17th Feb 2019

EU planning to take over Bosnia supervision

Increasingly concerned over stalling progress in Bosnia and "inflammatory rhetoric" used by its politicians, EU foreign ministers are expected to adopt on Monday (10 November) a paper suggesting the bloc should be prepared to take over Bosnia's international supervision next year.

The seven-point paper drafted by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn stresses that "a stronger engagement of the EU is today more essential than ever before."

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The current "status quo is not viable and likely to remain so until and unless the international community is prepared to change the parameters of its presence and approach," reads the text seen by Reuters.

It also stresses: "The international impetus remains essential, since there are no domestic forces capable of challenging the status quo and influencing the country's leadership to replace their current disputes with a genuine consensus on EU-related reforms."

Currently, the international community and the EU have a representative in Sarajevo - Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajcak - who bears significant powers, including the ability to impose legislation and sack officials judged to be obstructing the peace implementation process in the country torn apart by war 13 years ago.

The Office of the High Representative (OHR) was enshrined in the peace treaty ending the 1992-1995 Bosnia war - the so-called Dayton Agreements. The objective had been to close up shop last year in order to allow more "self ownership" of the country.

However, the situation in Bosnia was not judged good enough to afford closing the OHR and the move was postponed. Its current budget ends in June 2009 and a decision on its future could be taken later this month, with observers judging it unlikely that it remain open after this date.

Consequently, "the EU needs to consider its role in the transition from an OHR-led process to a reinforced EU engagement," according to the EU paper.

"The EU will need in the short- and medium-term to maximise its leverage in the country ...The EU should aim and prepare to be ready by mid 2009," it continues.

Bosnian leaders 'mired in talk of the past'

The paper drafted by Mr Solana and Mr Rehn also reiterates concerns over the deteriorating internal political situation in Bosnia, underlining that its leaders are "mired in the nationalist logic and talk of the past."

With relations between the Bosniak and Serb leaders in the country - Haris Silajdzic and Milorad Dodik - increasingly deteriorating, the EU earlier this week in its progress report on Bosnia criticised the fact that "inflammatory rhetoric has adversely affected the functioning of institutions and slowed down reform" in the country.

The EU also sent a letter to Bosnian leaders calling on them to be more reasonable, Balkan news portal Balkan Insight reported on Thursday.

"We are extremely concerned over the political climate which is being created by your officials at all levels: Boosting fears and divisions instead of associations is contrary to your European project," read the letter sent from the French EU presidency, on behalf of both Mr Rehn and Mr Solana.

The nationalistic rhetoric of Bosnian politicians is also to be criticised in the conclusions EU foreign ministers will adopt after their meeting on Monday (10 November).

Another issue that will be discussed is the possible phasing out of the EU's peacekeeping force in Bosnia, backed by France.

However, other member states are keen to continue with the mission until the closing down of the OHR, or even beyond.

"I don't think now is the time" for EU peacekeepers to withdraw from Bosnia, Bulgarian foreign minister Ivailo Kalfin told journalists on Wednesday, adding: "At this time the conditions are not met" for the international community to withdraw from the country, either.

The EU's Althea force replaced the NATO-led SFOR in December 2004 to oversee the military implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement.

EU to warn Bosnia against 'inflammatory rhetoric'

In a report on the western Balkan countries' progress towards the EU that the European Commission will present next week, Brussels will reiterate a warning it expressed earlier about Bosnia and Herzegovina's political instability and the lack of reform in the country.

EU confirms plans to step up Bosnia presence

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday reiterated the bloc's will to play a greater role in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while stressing their concerns over the country's stability and expressing hopes that a political agreement signed over the weekend between the three main political parties was a step in the right direction.

Tensions mount over Kosovo-Serbia deal

Serbia will never recognise Kosovo, Serbia's foreign minister has said, as the Western Balkans heads into a new period of turbulence.

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