Evidence of meeting #42 for National Defence in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was membership.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Excellency Milorad Zivkovic  Chairman, House of Representatives, Parliamentary Assembly of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Denis Becirovic  Vice Chairman, House of Representatives, Parliamentary Assembly of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Martin Raguz  Member, House of Peoples, Parliamentary Assembly of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Good morning, everyone.

I see we have a point of order coming up.

But before I do that, I'll first apologize to our witnesses for being late. We had votes in the House. It is my understanding that we can extend our time to 12:30, since your next meeting has been postponed or cancelled.

Mr. McKay, you have a point of order.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

It's just very brief, Mr. Chair. I don't wish to take any time away from the committee.

When the minister was last here on March 13, I asked a series of very specific questions on the supplementary estimates (C). He said that he would “appreciate the time parameters we're working with here, so I will undertake to give you more fulsome and specific information.”

I've yet to receive that and I don't know whether our clerk has. If not, I'd ask that our clerk pursue it.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

We shall pursue it. We'll put a letter in to the minister and his staff, asking them to follow up on that question.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

That's all I wished to raise.

Thank you.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you.

We have joining us today, from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina—and I apologize if I mispronounce people's names here—the chair of the House of Representatives, Milorad Zivkovic. We have the vice-chairman of the House, Denis Becirovic. We have a member from the House of Peoples, Martin Raguz. Also joining them is Her Excellency the Ambassador in Ottawa for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Biljana Gutic-Bjelica.

In the interest of time, I'll open it up to opening comments.

I understand that you have your interpreters with you. So with that, Mr. Zivkovic, perhaps you could bring your opening comments to the committee.

Welcome to Canada.

11:45 a.m.

His Excellency Milorad Zivkovic Chairman, House of Representatives, Parliamentary Assembly of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Honourable Chair, ladies and gentlemen, Your Excellency, Ambassador, allow me to thank you for the warm welcome we've had over these days.

Before this meeting we had discussions with the parliamentary secretary regarding this issue. We understand you had voting and we parliamentarians understand that on a lively day such as today you need to spend much time in the House. We discussed several issues and I've updated the parliamentary secretary on issues in this area.

Briefly, allow me to say that the reform of the defence system in Bosnia and Herzegovina is considered to be one of the most important reforms. Before that, we had three armies that were at war with each other. Since that reform we have one army, whose command and powers are at the presidency. At the same time, our foreign policy orientation is for Euro-Atlantic integration.

I can inform you that in NATO integration we have accomplished much more than in EU integration, simply because the political demands were smaller. We have proved that we are trained and capable of acting on high NATO standards. That was proven in the peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan, which was a theme of the summit in Chicago. The redistribution of military property is under discussion. After we finish, this will give us full membership in the NATO alliance.

We can say that in Bosnia and Herzegovina, currently we are satisfying accommodations in the area of security. We are not immune to terrorist activities, but I can say that we handle them maybe even better than some European countries.

Regarding the parliamentary dimension, we in the parliamentary assembly have a joint committee on defence and security composed of members from both houses of the parliamentary assembly.

That is a specific characteristic of the parliamentary assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We have several joint committees where representatives from both houses are members, and one of those is the committee on defence.

I'm taking this opportunity to thank Canada for its support to Bosnia and Herzegovina on its road to NATO, and for all the assistance and help provided with the demining of the land and all of the other help. Of course, there is a lot of work still to be done there, and we are in need of your help.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you so much.

We'll go to our first round of questioning.

Mr. Harris, you have seven minutes.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Thank you very much, Chair.

I want to thank you all for coming today. As you may know, in our Parliament there are the government members who sit on that side and the opposition members who sit on this side of the committee meeting. So we represent the opposition party, just for your information.

I'd like to ask first of all about the following. We in Canada, of course, assisted you throughout your struggles and difficulties over the last number of years. I'm reading something here telling me that you now have an armed forces consisting of 15,000 soldiers. Is that correct? If so, how did you accomplish the process of disarmament and integration of the three groups who were hostile—though not all toward one another of course?

11:50 a.m.

Milorad Zivkovic

According to the law on defence and on armed forces, we have 9,000 soldiers and an option to have a reserve of up to half that number of soldiers.

As I've said, the reform of defence was one of the most successful reforms. The process of destroying ammunition was transparent, which we managed to do successfully with the co-operation of the international community.

In order to achieve our two goals, the first one to increase security and the second one to decrease the cost of the army, we had to decrease the number of soldiers. We want to achieve NATO standards with their full equipment. Our soldiers are well trained physically according to those NATO standards.

Since we have agreed on military property, we will manage to save in that area, so basically we won't have to cover up for the inadequate property that we had so far.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

I'm sorry, may I interrupt? We only have seven minutes.

I wanted to be a little bit more specific. You've downsized. There's a small military force, and you say that you've been very successful in disarmament of the population. Is it true, then, that you have no concerns? You've mentioned terrorism, but I don't know what you mean by that. Do you have no concerns about any latent hostilities from the conflict, from a military perspective within your country?

11:55 a.m.

Milorad Zivkovic

Well, I said it was the political assessment that NATO membership would provide more security in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region, and when I mentioned decreasing the number of soldiers, I meant actually that those discussions are run by the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The political resolution is that we don't need armed forces for Bosnia and Herzegovina, but for peacekeeping operations.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Thank you.

Can you tell me what the partnership for peace membership means for Bosnia and Herzegovina and what obligations you have undertaken as part of that arrangement?

11:55 a.m.

Milorad Zivkovic

[Witness speaks in his native language]

11:55 a.m.

Denis Becirovic Vice Chairman, House of Representatives, Parliamentary Assembly of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina

I greet you also most heartedly.

Your question of whether security is expensive, and the answer is yes. But instability and insecurity is even more expensive.

We, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, are aware of all the global challenges and global changes. It is clear that for global challenges we must find global solutions. Bosnia and Herzegovina has three theoretical and practical solutions when it comes to security. One is membership in the NATO alliance. Second, a theoretical solution, is an alliance with Russia. Third is to proclaim political neutrality.

We have committed ourselves to the road to NATO, but we must not forget that Russia is increasingly more active in the economic area and every other aspect.

Our country, regardless of the fact that it is a really small country, wants to keep, maintain, and preserve peace in alliance with other countries. Isolationism, as an option, is out of the question. Of course, North America did learn the hard way in 1941 with Pearl Harbour, and in 2001 in New York.

We want to become a member of the strongest political alliance in the history of humanity. To us, membership in the NATO alliance primarily means stability and security for all of our peoples. Stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina means stability of all of southeast Europe and the entire region.

In 2014, we will mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War, which was initiated in Sarajevo.

Noon

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

I'm going to have to cut you off there. Unfortunately, the time has expired for Mr. Harris, and I do have other members who have other questions.

Mr. Chisu, you have the floor for seven minutes.