Accessibility links

Bosnia-Herzegovina: Progress Noted But More Reforms Needed

  • Robert McMahon

The United Nations' special representative in Bosnia, Jacques Klein, says the country has made great progress toward becoming a unified multiethnic state. But he says the country is still economically weak and lacking in resources to carry out reforms of its law enforcement structures. He has appealed to the UN Security Council for more support to build on reforms in the police sector.

United Nations, 13 December 2000 (RFE/RL) -- UN Special Representative Jacques Klein said yesterday that Bosnia-Herzegovina could complete its goals of establishing peace and security in two more years.

Klein told the UN Security Council that progress in Bosnia made it possible to discuss what he called an "end point" for the UN mission there. He said the mission has prepared a document that outlines the remaining core objectives of the mission in Bosnia.

The UN representative told of a number of positive developments, including the formation of a 20,000-member civilian police force and progress in integrating interior ministries and police forces with members of Bosnia's three main ethnic groups -- Muslims, Serbs, and Croats.

Klein said the new multiethnic state border service is helping Bosnia to begin combating organized crime, illegal migration, and trafficking in drugs and human beings.

European authorities have identified Bosnia as one of the key transit points for both illegal drugs, migrations and the rising incidence of trafficking in humans. Klein said at Sarajevo airport alone, the new border service has documented 21,300 people this year who are suspected of entering the country in order to illegally migrate to European states. But a shortage of revenues, Klein says, is hampering the expansion of the border force, which needs at least 900 more positions filled.

"Rapid establishment of control over state borders is key to the consolidation of sovereignty, territorial integrity and international personality in Bosnia and Herzegovina including with respect to its neighbors."

Hundreds of millions of dollars in economic assistance has been sent to Bosnia since the end of the war five years ago. But Klein says nationalist leaders who remain in control of key sectors in Bosnia's two entities continue to corrupt the process of economic reform.

He said a greater emphasis on crime-fighting and judicial reforms early in the reconstruction process would have helped the economic development of Bosnia. "For the past five years, the only engine of economic growth in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been international assistance while nationalist parties have been able to plunder state assets. Resistance to the creation of a State Border Service and to economic reforms such as privatization of public companies, is most accurately explained on criminal not political grounds."

Security Council members strongly endorsed Klein's report and urged patience in carrying through the reforms outlined in the Dayton Accords. The U.S. representative on the council yesterday was Senator Joseph Biden, a senior member of the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, which plays a role in U.S. troop deployments.

Biden repeatedly expressed support for the continued deployment of the international force -- named SFOR -- that is contributing to training Bosnian forces and stabilizing potential hotspots. The force now numbers about 20,000 personnel, with about 4,000 coming from the United States.

"For SFOR or the United Nations to disengage before our goals are accomplished would only guarantee renewed violence and a much more costly re-entry in the future. We must stay the course and prevail, regardless of how long it takes."

Biden also cautioned Klein against expecting to finish the mission in Bosnia in two years. He referred to the Bosnian mission as a rare opportunity in modern-day Europe to build a multiethnic state. He said the United States will support what he called the considerable resources contributed by Europe to make the effort successful.