May 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 April 2012
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EUROPE

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Expected Council Action
The Council is due to hold a six-monthly debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina in May. Valentin Inzko, the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, is expected to brief the Council on his latest report (covering the period from 16 October 2011 to 15 April), including on the implementation of the 1995 General Framework Agreement for Peace, more commonly known as the “Dayton Agreement”.

No Council action is expected on Bosnia and Herzegovina in May.

Key Recent Developments
After 16 months without a government following a general election in October 2010, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s parliament approved a new cabinet on 10 February. This followed an agreement reached in December 2011 between Bosniak (Muslim), Croat and Serb political leaders. Under the deal, which provided for the formation of a central government, the Prime Minister is Bosnian Croat (Vjekoslav Bevanda) and the Foreign Minister is Bosniak (Zlatko Lagumdžija). (The presidency of the country—which comprises the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska—consists of three members, one elected from each of the three ethnic groups. Between them, they serve a once-renewable four-year term and rotate the chairmanship every eight months.) 

Following the confirmation of the government, Bevanda announced that “this year will be the year of the European Union in Bosnia,” reinforcing the country’s determination to focus on fulfilling the conditions required for EU candidate status. In response, Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, and Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement, said in a joint statement on 10 February that they encouraged Bosnia and Herzegovina to “concentrate on the pressing European integration agenda and take the necessary action to ensure concrete steps forward.” 

On 18 April, the country’s central government adopted a long-awaited budget for 2012. The $638 million budget made several cuts to public expenditure, including 4.5 percent salary reductions for public sector workers. The budget included money to pay the pensions of former soldiers who had never been paid, as stipulated in a 2010 law. It also provided funds for a census in 2013, organising local elections later in 2012 and for establishing an EU-standard border crossing with Croatia, which joins the bloc in 2013. Referring to Bosnia and Herzegovina aim to forge closer ties with NATO and the EU, Finance Minister Nikola Špirić (a Bosnian Serb) said that the budget was “restrictive, but sufficient to finance all institutions important for the Euro-Atlantic path.”

Late in 2011, the parliament took steps to allow members of minority groups to run for the country’s presidency and the upper house of parliament by ordering a commission to propose amendments to the country’s constitution. (The current constitution and electoral law state that only “Constituent Peoples”—ethnic Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks—are eligible to run for high office.) In December 2009, the European Court of Human Rights in the Sejdić and Finci v. BiH case ruled that the country’s constitution violated the rights of Bosnian Jews and Bosnian Roma in preventing them from running for top positions. Bosnia and Herzegovina is obliged to abide by the court’s ruling. Such constitutional reform is also a requirement for the country to attain EU candidacy status.

Another priority for the new government is taking steps towards NATO membership. (In April 2010, NATO agreed to conditionally launch the Membership Action Plan [MAP] for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The condition relates to state registration of defence properties.) Ahead of the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago from 20 to 21 May, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced that his country had begun an initiative with Bulgaria on 18 April to have Bosnia and Herzegovina included in the NATO MAP. Bosnia and Herzegovina is expected to attend the summit in Chicago at high levels.

Key Issues
A key issue for the Council is ensuring political stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina following the formation of its new government. Ensuring that political and ethnic divisions do not increase tensions to the point where the country is threatened with outbreaks of conflict is also a priority.

Another issue is the lack of progress in fully implementing the so-called “5+2 agenda,” which sets out five objectives that need to be met and two conditions that need to be fulfilled by Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities before the Office of the High Representative (OHR) is closed.

A related issue is the future of the OHR itself: whether it is still necessary and whether it should be moved from Sarajevo to a different location, such as Brussels.

Options
One option for the Council would be to recognise the progress made by Bosnia and Herzegovina recently in forming a central government and urge its political factions to focus on the country’s economic and development priorities. 

The Council could also highlight the need for the country’s politicians not to engage in divisive or inflammatory rhetoric, which might threaten the viability of the state and compromise its progress towards European integration.

A further option would be for the Council to take no action (as in May 2011) and return to the issue ahead of EUFOR (EU-led stabilisation force) mandate expiration on 16 November.

Council Dynamics
For many non-European Council members, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a low-priority issue, and there is a prevailing view that it has been largely “out-sourced” to the EU, rendering the Council’s role at this time limited. However, the situation in the country remains a key concern for Russia and the US, who—along with the four European members—probably follow developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina most closely.

One area where there are divergent views in the Council is the approach towards the OHR’s continued presence in the country. Russia considers that the office has already played its role and should be closed once the outstanding objectives and conditions have been met. (Moscow is closely aligned with Serbia and Republika Srpska on this point and says that responsibility for a settlement at this stage should be transferred to Bosnians themselves.) Other members, notably the US and the UK, have emphasised that limited progress has been made and that there is still work to be done in fulfilling the 5+2 agenda. Germany’s attention is similarly focused on meeting the conditions whereby the timely drawdown of the OHR can be managed. France emphasises the EU’s role in the country and is inclined to see the OHR closed sooner rather than later and for Bosnian politicians to take greater political responsibility. Others, such as Colombia, have affirmed that the OHR needs to continue to implement the peace agreement, including completion of the special status of Brčko. Russia considers that all substantive issues relating to the district, whose status was left undecided by the Dayton Agreement, have been resolved.

The lead in the Council is the monthly rotating chair of the Contact and Drafting Group. 

UN Documents

Security Council Resolution

  • S/RES/2019 (16 November 2011) reauthorised EUFOR until 16 November 2012.
  • S/RES/1869 (25 March 2009) welcomed and agreed to the designation of Valentin Inzko as high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina by the PIC steering board.
  • S/RES/1575 (22 November 2004) established EUFOR.

Latest Meeting Record

Selected Letters

  • S/2011/682 (3 November 2011) was from the Secretary-General transmitting the most recent report of the High Representative on the implementation of the peace agreement from 21 April 2011 to 15 October 2011.

Other

  • S/1995/999 and annexes (21 November 1995) was the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Annexes, signed in Dayton, Ohio in the US.

Useful Additional Sources

Declaration by the PIC Steering Board on the five objectives and two conditions for the closure of the OHR, 27 February 2008.

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