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UN: Bosnian Mission Is Working, But Progress Is Slow

  • Robert McMahon

The UN's special representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina has reported progress in key areas, especially in restructuring police forces. But five years after the Dayton Accord brought peace to Bosnia, he says the UN presence is more essential than ever to try to ensure political reforms and the return of refugees. UN correspondent Robert McMahon reports.

United Nations, 14 June 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The UN special representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Jacques Klein, cites the recent peaceful municipal elections as one of the signs of Bosnia's growing maturity as a state.

But Klein says those elections also highlight what is wrong in Bosnia. Klein said the April elections, in which the three main nationalist parties made a strong showing, show that entrenched nationalism continues to plague Bosnia five years after the Dayton Accord.

Klein spoke in New York on Tuesday, where he briefed the UN Security Council on the progress of the UN mission in Bosnia and the need for its continuation. The UN's mandate there ends on June 20, and Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended it be extended by one year.

Annan's representative told the council that the April elections, like four other internationally run elections in the past five years, were again contested on ethnic and ideological grounds.

Klein echoed the comments in New York last month of another high UN official in Bosnia, Wolfgang Petritsch, who said the collective presidency was hampering the effort at building joint institutions and thus Bosnia's development as a state. Klein told reporters that the international community has made a commitment in money and armed forces to stabilizing Bosnia. Now, he says, it is looking for a commitment from Bosnia's leaders to guide its people into Europe.

"The people of Bosnia-Herzegovina want to get on with their lives. What we still have is flawed, failed central state institutions that do not work. So it is a flaw of leadership, a triumvirate presidency where you have neither focus, responsibility nor continuity that is holding us back."

Klein repeated his appeal for Bosnia to be accepted into European institutions such as the Council of Europe. He said Bosnia's hundreds of thousands of refugees need to think they can return to another part of Europe, not what he called a "Balkan no-man's land." He said the UN mission is trying to further the country's evolutionary process, so that it meets human rights, judicial, and other standards that will make it part of Europe.

"You have to give the Bosnian-Herzegovinian people a sense that they have a home somewhere, that they're not some kind of para-state floating in the Balkans, when many other countries in the Caucasus and elsewhere are members of the Council of Europe."

There has been progress, Klein says, in key areas of the UN mandate, such as police restructuring and reform. Earlier this month, Bosnia's multiethnic state border service came into being. Klein called it a major step toward building state identity, combating crime and preparing for entry into Europe.

Klein also hailed the integration of the Interior Ministry in the Herzegovina-Neretva canton. And he welcomed the appointment of 70 judges and prosecutors to new multiethnic institutions. They are an early start toward the goal of having institutions reflect the multiethnic communities they serve.

The UN representative also noted the importance of regional developments on Bosnia. He said the change in government in neighboring Croatia earlier this year is already improving the UN's efforts in areas of Bosnia with ethnic Croat populations, such as Mostar.

And he said Kosovo is a continuing source of concern for Bosnia. The United Nations this week marked its first year in administering the Yugoslav province and it has borrowed hundreds of police and vehicles from Bosnia to bolster its effort.

Security Council members Tuesday said they were encouraged by Klein's report and convinced of the need for a continued UN presence. But Tuesday's open discussion brought some continued disagreement over the role of Yugoslavia.

Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov said Russia is concerned by the failure to invite Yugoslavia to last month's meeting in Brussels of the Peace Implementation Council for Bosnia. He said Russia is concerned about the tendency to exclude Yugoslavia, which was a signatory to the Dayton Accords, from relevant discussions.

"We confirm our opposition to any attempt to isolate the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from the process relating to the Bosnia settlement, the Kosovo settlement and consideration of the settlement in the Balkans as a whole. Such attempts are counterproductive and could lead to a new crisis."

The deputy U.S. ambassador to the UN, James Cunningham, speaking after Lavrov, said the Yugoslav government has done nothing since the last meeting of the council in December 1998 to merit its participation in Brussels. He said Belgrade has shown it is not interested in advancing peace in Bosnia.