What's In Blue

Posted Tue 29 Jun 2021

Bosnia and Herzegovina Briefing and Consultations

This afternoon (29 June), the Security Council will hold a briefing followed by consultations on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) at the request of Russia. Officer-in-Charge of the Europe and Central Asia Division of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Hervé Lecoq is expected to brief. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of BiH, Bisera Turković, is expected to participate in the meeting. It appears that Russia requested the meeting because of its concern about the process for the appointment of a new High Representative for BiH.

On 27 May, High Representative for BiH Valentin Inzko announced that he was resigning from his post effective 1 August. On the same day, the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) Steering Board issued a statement indicating its decision to appoint Christian Schmidt as the next High Representative for BiH as of 1 August. Russia, a member of the PIC Steering Board, did not agree with the decision. There appears to be no formally agreed process to guide the decisions of the PIC Steering Board. In line with the established practice to date, no member of the Steering Board has had the power to block its decisions.

The Office of the High Representative was established under the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995. In resolution 1031, the Council endorsed the establishment of OHR and agreed on the appointment of Carl Bildt as the first High Representative.

The PIC was established in 1995 to garner international support for the implementation of the 1995 General Framework Agreement for Peace, also known as the Dayton Agreement. The PIC Steering Board members are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK, the US, the Presidency of the EU, the European Commission, and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, which is represented by Turkey. The Steering Board serves as the executive arm of the PIC working under the chairmanship of the High Representative and provides it with political guidance.

On 3 June, Inzko sent a letter to the Secretary-General informing him of the PIC Steering Board decision. This was done in accordance with the Steering Board’s 27 May statement, which said that the Office of the High Representative (OHR)“will now inform the United Nations Secretary-General of the PIC SB’s decision”. The current Council president Estonia and Germany (Schmidt is a German citizen) were copied on the letter.

On 23 June, Russia requested that BiH be discussed under under “any other business” to inquire why Inzko’s letter was not circulated to Council members as an official document. The following day, Germany sent Inzko’s letter to the president of the Council, and the letter was later issued as a Security Council document (S/2021/597).

At the meeting this afternoon, Council members are likely to clarify their positions on the appointment of a new High Representative. The P3 (France, the UK, and the US), together with European members of the Council, have expressed their support for Schmidt’s appointment by the PIC Steering Board. On the other hand, Russia has made it clear that it does not agree with the Steering Board decision, and has emphasised that attempts to appoint the new High Representative without consensus within the Steering Board represents a violation of established practice.

Council members also appear to be divided over the role of the Security Council vis-à-vis the appointment of the new High Representative. In the past, the Council has welcomed the PIC Steering Board decisions on the appointment of the new High Representative via Council resolutions and in one instance in 2006 via a letter by the president of the Council. In all previous cases, the PIC Steering Board and the Council have agreed unanimously on new appointments to this position.

According to Russia’s interpretation of the established practice, decisions of such high importance such as the appointment of the new High Representative require consensus within the PIC Steering Board and subsequent approval by the Security Council. Russia has stated that it will consider any attempt to circumvent the Council in this process as illegitimate. P3 and European members of the Council appear to share the view that there is no legal requirement for the Council to approve the decision of the PIC Steering Board. They emphasise that the Dayton Peace agreement only states that the appointment of the High Representative should be consistent with relevant Security Council resolutions.

Russia has long been critical of the High Representative, contending that the situation in BiH does not pose a threat to international peace and security and that it is time to consider closing down the OHR. Russia has argued that BiH authorities should be in charge of developments in the country and not be subject to external interference. On the other hand, P3 and European members of the Council continue to support the OHR and its mandate. These members share the view that BiH has not yet met the necessary requirements for the closure of the OHR.

The outcome of the Council’s deliberations on the appointment of the new High Representative is likely to influence Council dynamics during the November mandate renewal of the EU-led multinational stabilisation force in BiH (EUFOR ALTHEA). Russia has indicated that it would reevaluate its position on EUFOR ALTHEA in light of the ongoing discussions on the appointment of the new High Representative.