Bosnia and Herzegovina
Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to reauthorise the EU Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUFOR) before the end of its mandate on 21 November. It will also be briefed by the High Representative and European Union Special Representative to the Secretary General for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Miroslav Lajčák, on developments since his last report in May 2008 (S/2008/300).
Given the limited progress on the political road map for Bosnia, the conditions necessary for closure of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) remain elusive. More worrying are growing signs of divisiveness among the ethnic groups, and Council members may be increasingly interested in monitoring this issue more closely.
Key Recent Developments
On 5 October, Bosnia and Herzegovina held elections for city councils and mayors. The thirty-day electoral campaign was marked by a rise in radical nationalist rhetoric as political leaders offered nationalist platforms with little in the way of concrete proposals for local development. The results reflected deepening ethnic divisions with the three ethnic nationalist parties winning seats largely in their own territories.
In his speech on 23 September to the UN General Assembly, Haris Silajdžić, who currently chairs Bosnia’s rotating presidency, underlined the dimensions of the growing controversy when he said that instead of reversing the effects of genocide and ethnic cleansing, the Dayton Peace Agreement had led to “ethnic apartheid”. He warned that it would be “a grave mistake if this result was recognized as lawful”. This statement has been interpreted by some in the media as a call for the abolition of the Republika Srpska (RS). Silajdžić gave a similar speech to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 30 September. The three members of the presidency had been unable to agree on a joint statement. Silajdžić therefore seems to have spoken in a personal capacity rather than conveying the official position of the Bosnia and Herzegovina presidency.
The RS Assembly held an extraordinary meeting on 13 October in response to Silajdžić’s statements. Lawmakers discussed “all legal and political means, including the right to a referendum” for the protection of RS. It adopted a resolution demanding better protection for RS and expressed opposition to the greater centralisation of key institutions and services. High Representative Lajčák issued a statement warning the political leadership in Bosnia and Herzegovina “to stop at once forever with unilateral threats and challenges to the Dayton Peace Agreement and focus instead on European priorities”. He said that “RS Sovereignty or Bosnia and Herzegovina as State Union” is unacceptable as the RS is “an entity, not a state within a state, full stop.”
On 16 June, prior to the development, Bosnia and Herzegovina signed the EU Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) which marked a significant step in its relations with the EU. This was also a key condition for the transition from the OHR to an EU Special Representative.
A further sign of the deepening rift was the announcement in mid-September, by the RS that it would pull out of the state electricity network, Elektroprenos BiH, which had been formed last year as part of an EU-sponsored plan to reform Bosnia’s power sector. The formation of the electricity network had been one of the pre-conditions for the SAA. The European Commission expressed concern over RS’s move, saying it would be a step back in the SAA process and would put at risk Bosnia and Herzegovina’s integration in the regional and EU electricity markets. Statements warning the RS that its action was illegal and needed to be revoked were issued by the Peace Implementation Council, or PIC (which oversees the Dayton peace process and provides regular guidance to the High Representative), as well as by the US, France and the UK. On 20 September the RS authorities agreed to reverse their decision.
EU defence ministers discussed EUFOR’s future at their informal meeting on 1 October in Deauville, France. While a few countries (Slovakia, Italy and Greece) preferred to maintain the force level, the majority were open to a gradual withdrawal and role change for EUFOR. There is talk of replacing the current mission with a rapid reaction force. (EUFOR consists of about 2,200 troops from 22 EU member states, as well as five non-EU countries: Turkey, Albania, Macedonia, Switzerland and Chile.) A final decision is expected to be made on 10 November during a formal meeting of EU defence ministers in Brussels.
After a visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina on 10 October, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn expressed concern about the lack of progress on reforms since the SAA was signed. He attributed this to disagreements between communal leaders.
The PIC Steering Board meeting is expected to take place on 19 and 20 November where it will discuss the future of the OHR. The OHR, which began work in 1995, had been expected to complete its job by the end of June 2007. But the slowing pace of reform led the PIC in February 2008 to decide upon the following five objectives to be met before the OHR could be closed: resolution of the issue of state property and defence property; completion of the Brcko Final Award; fiscal sustainability; and entrenchment of the rule of law. It also set two conditions: signing the SAA (met in June) and a positive assessment of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina by the PIC Steering Board based on full compliance with the Dayton Peace Agreement. (Details of the objectives and conditions can be found in Declaration of the PIC Steering Board of 27 February 2008.)
Also in October, a development of wider political significance was the decision of Poland to withdraw its candidacy for election to the Security Council next year to replace Croatia as the elected Eastern European member. This leaves Bosnia and Herzegovina as the sole candidate for the one available seat on the Security Council for Eastern Europe for 2010 and 2011. If no other Eastern European candidates emerge, Bosnia and Herzegovina will be elected to the Council in October 2009.
Adoption of a resolution reauthorising EUFOR seems to be uncontroversial. This reauthorisation resolution has not been fundamentally changed since EUFOR was established in 2004. Only the paragraphs containing information on the latest EU foreign ministers and defence ministers meetings and on the state of progress are updated.
In light of recent developments, however, an option for the Council is to add language to emphasise the importance of seeing more progress on reforms and in bringing down negative rhetoric.
An alternative might be a parallel presidential statement:
urging acceleration of the reform process and tangible steps towards meeting the objectives set out by the PIC for the closure of the OHR;
highlighting the Council’s concerns over slow reforms and the divisive political climate;
recalling that under the Dayton Agreement no entity has the right to secede from Bosnia and Herzegovina and cautioning against any moves towards a referendum in support of secession; and
emphasising the importance of social cohesion among the ethnic groups.
There are further options including:
a review of the residual structures supporting the Dayton Agreement in light of current realities;
appointment of a high-level envoy of the Secretary-General, who would be tasked to work with the parties and the High Representative on reforming the constitution;
requesting more regular briefings to assess developments and progress on the objectives given by the PIC; and
suggesting the High Representative present a report with a detailed road map and assessment of the key challenges. (This could be particularly important in light of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s possible election to the Security Council next year.)
A related issue is whether the Council should take a stronger position on adherence to the Dayton Agreement. RS’s recent behaviour suggests a growing belief that it has the rights of a sovereign state which would be in violation of the Dayton Agreement.
Another issue is whether there are now options to curb the rise in nationalist rhetoric before tensions among the ethnic groups lead to conflict.
A significant issue is what the Council could do to help Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Muslim, Croat and Serbian political leaders towards consensus on constitutional reform.
There is also the question of whether the Council should be looking ahead to the national elections, which are expected to be held in 2010 and helping develop strategies that avoid the ethnic tensions which surrounded the recent local elections.
An additional issue is whether the authorities, within a reasonable timeframe, can meet the five objectives and two conditions agreed on by the PIC in February 2008 for the OHR’s closure.
A final issue for the Council, if it were to decide on a more active role, is how to work with the EU to help Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Council and Wider Dynamics
European Council members and the US have begun to keep a more careful eye on Bosnia and Herzegovina since the unrest which arose at the time of Kosovo’s declaration of independence in February. However, there still appears to be little appetite to push for an increased Council role beyond the annual reauthorisation of EUFOR.
Some observers had expected that Croatia, given its own experiences, might be a lead player on this issue. However, its very history has made it difficult for Croatia to be proactive. It has strongly argued for protection of the interests of Croatians in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the importance of a functioning state (particularly given that it shares a 1,000 kilometre border with Bosnia and Herzegovina). But it does not appear inclined to initiate action on this issue.
Some members, like the US, are expressing growing concern over the rise in nationalist rhetoric.
There are mixed views on whether the negotiations over the resolution will be difficult. In 2006 Russia objected to the standard preambular paragraph in the reauthorisation resolution referring to the Council’s commitment to “the political settlement of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and preserving sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States there within their internationally recognised borders”. Although negotiations on the resolution went smoothly last year, some members are concerned that increased tension over issues of territorial integrity following declarations of independence in Kosovo and South Ossetia and Abkhazia could complicate this year’s negotiations. Others feel that with the amount of energy expanded recently on Georgia, key players might not be looking for a new battle.
An area of some disagreement among members is the timeframe for closing down the OHR. While members generally agree on the need for Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet the five objectives and two conditions before the OHR closes down, Russia has voiced concern about the OHR’s term being dragged out and is keen to see a reduction in the activities of the OHR, sooner rather than later.
Selected Security Council Resolutions
- Communique of the PIC Steering Board meeting of 24 and 25 June 2008