From Dayton implementation to European integration

Javier Solana assesses the significance of the deployment of EUFOR and considers how the European Union can assist Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European integration.

Fast forward: With the termination of SFOR and the deployment of EUFOR, Bosnia and Herzegovina is entering a new phase in its post-war reconstruction (© OHR)

The best part of a decade has elapsed since the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a conflict that dominated international affairs in the first half of the 1990s, left more than 200,000 people dead and forced half of the country's population from their homes. While some wounds are yet to fully heal, the process of reconciliation, reconstruction and return has come a long way. The country is now at peace. Most of what was destroyed has been repaired. And people who once fled for their lives have returned in impressive numbers.

Clearly, the NATO role has been crucial. Through the Implementation Force (IFOR) and the Stabilisation Force (SFOR), the Alliance has underpinned international efforts, often under difficult circumstances, to help the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina to build a stable, unified, and democratic state. All those who have contributed to this NATO effort can today be proud of what has been achieved.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is now preparing to enter a new phase in its post-war reconstruction, moving beyond Dayton implementation towards European integration. During this new phase, the focus will increasingly be on the future, not the past. It will undoubtedly be a challenging time. The journey is long and complicated. Reforms in a multitude of sectors are required, and all the country's resources must be mobilised. But there is no reason to despair. The countries in Central and Eastern Europe have shown both that it is possible to reach the final destination and that the process of getting there can sometimes be as important as the event of joining itself.

As the European Union assumes greater responsibilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it needs to cooperate closely with its partners

On the EU side, the next step in Bosnia and Herzegovina's process of rapprochement is a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. Such agreements, including provisions for upgraded political dialogue and cooperation in a multitude of areas, have already been concluded with two countries in the Western Balkans region: the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* and Croatia. Negotiations are ongoing with Albania. We hope the conditions to begin negotiations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina will be met soon.

At the same time as Bosnia and Herzegovina is entering this new phase, the international presence in the country is undergoing an important transition. The European Union has decided to launch Operation Althea after the termination of NATO's SFOR on 2 December. This EU-led operation will have roughly the same force levels as the departing Stabilisation Force. It will have the same core mandate: to contribute to a safe and secure environment. And just like NATO, the EU force will have robust rules of engagement based on Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Together with the European Union's already substantial engagement in other areas, this operation will form part of a comprehensive EU approach: an approach designed to assist Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet the new and complex challenges as it moves from Dayton implementation towards European integration.

One part of this comprehensive approach is the EU political commitment. The first important step towards European integration is the Stabilisation and Association Process. But in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is also the growing day-to-day political engagement. The High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lord Ashdown, is also the EU Special Representative. He is the one who has been tasked to ensure coordination of the various EU components in the country.

Another part of the comprehensive approach is the EU economic commitment. The European Commission and the EU Member States have provided well over €4 billion in assistance since the beginning of the conflict. As the country makes progress towards the European Union, more and more of the EU assistance will be geared towards advanced institution-building and technical help with adjustment to EU standards. In line with the commitments made at the 2003 EU Western Balkans Summit in Thessaloniki, a country specific European Partnership has been elaborated. So-called twinning projects are being extended through the CARDS assistance programme, and participation in a series of EU Community Programmes is being opened to Bosnia and Herzegovina and its neighbours in the Western Balkans.

The EU engagement in police matters is the third part of the comprehensive approach. In addition to Operation Althea, there is the civilian EU Police Mission, which was the first ever operation within the framework of the European Security and Defence Policy when it was launched in January 2003. Following the UN-led International Police Task Force, approximately 500 police officers monitor, mentor, and advise their Bosnian colleagues to help them improve standards and strengthen the rule of law.

As the European Union assumes greater responsibilities, it needs to cooperate closely with its partners. There is no doubt that this will be the case in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As far as NATO is concerned, we will in the coming years be working literally side by side in the security field.

First, because the EU-led Operation Althea has been prepared in close consultation with NATO. As was the case last year with Operation Concordia in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,* this operation will be conducted under the “Berlin-Plus” arrangements, by which the European Union has access to NATO common assets and capabilities.

Second, because the NATO engagement is not coming to an end. Even after the SFOR flag has been lowered and the EUFOR flag hoisted, the Alliance will retain a military headquarters. The main task of this headquarters will be to continue to assist the Bosnian authorities in the area of defence reform and preparation for joining the Partnership for Peace Programme. The headquarters of Operation Althea will, as was the case with SFOR, be located at Camp Butmir in Sarajevo. The European Union and NATO will also work together on some important issues, such as providing support to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

As Secretary General of NATO, one of my first responsibilities was to oversee the deployment of IFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina, NATO's first major peace-support operation. As EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, I look forward to seeing the EU-led mission building on the achievements of the NATO operations. I also look forward to working closely together with the Alliance in the future, while assisting in the best possible way the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina as their country moves out of the era of Dayton into that of Brussels.

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