Bosnia and Herzegovina
Expected Council Action
In November, the Council is expected to hold its semi-annual debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina and to renew the authorisation for the EU-led multinational stabilisation force (EUFOR ALTHEA) for a year. At the debate, High Representative Valentin Inzko is expected to brief on recent developments and present his office’s latest report to the Council.
The current authorisation for EUFOR ALTHEA expires on 12 November.
Key Recent Developments
General elections were held on 12 October for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s three-member presidency, the national parliament and entity and local governments. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which had a 294-person monitoring team on the ground, released a statement that the elections had been conducted in an orderly manner, candidates had been able to campaign freely and that freedoms of expression, association and assembly were respected. The statement highlighted, however, that ethnicity-based legal restrictions place limits on voting rights and candidates’ ability to run for office, contrary to OSCE standards and EU law.
It appears that Milorad Dodik will retain his position as president of the Republika Srpska, one of the two entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the results were seen as disappointing for his ruling Alliance of Independent Social Democrats party (SNSD). An opposition candidate, Mladen Ivanić won the Bosnian-Serb seat of the rotating presidency, and the SNSD lost seats in the parliament and the Republika Srpska assembly.
In the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina—the other entity that is predominantly Bosniak and Croat—the Social Democratic Party, which had been the largest, did very poorly across the national parliament, entity and cantonal elections, losing most of its seats. Bakir Izetbegović of the Party for Democratic Action retained the Bosniak seat in the tripartite presidency. The Croat seat in the presidency was won by Dragan Čović, whose nationalistic party has advocated the creation of a third separate Croat entity. He replaces Željko Komšić as the Croat member of the rotating presidency, who opposed a separate entity. In several media interviews during October, Dodik said that he would support the creation of a Croat entity.
To maintain stability during the election period, EUFOR ALTHEA was reinforced in June with two UK reconnaissance platoons totalling 90 personnel for a period of up to six months.
In May, Bosnia and Herzegovina suffered severe floods following some of the heaviest rains ever recorded in the region. At least 20 people died, 90,000 people were displaced and damages and economic losses amounted to around 2 billion euros. Neighbouring Serbia also experienced severe damage from flooding, estimated at 1.5 billion euros. The government’s handling of relief efforts generated criticism from both the public and the international community. However, over the last six months, the civic activism that followed a wave of major protests in February over socio-economic conditions and political corruption has mostly faded.
On 8 October the EU Commission issued its annual progress reports on the EU integration of Western Balkan countries. In its report on Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Commission concluded that the country’s integration remained at a standstill while most of its neighbours were moving ahead decisively and that its leaders lacked the political will to address the reforms required for progressing on the EU path.
On 20 October, the EU Foreign Affairs Council adopted its conclusions on Bosnia and Herzegovina, welcoming the way the elections had been conducted and reiterated calls for the leadership to address the challenges facing the country as it moves towards European integration. The conclusions expressed the EU’s intentions to maintain EUFOR ALTHEA under a UN mandate.
A civil court in The Hague ruled on 16 July that the Netherlands must compensate the families of around 300 Bosnian Muslims killed at Srebrenica after Dutch peacekeepers in July 1995 turned the men, who were in their compound, over to Bosnian Serb forces. The court, however, found that the Netherlands could not be held liable for the majority of the 8,000 Bosnian Muslims killed at Srebrenica, a UN designated safe area, because they were never in the direct custody of the Dutch troops.
The immediate issue for the Council is renewing the authorisation of EUFOR ALTHEA under Chapter VII.
Another issue is Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political gridlock and the failure of its political system and leaders to address the socio-economic challenges facing the country, which sparked major protests last February and has stalled European and NATO integration.
Ethnic divisions between Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs and secessionist rhetoric from Republika Srpska, which is a direct challenge to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territorial integrity and the 1995 Dayton Accords that ended the country’s war, is an ongoing related issue.
Continuing lack of progress towards achieving a set of objectives and conditions established by members of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, UK, US, the EU, the European Commission and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference) for closing the Office of the High Representative is another issue likely to be recalled at the debate.
One option is to renew the authorisation of EUFOR ALTHEA for a further 12 months and, while reflecting the recent developments and the conclusions of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, refrain from making substantive changes to the resolution.
A less likely option is to renew the authorisation but also call for a revision of the criteria for closing the Office of the High Representative.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is an issue on which the Council follows the lead of the EU Foreign Affairs Council. Most members are concerned about the political gridlock and economic stagnation and are critical of Dodik’s divisive rhetoric. Within the EU, the UK—siding with the US—has been more vocal about maintaining international engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, compared to France, which has been less convinced about the continuing need for EUFOR and the Office of the High Representative. Ongoing problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina appear to be one reason why it is expected that there will be little change in the upcoming resolution. Russia feels that Republika Srpska is wrongly blamed for the country’s problems and wants the Office of the High Representative closed.
The Contact and Drafting Group, which drafts decisions on Bosnia and Herzegovina before they are considered by the Council, consists of France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the UK and the US and elected members of the Council from the Western European and Other Group and the Eastern European Group. That means Australia, Lithuania and Luxembourg are currently also part of the drafting group. The penholder rotates monthly and in November is Lithuania.
UN Documents on BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
|Security Council Resolution|
|12 November 2013 S/RES/2123||This resolution reauthorised the EU led multinational stablisation mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|15 May 2014 S/PV.7176||This was meeting record of the latest debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina.|
|Security Council Letters|
|25 July 2014 S/2014/531||This was the report on the activities of EUFOR from 1 December 2013 to 28 February 2014.|
|5 May 2014 S/2014/314||This was forty-fifth report on the implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina.|
USEFUL ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Bosnia’s Future, Europe Report Number 232, International Crisis Group, 10 July 2014
Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions of 12 October 2014, BiH General Elections, OSCE International Election Observation Mission