Bosnia and Herzegovina
In November the High Representative for the Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Miroslav Lajcak, is expected to present his report to the Council. This is likely to analyse political developments over the last six months and outline his future strategy. These reports are in accordance with annex 10 of the Dayton Peace Agreement and the conclusions of the London Peace Implementation Conference of 1995.
The Council has not had an active role in Bosnia and Herzegovina for some years. It generally discusses Bosnia and Herzegovina twice a year, with its main function being to reauthorise EUFOR annually.
Greater attention is likely this year, however, given the enhanced interest of many members in the Balkan situation following the Council’s mission to Kosovo. Also, there seems to be a growing concern about the persistence of internal instability in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the possible repercussions in the region.
Key Recent Developments
Following the approval in May of the text of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU, it seemed that Bosnia and Herzegovina was on track for resolving some of the factors causing instability and would be rewarded by taking the first step towards EU accession. However, Bosnian politicians were unable to agree on police reform by the 15 October deadline and were therefore unable to sign the SAA at the EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg. Progress on accession is therefore on hold. On 28 October, Bosnia’s political leaders reached an agreement to move police reform forward but no details were available at press time.
On 16 October, the Office of the High Representative (OHR), the chief civilian actor for peace implementation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, announced it would shift its focus to economic reforms. On the same day, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders signed a document committing them to improve the business environment.
Lajcak has also hinted strongly that he could use his powers to dismiss officials over blocking police reform. The High Representative’s powers were authorised by the Peace Implementation Council (PIC), based on annex 10 of the Dayton Peace Agreement. This empowers the High Representative to remove public officials who violate legal commitments and the Dayton Peace Agreement and to impose laws if Bosnia and Herzegovina’s legislative bodies fail to do so.
On 19 October, Lajcak imposed new rules on decision-making in parliament and the council of ministers. These rules change the way a quorum is calculated by counting ministers and lawmakers who attend, rather than including those who do not. Bosnia’s Serb politicians have threatened to quit the government if Lajcak does not reverse his measures. They claim that the reform upsets the ethnic balance established by the Dayton Peace Agreement.
The Secretary-General on 25 October voiced his concern about political developments and urged political leaders to show restraint. He also reiterated his support for Lajcak.
At the meeting of the PIC Steering Committee Board on 18 and 19 June, political directors issued a strong declaration expressing grave concern over the political situation. The PIC oversees the Dayton peace process and meets regularly to give guidance to the High Representative. Its Steering Committee Board members are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK, the US, the EU Presidency, the European Commission and the Organisation of Islamic Conference.
The OHR, which began work in 1995, had been expected to complete its work by the end of June 2007. However, the slowing pace of reform and the greater political instability led the PIC to decide in February to extend the OHR until June 2008. The PIC Steering Committee is expected to review this decision when it meets on 30 and 31 October.
The foreign ministers of the Contact Group on the Balkans (including Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and comprising the UK, US, Italy, France, Russia and Germany) issued a statement on 27 September expressing concern that progress on the Dayton Agreement and reform had “come to a halt” and “extremist rhetoric” is on the rise.
Politicians in Bosnia have continued to foment nationalist sentiment by suggesting partition into ethnic entities. During the October 2006 elections, Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik threatened to hold a Bosnian Serb referendum on independence. He has also indicated that one of the consequences of a unilateral declaration of independence from Kosovo is that others in a similar situation should have the right to demand independence. Dodik also recently supported the partition of Bosnia’s Federation into two entities, one dominated by the Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) and the other by Bosnian Croats.
The Council’s most likely option in November is a simple 12-month renewal of EUFOR. However, other options include scheduling a review in March following the PIC Steering Committee’s February meeting. Another option is to include in the resolution language that emphasises the importance of moving forward with reforms and the urgent need to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Alternatively, Council members could choose to address the stalled reform process and the deteriorating political climate in a presidential statement, highlighting the concerns and trying to nudge the reform process back on track.
If it wants to keep a closer watch, the Council may request more regular briefings from the High Representative.
A key issue is the increasingly tense political situation, which seems to be marked by a reopening of the divide among ethnic communities. Since the elections in October 2006, extremist rhetoric and nationalist politics have increased. Observers note that Dodik and Haris Silajdzic, the Muslim member of the tripartite presidency, have vastly different political agendas, which makes it difficult for them to agree on reforms.
A related issue is the lack of progress on police and constitutional reform. Discussions on police reform, which started in 2004, came to a standstill this year. Currently, Bosnia’s entities (the Bosniak-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska) control the local police, rather than the central government. The EU wants police budgetary and legislative matters determined at state level, an end to political interference in policing, and the establishment of policing regions based on functional rather than ethnic divisions. While Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders signed a commitment to pursue constitutional reform in November 2005, they have not been able to bridge their differences over the shape of the future state.
Another issue is possible political instability if the High Representative uses his powers and dismisses key officials. A related question is whether Lajcak has the right to use his powers in this situation since they relate to the implementation of the Dayton peace agreement, whereas police reform has emerged more directly in response to the EU’s SAA process, which some see as a technically a separate issue.
A further issue related to potential instability is the use that some leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina have made of the Kosovo final status issue to further their own political aims. The reaction of Bosnian Muslims to the International Court of Justice decision on Srebrenica in February this year also made it clear that past hostility is far from forgotten.
A future issue is the possible need to extend the OHR beyond June 2008. The Council may have to consider how best to synchronise any extensions with the mandate of EUFOR. This could become contentious as some members prefer a transfer of authority to the Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities sooner rather than later.
A continuing issue for some Council members is Republika Srpska’s cooperation with the ICTY in helping to deliver war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic. It is likely to be given more attention as ICTY moves towards its deadline of completing all trials by the end of 2008.
Council and Wider Dynamics
While members agree that responsibility should be transferred to Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities, there are differences on how quickly this might happen. In the past, Russia had advocated an early transfer and disagreed with OHR’s extension beyond June 2007. However, given recent developments, many members seem to be more cautious about terminating its mandate prematurely.
Negotiations over the resolution are not expected to be easy. Last year, Russia objected to standard preambular paragraphs referring to territorial integrity. This may have been related to the negotiations on Kosovo’s final status. The same issue came up with respect to Georgia in 2006 but was resolved. It did not arise in the UNOMIG renewal in October 2007.
|Selected Security Council Resolutions|
Statement on Bosnia and Herzegovina by Contact Group Ministers, 27 September 2007
Communiquéby the PIC Steering Board of 19 June 2007 and 27 February 2007
Letter from the President of the Security Council to the Permanent Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the Security Council position on police officers denied certification or decertification by the UN IPTF, 30 April 2007