Dobar Dan. Good morning Excellencies, Ministers, Admiral Burke, and distinguished friends. I would like to start by thanking the team that put together this event, while also taking into account COVID-19 precautions.
Photo: NATO Headquarters Sarajevo.
The last year has forced us all to face unprecedented challenges. General Edwards, as Commander of NATO Headquarters – Sarajevo, led us and his team with resolve. Under his stalwart leadership, NATO Allies were the first to respond in BiH to the COVID-19 pandemic, delivering needed supplies and refurbishing military medical centers throughout the country. Despite the pandemic, General Edwards and his team never lost focus of their overarching goal: deepening Bosnia and Herzegovina's partnership with NATO and, by doing so, furthering reforms that will not only benefit all BiH citizens, but our collective security.
As you all know, during Bill's tenure, Bosnia and Herzegovina, with NATO Headquarters - Sarajevo support, successfully conducted a NATO Evaluation Level 1 assessment of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina's Light Infantry Battalion Group. This milestone will help modernize the Armed Forces and move them closer to participation in NATO Peace Support Operations, which will benefit all of us. General Edwards quickly recognized the AFBiH as a natural partner for NATO; an institution of which all BiH citizens should be proud. Both the AFBIH and NATO were born from bringing together former adversaries to create effective and unified institutions that solve problems.
Bill also recognized that difficult reforms become easier when you invite the 30 Allies of NATO to help. BiH submitted a substantial Reform Program to NATO in December 2019. The document includes reforms that touch all levels of society, from defense modernization to rule of law. General Edwards, in collaboration with NATO Allies and his BiH partners, has helped move the country closer to its goal of full Euro-Atlantic integration.
General Edwards kept us focused on what NATO offers BiH: a partnership whose purpose today is promoting reforms, guided by BiH's own Reform Program to benefit all citizens. Extensive reforms and strengthened consensus are required for BiH to qualify as a member. NATO offers security, stability, and prosperity, which are best achieved through meaningful cooperation. Thank you for your dedicated service Bill and good luck with your next assignment in Washington. Vidimo se.
Photo: NATO Headquarters Sarajevo
I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome General Eric Folkestad to the team. And I speak honestly when I say we are a team. We all look forward to working with you and building upon General Edwards' successes in 2021. Thank you.