Documents considered by the Committee on 16 March 2011 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

8 EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina


Council Decision concerning restrictive concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Legal baseArticle 29 TEU; unanimity
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationEM of 11 March 2011 and Minister's letter of 14 February 2011
Previous Committee ReportNone; but see (31859) —: HC 428-i (2010-11), chapter 66 (8 September 2010) and (30489) —: HC 19-xiv (2008-09), chapter 11 (22 April 2009)
To be discussed in Council21 March 2011
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


8.1 The internationally brokered Dayton Peace Agreement ended the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).[42] It established BiH as a state comprising two Entities, each with a high degree of autonomy: the Republika Srpska (RS) and the Federation (FBiH).

8.2 The Agreement also designated the Office of the High Representative (OHR) as the chief civilian peace implementation agency in BiH, to oversee the implementation of the civilian aspects of the Peace Agreement on behalf of the international community. He or she is also tasked with co-ordinating the activities of the civilian organisations and agencies operating in the Bosnia and Herzegovina.[43]

8.3 The Peace Implementation Council (PIC) — 55 countries and international organisations that sponsor and direct the peace implementation process — oversees these arrangements. The PIC Steering Board nominates the High Representative (HR); the UN Security Council, (which approved the Dayton Agreement and the deployment of international troops in BiH) then endorses the nomination. On a day to day basis, a Board of Principals, chaired by the HR, serves as the main coordinating body. Its permanent members are OHR, EUFOR, NATO HQ Sarajevo, OSCE, UNHCR, EUPM and the Commission. International financial institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF and the UNDP are also regular participants. From the outset the HR has been "double-hatted" as EU Special Representative (EUSR).

8.4 The longstanding goal has always been for BiH to work its way towards European accession. The most recent major step forward was the signing in June 2008 of BiH's Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA). Then, according to plan, the OHR would have been wound up and there would then be only the EUSR, acting in his normal capacity, working with the local community in implementing the SAA. But things have not gone according to plan.

8.5 Prior to this transition, the BiH authorities need to deliver five objectives (well established, approved by the PIC SB and all previously recognized by BiH authorities as obligations) revolving around creating a sustainable, multi-ethnic, democratic, law-based State, and to fulfil two conditions — signing of the SAA, and a positive assessment of the situation in BiH by the PIC SB based on full compliance with the Dayton Agreement. These "Five Objectives and Two Conditions" are far from either delivery or fulfilment; on the contrary.

8.6 When we considered the renewal of the present EUSR at our meeting on 8 September 2011, we noted then the Minister for Europe's (Mr David Lidington) great concern about the situation in BiH, where, he said, reform progress had been slow and there were high levels of ethnic nationalist rhetoric. Elections were scheduled to be held in BiH on 3 October. The EUSR would therefore have a key role over the next twelve months, working to focus pre-election debate on the reforms necessary for further EU integration and to encourage BiH's political leaders to work constructively together on achieving these reforms. The EUSR would then be at the centre of the EU's crucial early engagement with a new government in BiH after elections. The EUSR would continue his outreach and communication programme in BiH, in order to further communicate the benefits of EU accession and the nature of the accession process to the general public in BiH. The Government strongly supported this work.

8.7 According to the OHR website, in a recent keynote speech to an international conference in Graz, the High Representative and EUSR for BiH, Valentin Inzko, said that BiH is not going to be integrated in Europe under present circumstances and went on to speak as follows:

"Noting that the members of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board are committed to securing Bosnia and Herzegovina's full recovery and integration in Europe, the HR/EUSR said that the OHR — as long as it exists — can work in harmony with the reinforced EU presence that is now being developed.

"He said that, as it moves centre-stage, the EU will assume 'a responsibility that will affect the lives and the future prospects of four million people.' He added that, as the 'toolkit' for the EU presence is developed, it should be remembered that this office will not simply be representational; it will play a key role in engineering the final transition of Bosnia and Herzegovina and, by doing this, it will facilitate the transition of the region as a whole.

"Until domestic mechanisms are established that will deal effectively with the problem of obstructionism it is hard to see how OHR's role can reasonably be abandoned,' he said, adding that, while 'vital national interest' is a common political mantra, the civic interest of all Bosnians and Herzegovinians cannot be ignored. For over a decade the OHR has protected the interests of BiH citizens; the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina must have the capacity to protect its citizens in the same way."[44]

The Minister's letter of 14 February 2011

8.8 The EUSR's remarks are at one with the Minister's letter of 14 February 2011, in which he notified the Committee of discussion that he envisaged would take place at the 21 February 2011 Foreign Affairs Council.

8.9 The Minister began by saying that he remained very concerned about the situation: coalition negotiations following last autumn's elections had so far failed to deliver new governments at the State and Federation-entity levels; there had been almost complete lack of progress on EU-related and other important reforms; and provocative and nationalist rhetoric was on the rise. He said that a more proactive EU role was needed to continue to press clearly and firmly for progress. However, with stability not firmly embedded, now was, he said, not the time to give up the internationally-mandated executive powers at the disposal of the international community (i.e., the ICR and the EU military force EUFOR Operation Althea).[45] His approach would therefore be:

  • the EU presence in BiH to be reinvigorated and reinforced: EUSR and Commission Head of Delegation roles to be combined, and the EUSR mandate reinforced to include the ability to make use of both the incentives provided by the EU accession process and certain restrictive measures, such as travel restrictions and asset or funding freezes (yet to be defined but the Government would press for the strongest possible "EU toolbox");
  • the High Representative and his executive powers to be maintained in an ongoing OHR, separate (or "decoupled") from the EU presence and perhaps eventually located outside BiH. PIC conditionality for the eventual closure of the OHR would continue to apply. Close co-ordination mechanisms would be needed to ensure that the EU and OHR worked together and co-ordinated the application of their respective powers. The Government would press firmly for this in negotiation;
  • the executive (Chapter VII) mandate of EUFOR Operation Althea to be maintained, even if EU troop draw-downs meant that this executive mandate needed to be serviced by fewer troops on the ground.

8.10 The Minister concluded by saying that he understood that such a package would be tabled by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (Baroness Ashton) and Enlargement Commissioner Füle, which the UK had "very proactively shaped", working closely within the PIC to maintain the conditionality in respect of the eventual closure of the OHR, and of which he would "therefore be strongly supportive."

The draft Council Decision

8.11 The preamble to the draft Council Decision notes that:

—  on 14 December 2010, the Council confirmed its determination to support the Dayton/Paris General Framework Agreement for Peace and its readiness to consider proposals to strengthen the EU's ability to engage effectively with Bosnia and Herzegovina in this regard;

—  in this context, restrictive measures should be imposed against certain natural and legal persons whose activities undermine the sovereignty, territorial integrity, constitutional order and international personality of Bosnia and Herzegovina, seriously threaten the security situation or undermine the General Framework Agreement for Peace and the Annexes thereto.

8.12 The Council Decision obliges Member States to take the necessary measures to prevent the entry into, or transit through, their territories of such persons, and provides the basis for all funds and economic resources belonging to, owned, held or controlled by such persons and natural or legal persons and bodies associated with them, as listed in the Annex, to be frozen.

The Government's view

8.13 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 11 March 2011, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) explains that the procedures for designating individuals are fully compliant with fundamental rights: individuals may only be listed where evidence exists that they are engaged in the activities listed under Article 1 of the draft Decision, and would be entitled to challenge the implementation or application of such a ban in the General Court of the European Union; and, in addition, Member States may grant exemptions from the measures for specified reasons including, inter alia, where travel is justified on the grounds of urgent humanitarian need.

8.14 The Minister reiterates his concern over the failure of coalition negotiations following last autumn's elections to deliver new governments at the State and Federation-entity levels; an almost complete lack of progress on EU-related and other important reforms; and a rise of provocative and nationalist rhetoric, especially during last year's election campaign.

8.15 He goes on to say that:

"A clear and united international community voice is needed to press clearly and firmly for progress. To this end, the EU needs to take on a more proactive role in BiH. This will allow it to maximise the incentives provided by BiH's EU perspective and future accession process and — where necessary — to use deterrents and take decisive action to address blockages and threats to stability.

"In addition to the EU policy instruments already in place or being considered to address the potential risks and challenges that BiH might face, restrictive measures are being developed."

"The possibility of imposing restrictive measures is part of a broader comprehensive EU strategy, alongside other EU instruments such as political facilitation, IPA financing, the monitoring and support of reform progress through bodies established by the SAA/IA and the two EU missions on the ground, namely EUFOR Operation Althea and the EU Police Mission.

"The proposals received broad support from Ministers at the February FAC, with plans for a more detailed discussion at the March FAC. In line with this approach, in our subsequent discussions since the February FAC, the Government has pressed for the strongest possible restrictive measures and incentives for progress."

8.16 Finally, the Minister notes that the Council Decision is due to be adopted at Foreign Affairs Council on 21 March 2011.


8.17 We are reporting this development to the House because of the degree of interest in developments in the western Balkans.

8.18 As the Minister indicates in both his letter and EM (and as also indicated by the HR/EUSR), these restrictive measures are but part of a wider package of changes to the longstanding arrangements, the outline of which is not entirely clear and the details of which have yet to be negotiated.

8.19 We should therefore be grateful if the Minister would continue to keep the Committee informed. As the Council Decision will require an "implementing" Council Regulation, his EM thereon might provide an opportunity to inform the Committee about the nature and outcome of the discussion that he envisages at the 21 March 2011 Foreign Affairs Council. In due course, we also look forward to his EM on the proposed new EUSR mandate broadly outlined in his letter.

8.20 In the meantime, we now clear the document.

42   See for full information on the GFAP. Back

43   See for full information about the OHR. Back

44   See for this summary and for the full text. Back

45   On 2 December 2004 the European Union (EU) launched an EU-led military operation in BiH - Operation EUFOR Althea, as part of the Common Security and Defence Policy in support of BiH. The UN Security Council authorized EUFOR Althea as a legal successor to SFOR, the previous NATO led operation. UN Security Council Resolution 1948 (2010) extended the mandate of EUFOR Althea until November 2011. Operation Althea's job is to provide a military presence in order to contribute to the safe and secure environment, deny conditions for a resumption of violence and manage any residual aspect of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in BiH (also known as Dayton/Paris Agreement). At the moment, EUFOR deploys around 1,600 troops in theatre that can be reinforced by troops from the NATO Mission in Kosovo (KFOR) and additional "Over the Horizon Forces". See for full information on EUFOR Althea.


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Prepared 24 March 2011