Feller on Transition Time
Sarajevo, 19 August 2011 – Long-awaited news from Brussels on the future of the EU Police Mission’s engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina was the main topic of the conversation with EUPM Commissioner Stefan Feller, who welcomed “the opportunity to speak with the Mission Magazine about these highly-important issues that the EUPM readership is naturally interested in”.
“We are all aware, and have been for many years, that we are coming to the conclusion of this mission. We have come to realize that now is the time to prepare for a transition,” explains Feller.
How was this decision made and what can you tell us about it?
To understand where we are within the implementation of our mandate is an important and complex process. It required a profound assessment by the EUPM and the services in Brussels. This work was completed early 2011.
The overarching discussion on matters related to Bosnia and Herzegovina included this assessment and only lead to first decisions important for the EUPM in July.
Much work on the details is still ahead of us. However, the staff needs the information that is so important for everyone’s future. Therefore, I have decided to give as much information as possible, but I wish to emphasize that many details subject to European Union Member States’ decisions are still open.
So, the EUPM’s work here is done. Can you tell us more about the assessment process?
We are here to assist in establishing the rule of law through police and other law enforcement organizations, and help in the establishment of the criminal justice system. Our objective was to help create a system strong enough to work on its own. At the end of last year, the Crisis Management Planning Division (CMPD) began a strategic review of the EUPM and the report they submitted to the EU Member States in spring 2011 recognized that we likely will have productively implemented our current mandate by the end of this year. I want to remind that the current mandate is the third one that we have implemented since we began with our work, at the beginning of 2003.
This is a recognition that we have been successful in our work assisting in the fight against organized crime and corruption – we as a crisis management mission have been successful in reaching a stage where assistance with other means can build on our work, where we can transition. And I am proud of that.
What will the transition entail?
For the best part of the last two years, we have been working together with the European Commission on identifying where technical assistance through the instruments for pre-accession (IPA) can take over. It represents a different approach but follows the same methodology in assisting law enforcement and criminal justice, making them even better than they are today. They have needs and they want to have them covered. That is one aspect of the transition, and we will finalise this by the end of 2011.
The second aspect is to identify how the strategic work of EUPM on joint aspects of law enforcement and criminal justice, including better and systematic cooperation within BiH, including all levels, and effective international and European cooperation can be continued. In this field, despite some progress, there is a lot of work to do still, and I expect this lasting for quite some years. BIH will not being left without assistance but the tools in the EU tool box will change appropriately: the EUSR will play an important role here, and upcoming discussions will identify the way ahead, so that this can be handed over by mid 2012.
What kind of challenges will this change place in front of the EUPM personnel?
At the end of 2011, the EUPM will shrink significantly. Seconded and contracted international and national personnel – all will be affected. We still do not know the figures, but it will be significantly less and the EUPM’s strategic work will be limited to the first half of 2012. So the next few months will also be about identifying how we do that – to whom we can offer the chance to stay for the last six months. And to whom we can’t. And I have to be frank – this will be the majority of personnel.
I want to make it clear that one of my highest priorities is to do this in full transparency with all respect to those whose lives are influenced by this change.
What awaits us is a number of discussions with the extended senior staff in order to understand better what the priorities ahead of us are in relation to what we still need to focus on and what we have to do in order to facilitate the transition. Another team has come from CPCC these days to identify which documents need to be changed so that everything goes smoothly; we will see a huge number of activities on the administration side to prepare for the transition and the downsizing. But you will also see me taking every opportunity to appreciate what we have been doing, and of course, we will continue to render our valuable assistance to our partners in BiH until the very last day.
Can you speak of any timelines in relation to individual cases?
At this moment in time, I have only rough timelines and I can only say that I will work hard to provide this information as soon as possible. It is very simple in principle. We have a general decision of the EU Member States that we have to shrink and that we have an extension for half a year, limited to open strategic aspects. What I hope but cannot promise is that we will run through a smooth and quick discussion in the Brussels Committees as early in September as possible. The first meetings of the Committee for Civilian Crisis Management in early September will be dedicated to the EUPM. If the process runs smoothly, I hope I will be able to give the first indications in September. That leaves us with three months for personnel to prepare for this transition.
In the end, I cannot talk about all this without expressing my deep and sincere appreciation for the work and the dedication of those who have been a part of this mission over the past ten years. This mission is not a name or a concept. This mission is a reality that has been formed by many people, dedicated national and international staff. We could never have had such a successful story – one which will continue to be successful – without this dedication and positive energy. This – the EUPM – this is a good story. And together we will finish writing this chapter of the larger EU assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina.