May 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 May 2015
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EUROPE

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Expected Council Action
In May, the Council will hold its biannual debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The High Representative for BiH, Valentin Inzko, will brief the Council, presenting the latest report of the Office of the High Representative (OHR), which is expected in early May. No outcome is anticipated.

The authorisation of the EU-led multinational stabilisation force (EUFOR ALTHEA) expires on 11 November.

Key Recent Developments
Nearly six months after the 12 October 2014 general elections, a new BiH government was formed on 31 March when parliament approved the appointments of the nine members of the Council of Ministers. Denis Zvizdić, of the nationalist-Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA), was named the Council chair. The length of time needed to form the government was a marked improvement from 2010 when it took almost 14 months to agree on a government. The Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, the party of Republika Srpska entity President Milorad Dodik, known for his secessionist rhetoric, is not part of the cabinet for the first time since 2006. A bloc of smaller Bosnian Serb parties is instead represented. BiH’s tripartite presidency took office on 17 November 2014.

Efforts to reinvigorate BiH’s stalled EU integration process have been central to recent developments. On 15 December 2014, the EU Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) agreed on a plan that would activate BiH’s Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), a precursor to applying for EU membership, if BiH leaders made a written commitment to implement various socio-economic, rule of law and good-governance reforms. The offer by the FAC to BiH leaders was based on a German-UK initiative proposed in early November, which appeared to be in response to the country’s violent protests in February 2014 against stagnant economic conditions, poor governance and corruption.  

The FAC decision represented a shift in EU policy, notably by no longer requiring that BiH first amend its constitution to comply with the 2009 European Court of Human Rights ruling in the Sejdić-Finci case before further steps towards EU accession could be initiated. This requirement had been a critical factor delaying the entry into force of BiH’s SAA, originally signed in 2007. BiH will still need to implement the ruling, but the EU’s renewed approach will now allow this to be done later in the accession process. (In the Sejdić-Finci case, BiH’s constitution was determined to be in violation of EU human rights law since it prohibits minorities or individuals who do not identify themselves as Bosniak, Croat or Serb from running for the country’s tri-partite presidency and other offices.)

As requested, BiH’s tripartite presidency issued a joint declaration on 29 January confirming their commitment to deliver institutional reforms at all state levels to prepare the country for future EU membership. The declaration further affirmed that BiH would develop a reform agenda in agreement with the EU, with the intention of implementing the Sejdić-Finci ruling at a later date. The statement was subsequently signed by the leaders of BiH’s 14 political parties, and parliament endorsed the declaration on 23 February. This led the EU foreign ministers to activate BiH’s SAA on 16 March. The ministers noted in a statement the need for meaningful progress in implementing a reform agenda in order for the EU to consider a membership application.   

Key Issues
Ethnic divisions among Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs and secessionist rhetoric from the Republika Srpska, which is a direct challenge to BiH’s territorial integrity and the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, are ongoing key issues.

Making 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, the UK, the US, the EU, the European Commission and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference) for closing the OHR is another issue for the Council and is likely to be recalled at the debate.

Underlying problems, which will also likely be on members’ minds, are issues of economic stagnation, poor governance and corruption that led to last year’s violent protests and have stalled European and NATO integration.

Options
Most likely, the Council will hold the debate and take no action. It could, however, issue a statement welcoming recent positive developments in forming a government and BiH leaders’ commitments to economic and governance reforms.
Council Dynamics
The Council usually follows the lead of the EU when it comes to BiH. However, negotiations last November on the resolution to renew the authorisation of EUFOR ALTHEA were more divisive than usual and introduced a new dynamic. Russia abstained on the resolution—the first time since 2000 that a Council resolution on the international presence in BiH was not adopted by consensus. In particular, Russia raised concerns over language that referred to BiH’s Euro-Atlantic integration, claiming that such references were imposing this decision externally on BiH. Russia also opposed EUFOR ALTHEA’s authorisation under Chapter VII, stating that this could be viewed as a tool to accelerate BiH’s integration into the EU and NATO. Having previously accepted such references in prior resolutions on BiH, it seems that Russia’s position was fallout from the Ukraine conflict.

This led to a fairly testy negotiation that spilled into the ensuing debate as Western countries countered that Euro-Atlantic integration was one of the few issues that BiH’s often divided political class agreed on. It remains to be seen whether this continues to be an issue at the upcoming debate.

Other dynamics include Russia’s preference to see OHR closed, perceiving it as unfairly blaming Republika Srpska for BiH’s problems and overlooking political dysfunction within the other entity—the Federation of BiH, the predominantly Bosniak-Croat entity. Reflecting the EU’s already changing approach on BiH, last November’s resolution removed a reference to the Sejdić-Finci case, language that had been inserted into the resolution only one year earlier.

UN Documents on Bosnia and Herzegovina

Security Council Resolutions
11 November 2014 S/RES/2183 This was a resolution that renewed the authorisation for the EU-led multinational stabilisation force for a year.
Security Council Meeting Records
11 November 2014 S/PV.7308 This was the semi-annual debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina.
11 November 2014 S/PV.7307 This was the vote renewing the authorisation of EUFOR ALTHEA and Russia’s explanation of vote.