Bosnian police reform paves way to EU ties, but problems remain

Other News Materials 11 April 2008 16:17 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - The international administrator in Bosnia and local officials on Friday welcomed reform police laws as a means of forging closer ties with the European Union, but warned that much remains to be done.

"I would like to congratulate all those who have worked hard to reach a compromise for the sake of the better future for Bosnia and Herzegovina and all its citizens," said the administrator, Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajcak.

The law, which aims to pull together Bosnian police, now fragmented along the lines of the two ethnic entities, has to pass the upper chamber of parliament - a formality that is expected next week, Lajcak said.

The reform also includes amendments to the constitution which are still a long way off.

"It will enable the European Commission to consider a positive recommendation for Bosnia to sign the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with EU in the coming weeks," Lajcak said.

SAA is a crucial formal step that all prospective EU members must take before joining the 27 member bloc.

Despite the sometimes heavy-handed mediation by the international community, Bosnia's bickering politicians took more than four years to reach the compromise, but the contentious issue has remained unresolved.

The rival Serb and Muslim-Croat police forces were not disbanded and Friday's deal has only delayed the issue of how to deal with the splintered security forces until after a distant constitutional reform.

"Better days are ahead of us now, but much remains to be done," the fragmented country's joint Prime Minister Nikola Spiric said.

The bloody three-year Bosnian war ended in 1995 with a peace agreement which has set the country up as a fragile shell barely holding together two largely independent - the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat Federation.

The reform law is a first step as Bosnian Serbs, Muslims and Croats are expected to continue wrangling over the main constitutional reform - including over parts regulating the contentious central control over police.

Some international experts and diplomats view the police reform as a sideshow that has captivated EU officials, but does virtually nothing to address Bosnia's long-standing divisions and weak central government.

Many Bosnians are disillusioned about the future of their largely divided country, where Muslims make up 48 per cent of the population, Serbs 34 per cent and Croats 15 per cent.