posted on MON 14 MAY 2012 3:55 PM
Debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Council will hold its biannual debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday, 15 May). The High Representative for the country, Valentin Inzko, will present his most recent report (S/2012/307) on the implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement. The head of the EU delegation is set to address the Council, as will representatives from regional states, including Bosnia and Herzegovina itself. The Council is not preparing to take any action following the briefing. (It does not need to consider reauthorising the EU’s multinational stabilisation force in BiH until its present mandate expires on 16 November.)

Regarding the situation on the ground, Council members are likely to welcome some of the positive developments highlighted in the High Representative’s report. These include the 10 February appointment of a Council of Ministers after more than a year without a central government. The Council of Ministers also endorsed an agreement on 21 March regarding the ownership of defence property in BiH. (The implementation of this agreement would be an important step for BiH to fully participate in NATO’s Membership Action Plan.)

The issue of resolving defence property issues in BiH also constitutes one of the five objectives and two conditions (the so-called “5+2” agenda) that need to be met prior to the closure of the Office of the High Representative (OHR). The High Representative’s continuing role is a matter of some contention among Council members. Some members, including the US and the UK, have traditionally emphasised the necessity of the OHR’s work in the country and have taken a more cautious approach towards the Office’s closure while items on the 5+2 agenda remain.

Other Council members, most vocally Russia, are in favour of closing the OHR and transferring responsibility for the country as soon as possible to the Bosnians themselves. However, most members acknowledge that the Council’s role is limited on the issue and that important discussions on the OHR’s future—including its possible new location outside of BiH—will be made in Brussels and by the Peace Implementation Council’s Steering Board.

One issue that might come up during tomorrow’s debate is the information contained in the report about continuing nationalistic statements made by the President of Republika Srpska that challenge the sovereignty and territorial integrity of BiH. In previous debates, Russia has criticised the objectivity of the High Representative’s analysis of the situation in the country citing “prejudice against the Bosnian Serb leadership.” However, this recent report also welcomes steps taken by the Republika Srpska government and positively refers to political progress. (The US, the UK and others have in the past shared concerns raised by the High Representative on the rhetoric employed by the Republika Srpska leadership, considering it a challenge to the agreed framework for the peace agreement.)

Another important issue, particularly for European members on the Council, seems to be BiH’s implementation of the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling in the Sejdic-Finci vs. BiH case. The latest report indicates that little progress has been made towards the constitutional reform required that would allow minorities in the country who are not “Constituent Peoples” (ethnic Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks) to run for high office. Such reform is seen as particularly important for BiH in order to fulfil the conditions required for EU candidacy status.

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