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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bosnia: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

Steven Woehrel
Specialist in European Affairs

In recent years, many analysts have expressed concern that the international community's efforts since 1995 to stabilize Bosnia are beginning to come apart. They noted that the downward trend has been especially evident since 2006, with the election of leaders with starkly divergent goals. Milorad Dodik, Prime Minister of the Republika Srpska (RS), one of the two semi-autonomous "entities" within Bosnia, has obstructed efforts to make Bosnia's central government more effective and has at times asserted the RS's right to secede from Bosnia. Efforts to reform Bosnia's constitution have made little progress. 

There has been a debate about the future role of the international community in Bosnia. The Office of the High Representative (OHR), chosen by leading countries and international institutions, oversees implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia. An EU peacekeeping force, called EUFOR, is charged with keeping the peace in Bosnia and overseeing the Bosnian armed forces. The international community has vowed to close OHR after Bosnia meets a series of reform objectives, ending direct international oversight. After OHR's closure, international support for Bosnian reforms would be limited to aid and advice from the United States, European Union, NATO, and other institutions, with the prospect of eventual NATO and EU membership. An EU Special Representative (EUSR) would remain in Bosnia, although the post would likely have a smaller staff than OHR. In addition, it would likely be limited to an advisory and reporting role, lacking OHR's powers to veto legislation and remove local officials. 

There has been pressure within the EU to scale back EUFOR, which has a current strength of about 2,100 troops. Citing the improved security situation in Bosnia, France and other EU countries have called for EUFOR to be sharply reduced in size and limited to an advisory function. However, in January 2010, the EU did not agree on a reduction, perhaps out of concern about the lack of progress on reforms in Bosnia. 

Some observers are concerned that the combination of increasing internal tension within Bosnia and a declining international role could seriously set back over a decade of peace in Bosnia, perhaps leading to violence and the destabilization of the region as a whole. They call for greater international engagement in Bosnia, including an increase in EUFOR's capabilities and strong powers for the EUSR, if OHR leaves. The United States has strongly supported Bosnia's integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. However, the U.S. role in the country has declined in recent years as the EU role has increased. 

Date of Report: January 26, 2010
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: R40479
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