posted on MON 9 NOV 2015 4:54 PM
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Re-authorisation of EUFOR ALTHEA and Debate

Tomorrow morning (10 November), the Council will hold its semi-annual debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), one month before the 20th anniversary of the signing of the General Framework Agreement for Peace (14 December 1995), which ended BiH’s 1992-1995 war. Valentin Inzko, the High Representative for BiH, will brief on developments in the country, covered in his latest report to the Council (S/2015/841). At the meeting, the Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the authorisation of the EU-led multinational stabilisation force (EUFOR ALTHEA) for an additional year.

Russia, this year’s penholder for the resolution, circulated an initial draft to the members of the Contact and Drafting Group (CDG) on 22 October. (The CDG consists of France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the UK and the US, along with elected Council members from the Western European and Others Group and the Eastern European Group.) The CDG held two meetings on the text on 26 October and 30 October, which were followed by expert level meetings of Council members on 3 November and 5 November. The draft resolution has been put into blue.

As was the case last year, negotiations on the resolution were difficult. Russia first circulated within the CDG a substantially shortened draft compared to past resolutions on EUFOR ALTHEA. It extended the authorisation of EUFOR for twelve months under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, but removed language that Russia considered related to broader political issues such as EU and NATO integration, which it believes are domestic political choices. The draft was very similar to the alternative text Russia proposed during negotiations last year when Lithuania was the penholder. Russia apparently wanted to streamline the text to cover only elements on EUFOR.

Since 2005, all resolutions reauthorising EUFOR have emphasised “the importance of BiH’s progress towards EURO-Atlantic integration”. The position Russia has taken since last year seems to be very much a result of fallout from the Ukraine conflict. In fact, when Russia first presented this position during the 2014 negotiations, it noted that its own relations with NATO and the EU had considerably changed.

Following the first meeting of the CDG, Russia took steps to compromise with other members over the extent to which the resolution would still reflect broader issues and BiH’s EU integration. It added paragraphs which welcomed the reform agenda that BiH adopted in July (which EU authorities have characterised as a precondition for BiH’s submitting a membership application), as well as a paragraph on BiH’s “European perspective”. Russia also incorporated three paragraphs from resolution 2183 that other members considered important for outlining the operational capabilities of EUFOR ALTHEA and NATO’s presence. These changes, though, were not enough to satisfy other CDG delegations, and Russia circulated the draft to Council members without CDG consensus on the text.

During Council negotiations, the UK circulated amendments, which it coordinated with other CDG members, reflecting their continued concerns. These focused on three elements. First, the amendments sought to express the Council’s support for the work of the High Representative by retaining references to paragraphs of previous resolutions about his powers, in particular the Bonn powers, which provide the High Representative with the ability to impose decisions when he determines it necessary. Second, the UK proposed language that would call on BiH authorities to cooperate with the ICTY. Third, it sought to retain a paragraph from previous EUFOR resolutions authorising NATO’s continuing presence in BiH, due to concerns that this paragraph’s exclusion might have legal implications for NATO’s BiH headquarters, as well as the political message it would send—a concern expressed by the US in particular.

While it accepted the proposal regarding cooperation with the ICTY, Russia was less supportive of the other proposals. On the Office of the High Representative (OHR), which Russia has long perceived as biased against the mainly Bosnian Serb entity of Republika Srpska and would like to see closed, it offered to place the proposal in the resolution’s preambular section, rather than in the operative section. It said it was unnecessary to have the Council authorise NATO’s presence since this was established through the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP). While Russia had been able to compromise regarding language related to BiH’s EU path, it was more sensitive about having the resolution appear to promote BiH’s integration into the military block. Similarly, it opposed a Lithuanian proposal to retain a direct reference to “EURO-Atlantic integration”.

In the end, compromises were reached following negotiations that it seems were primarily between Russia and the US. The draft resolution renews the authorisation of NATO without specifically mentioning the organisation, but by referring to paragraph 11 of resolution 2183 from last year, which welcomes NATO’s continued presence to assist in implementing the peace agreement in conjunction with EUFOR Althea. The UK’s proposal on OHR remained in the preambular section, with the Council now “reaffirming” previous provisions regarding the High Representative, which represented a slight strengthening of language.

For tomorrow’s debate, a key issue likely to be highlighted by Inzko is the July decision of the Republika Srpska National Assembly to hold a future referendum that would decide whether to accept the jurisdiction of BiH’s state-level judiciary and the authority of the High Representative, as well as the 25 April declaration of the Republika Srpska’s ruling party to hold a referendum on secession in 2018.

In both his special report and his latest report to the Council, Inzko argued that the decision of the Republika Srpska’s National Assembly regarding the referendum places the implementation of the peace agreement under serious threat. Council members may use the debate to exchange views on this issue, among others highlighted in the High Representative’s recent report.