Saturday, April 12, 2008


BRUSSELS, Belgium (April 12,2008) - The European Union welcomed yesterday the approval by the Bosnian State Parliament of a long-awaited police reform bill, calling it a "major step forward" towards the country's EU membership.

Reforming Bosnia's ethnically-divided police force is one of several key measures required by Brussels of Sarajevo in order to sign a pre-membership document known as a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA).

"Yesterday's adoption of the police reform laws represents a major step forward towards the signature of the SAA with the EU," said Krisztina Nagy, spokeswoman of the EU executive's enlargement commission.

"The commission is pleased that the elected representatives of Bosnia have listened to the voices of their citizens in favour of European integration, prosperity and progress," she added.

Nagy said the commission would start assessing Bosnia's overall prospects of signing the SAA as soon as the police reform bill received its final approval in the Bosnian Parliament's upper-house.

The International Community's High Representative and EU Special Representative in Bosnia, Miroslav Lajčák said yesterday that he is certain the European Union will sign a pre-membership agreement with Bosnia in the coming weeks now that its Parliament is adopting important police reform laws.

On Thursday evening, the lower house of the Bosnian State Parliament passed a compromise proposal for police reforms that Lajcak helped design. That ended years of discussion about how to integrate the country's two existing, ethnically divided police forces.

The reform package still must be approved by the upper house of Parliament, but little opposition is expected when it votes Monday.

Lajcak congratulated those who worked hard to reach a compromise for the sake of a better future for Bosnia and said he hopes the upper house will follow suit.

The EU had set the police reform as a condition for the signing of the pre-membership Stabilization and Association Agreement with Bosnia and will now review the details of the adopted bill to ensure it complies with the standards the EU has set.

Before the EU approves the signing of the agreement with Bosnia it also will assess whether the country properly fulfilled other conditions, including its laws on public broadcasting and public administration and whether it is cooperating with the international war crimes tribunal, EU spokeswoman Krisztina Nagy said in Brussels.

Pending the adoption of the police reform by the upper house of Parliament and the EU's positive assessment of Bosnia's progress, the pre-membership agreement could be signed in late April or early May. If properly implemented, the agreement is the gateway to candidate status.

Slovenia said it warmly welcomes the police reform in Bosnia, which "should allow the country to further progress on the path toward EU integration."

Reforms in Bosnia are slow because of the complex setup of the country.

The peace agreement that ended three and a half years of war in 1995 divided the country into a Serb Republic and a Bosniak-Croat Federation, each with its own police force. The EU demanded a unified force which led to four years of debate among Bosnia's divided politicians.

The political representatives of the Serbians living in Bosnia have long refused to agree to a merger of the two police forces, fearing it might lead to the loss of their genocidal creature in Bosnia "RS". Bosnians, on the other hand, demanded an unified Bosnian police force.

The EU said a way must be found to at least make the police more effective, free from political influence and financed from the state budget.

The compromise approved Thursday does not foresee the merger of the two existing police forces in Bosnia but establishes seven bodies that will coordinate police work and integrate some areas such as education or forensics.

Some Bosnian lawmakers argue the compromise offers only "cosmetic" changes to the existing structure and that it was designed to satisfy the EU but not improve security in Bosnia.

However, for the sake of moving closer to European Union membership, lawmakers adopted the police reform.

The state control over local police agencies will be launched only after Bosnia agrees on the future organisation of the country in accordance to a new constitution.

Croatia is the only western Balkan nation trying to join the EU that may be ready before the end of the decade, according to a recent EU report. Bosnia will need at least five years to prepare itself economically and politically.

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