posted on Mon 10 Nov 2014 5:20 PM
Reauthorising EUFOR ALTHEA and Debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina

Tomorrow (11 November), the Council is expected to vote on a resolution renewing the authorisation of EU-led multinational stabilisation force (EUFOR ALTHEA) and hold a debate on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The High Representative for BiH, Valentin Inzko, will brief on developments and his latest report (S/2014/777). Following two meetings of the Contact and Drafting Group (CDG) for BiH and two meetings of Council experts, the draft resolution was placed under a short silence procedure last Friday and put in blue later that day. In recent years, negotiations on the resolution that reauthorises the EU-led mission have been relatively uncontroversial. However, this year, they were divisive and it is possible that Russia might abstain at tomorrow’s vote.

The CDG, consisting of France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the UK, the US and elected Council members from the Western European and Others Group and the Eastern European Group-currently Australia, Luxembourg and Lithuania-first met on the draft resolution on 29 October, and held a second meeting on 3 November. Lithuania, as this month’s penholder from the CDG, prepared a draft text that closely resembled past resolutions. Changes mostly reflected developments in BiH over the past year.

During the CDG meetings, Russia made clear its concerns about the draft, particularly in relation to references to Euro-Atlantic integration. It seems that Russia acknowledged that it had been able to agree to such language previously, but over the past year its relations with NATO and the EU have considerably changed. Russia distributed to CDG members its own, much shorter draft text, which welcomes the EU’s intention to maintain EUFOR ALTHEA and authorises EUFOR ALTHEA it for a period of one year using language from just two paragraphs taken from last year’s resolution. The other members of the CDG did not accept the Russian proposal.

In a rare move, Lithuania circulated a draft text to the broader Council membership before it had the full agreement of the CDG, on 4 November. Meetings at the expert level of the Council were held on Lithuania’s draft 5 and 7 November. Russia reiterated its position on references to EU and NATO integration and also objected to language that welcomed the role of the Office of the High Representative for BiH (OHR) and questioned the unanimity in BiH for BiH’s Euro-Atlantic integration, noting that its contacts in Banja Luka had expressed a different position on this and on maintaining EUFOR ALTHEA under Chapter VII. Western countries rejected that there was any such division on integration, countering that this was one of the issues the BiH’s different parties agreed on. On 6 November, Bakir Izetbegović, the Bosniak Member of the Presidency, and Milorad Dodik, President of the Republika Srpska, addressed the press following a meeting and said that they were in agreement on fulfilling the conditions for EU and NATO integration.

The draft to be voted on tomorrow was not changed significantly during the expert level meetings. It includes new language on the impact of the May floods and subsequent assistance from the international community and on calls by citizens of BiH for their leaders to improve the social and economic situation and the 12 October elections (the final results of which will be confirmed by BiH’s Central Election Commission tomorrow).

Significantly, language has also been removed about the 2009 ruling on the Sejdić-Finci case by the European Court of Human Rights. (The court ruling found that BiH’s constitution violated EU human rights law by prohibiting minorities from running for certain electoral posts including BiH’s tri-partite presidency, reserved for only Bosniak, Croat and Serb candidates.) BiH’s EU integration has stalled primarily due to the non-implementation of the Court’s decision. The removal of the reference to this case is in line with a possible shift in the position of EU countries to deal with this issue later rather than let it hold up BiH’s EU integration process.

Inzko will brief on his report, which again highlights obstruction and ineffectiveness at various level of government, BiH’s failure to progress on the EU and NATO paths, and on the objectives that would allow for the closure of the OHR. Once again, the report documents political rhetoric from Republika Srpska officials, in particular by Dodik, which calls for Republika Srpska independence or the break-up of BiH. It stresses that such aspirations represent a direct challenge to the Dayton peace agreement. The report also describes the continued presence of EUFOR ALTHEA with an executive mandate as vital.

In their statements, Western countries and Russia will likely refer to the clear differences that had emerged during negotiations, and may reiterate their positions. Additionally, members are likely to reflect on the continuing shortcomings of BiH’s political system, the need for the government to address socio-economic challenges (which contributed to last February’s protests), as well as the socio-economic impact of the May floods. As they have in the past, many members will likely express concern over the rhetoric of Republika Srpska officials. Some members may call for BiH parties to quickly agree on forming a government, given past stalemates to do so, and note the fresh start presented by the 12 October elections. Russia will likely also express its view that OHR is biased against the Republika Srpska, overlooks the problems within the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the primarily Bosniak and Croat entity), and that its presence discourages Bosnians from working out their problems on their own.