November 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 October 2015
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EUROPE

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Expected Council Action

In November, the Council is expected to hold its semi-annual debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and to renew the authorisation of the EU-led multinational stabilisation force (EUFOR ALTHEA) for a year. High Representative Valentin Inzko is expected to brief on recent developments and his office’s latest report to the Council.

The current authorisation for EUFOR ALTHEA expires on 11 November.

Key Recent Developments

Tensions surfaced in BiH and the region ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, in which about 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces after they captured Srebrenica in July 1995. Divisions were sparked, in particular, over a proposed Security Council resolution referring to the massacre as genocide. Leaders of Republika Srpska—the primarily Bosnian Serb entity of BiH—and Serbia appealed to Russia to block its adoption, claiming events did not constitute genocide and that the proposed Council resolution would stigmatise Serbs and destabilise the region. (The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice determined in 2004 and 2007 respectively that the mass murder at Srebrenica amounted to an act of genocide.) On 8 July, Russia vetoed the draft resolution. At the official commemoration three days later in Srebrenica, protesters attacked Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, who had lobbied against the resolution, throwing stones and bottles at him and causing him to leave the ceremony early.

On 22 July, in a bid to contain the fallout from recent events, BiH’s three-member presidency visited Serbia and met Vučić. After the meeting, both Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniak member of the BiH presidency, and Vučić made statements indicating that they would be able to maintain good relations. On 10 September, Serbia charged eight Bosnian Serbs who had been arrested in March for their participation in the killing of 1,300 Bosniak men at a warehouse during the Srebrenica genocide. Serbian officials said the charges demonstrated their commitment to hold accountable those responsible for the crimes committed at Srebrenica.

BiH, though, has been gripped by another political crisis. On 15 July, the Republika Srpska National Assembly (RSNA) adopted a decision to hold a referendum on whether BiH’s state-level judiciary could have jurisdiction over the entity. Members of the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, the US, the EU, the European Commission and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference) said in a statement, issued a day before the RSNA decision, that such a referendum would violate and pose a direct challenge to the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP), which ended the 1992-1995 war. The statement stressed that matters of state judicial institutions fall within the constitutional responsibilities of the state and not the entities. It also noted that the referendum sought to challenge the authority of the High Representative, which Republika Srpska could not do since this was established by the GFAP and international law. Notably, Russia, which is on the Steering Board, refrained from joining the statement.

As the issue remained unresolved, Inzko submitted a special report to the Security Council in September, informing it of his determination that Republika Srpska was in violation of the GFAP, in particular Annexes 4 and 10. According to Inzko, the planned referendum, in conjunction with a call in April by the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (Republika Srpska’s ruling party) to hold a referendum on secession in 2018 if its demands on redistributing state and entity powers were not met, “represents one of the most serious violations of the GFAP… and puts under serious threat peace implementation since then”.

The issue of EU integration continued to be important to political developments. On 27 July, BiH adopted a reform plan to address socio-economic issues. In a statement, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said progress towards implementing the reforms is a precondition for BiH’s membership application. On 12 October, the EU Foreign Affairs Council adopted conclusions deciding to maintain EUFOR ALTHEA under renewed UN authorisation. The conclusions reiterated the importance of BiH’s achieving meaningful progress in implementing the July reform agenda for its membership application to be considered. It also highlighted that the planned referendum in Republika Srpska on the state-level judiciary risks undermining EU integration.

Key Issues

The key issue for members is renewing the authorisation of EUFOR ALTHEA. Agreeing how to address in the resolution issues such as Euro-Atlantic integration or the planned referendum are likely to be contentious issues.

November marks the 20th Anniversary of the GFAP, also known as the Dayton Agreement, and will provide an occasion to review the challenges to the full implementation of the agreement, including ethnic divisions among Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs and secessionist rhetoric by Republika Srpska officials, as well as more recently the planned referendum.

Options

The Council may re-authorise EUFOR ALTHEA under Chapter VII and update the resolution to reflect recent developments, including concern over Republika Srpska’s intention to hold a referendum on the jurisdiction of BiH’s state-level judiciary, while stressing the continued obligation of BiH parties to implement the GFAP.

Alternatively, it could renew EUFOR ALTHEA in a streamlined resolution that removes references to political and socio-economic issues, such as EURO-Atlantic integration, which has appeared in the past 10 resolutions renewing the authorisation.

The Council could additionally stress the importance of reconciliation in light of divisions demonstrated by the 20th anniversary of Srebrenica and welcome steps taken since then by BiH and Serbia in this regard.

Council Dynamics

Negotiations last year on the resolution to reauthorise EUFOR ALTHEA were more divisive than usual and introduced a new Council 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 referring to BiH’s Euro-Atlantic integration, claiming that such references were imposing this decision externally on BiH, and that it was not the Council’s place to weigh in on internal political choices. Western countries countered that this was one of the few issues that BiH’s often divided political class agreed on. Russia also expressed concerns about EUFOR ALTHEA’s authorisation under Chapter VII, which Ambassador Vitaly Churkin stated could be viewed as a tool to accelerate BiH’s EU and NATO integration. Since it had accepted such references in prior resolutions on BiH, it seemed that Russia’s position was fallout from the Ukraine conflict. Negotiations this summer on the Srebrenica draft resolution and Russia’s subsequent veto showed deepened divisions among Council members when considering BiH.

For this year’s authorisation renewal, Russia is the penholder. It is likely to seek a streamlined text reauthorising EUFOR that is similar to the counter-draft it proposed during negotiations last year, which excludes political issues. Western members are likely to want to maintain references to the broader political context. Despite these differences, Russia and western members agree on the need to reauthorise EUFOR.

The Contact and Drafting Group, which drafts decisions on BiH, consists of France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the UK and the US, together with elected Council members from the Western European and Other Group and the Eastern European Group. The penholder rotates monthly in English alphabetical order.

UN DOCUMENTS ON BIH

Security Council Resolutions
8 July 2015 S/2015/508 This was a draft resolution on the Srebrenica genocide.
11 November 2014 S/RES/2183 This was a resolution that renewed the authorisation for the EU-led multinational stabilisation force for a year.
Reports of the High Representative
29 April 2015 S/2015/300 This was the High Representative Valentin Inzko office’s report.
Security Council Meeting Records
8 July 2015 S/PV.7481 This was a briefing and the vote on a draft resolution for the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide.
12 May 2015 S/PV.7440 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.

Useful Additional Resource

Special Report of the High Representative to the Secretary-General (4 September 2015)

 

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