The EU’s reduced military and police presence has not been enough to resolve outstanding political tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but these tensions have not spilled over into violence.
The EU retains primary responsibility for security in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), with around 1,600 troops and a police mission in the country, whose combined budgets total €37 million. However, both missions have shrunk in recent years and the police mission is slated to close in December 2011. The EU’s priorities include tackling organised crime and contributing to defence sector reform. European powers also have leverage over BiH through NATO, as rationalising the country’s defence systems – which were divided on ethnic lines after the civil war – is a precondition for NATO membership.
In 2010, the EU force in Bosnia did not face any direct security challenges. NATO and the EU were frustrated by their failure to persuade Bosnian Serb politicians (who want to secede from BiH) to move forward on defence sector reform. NATO offered BiH conditional agreement of its Membership Action Plan (MAP) in April, but the Bosnian Serbs refused to transfer ownership of defence-related properties to the federal government. The EU’s advocacy of a tough line against organised crime paid some dividends, with Bosnian police conducting major waves of crime raids in the early summer and early autumn.
Some analysts argue that the EU military and police missions have outlived their usefulness, and in January 2010 the European Council directed the EU force to concentrate on building up BiH’s own capacities. The primary challenge for the EU is to find a political strategy to persuade the Bosnian Serbs to put aside hopes of secession and work with the Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats towards NATO and EU accession. At the end of 2010, plans for a strong EU delegation in Sarajevo were in the works. In the meantime, the EU’s contribution to BiH’s security has not translated into sufficient political leverage over the Bosnian Serbs to resolve the political problems left over from the 1990s.