8 November 2007
Dear friends of ESI,
Yesterday the deputy prime minister of Serbia travelled to Brussels to initial a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the European Union. A few days earlier (31 October) the European Union announced that the same would not be possible for Bosnia and Herzegovina because of the country's failure to agree on a police reform that would conform to "European standards". As a result Bosnia now finds itself at the very end of the queue moving towards distant EU membership: behind Croatia, Turkey, Macedonia, but also behind Albania, Montenegro and Serbia.
As tensions rise in the Balkans the exercise of European soft power remains central to the stability of the region. However, as recent events show it would be a mistake to take it for granted. The way the international community is currently acting in Bosnia is decreasing, not increasing prospects for stability.
Today Bosnia is engulfed by a bitter power struggle between the OHR and the Bosnian Serb authorities. This came to a head when the Bosnian prime minister Nikola Spiric resigned recently arguing that "it doesn't matter if I am the head of that state, or Bart Simpson." It is also, as we argue in a new ESI discussion paper - The worst in class - how the international protectorate hurts the European future of Bosnia and Herzegovina - an unnecessary quarrel.
Our paper looks at numerous myths surrounding the issue of Bosnian police reform: the notion that Bosnia has an overwhelming problem with organised crime (for which there is little evidence); that there is an absence of Bosnian police structures at the level of the central state (which is on longer true); and that opposition to current international proposals means opposition to European standards of policing (which is disputed by the most serious EU-funded study of the issue).
As a way out of the current crisis a transparent debate on all aspects of police reform is required. In the meantime, we urge the EU to rethink its policy of holding up the signature of an SAA with Bosnia over an issue where Bosnia has made significantly more progress than many of its neighbours, including Serbia.
New Turkish Policy Quarterly on Central Eurasia
While ESI senior analyst Nigar Goksel undertakes research in Armenia and Georgia she also still finds time to edit a new version of Turkish Policy Quarterly: this time the topic is Faultlines Emerging in Central Eurasia.
Rumeli Observer: www.geraldknaus.eu blog
As a recent Open Society Fellow. I am supposed to give presentations on a variety of topics across Europe in the coming 12 months. Next week there will be two presentations in Berlin, one (in German) on Turkey and another (in English) on Empire or Enlargement: The EU, Kosovo and Bosnia. If you are around, please drop in.
I also launched an Open Society Fellow blog - the Rumeli Observer. Recent topics included the gatecrashing principle and Albanian pre-accession diplomacy, the perils of speaking the truth in Serbia and the self-confidence of the Serbian Radical Party. If you are interested please join me and provide feedback.