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). High Representative Valentin Inzko is expected to brief on the latest report of the Office of the High Representative (OHR).
The current authorisation for EUFOR ALTHEA expires on 7 November.
Key Recent Developments
General elections in BiH took place on 7 October. Ahead of the elections, ethnic and political divisions among Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs remained prevalent. Divisive and destabilising rhetoric by political figures on all sides continued, with several political parties seeking to consolidate power among their respective voting bases. Preliminary results published on 10 October, based on about 95 percent of votes counted, indicated that the three elected members of the BiH presidency will be Šefik Džaferović as the Bosniak representative and Željko Komšić as the Croat representative, both elected by voters in the Federation of BiH, and Milorad Dodik as the Serb representative, elected by voters in Republika Srpska (RS). Dodik, who has been president of the RS since 2010, has been a frequent and vocal proponent of RS’s independence from BiH and an advocate for its eventual secession. Komšić previously served two terms as a member of the presidency from 2006 to 2014. In the town of Mostar, several thousand Bosnian Croat nationalist supporters protested the election following the announcement of Komšić’s victory over the incumbent Croat representative in the presidency, Dragan Čović.
According to the preliminary findings and conclusions of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Election Observation Mission, the elections “were genuinely competitive but characterized by continuing segmentation along ethnic lines…[and] important long-standing shortcomings remain, as constitutional and electoral reforms were stalled by political deadlocks”. 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 expired, 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, following the general elections, 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 an 8 October joint statement, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and European Commissioner Johannes Hahn said political authorities “will have to work through the many challenges ahead and take the country forward on the path towards the EU”. The statement emphasised the importance of swiftly forming the Federation House of Peoples, in line with rulings by the Constitutional Court. The “effective implementation of the general elections will be taken into account” in the EU Commission’s upcoming opinion on BiH’s application for EU membership, the statement said.
On 8 May, the Council held its last semi-annual debate on BiH. Inzko said he was “deeply concerned about the more recent readiness among some politicians to refer to the possibility of a renewed conflict”, noting “a general trend of armament under way”, on which he would report further in November. He reiterated “the risk of a deeper political crisis” following the October elections if the parties failed to agree on the rules regulating the election of delegates to the Federation House of Peoples. He also emphasised that “the risks of nationalism and extremism on all sides, combined with a growing sense of socioeconomic stagnation” required the international community urgently to increase efforts to promote reconciliation in the country and region.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In a 17 August press statement, then-High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein condemned the decision of the RS National Assembly to revoke its endorsement of the 2004 Srebrenica Commission Report. The report found that from 10 to 19 July 1995, between 7,000 and 8,000 Bosniaks went missing in the area of Srebrenica and more than 1,000 Bosniaks were killed. The High Commissioner warned that the revocation would only contribute to divisive and nationalistic rhetoric and disrupt attempts to work towards reconciliation among communities. On 23 August, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination adopted its concluding observations and recommendations on BiH (CERD/C/BIH/CO/12-13), including concerns about persisting ethnic tensions, ethno-religious divisions, and the need for reconciliation; discriminatory provisions in some local laws and regulations; reports of racist hate speech and discriminatory statements by public and political figures; persistent discrimination and marginalisation of Roma; and the very limited representation of ethnic minority groups, Roma in particular, in decision-making bodies and in public office.
Key Issues and Options
Political gridlock, lack of respect for the rule of law and ethnic divisions remain key issues. The urgent need to amend laws regarding the Federation House of Peoples and the smooth implementation of the results of the general election are also key issues. 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. Council members expect to receive Inzko’s latest report by 31 October, which will likely inform their assessments of these key issues.
Another issue is how to reflect recent developments in the country and the general elections in the resolution re-authorising EUFOR ALTHEA in November. The Council may call on BiH parties to take steps towards improving the overall political atmosphere and to prioritise the need for compromise and dialogue. The resolution could further reiterate that the parties must, as a matter of urgency, address the outstanding decisions of the Constitutional Court, including its 1 December 2016 ruling concerning elections to the Federation House of Peoples. It 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 urgently to take the necessary steps to amend the election laws following 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, contending that his reporting is not objective. During the debate in May, where all 15 Council members made statements, Russia called for “further reducing the budget and personnel of the [OHR] with the aim of closing it,” adding that “[t]he time for this special instrument is over”. Referring to the role of the international community, Russia criticised “steps aimed at interfering directly in the work of the Bosnian authorities”.
Negotiations on resolution 2384 to reauthorise EUFOR ALTHEA, adopted on 7 November 2017, proved less challenging compared to previous years. While Council members support maintaining EUFOR ALTHEA, difficulties have emerged in the past, with Russia objecting to efforts to include a description of the High Representative’s powers and any reference to “Euro-Atlantic” integration—language ultimately not incorporated in previous resolutions. There were no attempts to include such language in November 2017, making the negotiations more straightforward. It is unclear whether this will be an issue during negotiations in November, which is likely to include discussion about how to reflect the outcome of the general elections and the current situation in the country.
The Contact and Drafting Group on BiH, comprises France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the UK, the US and current elected Council members Netherlands, Poland and Sweden. Its penholder rotates monthly in English alphabetical order. The UK will be the penholder in November.
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|
|8 May 2018 S/PV.8248||This was the semi-annual debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina.|
|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.|