What's In Blue

Posted Mon 5 Nov 2018

Bosnia and Herzegovina Debate and EUFOR ALTHEA Reauthorisation

Tomorrow morning (6 November), the Security Council will hold its semi-annual debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), with a briefing by the High Representative for BiH, Valentin Inzko, on his 54th report which covers 22 April to 15 October (S/2018/974). The Council is also expected to adopt a resolution renewing the authorisation of the EU-led multinational stabilisation force (EUFOR ALTHEA) for an additional year.

Tomorrow’s debate takes place a month after the 7 October general elections in BiH. Preliminary results 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). Following several requests for recounts, official election results are expected by tomorrow, according to Inzko’s report. 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 city 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”.

Inzko is expected to brief on key issues highlighted in the report, which states that while the elections were held “without any major security incidents” there was “a new level of divisive and provocative rhetoric from some senior political figures” and that “irregularities, including financial threats and incentives to voters” were reported.

Inzko is also expected to emphasise that the parties failed to agree on necessary electoral reforms ahead of the elections. Regarding the election law, the Constitutional Court ruled in December 2016 that several provisions relating to the indirect election of delegates to the Federation House of Peoples were unconstitutional. 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, but these provisions have yet to be replaced. Without them, the election of delegates to the Federation House of Peoples, following the general elections, is likely to 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.

At tomorrow’s debate, a number of Council members may express concern over BiH’s divisive ethnic politics; the need for parties urgently to take the necessary steps to amend the election laws following general elections in October; and the rhetoric of RS leaders challenging BiH’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia tends to be more supportive of the positions of the RS, however, and is critical of the High Representative, contending that his reporting is not objective. During the last semi-annual debate in May, Russia called for “further reducing the budget and personnel of the Office of the High Representative 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”.

Some Council members may also be interested in hearing about the implications of the August 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, more than 1,000 Bosniaks were killed and between 7,000 and 8,000 Bosniaks went missing in the area of Srebrenica. In a 17 August press statement, then-High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein condemned the decision, warning that the revocation would only contribute to divisive and nationalistic rhetoric and disrupt attempts to work towards reconciliation among communities.

The Contact and Drafting Group on BiH (CDG), 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 is the penholder in November.

The UK circulated the initial draft to the CDG on 24 October. Following two rounds of negotiations in the CDG, the UK circulated the draft to the full Council membership on behalf of the CDG on 1 November. One negotiating session of Council members was held on 2 November, after which the draft was placed under silence until this morning. As in previous years, the decision to reauthorise EUFOR ALTHEA for one year was not controversial, as all members in the CDG and the Council support the continuation of the EU-led international force. However, Russia broke silence and objected to three paragraphs which emphasised (1) “full support for the Office of the High Representative’s continued role”; (2) “appreciation to the High Representative…the Senior Military Representative and personnel of the NATO Headquarters Sarajevo, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the European Union”; and (3) “the importance of…progress towards Euro-Atlantic integration”.

These three paragraphs had been included in resolution 2183 adopted on 11 November 2014, on which Russia abstained, and have not been included in the resolutions adopted subsequently, on which Russia has voted in favour. Prior to 2014, all resolutions since 2005 reauthorising EUFOR ALTHEA emphasised “the importance of BiH’s progress towards Euro-Atlantic integration”. The position Russia has taken since 2014 against the inclusion of such language seems to be a result of fallout from the Ukraine conflict. In November 2015, Russia was the CDG penholder, and this language was removed. The following year the UK as penholder on the resolution attempted to include language related to Euro-Atlantic integration, which Russia again objected to, leading to its removal. In November 2017, Italy as penholder did not attempt to include such language, making the negotiations more straightforward. To achieve consensus on the present resolution, the above three references were removed at Russia’s request. The revised draft is expected to be adopted unanimously tomorrow.

The draft in blue contains some additional language not present in last year’s resolution related to the general elections, including expressing regret over “the failure to make necessary amendments to the election law prior to the elections” and urging “the parties to engage constructively on swift government formation at all levels”. The draft also incorporates language that expresses concern over “continued polarizing unconstructive policies, actions and rhetoric…[and] calls to political leaders to advance reconciliation and mutual understanding.”

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