21-24 JUNE 2010 - VISIT TO KOSOVO AND BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA [Report]
SUB-COMMITTEE ON FUTURE SECURITY AND DEFENCE CAPABILITIES (DSCFC)
Progress hostage to political blockages in Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, NATO Parliamentarians hear in Balkans
1. Fifteen members of the parliaments of nine NATO countries visited Kosovo and Bosnia Herzegovina June 21-24, 2010. The delegation, led by Sub-Committee on Future Security and Defence Capabilities Chairman Sverre Myrli (Norway), undertook the fact-finding mission in order to better understand unresolved challenges on the path to a stable and secure western Balkans.
2. Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia in February 2008. At the time of the visit, 69 countries had recognized Kosovo as an independent state, while four of the 28 NATO nations had not. The political dynamic at the time of the visit opposed Pristina’s desire to extend its governance across the entirety of Kosovo (including Serb enclaves and the north) against Belgrade’s view that Kosovo remains a part of Serbia and its policy of support to what Pristina authorities call ‘parallel institutions’ in areas of Serb-majority populations.
3. The political climate at the time of the delegation’s visit was also marked by widespread anticipation of an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the “Accordance with International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo,” and what impact the opinion might have on the political situation, in particular on the numbers of countries recognizing Kosovo as an independent state. International officials hoped that the Court’s opinion could be a milestone for looking ahead and open a new chapter in addressing the root causes of current problems.
A. DOMESTIC POLITICAL CONTEXT
4. Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu suggested that negative prognoses offered by sceptics before Kosovo’s declaration of independence had been proven wrong. There had been no exodus of minorities, no acts of revenge, and constitutional rights for all minorities have been implemented, he said. Kosovo had been developing in a positive manner overall, even if some challenges inherent in its youth were to be expected, Sejdiu stated.
5. Citing 5 to 6 % GDP growth, Sejdiu suggested there had been good progress since 1999 but that more investment was needed to boost economic activity and address unemployment. He praised young citizens who studied abroad but came back to contribute to Kosovo’s development. Hashim Thaci, Prime Minister of Kosovo, suggested there were promising economic signs, including a 700 million euro highway project towards the north, and the completion of the Pristina International Airport, both projects that were competed internationally. Thaci suggested two possible areas for growth were the agricultural sector and winter tourism.
6. Kosovo Assembly President Jakup Krasniqi reflected on the positive changes since the last visit of an Assembly delegation to Kosovo in April 2008, putting special emphasis on the integration of minorities in public and political life. In his view, and despite problems in the North, Kosovo was setting new standards in the region. He suggested that some Serb minorities had participated in last November’s local elections, while this year two elections had been held in Serbmajority municipalities, including one in the new municipality of Partesh/Partes the day before the delegation arrived. Krasniqi reported a high turnout and a high level of Serb participation in this election.
7. Krasniqi suggested the top objectives of the Assembly were economic development, establishing the rule of law throughout the territory, efforts on organized crime, human trafficking, and corruption, and Euro-Atlantic integration. He outlined efforts conducted in cooperation with international advisors to provide a legal framework for a safe and secure environment in Kosovo, in particular the creation of three new committees headed by the opposition to oversee the Kosovo security force, the Kosovo intelligence agency, and on financial controls.
8. Kosovo had the potential to be economically self-sustaining, according to Krasniqi, who pointed to underground wealth as the richest in the Balkans; an agricultural sector with substantial potential; and the youngest population in Europe, with an average age of 26.
9. Describing the domestic political situation, Prime Minister Thaci suggested that the governing grand coalition was functional, while the opposition was disunited and did not propose credible alternative polities. One of the main differences between the sides was the government’s program of privatization of state assets, which the opposition disagreed with.
10. Corruption remained a problem in Kosovo and is a condition intolerable in any country, Prime Minister Thaci stated, underlining that his government began to address it after ten years of a UN administration that sought political stability over any other priority. The Prime Minister stated that he had only 10 days before addressed the nation to emphasize that no one was above the law in Kosovo.
11. Robert Wilton, Head of Political Affairs for the International Civilian Office (ICO), recognised that after an initially difficult phase, the government had responded positively to the new focus on anti-corruption, which was now seen as an independent judicial process disconnected from politics. This, in his view, would help increase the citizens’ confidence in the institutions.
12. President Sejdiu suggested the European Rule of Law mission (EULEX) should have an energized approach on corruption and rule of law. He fully supported the mission and stated that guilty politicians must be held accountable – the law should be above all. Indeed, according to the head of EULEX, General Yves de Kermabon, the mission was supporting Prime Minister Thaci’s anti-corruption efforts, jointly setting up a special unit with five Kosovo and three EULEX prosecutors working together.
C. A STRATEGY FOR NORTHERN KOSOVO
13. The challenges remaining in the north of Kosovo were described in a series of briefings received by the delegation in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica. International officials and Pristina authorities underlined that resolving the political impasses in Serb-majority parts of Kosovo, in particular the north of Kosovo, was the single most significant challenge and by necessity a central focus of their efforts. While minimal interactions existed between communities in other parts of Kosovo, the situation in the North was far more challenging.
14. Kosovo President Sejdiu lamented what he called the constant pressure of Belgrade-backed parallel structures of governance in the north and in Serb enclaves, as well as the continued presence of economic crime and lack of rule of law in areas where Pristina has been unable to establish governance. He called for greater pressure on Belgrade to withdraw support of these parallel structures. The delegation was also informed that Kosovar and Serbian providers competed over the distribution of electricity, water and mobile phone services in Northern Kosovo. Some international officials pointed out, however, that parallel structures pose a difficult challenge in the North (and other parts of Kosovo) because they actually provide services to the Serb population.
15. Several elements were necessary to make progress in the north, according to Prime Minister Hashim Thaci: the EU needed to unite in its pressure on Belgrade to cease its support of parallel institutions; border points controls needed to be restored in order to stop the flow of contraband; the institutions of Kosovo, with international partners, should work to implement rule of law and the election of legitimate leaders in the north; and international partners should stop holding back the building of institutions by Pristina.
16. Indeed, President Sejdiu suggested UNMIK had been too cautious in its approach in the north over the last years and had accordingly achieved little. He called on international organizations, and his own government, to move faster in providing benefits such as housing, to citizens in the north.
17. The President suggested that these challenges in the north were being addressed by a new strategy, which offers integrated economic projects, and efforts to offer citizens a better daily life, including through collaboration with international efforts such as EULEX. He also underlined efforts to bring back functioning courts to north Mitrovica.
18. Sejdiu also stated that Pristina would continue to work to organize elections in the north of Kosovo, and that Preparation Teams composed in cooperation with the International Civilian Office (ICO) and EULEX were already in place to begin to address the issue. Thus, a team including nine local Serbs, was laying the groundwork to establish the necessary structures for elections in northern Mitrovica.
19. Only 28-30% participated in the elections organized by Belgrade in northern Kosovo on May 13, a lower percentage than expected, according to Colonel Eric Bellenger, the Commander of KFOR’s Battle Group North, who suggested this may be a politically important signal.
20. Several speakers raised the possibility of the Pristina government opening a community relations office north of the Ibar river in Mitrovica to provide basic services such as the issuance of driver’s licenses, the payment of social benefits etc., a prospect that would surely constitute a powerful signal of progress. The utility of such an effort was questioned by other observers, who also raised concerns about securing such an installation.
21. Instituting a full fledged customs regime at Gates 1 and 31, the two main access points along the administrative border line, would also help strengthen the rule of law and was a priority for EULEX and KFOR. Reinforced controls had already allowed a 60% drop in smuggling across the administrative border line. Demarcation of the administrative border line also remained a major challenge for the future.
D. NATO’S ROLE: DRAWING DOWN, BUT STILL PRESENT AND CAPABLE
22. Kosovo officials, including President Fatmir Sejdiu, largely praised the role NATO has played, not only in physical security, but also as a psychological support to the public. The joint effort with NATO to stand up the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) was an important contribution to peace and stability, according to President Sejdiu and Prime Minister Thaci. Sejdiu underlined Kosovo’s ambition to join NATO and the EU and to participate symbolically in ongoing operations with capabilities such as engineers or medical units.
23. NATO’s role in Kosovo had remained the same since 1999, according to the Commander of Kosovo Force (KFOR), Lt. General Markus Bentler: to provide a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for the citizens of Kosovo. Currently at a force strength of roughly 10,000 with contributions from 31 nations, KFOR was on a downward glide path that would lead to a drawdown to 5,500 troops and eventually to 2,500 troops when conditions permitted. The current force posture is referred to as “deterrent presence”.
24. Indeed, KFOR’s military tasks had largely been fulfilled, according to Bentler, and in what he referred to as “the last 100 meters”, the main tasks were to use a comprehensive approach (working with the other international organizations) under a largely reduced footprint to increasingly hand over responsibility to local institutions. These were making good progress, according to Bentler: Kosovo had adopted a national security strategy; the Kosovo police was proving increasingly competent; and stand-up of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) was on track. In addition, responsibility for the border with Albania had recently been transferred to the Kosovo border police, and according to Prime Minister Thaci, responsibility for the border with former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* would also soon be transferred. However, sustained security also now depended on progress in other areas (political and socio-economic reforms, protection of the environment, infrastructure development and the like), Bentler stressed.
25. KFOR was supporting the development of the KSF. The North Atlantic Council mandated KFOR to stand up a 2,500-strong non-military, all-volunteer, professional force within five years. The KSF had reached initial operational capability in September 2009. The KSF’s core tasks include de-mining, fire-fighting, and medical support, although the Pristina authorities have pushed for a more traditional military conception of the force; this ambition is not supported by KFOR’s mandate. Prime Minister Thaci stated that in any case, the KSF would be a multiethnic force that serves as a model for other security forces in the region.
26. With its drawdown, KFOR had moved to a more agile, mobile force posture based on Battle Groups of 1200-1500 soldiers unbound from geographic areas. This allowed KFOR to be present in appropriate strength at very short notice at any critical point in Kosovo.
27. This force structure was increasingly driven and enabled by intelligence. However, General Bentler warned that his capabilities in this area were endangered by the cancellation of a contract for a critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance asset. He suggested that as KFOR drew down, such assets were increasingly important, and that their absence could create an unnecessarily risk.
28. General Bentler further warned against uncoordinated or early drawdowns that were forcing KFOR to put into place alternative plans.
29. Prime Minister Thaci underlined that the drawdown of KFOR should be seen as an encouraging sign of the growing credibility of Kosovo’s own institutions of defence and security. However, both he President Sejdiu also insisted that any drawdown in the strength of KFOR be very progressive and take into account the growth of Kosovo’s own capabilities (including a clear definition of the role of the Kosovo Security Force) and conditions on the ground. President Sejdiu also expressed concern about partial, uncoordinated, or precipitous withdrawals of national contingents.
30. KFOR’s ‘success story’ provided some useful lessons for future operations, according to General Bentler. Several elements had been particularly important: a very clear mandate (in this case UN Security Council Resolution 1244); robust rules of engagement for the soldiers operating in a challenging environment; adequate resources to fulfil the mandate; and a perceived impartiality and neutrality, even if both sides sought to use KFOR for their own political advantage.
31. This was confirmed by Colonel Bellenger, who stressed that the key attributes for KFOR in his region were flexibility to respond to situations in any given place; excellent contacts with local officials and communities; and steadfast impartiality. General Bentler also noted that KFOR’s relations with the Serbian armed forces were very positive and included numerous joint and synchronized patrols. Serbia had however recently requested a renegotiation of the “Kumanovo agreement”, the military technical agreement concluded between KFOR and the Serbian government at the end of the Kosovo campaign.
E. THE ISSUE OF ‘UNFIXING’: THE PROTECTION OF SENSITIVE SITES
32. One particularly sensitive area of NATO effort has been its protection of sensitive sites, an arrangement that has been in place for over a decade. KFOR had been responsible for security at nine such cultural/religious sites in Kosovo.
33. The delegation met with Orthodox Bishop Teodosije at the Gracanica Monastery for an exchange of views about the ‘unfixing’ process whereby security for the remaining monasteries currently under KFOR protection would be transferred to Kosovo police responsibility. Indeed, Prime Minister Thaci had earlier suggested to the delegation that security responsibility for four Serbian Orthodox monasteries would soon be transferred from KFOR to the Kosovo Police.
34. The Bishop expressed gratitude for KFOR’s efforts, for example at Gracanica itself, which had been under KFOR protection for 11 years. However, he personally believed that no other institution other than KFOR was up to the task at this time, and that it was premature to discuss handing over security responsibilities for these sensitive sites.
35. Kosovo President Sejdiu asserted that Kosovo police would be able to protect these sites, particularly inasmuch as the sites themselves were part of Kosovo’s heritage and that therefore their protection was in the interest of all citizens. One particularly important site, the Gazimestan monument, had recently been handed over to the Kosovo police. The delegation toured the site and observed the security arrangements put in place, including fencing and video surveillance (donated by a NATO partner).
F. A COMPLICATED ENVIRONMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
36. Representatives of all the international organizations interviewed told the delegation that cooperation was excellent among them. For instance, KFOR supported EULEX’s law enforcement role with regular exchanges of information. Even as the organizations were largely drawing down their staff numbers (with the exception of EULEX), one observer suggested too many international officials remained in Kosovo; another observer also argued that international institutions in Kosovo should progressively move away from ad hoc structures and towards a regular, long-term presence, which can be considered as normal in a transition country. Better coordination between the UN, the EU and NATO in particular could eliminate some unnecessary redundancies.
37. International institutions in Kosovo were also divided as to their position on Kosovo’s status, with some officially adopting a status neutral position, others acting under a UN Security Council resolution 1244 mandate, and a third group clearly working to support Kosovo’s independent institutions. This situation made it difficult for the international community in Kosovo to speak with one voice.
38. Robert Wilton, Head of Political Affairs for the International Civilian Office (ICO), explained that the International Civilian Representative (ICR) in Kosovo had not, to date, had to use his in extremis corrective powers to ensure compliance with the Ahtisaari plan. With the main structures of a functioning state established and institutional and legislative structures in place, the ICO had shifted its focus to implementation and had been drawing down staff to a level of 250 as its mission moved towards completion.
39. The ICO’s Robert Wilton suggested Kosovo’s citizens were buying into the Pristina institutions, which he illustrated by referring to the election in Partesh/Partes, which saw 65% turnout; the strong participation of Kosovo Serbs in the election demonstrated that they have decided Pristina’s institutions have something to offer them, according to Wilton. Overall, Wilton said, Kosovo was increasingly not a ‘security’ issue but one of transition.
40. The fact that the ICR is also dual-hatted as the EU Special Representative, Wilton explained, has resulted in more focused international input, even if differing mandates can create challenges. Indeed, the ICO is a ‘statist committed’ organization, based on the Ahtisaari plan’s expectation of the establishment of an independent Kosovo. The EU, however, has no position on the status of Kosovo, given that five of its member states do not recognize its independence. The ICO’s draw down would occur even as the EU presence would remain, according to Wilton.
41. For its part, the UN presence in Kosovo had undergone a major reconfiguration with the deployment of the EULEX mission, according to Lamberto Zannier, Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). UNMIK’s key roles now had more to do with providing a conduit for cooperation and dialogue, in particular through its relations with key actors on sensitive issues, such as the Serb Orthodox Church. The mission’s ‘status-neutral’ status under UN Security Council resolution 1244 facilitated this role.
42. The OSCE mission in Kosovo has similarly evolved away from its original role in institution-building to place greater emphasis on developing local oversight and accountability of the executive branch, according to the organization’s Wilma THEUWS. This includes growing the capacities of the Kosovo Assembly; the independent media; as well as civil society to play a watchdog role. The footprint of the organization has decreased from 1,000 staff members two or three years ago to roughly 650 today.
43. OSCE officials suggested that legislative oversight of the executive branch was progressing but continued to face some difficulties. While the government recognized that the legislature should have a formal role, in practice cooperation is not always forthcoming; government ministers often ignore invitations to testify before the Assembly, for example. Understanding of the principles of oversight among parliamentarians also remained an issue.
44. The EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), reached full operational capability in April 2009, and had been working since throughout Kosovo, according to the head of EULEX, General Yves de Kermabon. He suggested the mission, which included roughly 2,000 internationals and 1,200 police officers, was achieving results against the tremendous problem of corruption. One such symbolic action was a highly publicized recent search of a minister’s home. He suggested that despite predictions to the contrary, acting in the interests of justice had not been politically destabilizing.
45. EULEX was also working on tens of thousands of pending cases; the situation in Mitrovica was particularly challenging, with some 30,000 unresolved cases. EULEX had conducted more than 600 hearings, and closed roughly 80 cases. This should be considered significant progress, even if the public had initially had unrealistic expectations of what was possible and how quickly. De Kermabon took it as a sign of increasing public confidence in the mission that EULEX was getting increasing numbers of tips regarding crimes.
46. EULEX continued to struggle to deliver rule of law in northern Kosovo, where it has not yet been possible to bring back local judges and special prosecutors. De Kermabon suggested that EULEX had reached the limit of what ‘technical’ action could accomplish in northern Kosovo, and that remaining blockages could only be resolved through political action. Regardless, the mission was seen positively by citizens in the north. Cooperation between EULEX and Serbian authorities worked, as long as it remained at a technical level, de Kermabon stated.
G. RELATIONS WITH BELGRADE AND THE WAY AHEAD
47. Many members of the delegation described dialogue with Belgrade as a necessity for making progress on the challenges in Kosovo. Pristina remained open to a direct dialogue with Belgrade on mutual concerns, the president stated, emphasizing that this would have to occur on a state-to-state level. Discussion on the status of Kosovo or on issues of territorial integrity were out of the question, he said. But topics such as free movement, organized crime, energy problems would all be useful areas for discussion.
48. Prime Minister Hashim Thaci similarly laid down red lines in any possible discussion with Belgrade. He stated that prolongation of the status quo in the north of Kosovo was unacceptable; that there was no turning back Kosovo’s statehood and that the territorial integrity of Kosovo was inviolable. Partition of Kosovo was out of the question, Sejdiu stated, warning of a possible domino effect in the region of such a move, as well as questions about the 2/3 of Kosovo Serbs not living in the north.
49. The delegation took away a sense that Kosovo was making progress, if haltingly, in a difficult situation. Major challenges persist, particularly in the north of Kosovo, where establishing effective rule of law has remained elusive. The disagreements between Pristina and Belgrade on the status of Kosovo continued to hamper cooperation on what would elsewhere be purely ‘technical’ matters. Corruption remained pervasive throughout Kosovo, although recent EULEX initiatives were beginning to bear fruit. KFOR’s role was universally praised, although both local and international officials warned against early or uncoordinated withdrawals.
III. BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA (BIH)
50. The delegation arrived in Sarajevo shortly after NATO, in keeping with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s high-level commitment to seek entry into NATO and the EU, had decided to extend BiH a conditional invitation to the Membership Action Plan (MAP). Further cooperation, on an Annual National Programme, would only be acted on by NATO once a key remaining issue concerning immovable defence property was resolved.
51. However, the delegation heard from nearly all interlocutors that the institutions which govern BiH are in paralysis and under increasing pressure. Pointed rhetorical threats between the ethnic communities that make up the state had contributed to a growing concern among experts that the unravelling of the country could not be excluded.
52. The constitution of BiH, adopted in the context of the Dayton agreement of 1995, is based on the principle of devolution of authority and decentralization, and sets up an extremely weak state level of government, with largely ethnically-based entities dominating the political space. Under the constitution, the entities – the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) and Republika Srpska (RS) – were given responsibility over critical areas such as defence and justice. All powers not explicitly given to the State level were reserved as the prerogative of the entities.
53. Fundamental disagreements between these entities on what the nature of the state should be1, and their ability to veto any state-level measure using a ‘vital interest’ clause, have prevented progress in a number of critical areas. One parliamentarian explained that, in the current system, even the most anodyne decisions had to be taken by consensus.
54. Another result of this institutional complexity is the multitude of bureaucratic layers at the state, entity, and canton levels. In many areas, each level has its own institutions (such as court systems), creating a bloated and extremely expensive governing apparatus.
55. The delegation heard two schools of thought on the basic reason for the political paralysis characterising BiH: while some were of the view that, as one diplomat put it, “the Dayton structures are impossible and don’t work,” others suggested that a general lack of political will to move forward was the real challenge. This message was echoed by several local officials who emphasized that “trust and confidence is more important than the Constitution” and that “functionality depends more on people than on paper”.
56. Regardless of the cause, generally speaking, Željko Komši?, Croat member of the Presidency of BiH, agreed with many interlocutors who called the state “dysfunctional.” Other Bosnian officials also expressed frustration at political blockages and the slow pace of reforms.
57. Some international observers suggested, however, that the political elites have little interest in reforming such a system, given the opportunities it provides them for political patronage.
A. A SUCCESS STORY: DEFENCE INSTITUTIONS
58. Since the Dayton Agreement, the international community has progressively sought to strengthen state-level authority. One important step in this direction came from reforms in 20042005, which moved towards state-level defence policy. With important support from NATO in particular, this process has succeeded in creating a defence sector (Ministry of Defence and armed forces), under the supreme command of the Presidency, that is seen as the most efficient state-level institution, as well as the best example of cross-ethnic cooperation in governance.
59. Lt.Gen. Miladin Milojcic, Chief of Joint Staff of BiH Armed Forces, told the delegation that the ethnic composition of the armed forces was balanced and that units were generally multi-ethnic, with the exception of infantry battalions within one designated brigade. He reported that multiethnic units deployed on operations had performed well and reported no problems within the units.
60. Nebojša Radmanovi?, the Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, stated that the extensive defence reforms suggested that BiH was indeed, at least to some extent, a “functioning” state. Indeed, members of the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina underlined this success, suggesting the Parliament itself had contributed to this process by passing key laws on defence. Parliament was focused on the fate of de-mobilized soldiers; the surpluses of obsolete weapons and ammunition; and the problem of defence property.
B. THE DEFENCE PROPERTY ISSUE: A SYMPTOM OF LARGER PROBLEMS
61. Ms. Marina Pendes, Deputy Minister of Defence, expressed confidence that her ministry would be successful in the effort to meet NATO’s condition that the 69 defence properties be registered as property of the Ministry of Defence, as requested by NATO. This was in line with the larger goal of eventual NATO and EU accession, she underlined.
62. Several other interlocutors suggested little would be possible on defence properties before the general elections scheduled in October, and perhaps for an extended period after that. The issue itself is entangled in a much broader power struggle involving many additional properties throughout BiH, with political actors at several levels seeking to prevent the establishment of a precedent that could potentially disadvantage their interests and are therefore blocking any definitive resolution.
C. NATO’S ROLE
63. NATO has played a key role in assisting defence reforms in BiH, according to Rohan Maxwell, Chief, Politico-Military Advisory Section, NATO HQ Sarajevo (NHQSa). The 120-person mission (soon to draw down to roughly 80) was the first security sector reform mission for the Alliance. It has provided extensive assistance and expertise to the drafting and implementation of laws and regulations regarding the establishment of the widely praised, multi-ethnic defence institutions. It also serves a monitoring and communication function in regards to the extensive obligations BiH undertook in joining NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) and other cooperative programs with the Alliance (and with the EU), ensuring appropriate feedback between Sarajevo and Brussels.
64. Local officials stressed the importance of NATO membership to the eventual internal cohesion of BiH, as well as its economic well-being (by encouraging foreign direct investment). Mr Komši? also argued that NATO membership means more to BiH than it does to other countries of the region; in his view, NATO membership was not only BiH’s goal but also a tool for achieving stability. While support for NATO membership in BiH is consistently high (roughly 75-76%), it differs dramatically across different parts of the country. Bosniaks and Bosno-Croats show support in the high 80s, while support among the population of Republika Serbska (RS) is in the mid-30s. However, one international observer suggested the ‘mixed messages’ coming from NATO regarding the conditions set for further cooperation have been discouraging to local advocates of membership.
65. In a demonstration of BiH’s commitment to NATO, the government had decided to send a 45-man unit to Afghanistan, Lt.Gen. Miladin Milojcic, Chief of Joint Staff of BiH Armed Forces, told the delegation. This would be an infantry unit slated to deploy to Regional Command South, tasked with the protection of a Danish base. The unit had completed its training, preparations made easier by the fact that the unit had been scheduled to go to Iraq in 2009, a deployment that was ultimately cancelled.
66. Bosnian defence officials also stressed that their country could, in time, contribute de-mining capabilities to the Alliance. Currently, the Bosnian armed forces were assisting with de-mining efforts in BiH which, at the current pace, should be completed by 2020.
67. Ms Pendes lamented the fact that the defence budget was at 1.2 % of GDP and constantly falling; this amount did not permit adequate training of the armed forces, as the majority of the budget is consumed by salaries and pensions. A larger defence budget would speed the process of NATO integration, she argued.
68. This issue was currently being discussed as part of the ongoing defence review. Bosnian defence officials informed the delegation that the Ministry of Defence had already completed 11 draft chapters and managed to reach agreement on a proposed new structure for the armed forces. Discussion now focused on the micro-organizational level. All documents would be ready by the end of July for presentation to the government and Parliament, they hoped, although they remained sceptical that political agreement could be reached quickly. International observers also warned that the defence review, and particularly the discussion on the structure of the armed forces, was yet another case of a technical issue turned highly political.
D. OTHER INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
69. EUFOR was the dominant military presence in BiH, according to its Commander Major General Berhard Bair, who told the delegation the deployment was intended to deny the conditions for resumption of violence and to provide a safe and secure environment. EUFOR also cooperates with NATO on security sector capacity building and training, and provides vital in-theatre support to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
70. General Bair suggested that there was an inherent risk in the 400,000 illegal weapons stored in Bosnian homes as well as the 20,000 tons of poorly stored surplus ammunition; a proper force posture was required under these conditions to maintain a safe and secure environment. Besides its maneuver forces and reserves, EUFOR deploys 38 liaison teams who live amongst the population and provide real-time information on relevant developments.
71. BiH was the only place where the NATO-EU ‘Berlin plus’ arrangements regarding the use of common assets actually existed, according to Bair, who suggested the cooperation worked very well and avoided unnecessary duplication. He called the relationship with NATO a model of mutually beneficial cooperation, particularly in the area of capacity building and training, a newly assigned task for EUFOR. According to General Bair, the EU had identified the minimum resources necessary to achieve maximum effects without duplicating existing initiatives.
72. For its part, the OSCE mission in BIH had a broad and robust mandate, according to Ambassador Gary Robbins, who informed members that his organization had the second largest deployment in country, with 14 offices in the field and a Sarajevo headquarters. Among the OSCE’s activities are efforts in the ‘soft’ fields of rule of law and education, as well as parliamentary oversight of the security sector, but also ‘hard’ activities such as the destruction of surplus ammunition.
73. The Office of the High Representative (OHR), who under the Dayton agreement has very strong executive powers including the right to promulgate laws or annul them and appoint or dismiss any and all elected officials, has been in ‘closing mode’ for four years, according to the OHR’s Stefan Simosas. A staff that in 2000 had numbered 800 people was now down to 160. Closure of the OHR would be conducted in conjunction with a parallel build-up of the EU Special Representative’s office, which was currently being restructured in accordance with the Lisbon Treaty’s provisions. While the executive powers of the OHR were the one external mechanism that could conceivably break through the institutional paralysis in BiH, according to one observer, national capitals had been reluctant to support their extensive use.
E. LOOKING AHEAD
74. Observers warned that the Dayton structures were failing; but none were ready to countenance living with failure of the Bosnian state altogether. Recent high level efforts by the international community to jump-start a fundamental constitutional reform process had failed to achieve a meaningful consensus on the way forward.
75. Further discussion of constitutional reform was impossible before the general elections in early October, local observers agreed. A Bosnian Serb member suggested that sudden movement on this issue could jeopardize what progress has been made.
76. The delegation’s discussions highlighted that future constitutional talks will have to address radically diverging views among Bosnian leaders, both regarding the extent of the revision (minimal vs. comprehensive) and the substance of new arrangements (powers of the central state vs. the entities, consensus vs. majority decisions). One Bosnian parliamentarian summarized the challenge posed by constitutional reform: BiH was still in a “confidence building” phase, he said, and therefore certain guarantees were justified; at the same time, however, the country needed efficient institutions able to make decisions and deliver.
77. Bosnian parliamentarians informed the delegation that a special extra-parliamentary working group would be set up to prepare options for constitutional reform. Among other issues, the working group will have to address the December 2009 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, which concluded that current provisions regarding the election to the Presidency and to the House of People violated the anti-discrimination clauses of the European Convention on Human Rights.
79. It was also suggested to the delegation that the successes of security sector reform would likely fall apart without continued support from the international community. Despite the challenges, continued assistance to BiH was a necessity, not a luxury, according to this view. Other observers similarly described BiH 15 years after the war as still a ‘young’ country, deeply traumatized by conflict, that had not yet turned the page on the politics of fear; in this situation, moral support was even more important than financial assistance, it was argued.
80. While most local officials were grateful for the support provided over the years by the international community and recognized that continued assistance was necessary in order to support domestic reforms, the delegation also heard expressions of frustration with certain aspects of the current framework, particularly the extensive powers of the OHR. In this regard, suggestions that a referendum on the Dayton arrangements could be organized in Republika Srpska had to be taken very seriously, international officials warned.
81. Economically speaking, BiH was blessed with a skilled workforce and excellent stores of natural resources, according to a member of the BiH Parliament; these had been exploited before the war and should once again be tapped. However, the economy required additional investments from the outside; the banking sector was entirely foreign, with very high interest rates discouraging entrepreneurship. The economy was weighed down by a ratio of one pensioner and one unemployed person to one worker.
82. Overall, many local officials pointed to Euro-Atlantic integration as the potential answer to their internal political divisions and economic problems. However, lack of progress on reforms has prevented closure of the OHR, a pre-condition for further integration with the EU; BiH was the only country in the region which had not yet submitted an application for EU membership. Members of the delegation, citing the slow pace of progress, expressed scepticism about prospects of NATO (or the EU) opening its doors fully in the near future to an applicant with so many unresolved challenges. Some observers and local officials suggested that the credibility of the Euro-atlantic accession process was fading in BiH, with local advocates losing faith over time that capitals will wish to break through ‘enlargement fatigue’ with many other pressing issues on the agenda.
* Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.