Thursday, April 17, 2008


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (April 17,2008) – The Bosnian Parliament’s House of Peoples has approved yesterday two critical police reform laws, taking the country one step further in its EU accession process. After this legislation was approved last week by the Bosnian Parliament's House of Representatives, all conditions have been fulfilled for Bosnia to sign the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU, considered the first step towards the EU membership.

The two laws establish a number of coordinating and supervising bodies in line with EU requirements.

The legislation does not insist on a greater centralisation of Bosnia’s state, entity and local police forces, but includes a compromise amendment stipulating that further reforms will be made pending eventual future constitutional changes.

EU officials said the EU will analyse adopted legislation and if satisfied will offer Bosnia to sign the SAA agreement, which could happen already by the end of May.

The EU Police Mission in Bosnia (EUPM) head, Italian Brigadier General Vincenzo Coppola also commended the adoption of police reform laws.

The decision, Coppola said, "not only moves the country out of the police reform deadlock as a major obstacle on its path towards the EU membership, but also represents a step forward towards the creation of a more efficient police structure."

He warned however that "the process of police reform has only begun."

In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier praised Bosnia's politicians for passing the laws and said he was "confident" that the SAA would be signed shortly.

After months of stalled negotiations,the two police reform laws were adopted yesterday with 10 votes in favor and four votes against.

Delegates from the Party of Democratic Action, SDA, and the Social Democratic Party,SDP,voted against the legislation. SDA and SDP demanded larger centralisation of police forces.

However, they were outvoted by majority grouped around two key parties – Bosnian Party for Bosnia,SBIH,, SZBH and the Party of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD, the HDZ and HDZ 1990 parties also supported the legislation.

The SDA party even considered to try to block the legislation by citing violation of vital national interest, but dropped the idea since other Bosnian delegates voted for the reform, local sources said.

SDA is still contemplating possibility to challenge this legislation at the Bosnian Constitutional Court, but their chances for success look slim and this should not prevent signing of the SAA agreement.

The President of the Party of Democratic Action and the Speaker of the Bosnian State Parliament’s House of Peoples Sulejman Tihic stated last week that the police reform laws adopted by the Bosnian Parliament's House of Representatives on Thursday are a matter of shame for Bosnia and for the European Union and that the act of adopting the bills is legalization of war solutions.

”These laws are a matter of shame for Bosnia and for the EU because they are legalization of war solutions, legalization of Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadzic’s police which committed genocide”, Tihic told the press.

”That is just another historical mistake made by the International Community and domestic politicians," Tihic said.


BRUSSELS, Belgium (April 17,2008) – EU officials hailed yesterday Bosnia's adoption of long-disputed police reforms, saying it opened the way for the southeastern European state to sign the first accord on the way to European Union membership.

"I welcome the final adoption of the police reform laws, which paves the way towards signing the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA)," EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said in a statement.

The SAA trade and aid pact "will not only bring practical benefits in trade and thus for the economy of Bosnia, but it is also the gateway towards candidate country status for EU accession," Rehn added.

The signing of the agreement would probably take place in May or June, a spokeswoman from the EU's Slovenian presidency said.

Earlier yesterday lawmakers in the upper house of the Bosnian State Parliament adopted the police reforms, removing the last hurdle for the country to sign the key pact on closer EU ties.

Two police reform bills passed by 10 to four votes, ending years of dispute among Bosnia's politicians about the extent to which they should integrate the country's separate ethnic police forces.

The lower house of the Bosnian parliament approved the reforms last week.

The EU had insisted that the laws be passed before it would allow the country to sign up to the SAA.

Eventually the EU and the Bosnian Parliament accepted reforms that will involve setting up seven new state-level police coordination bodies.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana "hailed" Bosnia's adoption of the reforms, his spokeswoman Cristina Gallach.

"It's a fundamental step" which "opens the way to signing the SAA she added.

The deal will require the agreement of all 27 EU foreign ministers but the text is unlikely to be ready for their next meeting in Luxembourg on April 29, the EU presidency spokeswoman said.

The deed was therefore likely to be done at one of their subsequent meeting on May 26 or June 16, she added.

The EU has made the integration of the whole Balkans area, including Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo, a priority to stabilise the region.


BRUSSELS, Belgium (April 17,2008) – The EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) Javier Solana issued a statement yesterday welcoming the adoption by the Bosnian State Parliament of the police reform legislation:

"I warmly welcome the final adoption today of the laws on police reform by the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia. I would like to congratulate the parliamentarians on their courage and responsibility in taking this decisive step. This agreement on the first phase of police reform is a fundamental step for Bosnia. It paves the way for the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with Bosnia. I hope that it can be signed soon, on the basis of a positive assessment of all the remaining elements. I encourage all political forces in Bosnia to engage vigorously in the implementation of the remaining priorities of the reform agenda," Solana stated.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (April 17,2008) – The International Community's High Representative and EU Special Representative in Bosnia, Miroslav Lajčák, welcomed yesterday’s long-awaited adoption of police reform legislation.

By adopting the laws the Bosnian Parliament's House of Peoples yesterday completed the legislative process that the country’s authorities undertook in December last year and have opened the road for the Stabilisation and Association Agreement to be signed with the European Union.

“Once embarked on this road no country has failed to become a member of the EU. This decision sends a strong signal to the EU and to investors that Bosnia is making progress and is open for business,” Lajčák said.

"The High Representative congratulates Bosnia Parliamentarians on having the courage and responsibility for taking this decisive step yesterday," the Office of the International Community's High Representative in Bosnia said.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (April 17,2008) – The International Community's High Representative and EU Special Representative in Bosnia Miroslav Lajčák met yesterday with General John McColl, NATO’s Deputy Supreme Commander Europe and Operation Commander of Operation Althea/EUFOR in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo.

Briefing General McColl on the current political situation in Bosnia the High Representative-EU Special Representative said that Bosnia today faces two strategic goals: EU integration and constitutional reform.

“The immediate priority is singing a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU, which needs to be followed by wide-ranging reforms in the country to adapt its administration and economy to EU standards and norms,” Lajcak said.

The High Representative and EU Special Representative further welcomed the close co-operation between the European Union Force in Bosnia (EUFOR) and the Office of the International Community's High Representative and the EU Special Representative in Bosnia (OHR/EUSR), noting that EUFOR’s presence is welcomed by Bosnia and underlines the EU’s commitment to the country.


PRAGUE, The Czech Republic (April 17,2008) – A member of the Bosnian State Presidency Zeljko Komsic had a meeting in Prague with the Czech President Václav Klaus Klaus. They talked about relations between the two countries and the situation in the region.

Klaus expressed pleasure over Bosnia’s fulfilment of conditions for singing the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU.

He stated that Bosnia can expect the formal signature very soon and added that it will, certainly, contribute the acceleration of harmonization processes and strengthening of BiH’s inner structure and adjustment to the EU standards.

This is especially significant since the Czech Republic will preside the EU in 2009. Klaus expressed pleasure with the fact that Bosnia has headed in an accelerated pace towards the NATO membership. As a reminder, Bosnia was called to enter the “intensive dialogue” phase at the NATO Summit in Bucharest.

Joint interest on strengthening of trans-Atlantic cooperation has also been discussed, both in the NATO frames and in relations with the USA.

Bosnian Presidency member Zeljko Komsic stated that relations between Bosnia and the Czech Republic are good, stabile and friendly, with no open issues. He expressed pleasure with Bosnia’s entrance to the Intensive Dialogue phase and invited the Czech President Klaus to officially visit Bosnia.

Commenting the two countries’ economic relations, it has been agreed that the amount of trade exchange is about 350 million Bosnian Marks is not sufficient concerning the quality of the overall, especially political relations. Orientation of the Czech entrepreneurs to invest into the Bosnian energy sector, as well as interest of the country’s entrepreneurs to invest into reconstruction of the Bosnian railway system is a good way to expand economic cooperation.

Komsic supported further activities in the process of connecting cities and towns of the two countries, as well as joint projects in the sector of tourism.

Komsic thanked Klaus for such a relation of the Czech Republic towards Bosnia, for “our country is one of the eight priority countries of the Czech Republic’s development aid”.

During a working visit to the Czech Republic, a member of the Bosnian Presidency Zeljko Komsic held a meeting with representatives of the Bosnian diaspora who are mainly successful Bosnian businessmen living in Czech Republic.

Numerous issues were discusses during the meeting; representatives of the Bosnian diaspora expressed concerns about the non-annulment of the Act 17 of the Bosnian Law on Citizenship. Just how this problem is serious is best illustrated by the fact that several participants of the meeting had to give up their Bosnian citizenships to maintain their equal status in the Czech Republic.

Komsic also visited the Radio Free Europe headquarters and held a meeting with editors who broadcast the program in the Bosnian language.

During a long meeting, the focus was on the current situation and possible development of the events in both Bosnia and in the region.

At the end of his visit to the Czech Republic,a member of the Bosnian State Presidency Zeljko Komsic opened an exhibition by the Bosnian painter Safet Zec, in the “Kampa” Museum, in presence of a large number of Bosnian citizens, diplomats and representatives of the Czech government.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (April 17,2008) – On the occasion of marking the 16th anniversary of the Bosnian Army and 3rd anniversary of the Second Infantry (Ranger) Unit, central ceremony was organized in Rajlovac Military Base near Sarajevo. Memories of BiH Army’s development and formation of the Unit which is preserving the Bosnian Army’s heritage were evocated.

In presence of politicians, diplomats and international organizations’ officials, as well as in presence of representatives of the Bosnian veteran organizations and the highest military officials, the Bosnian Defence Minister Selmo Cikotic held an expose on the heroic struggle of the Bosnian Army in the process of the defence of Bosnia.

Minister Cikotic emphasized that Bosnians are obliged to preserve memory of all the people who contributed to the defence of Bosnia (during the 1992-1995 Serbian,Montenegrin and Croatian aggressions), with patriotism, courage and dedication.

Minister Cikotic emphasized that the defence reform’s success has been recognized at the internal and international plan and that it has resulted in Bosnia’s association to the “Intensive Dialogue” phase at the NATO summit in Bucharest.

With remark that this status is a higher degree of communication and cooperation between the Bosnian Army and NATO, Cikotic expressed hope and expectations that Bosnia will, in near future, celebrate the fulltime membership to NATO.

The Rajlovic festivity started with a military review conducted by the Bosnian Defence Minister Selmo Cikotic, accompanied with his Deputy Marina Pendes and the commander of the Bosnian Army General Sifet Podzic.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (April 17,2008) - The European Union Force in Bosnia (EUFOR) conducted a change of command ceremony at the Butmir Camp to mark the handover of command within the Multi-National Battalion (MNBN). Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Mugica handed over command to Lieutenant Colonel Joaquin Peñuelas after 4 months in command. During this time the leaving commander has overseen a number of key events, especially many combined exercises with the Bosnian Army.

Acknowledging Lieutenant Colonel Mugica’s busy time in command, General Villalain, the EUFOR commander stated: “Lieutenant Colonel Mugica has been commander of the Multi National Battalion at a very busy time of combined training between EUFOR and the Bosnian Armed Forces, during this year of training in 2008. I wish to pay tribute to his professionalism and dedication.I welcome Lieutenant Colonel Peñuelas and wish him similar success.”

The MNBN consists of four manoeuvre companies from Hungary, Poland, Spain and Turkey who provide the bulk of the forces. In addition there is a long range reconnaissance troop that can provide surveillance throughout Bosnia. These are all commanded by a Headquarters element.

The MNBN has been in existence since February 2007 when EUFOR transitioned from three tasks forces down to one battalion and the Integrated Police Unit (IPU). These forces are based in the Camp Butmir and have a strong capability to ensure the current safe and secure environment, EUFOR said.


SREBRENICA, Bosnia (April 17,2008) – “The Government of Holland ensures every year about 5 million Euros for reconstruction and development of the Srebrenica region. Most of the money is used for help to the returnee families and for reconstruction of their homes. Grants are also ensured for initiation of small businesses”, the Ambassador of Holland to Bosnia Karel Vosskuhler stated yesterday during his visit to Srebrenica.

He emphasized that his country will continue helping this region. Opening of new jobs will be the priority.

Ambassador Vosskuhler attended official opening of the Kvarc RTV transmitter. The transmitter has been brought back into function through the efforts of the “Friends of Srebrenica” Association, financed by the Dutch government.

The project will enable breaking of the media blockade of the area. Several media homes have already installed their equipment at the transmitter.

Ambassador Vosskuhler also visited the berry fruits fields, maintained by the “Srebrenica” Association of Farmers in the village of Brezani.