Bosnia prepares for unified police force
by Bakir Rahmanovic, Sarajevo
The international community’s High Representative to Bosnia Paddy Ashdown has rebuffed Bosnian Serb objections to police reforms by presenting his detailed plans for an ethnically united police force for post-war Bosnia. Bosnia is divided into two entities, the Bosnian Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and the Croat-and Bosniak-dominated Federation. Bosnia is the only country in Europe that does not have a state-level police apparatus. The new police force will be divided into nine regions, plus one central force and one strictly for the capital, Sarajevo. According to the plan, these forces will ignore entity boundaries and sometimes cross entity lines. ‘The proposed plan is a huge improvement over the current fractured and fragmented situation. It will also mean huge cost savings from today’s overstaffed and inefficient set-up,’ Ashdown said in a statement. For now, the plan does not discuss the possibility of abolishing the entities’ separate interior ministries, a decision that Ashdown has left up to the B-H state parliament, which has been considering the issue for two months. The idea is that if the separate entity ministries can work together in the redefined police force, across entity lines, there may be no need to disband the ministries in favour of one state ministry. The RS government had resigned in December 2004, in protest over Ashdown’s proposed police reforms - reforms they view as being tantamount to the end of the Bosnian Serb entity. The complete proposal will be sent to the central government and parliament for discussion. It is likely that Bosnian Serb representatives in those institutions will reject the proposal. The EU has set police reform as a key requirement for Bosnia's further progress towards the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), the first step towards EU membership. EU leaders believe that the disunity of the police force in Bosnia has both failed to prevent and potentially fostered organized crime, graft, and human and drug trafficking in the country. The Chief of the EU Police Mission (EUPM) in Bosnia, Kevin Carty, said the existing police forces in Bosnia did not have the capacity to fight crime, while Ashdown’s proposal of nine new cross-entity regions would create a police force with better coordination and resources. ‘Bosnia is a transit [route] for drugs smuggling and human trafficking. Criminals are not limited by [entity] borders, therefore, the police should not be limited by entities,’ he said in a statement.
Report issued by ISN Security Watch, 1 February 2005