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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bosnia and Herzegovina: 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 over the past 17 years to stabilize Bosnia and Herzegovina are failing. Milorad Dodik, president 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. He has repeatedly asserted the RS’s right to secede from Bosnia, although he has so far refrained from trying to make this threat a reality. Some ethnic Croat leaders in Bosnia have called for more autonomy for Croats within Bosnia, perhaps threatening a further fragmentation of the country.

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. It has the power to fire Bosnian officials and impose laws, if need be, to enforce the Dayton Accords. However, the international community has proved unwilling in recent years to back the High Representative in using these powers boldly, fearing a backlash among Bosnian Serb leaders. As a result, OHR has become increasingly ineffective, according to many observers. The international community has vowed to close OHR after Bosnia meets a series of five objectives and two conditions.

The EU’s main inducement to enlist the cooperation of Bosnian leaders—the prospect of eventual EU membership—has so far proved insufficient. The prospect of NATO membership has also had little effect. In April 2010, NATO foreign ministers agreed to permit Bosnia to join the Membership Action Plan (MAP) program, a key stepping-stone to membership for NATO. However, the ministers stressed that NATO will not accept Bosnia’s Annual National Plan under the program until the entities agree to the registration of defense installations as the property of the central government. Dodik has rejected doing so for installations on RS territory.

The U.S. political role in the country appears to have declined in recent years as the EU role has increased. The Obama Administration has stressed the importance of maintaining a close partnership with the EU in dealing with Bosnia. Like the EU, the United States has urged Bosnian politicians to agree among themselves to constitutional and other reforms to make Bosnia’s government institutions more effective and better coordinated, so that the country can become a better candidate for eventual NATO and EU membership.

The United States provided just over $2 billion in aid to Bosnia from the country’s independence through FY2012. Aid to Bosnia has declined in recent years. For FY2013, the Administration requested $28.556 million in aid for political and economic reforms in Bosnia from the Economic Support Fund, $6.735 million in the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement account (INCLE), $4.5 million in FMF, $1 million in IMET aid, and $4.75 million in NADR funding.

Date of Report: January 24, 2013
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R40479
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