Bosnia and Herzegovina
Expected Council Action
In November, the Council will hold its bi-annual debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The High Representative for BiH, Valentin Inzko, is expected to brief about developments in the country since he last addressed the Council on 14 May (S/PV.6966). Prior to this the Council will receive the latest report of the High Representative from the Secretary-General.
The Council will likely renew the authorisation of the EU-led multinational stabilisation force (EUFOR ALTHEA) for another 12 months as its mandate expires on 14 November.
Key Recent Developments
When the High Representative last briefed the Council, he drew attention to the political and constitutional crisis that had frozen governance in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the continuing rhetoric by Republika Srpska questioning its future in BiH. He noted that there had been no concrete progress towards the five conditions and two objectives (“5+2 agenda”), necessary for the closure of the Office of the High Representative (OHR).
In June and July, BiH saw its largest demonstrations in years. The so-called “babylution” protests arose from the failure to pass legislation on national identification numbers, as a result of which ID documents could not be issued for new-born babies. Frustration boiled over when a three-month-old girl, who later died on 15 October, could not go to Germany for medical treatment because a passport could not be obtained for her. On 6 June, demonstrators surrounded the parliament building in Sarajevo, trapping more than 1,000 lawmakers, government employees and foreign visitors inside until early morning hours the next day. (The lower chamber passed an ID number law on 18 July, but it was rejected in the upper house on 23 July. The stalemate continued at press time.)
In meetings in Brussels on 1 and 10 October, BiH’s seven major political parties failed to agree on a formula for implementing the 2009 decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the Sedjić-Finci case. (In Sedjić-Finci, it was determined that the BiH constitution violated the European Convention on Human Rights by denying citizens not identifying as Bosniak, Serb or Croat—BiH’s “three constituent people”—from running for the tripartite presidency and House of Peoples. BiH must amend its constitution in order to apply for EU membership.) EU official Štefan Füle said after the 10 October meeting that BiH would lose its 2013 pre-accession funding. This amounts to 47 million euros, 54 percent of the EU’s financial support.
An EU progress report on BiH accession and the 2013-2014 enlargement strategy, released on 16 October, found that BiH had not made a “credible effort” towards implementing the Sedjić-Finci ruling. The reports further stressed that its implementation was important for the legitimacy of the 2014 elections and criticized BiH’s failure to establish an EU coordination mechanism. BiH’s progress towards EU integration was noted as falling behind other countries in the region.
From 1-15 October, BiH conducted its first census since 1991, which will likely reveal demographic changes as a result the country’s 1992-1995 war. Results, expected in January, carry political implications, as the 1991 ethnic make-up has been the basis for allocating government positions and civil service jobs.
On 21 October, the EU Foreign Affairs Council decided to continue the mission of EUFOR ALTHEA.
In September, BiH announced the discovery of a mass grave in the village of Tomasica. At press time, 240 bodies had been removed. It is believed that the site may prove to be one of the largest mass graves from the war.
BiH qualified for its first world cup appearance on 15 October. Public celebrations broke out in Sarajevo and other cities but did not occur in primarily inhabited Serb and Croat towns.
Human Rights-Related Developments
At the end of her 13-24 May mission to the country, Farida Shaheed, the Human Rights Council’s (HRC) special rapporteur on cultural rights, expressed concern during a press conference in Sarajevo about the political trend to over-emphasize cultural differences. She urged the governments of BiH to maximise the opportunities for people to have access to neutral spaces where politics and ethno-national affiliations do not interfere.
On 3 June, during the HRC’s 23rd session, the special rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, presented her report on her 28 October to 6 November 2012 mission to BiH (A/HRC/23/49/Add.3). She addressed the issues of domestic violence, war-time sexual violence and accountability and remedies for sexual violence. The situation of women in the country was also considered by the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on 19 July, during which BiH presented its fourth and fifth periodic reports (CEDAW/C/BIH/CO/4-5).
The key issue of concern for the Council will be the political gridlock in BiH. Secessionist rhetoric from the Republika Srpska is a related issue.
The key immediate issue for the Council is renewing the authorisation of EUFOR ALTHEA under Chapter VII. (In nearly 9 years, EUFOR ALTHEA has never exercised its enforcement mandate, but it is a safeguard if tensions were to become seriously destabilising.)
A related issue is whether the work of OHR, despite the lack of progress on the 5+2 agenda, should continue.
National elections are scheduled for May 2014, and Council members may have concerns about how political tensions could impact the electoral process.
The likely option for the Council is to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of EUFOR ALTHEA for another year.
An additional option is to include stronger language on the need for BiH to overcome political gridlock, in particular to resolve outstanding issues to ensure legitimate national elections in May 2014.
In recent years, BiH has been a low-profile issue for the Council, as it is primarily addressed by the EU.
Negotiations in the Council are usually smooth, though differences in view among European countries, Russia and the US often play out. The UK and the US prefer maintaining EUFOR ALTHEA under a Chapter VII mandate and keeping OHR.
France, Germany and Italy, which are part of the Contact and Drafting Group on BiH, are less convinced of the continuing need for EUFOR and OHR but adapt to the decisions made by the EU Foreign Affairs Council. Russia is usually vocal in its preference to close OHR, which it views as placing too much blame on Republika Srpska for BiH’s problems.
The Contact and Drafting Group, which first drafts decisions on BiH, consists of France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the UK and the US and also includes this year Australia, Azerbaijan and Luxembourg. In November, the penholder is Azerbaijan.
UN Documents on Bosnia and Herzegovina
|Security Council Resolutions|
|14 November 2012 S/RES/2074||Authorised EUFOR (the the EU-led multinational stabilisation force in Bosnia and Herzegovina) for a further twelve months.|
|22 November 2004 S/RES/1575||This resolution established EUFOR.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|14 May 2013 S/PV.6966||This was a briefing by the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina.|