Lajčak: Police reform failure will hurt Bosnia's EU bid

Bosnia's international administrator Saturday took part in an informal EU meeting in Slovenia.

Source: Canadian Press
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Miroslav Lajčak warned that failure to approve a long-delayed police reform next week would hurt Bosnia's chances of signing a pre-membership agreement with the European Union this year.

Bosnia's parliament will vote on the reform April 2.

The inability to merge its ethnically divided police forces has been the main stumbling bloc in Bosnia's efforts to move closer to EU membership.

"I am not 100 per cent confident about the adoption of the law. It would be a bad defeat if they could not agree," said the Slovak diplomat, who is overseeing the former Yugoslav republic on behalf of the international community.

The EU is aiming to sign a pre-membership deal known as the Stabilization and Association Agreement with Bosnia in April after years of delays due to internal squabbling in the country.

A statement concluding two days of EU foreign ministers' talks said the signing of the agreement was now "within reach," provided the police overhaul is approved.

But Lajčak said that if the Bosnian parliament - which is still far from agreeing on the wording - fails to approve the reform next week, it is unlikely the dispute can be resolved before October's municipal elections.

He said campaigning for those elections, focusing on local rather than European issues, is likely to present a distraction.

Bosnia is divided into two mini-states, one for the Bosnian Serbs and the other shared by Croats and Bosnian Muslims, or Bosniaks.

Bosniaks have frequently called for unification, but the Serbs object, often threatening to hold a referendum on independence for their portion of the country.

Bosnia's division was an outcome of the 1995 peace agreement, brokered in Dayton, Ohio, that ended the three-year war.

Lajčak told EU foreign ministers that the focus on Kosovo and its recent declaration of independence from Serbia is taking attention away from important issues in Bosnia and the effort to keep it on track for closer EU ties.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said, however, that Bosnia had only itself to blame for not progressing toward EU membership.

"It should be a priority for the Bosnians to treat Bosnia as a (key) issue and not expect it to be done by others," he said. "Bosnia has to accept the fact that it has to work towards being a normal country."

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