Bosnia and Herzegovina
Expected Council Action
In November, the Council is due to hold a six-monthly debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, is expected to brief the Council on developments and the Secretary-General’s latest report—expected in early November.
The Council will most likely adopt a resolution reauthorising the EU-led multinational stabilisation force (EUFOR ALTHEA), which expires on 16 November, for a further 12 months.
Key Recent Developments
When the High Representative last briefed the Council on 15 May, he expressed cautious optimism about the recent political progress that had been made in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Indeed, Inzko said that 2012 could be a “breakthrough year for the country in its efforts to progress towards full Euro-Atlantic integration.” Events since then have largely been less encouraging.
On 31 May, the coalition governing Bosnia and Herzegovina—which had been in place since February after 16 months without a government—broke down after the long-awaited 2012 budget was approved. One of the coalition partners, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), voted against the proposed budget and was subsequently asked to withdraw its ministers from the cabinet. A new coalition was formed in June although legal and procedural battles continued.
The EU hosted a high-level meeting in Brussels on 27 June with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders at which the EU provided a roadmap that it expected the country to adhere to in order for Sarajevo to submit a credible membership application to the EU. An important component was amendments to the constitution to allow ethnic minorities, those who did not belong to one of the three “constituent peoples” (Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs), to run for high office. (The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2009 in Sejdić and Finci v. BiH that the country’s constitution violated the European Convention on Human Rights by denying others the right to be elected to the presidency and second chamber of parliament.) All parties agree that the discrimination must be eliminated but disagree on how to preserve the rights of the constituent peoples.
On 12 September, Stefano Sannino, Director of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Enlargement, expressed disappointment that Bosnia and Herzegovina had failed to meet its first deadline of 31 August for filing draft amendments to the parliament but urged the country to make progress on the roadmap’s other tasks.
The Council of the EU on 15 October adopted its “conclusions on Bosnia and Herzegovina”, reiterating its unequivocal support for the country’s “EU perspective.” It welcomed the reconfiguration of Operation Althea, completed by 1 September, which focused on capacity-building and training and reduced the number of forces to approximately 600. The statement expressed concern over the country’s political situation but noted that its authorities had been capable in dealing with threats to the “safe and secure environment”.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Bosnia and Herzegovina from 25-26 July as part of a regional visit. After meetings in Sarajevo with the three members of the presidency, Ban became the first UN Secretary-General to visit Srebrenica, where he commemorated the 8,000 victims of the 1995 massacre.
On 7 October, Bosnians voted in local elections across the country. The mayoral election in Srebrenica drew particular attention; the Bosniak candidate was ultimately re-elected.
Following an earlier announcement, on 31 August the Deputy High Representative confirmed that supervision of the Brčko district had come to an end and that his team would no longer intervene in the district’s affairs. (The Brčko district, which borders Croatia in the northeast of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is unique. It is formally part of both entities that make up the country: the Republika Srpska, and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.)
Completion of the Brčko Final Award was one of the five objectives that needed to be met before the Office of the High Representative (OHR) is closed. (Additionally, two conditions need to be fulfilled to complete the so-called “5+2” agenda: signing of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU—which happened in 2008—and a positive assessment of the situation in the country by the international Peace Implementation Council Steering Board.)
In September, Milorad Dodik, the President of Republika Srpska (RS), repeated that the entity itself was a state, saying that Bosnia and Herzegovina was “an impossible country.” In a 27 July statement, the High Representative—who serves as the guarantor of the 1995 Dayton Agreement—reiterated that “there is only one state on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that is Bosnia and Herzegovina itself.”
Human Rights-Related Developments
Rita Izsák, the independent expert on minority issues for the Human Rights Council, visited Bosnia and Herzegovina from 17-25 September to examine the human rights situation of different minorities. She noted that damaging political, ethnic and religious divisions continue to exist. Izsák expressed concern over the high degree of ethnic segregation in the education system and called for more measures to be taken at all levels to promote meaningful political participation of national minorities. She also highlighted the particular challenges faced by the largest national minority, the Roma.
On 22-23 October the Human Rights Committee—a UN treaty body that considers states’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights—examined the human rights record of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The committee welcomed its renewed commitment to the prosecution of war criminals but raised concerns over the lack of support provided to war-time victims of sexual violence. The search for missing persons and support provided to their families, conditions in prison facilities and protection of national minorities were also discussed.
The Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Rashida Manjoo, planned to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina from 29 October to 5 November.
The primary issue for the Council is ensuring that the security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina remains stable.
Related to this is whether the OHR continues to have an important role to play or if it should soon be downsized with a view to closure.
The implementation of existing agreements, including on defence and state property, and addressing the constitutional issues surrounding the Sejdić and Finci case are crucial to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress and are important matters for the Council. Related to this are the ongoing challenges posed by the political gridlock in Sarajevo and continuing rhetoric challenging the long-term viability of the state.
A broader but related issue is Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progression towards full “Euro-Atlantic integration” (i.e. EU and NATO membership).
One option for the Council is to authorise a roll-over of EUFOR’s mandate in Bosnia and Herzegovina for a further 12 months.
In the resolution, the Council could underline the importance of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political leaders refraining from divisive rhetoric. It could additionally emphasise Inzko’s comments reaffirming the sovereignty of the nation-state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Council could consider language urging the country’s political leaders to compromise and cooperate constructively, including on constitutional reform.
Reference to the OHR’s ultimate downsizing—and the importance of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders ultimately taking full responsibility for the country’s future once the necessary conditions have been met—might also be an option.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a low-profile issue for the Council. Yet for those on the Council who have interests in the country, particularly the European members, the US and Russia, differences exist as to how they see the future role of the OHR. Russia has been vocal in calling for the abolition of the OHR, arguing that the country is secure and it is time for the fate of the Bosnians to be in their own hands. The UK and the US have emphasised the need for completion of the “5+2” agenda and for the OHR to remain in place upholding the Dayton Agreement until that time.
Russia in the past has been critical of the High Representative’s analysis of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, asserting that it is “tainted by a biased criticism of the leadership of the Bosnian Serbs.” Other Council members have tended to generally welcome Inzko’s reports.
The UK will be the pen-holder for November’s resolution.
UN Documents on Bosnia and Herzegovina
|Security Council Resolutions|
|16 November 2011 S/RES/2019||The Council reauthorised EUFOR until 16 November 2012.|
|22 November 2004 S/RES/1575||This resolution established EUFOR.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|15 May 2012 S/PV.6771||This was a a six-monthly debate on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina during which Valentin Inzko, the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, briefed the Council.|