegovina is and remains to be one country with two entities and three constituent peoples.
“Stories of secession are not only not useful but also divert attention from the real issues that need to be addressed. What is needed is cooperation in implementing the necessary reforms, at every level in BiH, that will make the future safer, more stable and more prosperous. NATO and member countries call on all parties to focus their efforts in this direction. The people I talk to all over BiH just want a better future for their families. They want peace, security, prosperity and opportunities, and it is up to the leaders at all levels to realize that,” Folkestad underlined in an interview with FENA.
He noted that it is well-known that BiH is facing security challenges – like any other country. From migration, through COVID, to disinformation and corruption, BiH is at the forefront of all this.
“NATO and its member states member will continue to help, and we call on the authorities at all levels to approach these problems in a spirit of cooperation and compromise and act in the direction of the common good. If this is not done, it has repercussions on jobs, wages and the economy as a whole,” says Folkestad.
He emphasizes that investors want security, political stability, and to know that the law is respected and applied in an open and fair way – this is what instills confidence in them to invest and create jobs, raise living standards and make life better for all people in BiH.
“My team and I, as well as the ambassadors of NATO member countries, are constantly advocating for reforms in these areas. In a broader sense, the challenges we face are too great and too complicated for any country individually. That is why partnerships such as the BiH-NATO partnership and regional cooperation are so important. And that is what NATO does best. We include countries in our talks on a daily basis, even those that are not members, such as Serbia and BiH. And when the crisis breaks out, we are here to support each other,” said Folkestad.
Speaking about his priorities as the Commander of the NATO Headquarters in Sarajevo, he states that NATO is here at the invitation of the authorities to provide advice and assistance in the process of improving and modernizing the work of the ministries of defense and security, as well as the Armed Forces. This includes consultingation on forces structure, manpower, training and ways to make the whole system more transparent and accountable to the public.
Wildfires are raging throughout BiH. We know about the information that the Presidency did not give consent for the use of AF BiH helicopters, as well as that flying on AF BiH helicopters was not safe. General Folkestad says the BiH Armed Forces have this capability.
“A few days ago, I visited the 2nd Helicopter Squadron. As a military helicopter pilot with 25 years of experience, including that of flying the UH-1H, the same ones used by the BiH Armed Forces, I can say with full confidence that these aircrafts are fully operational, well maintained and that the crews operating them are qualified and experienced. I met them and they are trained, ready and eager to fly in any mission to support the civilian authorities when they are asked to do so.
Apart from seeing it myself, I also have a technical expert for military aviation who is part of my team here and who spends almost all his time with the squadrons of the AF BiH and regularly informs me about their capabilities. We now have over 70 square kilometers of fires throughout BiH and I would have preferred to have seen these military means in the air together with the helicopters of the RS Helicopter Service. I would say, the more aircrafsts, the less scorched earth. Each unit of the AF BiH has a description of the mission, which includes providing assistance to civilian authorities during natural disasters and other emergencies. These people are there and ready to do it, whether it’s wildfires, search and rescue missions or medical evacuation.
I visited all the brigades of the AF BiH and every time I was impressed by their commitment and positive attitude. As in all public institutions, there are systemic limitations, but soldiers and officers – of different affiliations and from different parts of the country – work together to successfully complete all tasks. That is what makes the AF BiH an institution that is an example of universal inclusion – and the results are impressive,”concluded General Folkestad in an interview with FENA.