REFLECTIONS ON A DECADE OF EUPM WITH COMMISSIONER FELLER: PARTNERSHIP IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS!
Sarajevo, 29 June 2012 – EUPM is closing on 30 June, 2012. Originally envisioned as an institution with a three-year mandate, it has now contributed to improved security in Bosnia and Herzegovina for a decade. Commissioner Stefan Feller has served as the EUPM's Head of Mission since 2008. As EUPM draws to a close, the Mission Magazine authors took the opportunity to speak with the Head of Mission about the mission's impact, achievements and challenges, and how the EUPM legacy will be maintained in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We began by examining the goals set out by the then EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy from 1999-2009, Javier Solana, when the Mission first began in 2003. In his remarks on 15 January of that year, Solana suggested that the Mission had three key goals to fulfill. These were to (1) contribute to "a peaceful and stable Bosnia and Herzegovina, (2) firmly establish "the rule of law," and (3) develop "the EU's external identity."
Commissioner Feller argued that the EUPM had offered a significant contribution in each of these areas, while maintaining that critical work remains to be done. The Head of Mission addressed each of these goals.
“We have been a significant actor in improving the security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, this should not take away from what we constantly stress and underline, which is that the responsibility for improving security sits with the domestic authorities. EUPM's main contribution to improving the security situation has been through the assistance provided to our Bosnian and Herzegovinian colleagues. Likewise, we have been able to assist in establishing the rule of law. Today, the rule of law is firmly rooted in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, this does not mean that there would be space for complacency. Important work - particularly in terms of depoliticization - remains to be done.”
EUPM was the first Mission to work towards developing the EU's external identity. Few Missions were established in the beginning (2003-2004), but a significant growth of Civilian Crisis Management Missions took place in 2005 and 2006. “At that time, there were as many as 16 ongoing missions. Today, we remain one of 10, and three new Missions are under development. We have consistently been an influential factor in contributing to the EU's external identity. Our experiences can serve as a reference model for making relevant adjustments and improvements.”
A Decade of Assistance, Accomplishments and Challenges
EUPM seamlessly followed on to the International Police Task Form (IPTF). EUPM's work was based on these achievements. Thus IPTF and EUPM represent ‘17 years of peacekeeping and crisis management, which had lead to the sustainable development of law enforcement agencies and criminal justice systems on all levels in Bosnia and Herzegovina.’
“The individual police agencies at all levels have seen tremendous progress. I would place this front and center on the list of critically important developments. Work with the Prosecutor's Office and the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council is also notable.”
Commissioner Feller was quick to point out assistance EUPM has provided in improving the relationship between prosecutors and the police. "On a strategic level, it's been one of our greatest achievements," he noted.
The Mission's work with other non-law enforcement organizations has proved very valuable. EUPM focused on a variety of thematic issues in cooperation with civil society partners, including gender balance and mainstreaming, media support and activities related to the rule of law. Such initiatives have been visible throughout EUPM's entire mandate.
Issues such as police reform and accountability have proved particularly challenging, though key successes should also be noted. Here, Feller provided a long-term perspective, encompassing EUPM's work related to police reform over the course of the Mission:
“Between 2003 and 2008, the term 'police reform' became a synonym for efforts to restructure the police. The international community was intensely engaged and the highly political process proved to be a challenge for the work of EUPM. At the end, a compromise was found that allowed both Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union to enter into signing the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.”
Since this process left Bosnia and Herzegovina with a heterogenous and complex structure, the next step in this process was to assist in developing a coordination mechanism, which will be critical in fighting organized crime, terrorism and corruption. Although numerous success stories have been reported, this work is not yet complete, as indicated by Bosnia and Herzegovina's 2011 Progress Report. Feller explains that much progress was made on an operational level, but argues that it is complicated to reach a view on broadening this cooperation and to include strategic issues of joint concern. "Because there is no agreed vision of how the state-level, entity level, cantonal level and Brcko District institutions should develop policy, strategy and its implementation. It is of concern that Bosnia and Herzegovina has not been able to reach a level that would have been feasible given that all our law enforcement colleagues were prepared for it," he said. While this is not a concern for crisis management, the political framework that sets the stage for EU integration remains in need of attention. "A functional coordination mechanism is absolutely essential."
Accountability is another key issue that requires attention. Feller pointed out that the past decade has seen significant improvements in internal accountability through the development of ‘standards of democratic and citizen-oriented policing and policing in accordance with human rights principles.’
"We've seen a great deal of progress and invested significantly in making this happen, including through our inspection function. Our colleagues with managerial duties must continue with these efforts, in order to keep up the high standards of policing that we have seen in the past."
The external dimension of accountability remains a concern for the entire international community. Feller explains that with this term, he describes the accountability that the police leadership has towards the government. In this respect, the Head of Mission noted that ‘the depoliticization of policing has not occurred to a satisfactory degree.’ He stated that he is worried about the current political situation: Bosnia and Herzegovina must have a political agreement that allows for forming and executing governance. Instead, often there are allegations traded from one political force towards another, and vice versa, about each others attempt to take over undue control over policing.
BiH at the Crossroads of a Triple Transition
Although it's impossible to choose a precise date when any mission should come to an end, Commissioner Feller suggested that any decisions must be based on a sound assessment of achievements, and the development inside Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia and Herzegovina finds herself in a long-term and complex transition process, which includes the transitions from communism to democracy, from war to peace and reconciliation, and the process of getting closer, and then integration into the EU.
“We're proud - that for the first time ever - a seamless transition process has been achieved. My answer for why EUPM is closing is simple. It is the right point in time, right now, for EUPM to end because at this moment, follow-on assistance is already in place.”
IPTF came to a close on 31 December, 2002, with EUPM coming in on 1 January, 2003. Similarly, we have handed over technical assistance to an IPA project in May 2012 and on 1 July, the EUSR Law Enforcement Section will begin to advise the EUSR on a political and strategic level. "Thus, after ten years, the instrument of assistance is adapted to needs and development, but the principle of assistance remains in place," explains Feller.
Genuine Partnership - The Mission's Greatest Success
"Our dedication to assistance through genuine partnership is our greatest success," said Feller, who also noted that real partnership has been extended to not only law enforcement and criminal justice institutions, but policy makers, such as Ministers, as well. “We have seen that none of our successes would have been possible without a partnership approach, and we took this very seriously. EUPM has no business in antagonism. We were highly respected because we never took one side or another. Our only business is in technical assistance.”
Given EUPM's firm commitment to partnership, the Head of Mission noted that even more could have been done had the political environment been more conducive. This would have allowed EUPM to assist in addressing requirements that are now part of the EU integration processes, which the Mission's law enforcement and criminal justice colleagues were prepared to take on.
Challenging Work in an Ever-Deteriorating Political Setting
Since 2006, the political climate in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been characterized by a downward spiral. Although elections in October 2010 initially provided hope that the political crisis could be overcome, the situation continued to get worse. With the so-called end to the crisis in December 2011, after the formation of a state level government, international and domestic actors renewed their hopes for marked improvement. "I had hoped we wouldn't lose 2012," said Feller, "but if I look at the current political crisis, I see the cycle of stalling and deterioration continuing."
“I don't want to single out actors, but overall, I haven't seen improvement on the political level. As long as that is so, no one can expect that law enforcement and criminal justice will simply improve. They are in an overarching political and societal context, and they struggle with this. There is a sincere call to all politicians - regardless of party or location - to know that they bear a joint responsibility for supporting their law enforcement in reaching the level where they are expected to be from an EU perspective.”
The Head of Mission said he welcomes are joint solutions. However, if these are not to be found, the political behavior of simply blaming "others" must case. Feller pointed to the EU - the organization that Bosnia and Herzegovina aspires to one day join - as a model. "The EU has proven that 27 can move, if we move together. We have established a system of political consensus, and this can and should be Bosnia and Herzegovina's point of reference." "It is obvious," says Feller, "that the EU struggles with internal challenges as well, and in a global context. But looking at this with a negative attitude is just creating self-fulfilling prophecies. Tough times require redoubling efforts keeping things together. This is how a responsible perspective is offered to citizens."
Preparing for Transition
The Head of Mission was quick to dispel any connotations of the upcoming transition as ‘a little continuation being dealt with through the IPA.’ Rather, Feller argues that the next transition represents a clear shift from crisis management towards enlargement, which should neither be compared to nor gauged via EUPM. "This is continuing to be a significant contribution."
The plan stipulates that IPA is meant to help on a technical level. The Law Enforcement Section will support the EUSR on a strategic and political level. This is not crisis management, but rather the political work of assisting Bosnia and Herzegovina on its way to the EU. The real follow-on to EUPM is for our national counterparts to continue in the spirit of the Mission.
BiH Law Enforcement is What Comes After EUPM
As the Mission nears its conclusion, its activities have neither stopped nor slowed down. Seminars, trainings and coordination meetings are still occurring. "We stand ready for assistance until the very last day of our existence," said Feller and "that is the legacy of EUPM."
In this sense, the Mission's spirit should replace the question of what comes after EUPM. As the Head of Mission pointed out, ‘the answer to what comes after EUPM is very simple. Bosnian and Herzegovinian law enforcement acting on its own, and better by the day. ‘
“That is the message I want to leave our local counterparts with. You must carry on and be dedicated to this work. You must continue to take responsibility. EUPM provided assistance, but this was never a substitute for the local authorities' tasks.”
Feller compared the upcoming transition with a change of gears. He noted that the challenges that lie ahead are significantly, and very complex. The EU integration process is incredibly demanding. On that note, the Head of Mission concluded by saying "Crisis management is external help, in situations that require this effort, and usually after severe conflict. Enlargement assistance is different: You don't wait for it. It is Bosnia and Herzegovina's task to actively decide and to implement action setting the country on the path towards the EU. Then, the EU will offer assistance to it. I am convinced that you can do it, but you must want to find a way how to do it together."
As Commissioner Feller prepares to leave Bosnia and Herzegovina, he may be proud of the achievements of the organization he led. A commitment to genuine partnership and the provision of assistance until the Mission's final day are indicative of EUPM's legacy in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We wish him all the best in his future professional life!