Meeting for the last time prior to the 10th anniversary of the Dayton Accords, the political directors of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) Steering Board have hailed recent progress in three crucial areas — defence, the police and public broadcasting.
At a session in Sarajevo, the board welcomed the 4 October adoption — by a clear majority in the Republika Srpska National Assembly — of a police reform agreement that meets the European Commission’s three conditions: all legislative and budgetary competencies for all police matters must be vested at the state level; there must be no political interference with operational policing; and functional local police areas must be determined by technical policing criteria, with operational command exercised at the local level.
After several months of obstruction, primarily over the issue of police districts crossing inter-entity boundaries, RS authorities finally accepted the EU principles. It is believed that last-ditch talks between RS President Dragan Cavic and international mediators were a deciding factor. Reaching a deal on police reform was a precondition for starting Stabilisation and Association (SAA) talks with the European Commission. With the breakthrough, the way is now clear for negotiations to begin by the end of this year.
“The agreement will provide the basis for the efficient and modern police service that the citizens of BiH needs and deserve,” said the top international envoy in BiH, High Representative Paddy Ashdown. “Within five years BiH will have a single integrated police service at the state level, and local police areas that meet the European Commission’s requirements,” he added.
The Steering Board also welcomed the recent adoption of defence reform legislation. Developed by a special commission, the reform will create a NATO-compatible single military force, with a single state-level chain of command and a single state defence budget. Finally, the political directors hailed the new public broadcasting system law, which will establish a single system with three multiethnic broadcasters, offering programming in all three BiH languages.
“This is a key step forward in fulfilling one of the last outstanding requirements before the European Commission can launch SAA negotiations,” noted Ashdown.
At the same time, the directors voiced regret that fugitive war crimes indictees — particularly Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic — remain on the run. They noted that co-operation with the UN war crimes tribunal, including the arrest and transfer of all indictees, is the final remaining condition BiH must meet to join NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme.
The PIC is the top international body that oversees implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement in the BiH. It consists of representatives of key organisations and states involved in the process.