What's In Blue

Bosnia and Herzegovina Debate and Adoption

Tomorrow morning (13 November), the Security Council will hold a twice-yearly debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina at which the High Representative, Valentin Inzko, will brief the Council on the work of the Office of the High Representative (OHR). (The OHR was created under the 1995 General Framework Agreement for Peace more commonly known as the “Dayton Agreement”.) Following the debate, on Wednesday afternoon (14 November) the Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution which will reauthorise the EU-led multinational stabilisation force (EUFOR ALTHEA) for a further twelve months.

Council members will be aware from the High Representative’s report of 6 November (S/2012/813) that the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is something of a paradox. On one hand, the security situation is calm and stable and its authorities have proven capable of dealing with possible security threats, including when local elections were held on 7 October. On the other hand, the political situation has deteriorated markedly since Inzko last briefed the Council on 15 May, and the cautious optimism expressed at that time by the High Representative seems to have been replaced by disappointment and frustration. However, there are no indications that the stable security environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina is under threat.

Of particular concern to the High Representative—and something which he is likely to focus on tomorrow—is the sharp increase in the number of direct challenges to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the reporting period. The latest report catalogues the “intensified and provocative” rhetoric from the leadership of the Republika Srpska (RS)—one of two entities that form Bosnia and Herzegovina under the Dayton Agreement—disputing the existence of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a state and repeatedly advocating the right to self-determination of the RS. While such rhetoric from RS President Milorad Dodik is not new, several Council members are likely to express concern at the proliferation and intensity of assertions that the dissolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina is “inevitable” and that RS should secede.

Another area that several members are likely to express concern about tomorrow is the lack of progress towards the implementation of the outstanding requirements necessary for the closure of the OHR. The report notes that the Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities took “no concrete steps to meet any of the objectives for closure of OHR during the reporting period,” including on the issue of ownership of defence and state property. The need for constitutional reform is also likely to be emphasised, particularly by European members.

It seems that Wednesday’s adoption is essentially going to be a technical roll-over reauthorising the EU-led force for a further year. Concerning the text of the draft resolution, it seems that there was minor disagreement among the Contact and Drafting Group over some of the language, although no states were suggesting substantive changes to the operative paragraphs. One point which was discussed was replacing language determining that the situation in the region constituted a threat to international peace and security with language more generally reiterating the Council’s primary responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security (as it did, for instance, in the renewal of MINUSTAH’s mandate in Haiti recently). Such an amendment, while still acting under chapter VII, could have been interpreted as the Council needing to play less of a role in Bosnia and Herzegovina given the stability of the security situation. However, it seems that such a change was resisted by the UK (the lead on the issue) and the US and that the existing language will remain.

There are also divisions among Council members vis-à-vis the future role that the High Representative should play. Some members such as the UK and the US have traditionally defended the EU-led force’s mandate and the need for the High Representative to continue to play a role in Bosnia and Herzegovina until the requirements for closure of the OHR have been met.

Some other European members on the Council—and others in the Contact and Drafting Group, such as Italy—have been more inclined to consider the winding down of the OHR, arguing that the stable security situation on the ground warrants transfer to the national authorities sooner rather than later. These countries point to the role of the EU Special Representative, Peter Sørensen, as having increasing importance in the country.

Russia has stressed that the stability of the security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina attests to its maturity as a state and that responsibility for its affairs should be transferred to its authorities. While Russia asserts that the requirements necessary for the OHR’s closure should be addressed, it also seems to advocate abolishing the Office. Moscow has also been critical of Inzko’s analysis of the situation saying that it has “not been objective” in the past due to “biased criticism” of the Bosnian Serb leadership. Some of those points seem likely to be reiterated tomorrow.

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