What's In Blue

Posted Wed 21 Jul 2021

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Vote on a Draft Resolution*

Tomorrow afternoon (22 July), the Security Council is scheduled to vote in person on a draft resolution on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The resolution, which was drafted by China and Russia, supports the appointment of a new High Representative for BiH until 31 July 2022 and also calls for the closing of the Office of the High Representative for BiH (OHR). At the time of writing, it did not appear that the draft would have the support required for adoption. Absent a veto, a draft resolution on non-procedural matters requires 9 out of 15 votes to be adopted.


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—comprised of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK, the US, the presidency of the EU, the European Commission, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which is represented by Turkey—issued a statement indicating its decision to appoint Christian Schmidt, a German politician, as the next High Representative for BiH as of 1 August.

The PIC was established in 1995 to garner international support for the implementation of the 1995 General Framework Agreement for Peace in BiH, also known as the Dayton Agreement. 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. 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, however, no member of the Steering Board has had the power to block its decisions. The OHR was established under the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995. In resolution 1031 of December 1995, the Council endorsed the establishment of the position of a High Representative for BiH.

Russia, a member of the PIC Steering Board, disagreed with the Steering Board’s 27 May decision and criticised its decision-making process. On 23 June, it requested that Council members discuss BiH under “any other business” to inquire why the High Representative’s appointment letter had not been disseminated to Council members as an official document. (Inzko sent a letter to the Secretary-General informing him of the PIC Steering Board’s decision on 3 June. The June president of the Security Council, Estonia, and Germany were copied on the letter, which was not circulated as an official Security Council document.) On 24 June, Germany sent Inzko’s 3 June letter to the president of the Council and it was then issued as a Security Council document (S/2021/597).

On 29 June, the Security Council held an in-person open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on BiH at the request of Russia. At the open briefing, Council members expressed different positions on the appointment process of the High Representative for BiH and on the Security Council’s role in the process. Several delegations, including the US and European members of the Council, welcomed Schmidt’s appointment as the new High Representative for BiH. However, Russia rejected the Steering Board’s decision, arguing that the appointment of the new High Representative requires consensus within the PIC Steering Board, with consent from the Bosnian sides and subsequent approval by the Security Council. It noted that this usually has been expressed through the adoption of a Council resolution. Russia also said that the process should have been more democratic and considered the views of the Bosnian side and input from Moscow. China maintained that the international community should reassess the role of the OHR in BiH and referenced a March document adopted by the parliament of the Republika Srpska—the predominantly Serb regional entity which makes up BiH along with the predominantly Bosniak and Croat regional entity, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina—which called for the immediate closure of the OHR.

At the same meeting, the US and European members of the Council maintained that all the legal requirements for the appointment of the new High Representative had been met. The UK noted in its statement that the decisions of the Steering Board do not require unanimity nor the Security Council’s endorsement to confirm the appointment of the new High Representative. These members highlighted the critical role played by the OHR and stated that its closure should only be considered once BiH meets the conditions detailed in the “5+2” agenda, which is a set of five objectives and two conditions that need to be fulfilled prior to the OHR’s closure that was adopted by the PIC Steering Board in 2008. They also stressed that these conditions have not yet been met. Bisera Turković, BiH’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, reiterated this perspective at the meeting, stating that while progress has been made towards the fulfilment of the “5+2” agenda, considerable work remains to be done.

Draft Resolution

The draft resolution in blue welcomes the designation of Schmidt as High Representative for BiH and “supports the appointment of the High Representative until 31 July 2022 with the closure of the Office of the High Representative”. It also decides that the powers of the High Representative for BiH, as described in the conclusion of the 1997 Peace Implementation Conference, are no longer necessary given the progress achieved by the Bosnian Parties.

Russia circulated the draft resolution on 13 July and Council members held one round of negotiations on the text. It seems that Council members did not engage on the text and did not suggest amendments. The US and the European members of the Council support the continuation of the OHR’s mandate and view the content of the resolution as unacceptable. Russia put the draft in blue on Monday (19 July) despite a lack of agreement on the text.

Russia has long maintained that BiH does not pose a threat to international peace and security and that it is time to consider closing the OHR. It has argued that BiH authorities should be in charge of developments in the country, noting in its statement during the 29 June meeting that “the fate of the country and its development path should be determined by the people rather than a High Representative or any external force”. On the other hand, the US and the European members of the Council continue to support the OHR and maintain that BiH has not yet met the necessary requirements for its closure.

The outcome of tomorrow’s vote 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.

*Post-script: The draft resolution received two votes in favour (China and Russia) and 13 abstentions and failed to be adopted.

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