Bosnia and Herzegovina: Debate and EUFOR ALTHEA Reauthorisation*
Tomorrow afternoon (2 November), the Security Council will hold its semi-annual debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Council members are also expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the authorisation of the EU-led multinational stabilisation force (EUFOR ALTHEA) for an additional year. At the time of writing, there was no briefer expected at tomorrow’s debate. Several regional states may participate under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.
Tomorrow’s debate takes place amid a flurry of post-election developments in BiH. The 1995 General Framework Agreement for Peace, also known as the Dayton Agreement, created two entities within BiH: the predominantly Bosniak and Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) and the predominantly Serb Republika Srpska (RS). The two entities are linked by a rotating tripartite inter-ethnic presidency and a two-chamber legislative branch with equal representation by the three major ethnic groups (Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs). Both entities also have their own executive and legislative branches.
At the general elections, which were held on 2 October, voters decided the makeup of BiH’s presidency, its lower chamber of parliament, the executive and legislative branches of the RS, and the lower chamber of parliament and the ten cantonal assemblies of the FBiH. In BiH’s presidential election, voters in the FBiH elected Bosniak Denis Bećirović and re-elected Croat Željko Komšić, while voters in the RS elected Serb Željka Cvijanović. At the state- and entity-level parliamentary elections, results confirmed the popularity of nationalist parties among the three ethnic groups, suggesting that the political blockades of previous years will likely continue to hinder reform efforts.
The entity-level presidential election in the RS was marked by controversy. On election night, opposition candidate Jelena Trivić declared victory based on several polling results. However, the following morning, preliminary results published by BiH’s Central Electoral Commission (CEC) showed that the apparent winner was Milorad Dodik, who has served as the Serb member of the BiH presidency since November 2018. Trivić alleged irregularities and demanded a recount, submitting a formal complaint to the CEC on 5 October.
Opposition parties staged a protest on 9 October, drawing thousands of supporters in Banja Luka, the largest city in the RS. The following day, the CEC ordered a recount of the votes, with CEC President Suad Arnautović citing evidence of electoral irregularities. The announcement was met with opposition from Dodik, who staged a counter-rally in Banja Luka on 25 October. At the rally, Dodik called on the CEC to respect the will of RS voters. On 27 October, the CEC formally declared Dodik the winner of the presidential election.
In the run-up to the general elections, High Representative for BiH Christian Schmidt issued several decrees. On 7 June, following weeks of failed attempts by BiH authorities to ensure an adequate budget for the elections, Schmidt enacted a package of decisions securing the funds for the 2 October general elections. On 27 July, Schmidt issued a decree enacting a set of measures aimed at strengthening the integrity of BiH’s elections and improving transparency in the management of the election process. The decree established new prohibitions on hate speech and empowered the CEC to sanction violations of the rules of conduct in electoral campaigns, including by removing a party or individual from candidacy.
Shortly after polling stations closed on election day, Schmidt issued a set of decrees seeking to improve the functionality of the FBiH’s political institutions and to ensure the timely implementation of the election results. His decrees came as political parties in FBiH were unable to agree on a package of constitutional and electoral reforms during negotiations that the EU and the US have been facilitating since mid-2021. The decrees, known as the Functionality Package, establish mechanisms to unblock paralysis in the FBiH’s legislatures, including setting deadlines for the formation of the government after the election. The package also sought to improve the proportionality of representation by raising the number of representatives in the FBiH’s upper house of parliament.
Council products on BiH are prepared by the BiH Coordination and Drafting Group (CDG), which is comprised of France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the UK, the US and elected Council members Albania, Ireland and Norway. Each member chairs the group for one month, rotating in alphabetical order. Ireland was the CDG Chair in October.
The draft resolution in blue, which was prepared by Ireland, renews EUFOR ALTHEA’s authorisation for a period of one year. It consists of the same key operative paragraphs contained in resolution 2604 of 3 November 2021—which most recently renewed the force’s authorisation—without adding any new elements.
Following bilateral discussions with Council members, on 21 October Ireland placed a draft resolution under silence until 25 October. After passing the silence procedure, the draft was put in blue on 28 October. It appears that the decision to pursue a straightforward renewal of EUFOR ALTHEA’s authorisation was driven by a desire to minimise disagreements between Council members.
The negotiations on resolution 2604 (2021) were difficult, owing to disagreements over the appointment process of the current High Representative. Russia objected to Schmidt’s appointment in 2021, maintaining that the decision lacked the endorsement of the Security Council. Following the vote, several Council members, including Norway and Estonia, expressed regret that the Security Council had failed to adopt a more substantial resolution. Russia described support for EUFOR ALTHEA’s mandate renewal as the only “common denominator” among Council members on the issue of BiH. (For background, see our 2 November 2021 What’s in Blue story.)
During last year’s negotiations, Russia apparently expressed support for EUFOR ALTHEA but demanded that the draft resolution not include references to the High Representative. Ahead of the 3 November 2021 debate on BiH, Russia apparently blocked Schmidt’s briefing by threatening to veto the Council’s renewal of EUFOR ALTHEA’s authorisation. As a result, the meeting did not feature a briefer.
Given the difficult Council dynamics on BiH, it appears that an agreement was reached on a straightforward renewal of EUFOR ALTHEA’s authorisation on the condition that the High Representative not brief the Council at tomorrow’s debate.
*Post-script: On 2 November, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2658, renewing the authorisation of the EU-led multinational stabilisation force (EUFOR ALTHEA) for another year, until 2 November 2023.