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, presenting the latest report of the Office of the High Representative (OHR).
The current authorisation for the EU-led multinational stabilisation force (EUFOR ALTHEA) expires on 7 November.
Key Recent Developments
General elections in BiH are expected to take place in October, with the announcement of elections anticipated in May. Ahead of the electoral season, ethnic and political divisions among Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs continue to remain a major challenge for the country. According to the latest report of the OHR (covering 22 October 2017 to 21 April), divisive and destabilising rhetoric by prominent political figures on all sides has continued, with many political parties seeking to consolidate power among their respective voting bases ahead of the elections. Crucial issues related to election laws and the criminal procedure code remain unresolved.
Regarding the election law, the Constitutional Court ruled in December 2016 that several provisions for electing members to the Federation House of Peoples were unconstitutional, and after the court’s six-month deadline for the BiH Parliamentary Assembly to amend the law passed, the court removed the unconstitutional provisions in July 2017. To date, these provisions have yet to be replaced. Without them, the election of delegates to the Federation House of Peoples, which will follow the general elections in October, will be problematic. If the Federation House of Peoples cannot be constituted, the election of the new federation president and vice presidents, who are responsible for nominating the new federation government, cannot take place, and neither can the election of Bosniak and Croat delegates to the BiH House of Peoples, one of the two houses of the state-level parliament.
In the context of this impasse, the EU and the US have been facilitating talks between the political parties to seek a resolution of this issue ahead of elections. In the city of Mostar, political parties have still not implemented a Constitutional Court decision regarding the city’s election law and have been unable to agree to the necessary amendments. As a result, local elections have not been held in the city since 2008.
Regarding the criminal procedure code, the Constitutional Court declared several provisions of the criminal procedure code regulating special investigative measures unconstitutional in June 2017. To date, the six-month deadline to replace these provisions has passed without any action by the BiH Parliament. The consequence of this inaction could leave the judiciary unable to rule on organised crime and corruption cases and seriously impact the rule of law.
Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik has continued to call for the RS’s independence from BiH and to advocate for its eventual secession. In November 2017, the RS National Assembly repealed its 2015 decision to hold a referendum on the jurisdiction of BiH state courts and the High Representative’s authority in RS territory. However, it adopted conclusions to revisit the referendum issue in the future. At press time, no such action had been taken.
About the upcoming elections, the EU Commission’s Interim Report on BiH, published on 17 April, said: “The electoral framework remains to be urgently amended with a view to ensuring the proper organisation of the October 2018 elections and the smooth implementation of the results. In this regard all political leaders need to assume their responsibility and to find a solution with regard to the Federation House of Peoples”. It also said that “adoption of legislation stemming from the Reform Agenda…was negatively affected by tensions between ruling coalition parties and obstruction by opposition parties in Parliaments at state and entity levels, leading to a slowdown of the reform pace”.
On 7 November 2017, the Council held its semi-annual debate on BiH and unanimously adopted resolution 2384, renewing the authorisation of EUFOR ALTHEA for an additional year. During his Council briefing, Inzko stressed that “the parties must do whatever is necessary to ensure that the elections can take place…and that the results are implemented without undue delays”.
Key Issues and Options
Political gridlock, lack of respect for the rule of law, and ethnic divisions remain key issues. With general elections anticipated this year, lack of progress on amending election laws regarding the Federation House of Peoples and the city of Mostar are likely to be of concern. Slow progress in advancing socio-economic reforms linked to BiH’s EU integration and fulfilling the criteria and objectives for closing the OHR are recurring issues.
The Council is most likely to hold the debate without taking further action. It could, however, issue a statement encouraging BiH leaders to overcome narrow political interests and ethnic divisions and calling for progress on the reforms necessary ahead of the elections. The statement could also call for meaningful progress towards implementing commitments on economic and governance reforms and the criteria for closing the OHR, known as the “5+2” agenda.
Council members largely share concerns over BiH’s divisive ethnic politics and the need for parties to take the necessary steps to amend the election laws ahead of holding general elections in October. Most members are also critical of the rhetoric of RS leaders, which they view as challenging BiH’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia, however, tends to be more supportive of the positions of the RS and is critical of the High Representative, believing that his reporting is not objective and that he should focus more on encouraging intra-Bosnian dialogue and trust.
During the debate on 7 November 2017, all 15 Council members made statements. Several members, including current members Ethiopia, France, Kazakhstan, Sweden and the UK, stressed the need for dialogue around electoral reform issues ahead of holding elections and for actors to abandon divisive rhetoric. Russia, in its statement, criticised the work and the report of the High Representative, proposed “considering the practical aspects of shutting down” the OHR.
Negotiations on resolution 2384 to reauthorise EUFOR ALTHEA, adopted on 7 November 2017, proved less challenging compared to previous years. While all members support maintaining EUFOR ALTHEA, difficulties have emerged in the past with Russia over efforts to include a description of the High Representative’s powers and reference to “Euro-Atlantic” integration—language that was ultimately not incorporated in previous resolutions. Attempts to include such language were not repeated in November 2017, making the negotiations more straightforward.
UN Documents on BiH
|Security Council Resolution|
|7 November 2017 S/RES/2384||This resolution renewed the authorisation of EUFOR ALTHEA for an additional year.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|7 November 2017 S/PV.8089||This was the meeting at which the Council adopted resolution 2384, renewing the authorisation of EUFOR ALTHEA for an additional year.|
|Security Council Letter|
|2 May 2018 S/2018/416||This was the report of the High Representative for Implementation of the Peace Agreement on BiH.|