United Nations, 13 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday hailed the completion of two peacekeeping missions in the Balkans, saying they helped restore order to a region where the UN experienced one of its darkest moments.
Annan told the UN Security Council that in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the United Nations had completed the most extensive police reform project in its history. That mission concludes at the end of the year, with the European Union taking over responsibility for assisting in police training.
The secretary-general said a smaller UN mission on Prevlaka had helped shield the peninsula from tensions while Croatia and Yugoslavia pursued negotiations. That mission concludes on 15 December.
Annan, a former UN chief of peacekeeping in the 1990s, said the UN has learned many lessons in the Balkans.
"An era of United Nations involvement in the former Yugoslavia comes to an end. This era has seen some of peacekeeping's bitterest moments, which have left a lasting impression on the organization and all of us who were personally involved."
Annan said the UN is applying its previous experiences in the Balkans to its last remaining mission there, in Kosovo. He said a strong mandate, backed by the UN Security Council and member states, is key to the success of peacekeeping missions.
"The United Nations will, of course, stay engaged in the Balkans. The United Nations Interim Administration mission in Kosovo is carrying out a complex mandate, together with our partners: the European Union, the OSCE, and NATO. In doing so, it makes sense and makes use of many of the lessons learnt from Bosnia and Herzegovina."
UN special envoy Jacques Klein told the council that the building of a properly trained, independent police force has contributed to the continuing return of tens of thousands of refugees.
But he also said the failure of the international community to apprehend indicted war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic keeps everyone "prisoners of the past."
He called on Bosnia's leaders to streamline the country's large bureaucracies to divert revenues to Bosnia's urgent needs.
"Economically, Bosnia-Herzegovina faces a critical challenge, with 64 percent of the (gross domestic product) consumed by government bureaucracy, priority issues such as educational reform, investment, job creation, and the rule of law suffer."
The session was attended by Bosnia's rotating presidency members -- including current Serb chairman Mirko Sarovic, Croat member Dragan Covic, and Muslim member Sulejman Tihic. All vowed before the council to press ahead with reform efforts.
The winding down of the UN mission in Prevlaka ends nearly 10 years of UN monitoring of the peninsula, which controls the entrance to Kotor Bay, the site of an important Yugoslav naval base.
Earlier this week, Croatia and Yugoslavia signed a protocol on an interim border regime between the two states.
Under the arrangement, both countries will keep the area demilitarized and have joint sea police patrols, although the peninsula will be part of Croatian territory.
Yugoslav navy ships will be able to sail through the channel leading into the bay, but will not be allowed to stop, conduct military training, or any other military activity in the area.