Despite unity of purpose, EU has failed to respond credibly to the continuing instability in Bosnia and Herzogovina. The fragility of domestic politics undercuts its conditionality leverage.
The EU’s policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina is in limbo. The EU remains fairly united, with member states pursuing the dual goal of establishing functional statehood and integrating the country. Yet they have failed to produce any fresh thinking as to how to build bridges between the Republika Srpska leadership and Bosnian parties or how to push the Bosnian-Croat entity to rein in its public finances. In 2010, the EU backtracked on its earlier policy geared towards an overhaul of the constitution, via the so-called Butmir process. As a result, the stalemate has continued, at a time when neighbouring Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro are making confident strides towards the EU.
The general elections on 3 October led to a reshuffle in the Bosnian camp, with the moderate Bakir IIzetbegović winning a seat in the three-member collective presidency. They also confirmed the multiethnic Social Democratic Party as the strongest force in the Bosnian-Croat entity. This in turn has reinforced hopes for fresh movement on the accession track, in turn strengthening the EU’s hand. However, government formation at the state level has proven difficult. There are pressing issues such as the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights decision on constituent peoples or the registration of state property that exacerbate divisions. The EU dedicated €50 million for political programmes in 2010.
Overall, the EU has lost another year without being able to carry out the transition from the Office of High Representative to an EU Special Representative (EUSR) with a more limited range of powers, an objective that was put forward as far back as 2006. The EU has failed to appoint a new OHR/EUSR to replace Valentin Inzko, although it has repeatedly indicated that it will despatch a heavyweight from within its ranks. The EU’s effectiveness is still dependent on the level of cooperation with the US (see component 34) as well as the application of its crisis-management toolbox (see component 65).