Cyprus objects to non-EU citizens in envoy office; EU set to change powers of special representative.
Cyprus is obstructing plans by the EU to reinforce its presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina because it objects to the possible presence of non-EU citizens in the office of the EU Special Representative (EUSR).
The EUSR, which was created in 2002, is poised to assume responsibility for overseeing Bosnia from the international community’s Office of the High Representative (OHR) and EU officials believe it is politically and operationally important to be able to use the services of experts regardless of their nationality.
Valentin Inzko, the current high representative, also serves as EUSR – as has been the practice since the EUSR’s establishment – and has an American deputy.
Diplomats say that Cyprus’s threats are intended to prevent Turkey participating in the implementation of EU policy. However, a veto would also block the involvement of other nations – above all, the US – in the office of the EUSR.
A Cypriot diplomat denied that his government was opposed to “co-operation” with third countries but stressed that it would need “a clear legal and institutional framework”.
Greece supports the Cypriot stance, but most other member states believe participation by non-EU countries is critical if the US is to support EU policy in the Balkans.
Turkey is also a significant international presence in Bosnia. Only Spain and Italy contribute more troops to the EU’s 2,000-strong peacekeeping mission, Eufor.
A decision on whether to close the OHR is expected in October. Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief, and Carl Bildt, foreign minister of Sweden, which holds the presidency of the EU, are keen for it to close.
The decision will, however, be taken by the body that oversees the OHR, the 55-member Peace Implementation Council (PIC). Two powerful voices on the PIC – the US and Turkey – have warned that closing the OHR prematurely would embolden those who oppose reform of Bosnia’s complex system of governance, with its numerous veto powers for the country’s national groups.
In the past, the OHR has acted as an arbiter between competing interests or, using its sweeping powers, has counteracted attempts to challenge the central government.
EU member states have agreed in principle to ‘reinforce’ the EUSR’s current mandate once a decision is taken to shut the OHR down. The EUSR would certainly have substantially weaker powers than the OHR, but by how much those powers should be reduced is an issue that divides the EU. Even under the proposal that would grant the EUSR the greatest powers, put forward by the UK, the EUSR would only be able to advise EU states to impose punitive measures.
The OHR, by contrast, can force elected officials out of office, freeze assets and impose laws.
The EUSR’s mandate is currently being drafted by diplomats and also by European Commission officials, since the EUSR will oversee the work of the Commission’s delegation in Sarajevo.