The German government says it is working together with the European Union to formulate a plan for continuing the international mission to train police forces in Bosnia. The United States is blocking a new United Nations mandate for the mission because of concerns over the new International Criminal Court.
Berlin, 3 July 2002 (RFE/RL) -- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder says his government is making contingency plans for the Bosnia police-training task force if the U.S. refuses to extend the mandate of the United Nations mission.
The U.S. has threatened to block a six-month extension of the mandate if the UN Security Council fails to give blanket immunity from prosecution by the new International Criminal Court for U.S. peacekeeping troops abroad.
Schroeder told reporters in Berlin today his government will do all it can to maintain the UN International Police Task Force, which would be immediately affected by an American refusal to extend the mandate.
He said legal officials in the Foreign Office and the Defense Ministry are working with European Union experts to find a way for Europe to continue the operation without a UN mandate.
German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping told reporters today that one solution suggested by several experts is a combination of the Dayton peace accords and the involvement of NATO. Scharping did not provide details, but said that if the discussions succeed, the plan will be presented to the German Bundestag (parliament) on 5 July for approval.
Scharping said he does not expect negotiations with the United States to be successful, and therefore, other means have to be found for continuing the international mission to train police forces in Bosnia. "If a compromise can be achieved, that would be wonderful. If there is no compromise, we must create a basis which will enable German troops to continue their contribution in Bosnia," Scharping said.
Scharping said it is essential for European stability that an international presence be maintained in the Balkans. "Europe cannot abandon the Balkans. It is the number-one priority for Europe," Scharping said.
He said renewed instability in Europe is in no one's interest. He said new instability in the region would lead to a new flood of refugees entering Western Europe.
A German Foreign Ministry expert, Kurt Deckert, said the main problems for Europe's taking over the police-training operation involve timing and finances.
The European Union already is scheduled to take over the operation from the United Nations next January. Deckert said today the problem is finding enough manpower to keep the operation going for the next six months if the United Nations is no longer in control.
The current UN International Police Task Force in Bosnia numbers 1,535 officers, of which the United States provides 46. The European Union has 500 officers with the force, who would continue their duties even without a UN mandate.
However, there are also more than 900 officers from other countries, including Russia, Egypt, and Chile, who are in Bosnia only under the UN mandate. It is presumed that most, and possibly all, of these would return home if the UN mandate collapses.
Deckert said Germany had planned to send another 500 officers to the International Police Task Force when the European Union took over responsibility. Deckert said that, in theory, it should be possible for Germany and other countries to send officers now. However, the problem is financing.
He said that, officially, there is no more money available in the EU budget for civilian missions. But he added: "Of course, there are often ways of surmounting obstacles in a crisis and that's what German and EU officials are working on now."
The German Foreign Ministry emphasized that the present crisis focuses on the police-training operation in Bosnia. They noted that the international force in Macedonia is there under an agreement between NATO and Macedonia and that they do not expect problems there.