COPPOLA: POLICE REFORM WILL BE CONTINUED AFTER THE CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES
EuroBlic, 26 April 2008 – “The laws on police reform in BiH, which were recently adopted by the State Parliament, have basically only laid foundations for future steps that will have to be taken within further police reform process in BiH. So, this is only a beginning, whereas a continuation of the reform will follow after the constitutional changes,” said Head of EU Police Mission to BiH, Vincenzo Coppola for EuroBlic. He believes that the priority in the first stage of the police reform in BiH would be a harmonization of the present legislation and an establishing of adequate coordination among the present police structures.
Q: How do you assess recently adopted laws on police reform in BiH? To what extent will they affect the improvement of police work in BiH?
A: The first positive fact that resulted from this story is that BiH political leaders finally succeeded in reaching an agreement on the text and finding a joint solution. The laws also cite a special reference that points to the second phase of police reform after the constitutional changes and that all steps that are to be taken in the future would have to be in accordance with the three European principles. I would say that these two laws have basically laid foundations and that we have a long road ahead of us, because the police reform in a form that we have now is only a part of what we want to achieve. There is a great number of measures that need to be implemented, like the harmonization of the present legislation that pertains to police work and coordination among the present police structures. A lot of efforts and resources will be necessary for a full harmonization.
Q: Then, what exactly will the second phase of police reform in BiH imply?
A: The first thing that should be completed, even before the establishment of seven new institutions, is the establishment of strong coordination mechanisms. After that, we have to deal with structures that already exist and re-consider the competences of each institution. Therefore, we have to consider the general capacities that SIPA has and when it becomes fully capable of functioning, then we will have to re-consider whether after that the local police should keep their current competences. The second significant step that needs to be taken, and which will also require an agreement by all authorities in BiH, is preparation and implementation of a security plan for BiH. Namely, there will have to be specific strategies for problems specific for the levels to which they will pertain, from certain general political strategies at the State level, through entities to cantonal level. Through these steps, I am certain that we will provide for a satisfactory security situation in BiH.
Q: Who will be a coordinator after new institutions, stipulated by the newly adopted laws, are established?
A: Once seven new agencies are established, there will not be only one coordinator to cover operation of all police forces. Therefore, my intention is, and I have the support of heads of all police agencies in this, to establish the police steering board that will cover the coordination part in an appropriate way. New definition of duties of the police board is almost ready and the next step is an adoption of the document by BiH CoM. Once the police board is established, it will become the coordination body that will coordinate the operation of all police agencies in BiH.
Q: The State budget does not include funds for the establishment of new police institutions. How will that affect the implementation of the laws?
A: Regarding the very implementation of the laws, we will probably need some additional time for that. I think that the EC has certain funds available for implementation of the laws and establishment of seven new institutions. It is real to expect that new institutions would ‘be on their feet’ by the end of this or beginning of the next year. Maybe not in a full operational capacity, but they will be functioning.
Q: How do you assess the present security situation in BiH and cooperation between entity police forces?
A: The general security situation in BiH is not dramatic. There are enhanced activities in relation to organized crime that need to be under control. There are also everyday criminal activities, but my impression is that the police keep the situation under control very well. Regarding the cooperation among police forces in BiH- the situation is not bad. However, what should be done in that field is an establishment of certain procedures that would make the cooperation even more functional. Cooperation between police and prosecution would also have to be considered, as it is very important to have these two institutions working as one system, which is not the case now. A lot of attention was paid lately to criminal activities done by juveniles. Regarding drugs, a number of drug addicts has probably increased, but some very good police actions were undertaken and they lead towards a suppression of the problem.
Q: How do you assess the work of local police forces on unsolved murder cases, primarily the Vukelić case and the series of murders in East Sarajevo area? Do you have any information as to how the investigations progress?
A: Sure, I cannot speak about any details, but I will say that EUPM monitors these investigations. However, we have to separate the two issues. Regarding the investigation into Vukelić’s murder we have had certain suggestions that we presented to the RS Police Director Uroš Pena, he considered our opinion, and I believe that the investigation now takes the right direction. To be honest, I do not expect any results soon and it is obvious that the case will be a difficult one. About the unsolved murders in Pale, we are also cooperating with the police and they had some good results. Now the cases are with the prosecution, with whom we also cooperate to finally bring them to court. The prosecutor said that he has certain difficulties in his work and that additional investigative activities should be taken, but we must say that most of the evidence were gathered and the prosecutor has an option to do something with them and close the cases. EUPM’s view of seven or eight unsolved murders that happened in Pale since 1999 is that all the cases are connected and for some we even possess evidence. Of course, I cannot talk about concrete things, but I can say that EUPM is monitoring investigative activities in relation to some major 30 cases throughout the country.
Q: How long will last the EUPM’s mandate in BiH and will it be extended again? In addition, what will be the focus of your work in the future period?
A: We will tend to focus on harmonization of legislation, improvement of coordination among different police structures, security strategy for BiH and naturally, there will be some work with the implementation of the two laws on police reform. Whether there will be another mandate of EUPM - I still don’t know. There will most probably be another debate in spring 2009 to see whether there is a need for another mandate, but it is still early to talk concretely about that. I believe that one part of mandate would be transferred to the EC’s department for construction of institutional capacities.
Relations between politicians and criminals are not a rule
In your opinion, is there a clear strategy in BiH for a fight against OC and can we talk about a coupling between politicians and criminals in BiH?
In the two years that I’ve spent in BiH I can say that I have witnessed an increase in activities related to a suppression of OC. Concerning the connection between the politics and OC it is, really speaking, something that exists, but I would not want to state that it is a common thing or a rule. Certain investigations have proved connection among those circles, but it is not a rule and they are only isolated cases.
I am not satisfied with national balance in entity police forces
Are you satisfied with national balance in entity police forces and will that issue be solved with the present reform?
I am not fully satisfied with national balance within police forces. One aspect is that we would want to have a balance in all police forces, but on the other side, we have to take into consideration the fact that in many cases we have single-ethnic communities and that in such cases, even when there are vacancies, we have rare examples of members of other ethnic groups applying for the posts. We have received a very good proposal by FBiH Interior Minister Muhidin Alić for allowing for cross-entity representation among different ethnic groups, in cooperation with the RS MoI. At the moment, we are trying to think how to implement the proposal in the best possible way, but it was a good proof that there are initiatives and that something is being done to improve national balance.