EU Support: Policing the Bosnian Police

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EU Support: Policing the Bosnian Police

The EU is preparing to take over the UN police
mission in Bosnia in January, and it’s not going to be an easy
job.

Police taking home only a few hundred dollars a
month. Interior ministries in which no one knows who does what job.
Botched or lackadaisical police investigations that sometimes
purposely allow powerful criminals to go free. A border service
that needs to find $20 million to pay for itself.

These are just a few challenges the European
Union Police Mission (EUPM) will confront when it takes over from
the UN’s police reform mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 1
January 2003. The three-year, 38-million-euro-per-year mission will
replace the 1,600-strong UN International Police Task Force (IPTF)
with a 500-member follow-on mission.

Seven years of UN police reform here–the
largest such mission in history–has transformed the country’s
various police forces from untrained, mono-ethnically organized
forces numbering some 40,000 into a trained, multi-ethnic force of
17,000. The UN has established police academies in both of Bosnia’s
entities, the Bosniak-Croat federation and Republika Srpska, and
upped enrollments of minorities and women. And the UN’s formation
and oversight of the two-year-old State Border Service (SBS)
reduced illegal immigration by 66 percent through Sarajevo Airport
alone in 2001.

“We’ve put the bones in place, now it’s up to
the physical therapist to work the tissue–that’s the nature of the
transition,” Jaque Grinberg, head of the UN Mission of Bosnia’s
(UNMIBH) civil affairs department, told TOL.

But will the EU’s physical therapy be effective,
considering that the primary job is to pry politicians and police
from their shared bed? Police reform is very much a part of the
international community’s changing role in Bosnia–from preventing
war to building a state. New High Representative of the
international community in Bosnia Paddy Ashdown noted in his
inaugural speech that his priorities are wiping out organized crime
and improving the rule of law and the economy. Independent police
can and will investigate high-echelon politicians and powerful
criminals. Evidence from police investigations and reports allows
the courts and prosecutors to try and punish criminals. Once the
police can’t be bought and the courts are functioning, investors
will notice, reckons the new high representative.

Grinberg was optimistic. “It’s not like starting
up a new mission altogether,” he said, noting that the EU has a
lengthy planning period, 14 million euros in start-up costs already
allocated, a competent organization, and personnel familiar with
the region.

Another plus, noted spokesperson of the Office
of the High Representative (OHR) Oleg Milisic, is the fact that
Ashdown is double-hatted as he is also the EU’s special
representative. Newly-appointed IPTF head Sven Frederiksen will
become EUPM commissioner and serve on the OHR’s rule of law task
force, providing continuity.

“(EUPM) will continue in the same vein of the
IPTF in presenting issues and resolving problems–as well as
developing common policy positions for agencies involved in the
implementation of the DPA and working in the rule-of-law
framework,” Milisic said in an interview with TOL.

Grinberg agreed that the EUPM will involve more
than bringing in 500 police. And indeed, the EUPM is looking to
have about 70 civilian support staff.

“Bosnia is proof that you can’t do rule of law
in segments,” he said. “The EU will have to concentrate very much
on the judiciary and prosecutors while fighting hard to keep
politicization out of the police forces. Fighting corruption and
organized crime are going to be the real challenges to the EU
mission.”

These broad challenges can be whittled down to
the specifics of raising po lice salaries, following the money
trail, monitoring police performance and finding money for the
State Border Service. Already the IPTF is scheduled to draw down
its numbers to 460 following the 5 October general elections to
pave the way for the follow-on mission, which has had a planning
team in Bosnia since 21 May.

Raising and harmonizing salaries

Police paid penurious, months-late salaries are
more likely to compromise any independence they have by taking
bribes or dabbling in crime themselves. Entity disparities in
police salaries are significant. Federation police averaged some
$250 per month last year, while their colleagues in Republika
Srpska earned $210. This means that Bosniak police aren’t
interested in returning to their homes in Republika Srpska to work.
The UN noted on 13 June that the Federation government had failed
to live up to its written promise to supplement the salaries of
minority officers in Srebrenica, and that the six minority officers
there may soon leave.

Milisic said the OHR is discussing a number of
proposals with the local authorities to solve the problem. Further
police cuts could also reduce the strains on budgets.

“As the entity and Brcko District police forces
modernize in their role in a democratic state and become more
professional, their number will ‘right-size,'” Milisic said.

The UN has already weeded out thousands of
officers because of their wartime records, document-fudging, or
poor performance. The EU could continue the job, said
then-International Crisis Group analyst Daniel Korski before the
release of the ICG’s 10 May report on police.

“This is fortunate for the EU in my view,” he
said. “If you have the proof that 20 percent of the officers have
committed fraud, then let’s get rid of them, get the numbers down
to what we can afford.”

Bosnia’s 13 interior ministries–in addition to
the entity level ministries, each canton in the federation has its
own interior ministry–lack organizational structures showing who
is responsible for what. A fired officer may float into an
administrative job. Or he might do nothing, but still pick up a
check.

“A publicly indicted war criminal, Ante Kresic,
in [the southern town of] Stolac, for example, last year was
absconding and finally dismissed from the police force following
UNMIBH demands to have him arrested, yet throughout his wife kept
coming to the station to collect his paycheck, since he was still
on the payroll,” UN spokesman Stefo Lehmann told TOL.

Hazy personnel structures aren’t the only
problem. Where police money goes is another. One canton, for
example, was found to have paid some $256,000 supposedly to
maintain 24 police vehicles in 2000. Most such activities can be
uncovered by audits, said Lehmann, which the UN has been doing
since January.

Because of the scramble to finish the audits
before the end of the UN’s mandate, Korski said the UN is falling
short. Audits of the first few ministries took months, but the
audits now being done will be finished in a matter of weeks.
Whatever happens, he said, the EU should continue with this as
well.

“Audits need to be much more intrusive, much
more thorough, and need to last longer than two weeks,” he said.
“The tasks are budgetary and legal. They need to get
accountants–however clever your police officer is, he ain’t gonna
do it.”

IPTF officers are currently stationed at police
stations all over the country, at all levels, with the aim to
monitor police work from top to bottom. The EU follow-on mission
intends to station its officers only at the higher levels at 24
locations around BiH. But how will this affect the performance of
the average cop–such as those seen standing idly by during the
Banja Luka riot in May 2001, or actually participating in the April
2001 riot in Mostar? Korski said it would only work if the EUPM
sets and enforces t ough performance benchmarks.

“In other words, if we have another riot, it’ll
be necessary to decertify all the way up to the top,” he said.
“This is one area the UN has thoroughly failed in. I can think of
only a handful of cases where de-authorizing police officers [gave
way to them] coming up on charges.”

Co-location can also affect everyday police
work, such as making reports and conducting investigations. Despite
Grinberg’s optimism, he said that was an area that still needed to
be addressed.

“Investigation techniques have needed
reconstruction–such as how do you approach a crime scene–it is in
need of major, major improvement,” he said.

Financing the state border service

The SBS will bear an anticipated $35.6 million
price tag when it becomes fully functional in September. Last year
the state relied on foreign donations to cover the SBS’s then-$15
million budget. The UN’s 5 June report notes that the state budget
allocation for 2002 is “insufficient for full-year funding of even
the current size of the SBS.” Experts agree that the SBS will have
to increase its personnel if it is to become fully efficient.

Europe has provided training, equipment and
customs computers–to the tune of millions of euros over the past
few years–but no one knows yet how Bosnia will pay for its border
service.

“There’s a real question as to how much
integrity is in the state budget,” Grinberg said. “No one has made
sure of the funding mechanisms. There are severe problems with
customs collection. The EU has given computers and technology, but
the customs officers themselves are more involved in crime than
even the police.”

With six months left before it takes over police
reform from UNMIBH, the EUPM planning team political advisor,
Justin Davies, said it’s too soon to talk about the details of how
they will approach the mission.

“It’s not the right time to get into the
specifics of that,” he said. “We’re in the planning stage at the
moment. We’re taking a good look at the situation in the Bosnian
police force and developing our strategies for the next three
years, very much in consultation with the local authorities and
also with other international organizations”.

But it seems that now is as good a time as any.
A lot is riding on the success of the EUPM’s future “physical
therapy” mission. Not only would successful police reform help
bring about the rule of law that Bosnia so desperately needs–thus
allowing the international community to start thinking about
leaving–but it would also mean that the European Union has emerged
as an effective actor in managing European crises.

“There’s a lot of political pressure to make
this a success,” Korski said. “If they can do this right, it could
pave the way for future missions, and it could pave the way for the
Rapid Reaction Force. This is CFSP (Common Foreign and Security
Policy) writ small, but it applies equally to CFSP writ large.”

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