Expected Council Action
In early May, the Council is expected to receive a briefing from the new High Representative and the Special Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko of Austria.
The Council is also expected to discuss Inzko’s report on Bosnia and Herzegovina. These regular reports are in accordance with Annex 10 of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement and the conclusions of the London Peace Implementation Conferences of 1995.
With the possibility of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) closing within the next year, Council members will be interested in hearing the High Representative’s assessment of the situation in the country and his plans for the coming months.
No formal action is expected at this stage.
Key Recent Developments
On 13 March the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) appointed Inzko as the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. He succeeds Miroslav Lajčák, who has been appointed Foreign Minister of Slovakia. Inzko is the seventh High Representative since the Dayton Peace Agreement created the position nearly 14 years ago.
On 25 March the Council adopted resolution 1869 which welcomed and agreed to the Steering Board’s appointment of Inzko. It also reaffirmed the importance the Council attaches to the role of the High Representative in the implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On 25 and 26 March the political directors of the PIC Steering Board met in Sarajevo. They welcomed the “limited but important progress” achieved in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the PIC’s meeting in November. But they also expressed concern over continuing divisive and nationalist rhetoric as well as actions and statements from key actors that could pose a threat to OHR staff, challenge the authority of the High Representative and the PIC Steering Board, and demonstrate disdain for the Dayton Peace Agreement.
Milorad Dodik, Republika Srpska’s prime minister has raised the idea of a federal solution with increasing regularity. On 14 February he called for Bosnia and Herzegovina to be reconfigured as a “union of federal states”. He has also demanded the right to secession. On 17 April he said he believes Bosnia can enter the EU only if Republika Srpska can keep its autonomy. He also said that under no circumstances would the Bosnian Serbs accept entering Europe as a unified country.
On 20 March the parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted an amendment to the constitution which defines the Brcko District on the basis of the awards of the Arbitral Tribunal. It also ensures that the District has effective access to the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In December the Council of Ministers, which is the executive branch of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s government, adopted several key documents, including the National War Crimes Strategy and the revised Strategy for the Implementation of Annex 7 of the Dayton Peace Agreement (Annex 7 is the agreement on refugees and displaced persons).
There have been recent setbacks to freedom of the press in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The OHR and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have noted that in 2008 there were 56 cases of violation of journalists’ rights and media freedoms. This was a 100 percent increase from 2007. On 18 March a group of journalists working for Bosnia’s Federated Television was attacked in Republika Srpska by a group of Bosnian Serbs. The attacks were condemned by the OHR, the OSCE and the US.
In mid-April Bosnia and Herzegovina began negotiations with the IMF for a loan of one billion euros. Inzko urged Bosnia and Herzegovina to bring its expenditure under control in order to meet IMF requirements.
A possible option in the light of recent developments is to agree on a statement:
encouraging acceleration of the reform process and emphasising the need to work towards meeting all the objectives set by the PIC for the closure of the OHR;
highlighting the dangers of a divisive political climate and the importance of social cohesion among the ethnic groups;
reaffirming support for the High Representative and his final authority; and
recalling that under the Dayton Peace Agreement no entity has the right to secede from Bosnia and Herzegovina and cautioning against any moves towards a referendum in support of secession.
A key issue is for the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to deliver on the five objectives and two conditions set by the OHR in February 2008. (The objectives are 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. The two conditions are signing the EU Stabilisation and Association Agreement, 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.) The first two objectives related to resolution of state and defence property have not been met. And the PIC Steering Board is not yet able to give a positive assessment of the situation.
These issues are closely related to the timing of the closure of the OHR. A decision to close the OHR and make the transition to an office of the EU Special Representative is only likely once those objectives and conditions are met.
A connected issue is the future role of the EU. Details of its role in Bosnia and Herzegovina once the OHR closes are yet to be defined.
A growing issue is the mounting divisive and nationalistic rhetoric. Some observers see this as a challenge to the sovereignty and constitutional order of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Related to this is the rising anxiety among the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina as leaders exploit fears about the risk of conflict and possible disintegration.
In this context, challenges to the instructions and requests of the High Representative are of increasing concern. Republika Srpska has failed to reply to a number of requests to secure access to documents.
Financial issues are also looming. Bosnia and Herzegovina is seeking a financial package from IMF. Budgetary problems and cutbacks could fuel social unrest.
A future issue is the possible indictment of Republika Srpska’s Prime Minister Dodik on fraud charges. His case is being handled by international prosecutors working in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s state court who are likely to reach a decision later in the year. Dodik may try and make good on his threat to secede. Such an act could lead to the High Representative having to use his so-called Bonn powers to remove Dodik. These powers to sack officials obstructing the peace process were conferred on the OHR at a PIC meeting in Bonn in 1997.
In the background of all of this is the practical issue for the Security Council that Bosnia and Herzegovina seems likely to become an elected member of the Council in October for a two year term beginning in 2010. (Bosnia and Herzegovina is the only candidate for the Eastern European seat for 2010-2011. It has been endorsed by the Eastern European group.)
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members appear more focused on the issues facing Bosnia and Herzegovina than in recent times. Most members seem increasingly aware of the potential for instability and are keeping a close eye on developments. There is active engagement among EU members of the Council. Austria is playing a key role. Croatia has an interest in developments there, particularly relating to the situation of Bosnian Croats.
However, most members still seem shy about an active role for the Council at this stage. They are content to hear the High Representative’s briefing but have little inclination to take any action. Some members feel that the Council should let the OHR or the PIC handle the issues.
The main differences among Council members relate to how much longer the OHR should stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Russia has consistently called for the OHR to shut down as soon as possible and has argued strongly that responsibility for the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina should be transferred to the Bosnians. The US and the UK are more cautious and prefer not to see the OHR close prematurely. European members are clearly focused on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future within the EU and are looking ahead to a time when the EU Special Representative will take over from the High Representative.
Selected Security Council Resolutions
Selected Council Meeting Record
Communiqué of the PIC Steering Board meeting of 25 and 26 March 2008