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Field study in Bosnia and Herzegovina - How the EU could enhance the effectiveness of its stabilization capabilities in BiH?

DSCN2702 1As part of the IECEU- project, Finnish Defence Forces International Center (FINCENT), University of Ljubljana and Centre for European Perspective (CEP) are conducting a study on the effectiveness of the EUFOR Operation (Op) ALTHEA. The aim of the study is to assess the main achievements and potential shortcomings in the implementation of the mandate of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) operation, as well as identify lessons and best practices from the EU’s contribution to the overall security and stability of Bosnia & Herzegovina (BiH).

To ensure the local perspective and the latest developments of the operation are captured, a delegation from FINCENT, CEP and University of Ljubljana travelled to Bosnia Herzegovina and visited the relevant stakeholders on the ground. Field visit to BiH is complementing the desk study review in order to collect data based on the IECEU research methodology. The IECEU delegation conducted several interviews with different interlocutors, ranging from the personnel of the operation (local and international), representatives of local security enforcement institutions that are being assisted by the CSDP mission, several ministries, academic representatives as well as other local and international actors in BiH, namely the EU delegation, embassies, international organisations and non-governmental organisations. Representatives of the European External Action Service (EEAS) are also being interviewed as part of the research. Confronting several different perspectives is of utmost importance when assessing the impact of the EU engagement in security sector reform in BiH.

During the visit, the delegation met also with Commander EUFOR (COM EUFOR) Major General Luif and discussed the current status of the operation and the key aspects of its mandated objectives. According to COM EUFOR, the presence of EU as a whole is perceived very positively by the local population. Despite the situation being very calm at the moment, there is always a concern of potential instability. EUFOR’s military commitment is vital to support BiH’s efforts in ensuring a safe and secure environment in the country. EUFOR’s presence also supports BiH’s long term strategy to prepare the country to join the EU.

One of the key objectives of the EUFOR Op ALTHEA Mission is the capacity building and training of the Armed Forces (AF) of BiH. When discussing the major challenges in delivering this mandated work, COM EUFOR explained that progress is being made in this field, but there remain BiH budgetary and political constraints. He also highlighted coordination between the different donators and actors to be highly important for the overall effectiveness of BiH’s continued development. According to COM EUFOR, where important improvements could be made is in harmonization of bilateral projects by the various supporting countries. This would avoid duplication and assure a synchronized donation of the military capability was being delivered to the AF BiH.

During the week the delegation also met with the Commander NATO (COM NATO) in Sarajevo, Brigadier Giselle M. Wilz. During the meeting, cooperation between EUFOR and NATO, as well as the EU’s role in terms of stabilization of the region, were discussed.

According to COM NATO, coordination of effort is where the EU and NATO have done progress with good cooperation. During the discussion, COM NATO highlighted the importance of coordination between the different actors emphasizing that speaking with a one voice and working together is highly important for overall effectiveness. When the intentions and perspectives of the reform agenda are shared, the division between the responsibilities and tasks also needs to be combined. COM NATO pointed out that in order to reach the long-term objectives set for the development of the region, the activities of all international actors need to be coordinated.

COM NATO highlighted that the EU Mission adds value in support of its stabilization efforts in BiH and emphasized the extensive competences that the EU has at its disposal, ranging from subject matter experts to individuals with a good understanding of the local culture. In addition, COM NATO discussed the importance of the emotional attachment the local population has towards EUFOR Op ALTHEA. Although the need for an enforcing mandate in BiH has been questioned, according to COM EUFOR and COM NATO, the presence of such an operation is considered to be important for the local population, as it provides a sense of security to this post-conflict region.

The EUFOR Op ALTHEA Mission has been in BiH since 2004 and is the first EU military operation launched in the framework of European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP); now known as the CSDP. The study on EUFOR Op ALTHEA is one of eight case studies which are being conducted during this second phase of the IECEU -project. The key findings of these case studies will be assessed and compared with an aim to provide new solutions for the EU to guarantee long-term stability. In addition, the relevant findings will be further translated into training material and integrated into training programmes across the European Union.

 

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